Saturday, April 18, 2015

A quiet day of reflection

Lots of snow this year. It looks cold but the snow actually insulates the tents nicely. 
You just don't feel like digging out until the sun hits the camp.

April 18, 2015 
(One year after 16 lives were taken by an avalanche on Everest)

A year ago today was a pretty heavy day in all of our lives. Today most of us sit quietly contemplating, paying our respects, counting our blessings and being thankful that we're still here living our dreams. It wasn't our time last year and hopefully it won't be this year either.

We're off to a late start this season. The snows have been heavy and the route through the icefall is new and challenging. Our first team of strong Sherpa haven't been able to get through the thigh deep snows and long ladders in the icefall yet but they hope get up to C1 (camp 1) within the next few days.

Susan has been on me about updating this blog, but things are a little different this year. I'm finding myself deep in thought and lacking for words to express what I'm thinking and feeling. I've actually written several entries over the last few weeks but deleted each because they didn't seem describe the experience. They were lacking. And I know my crew back home won't put up with lacking, meaning gibberish ;)

I feel a little detached this year. My head is completely in Nepal. I'm not as worried this time with making the summit (although it's high on my list :) but more focused on soaking in this place, the experience, the people, and just the life and time that we're having by being here. Just crawling out of my tent, standing up on a pile of snow and looking around. Its hard to take it all in. Everest base camp, the icefall, the mountain itself, snow, silence, staggering beauty on an enormous scale! Just standing here looking around you quickly realize how charmed your life is if you're here at all.
I feel quieter this year. Happy, grateful, fulfilled, but a bit quieter.

A little about the team: The group of guys we have this year really makes up a spectacular group. Everyone seems to be on the same page. Everyone is strong (except me, I've got a little cold thing going on), everyone is upbeat and feeling positive. We all miss our families and friends but we seem to be equally focused on the task at hand. Each guy seems to be supportive of the others, real team players. An unusually lucky draw of guys and a good sign. Our Sherpa are positive as always. They're such a strong people, both physically and mentally. We really couldn't do this without them.
I don't know what this year will bring but I do know that I'm with a great group of guys, we're having one of the best expedition of our lives, and things are looking great overall. It's all in the attitude, right? Well this team seems to have that part down! We're three weeks in, the honeymoon is over and everyone is still happy, positive and eager to move uphill. It's good, we're happy and were on our way!

I'll try to write more often. I really do miss all of you and it means so much that you all want to share in my life and this experience.
I may be quiet now but once the action starts up high I'm sure it'll be a wild and wooly ride with lots of pictures and stories to follow. Keep the positive thoughts and prayers headed our way and we'll keep putting them to good use.

We're sending such gratitude to each of you for sharing this experience with us! Your participation in my life is what really gives it meaning!

Jon

Nathan and I on the ridge approaching Everest Base Camp


Letting off steam after making camp.
Mosey (in the upper left), of course, takes the opportunity to pile on the pain once his buddy goes down.

Sharing the local interstate with the yak train trying to get to Everest Base Camp

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jon made it to Everest Base Camp

Jon has not had wifi in about 5 days so he hasn't been able to send photos.  He calls Agustin and me every evening from his satellite phone to let us know that everything is OK.

His group arrived at Everest Base Camp yesterday.  The wifi was working there for a few hours when they first arrived but now it's down again.  Moises was able to get these photos out that show scenes on the way to Base Camp.

-- Susan

Mingma, Jon Reiter and IMG guide Max with an amazing background
Jon is on the left with his hands in the air

Part of the group arriving at Lobuche basecamp on the way to Everest Base Camp
Yaks carrying supplies to Everest Base Camp
Daniele (Moises' girlfriend) and Jon Reiter

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Update from the trek to base camp

Jon is at 12,687 feet by the Tengboche monastery.  The trek is going very well.  Today, the weather turned cold and a little snowy and the group is heading to Pheriche (14,340 feet).

-- Susan Reiter

video
Video from Jon of the view from his room in Tengboche
(This video plays on a laptop/computer but doesn't play on my iPhone)

Jon Reiter and Moises Nava
At the Hotel Everest View on April 4, 2015
First View of Everest and Lhotse

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Life's great and unpredictable journey continues


Jon and Susan Reiter in Dubai in front of Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building)

Many of you have asked me "why" I'm headed back to Everest. As each of you ask this question with such wonder, I think to myself that I can't quite find the words to tell you why, or what really pulls me back to the mountains. But as I sit here in Dubai (headed for Nepal) alone with my thoughts at 4:30 AM, it seems that it'd be nice to at least try to describe what I'm thinking and feeling about going back.

After the tragedy that claimed 16 lives on the mountain last year, a fellow climber wrote the following on my blog - "For those who seek adventure, meaning, solace or solitude in the mountains, there can be no other way but to embrace all possible outcomes. Few who choose this way of life would exchange it for another. Lucky we are to be surrounded by those who share our passion, but doomed we are to share such tragedies."

Although I feel that this is so well said, there may be some of you who don't understand or can't relate to what it means to me and other climbers. I love my family first and foremost, without a doubt, and I also love the mountains. The adventure and the idea of setting goals in life and trying to reach them is something that's ingrained in my core; it's simply part of who I am. I'd like to finish the goal that I've started, the goal to climb the highest mountain on each continent - and I'm so close (I think :)


When we were in the midst of last year's events it was hard to see the big picture. It was hard to remember that people die in the mountains but that it's more rare than not. It was hard for me to remember that I'm not choosing between my life at home and dying in the mountains. I like to think it's similar to surviving a plane crash or a major pile up on the freeway. We might be hesitant to get back on a plane, or back on the highway, but the chances are...

When my brother was killed and I was sitting at his funeral thinking about what I'd regret not doing in this life, I must have known that a major goal like this would come with some obstacles and setbacks. Actually, I believe that almost anything worth doing in life is gonna have obstacles. If it's something that's worth our limited time it's going to have a high price.


I guess it comes down to this: I set out to climb the seven summits and I have six of them done. Last year on Everest slapped me down pretty hard and I didn't think I'd get back up, but I did. I think Everest is right in front of me and I can finish this worthy goal if it's still important enough to me. I want to spend a long and happy life with my wife and my boys but I also want my boys to know that life is going to throw us all some curve-balls that we need to deal with.. without giving up if the price isn't too high.


I guess I've realized that the chances are good that I can have both: a wonderful life with my crew at home and the seven summits. This life really is full of wonder and mystery and we really don't know what's around the next corner. But what I do know is that I want to keep going. I want to keep looking and exploring and living great adventures! If there's more setbacks along the way I'll do my best to deal with them as they come. If there's a price to pay, I'll do my best to remember that it's part of the life I've chosen. What I don't want to do is to find myself on my death bed saying to myself that I wish I had... 


It really isn't a dress rehearsal my friends! I hope that each of you go find your Everest, find whatever it is that's important to you and do what you can to make it part of your life! Do whatever it is that you'd regret not doing if your time was up. 


Thank you all for being part of my life; part of my journey!

Jon 

You can track his current location with the following link:

If you'd like to get more information about the expedition, here's the link to IMG's blog:
Jon is in the third team.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A final thought or two as we prepare to come home


At Lukla airport after flying down from Everest Base Camp.
Left: Jon Reiter of Kenwood, California
 Right: Marcus Bridle of Melbourne, Australia
Marcus and I are headed home. This trip may not have seen us on top of Everest but it has provided more life experience than I had ever expected or bargained for. What a trip!

After getting back to Kathmandu and seeing all the press, I can't help but to step back from it and think "I just wanted to come climb a mountain". But as we all now know, Marcus' and my climb has instead become a pawn in a much bigger story.

The loss of 16 Sherpa's lives, watching their bodies be brought down one by one and the near miss for Marcus and myself, has together somehow changed mountaineering's position on my list of life's priorities.
I've enjoyed a great decade of climbing the world's highest peaks and I've certainly enjoyed sharing these times with all of you back home. However, I think it's time for this chapter of my life to come to an end. It's nice that I have this option, the choice to decide to end this chapter and move on to the next life experience; to spend the next 6 years participating in my boy's life on a day to day basis before he leaves for college; for 16 men on Everest they'll never get that choice.

We've all heard about these life illuminating events and we've all surely experienced something that has set us back on our heels and made us re-evaluate what means what; this expedition has done just that for me. I feel so lucky to be headed home; to get to be there for my boy as he grows; another shot at living a full life (I may have used up all of my "get out of jail free" cards at this point :-) and a chance to appreciate all my friends and family once again..

I'd also like to say thank you to all of you who have taken the time to send thoughtful and appreciated notes offering support for the disappointment that Marcus and I must feel. We have read each and every one of them and they've meant more to us than you know. It's true that missing the summit of Everest is a great disappointment but what we have witnessed and been a part of has impacted us much more than the summit ever could.

Life is a great and unpredictable journey. We each make of it whatever we choose. I think that if we want to focus on the worst, on the negative, surely that's exactly what we'll find and what life will deliver. If we decide to do the best we can, to try to see the best in others and to remember that we only have so many days on this planet to practice this... We'll each do ok.

Thank you all for participating in this adventure with Marcus and me. With each passing year and adventure, it seems to become clearer and clearer to me how simple life really is. As someone once said, we just need to watch our words around others and our thoughts when we're alone... Life is simply a reflection of the thoughts we choose to think..

Today I choose to think about all the wonderful friends as family that share my life. I'm a lucky guy...

Enjoy your journey! JR


Below is a link to the NY Times article that so many people have responded to.  The best part is at the end.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/world/asia/climbers-leave-everest-amid-regrets-and-tensions-among-sherpas.html

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Coming home

I spoke with Jon this morning and he is coming home!

Jon's Sherpa guide Dawa is featured in a front page story on CNN titled:
"Hero guide spent day tending to dead friends"
http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/world/asia/nepal-everest-avalanche/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

It has been an extremely sad time since the avalanche disaster in which 16 people were killed.  The Sherpas voted and have decided to close the mountain this year.

Jon is taking a helicopter from Everest Base Camp to Lukla at 8am tomorrow (7:15pm tonight PST).  From there, he'll take a plane to Kathmandu and then make his way home.

Susan

Monday, April 21, 2014

Time to sit patiently and see what life brings us

Left to right:
1) Marcus Bridle of Melbourne, Australia who also climbed Vinson in Antarctica with me
2) Mingma Sherpa who is the climbing guide for Marcus
3) Me (Jon Reiter of Kenwood, California)

Just a note to summarize the last few days. Our Sherpa friends have decided to use this tragedy to further their cause with the Nepal government. All of the climbing Sherpa (as opposed to the Sherpa that help us establish and maintain base camp) have left the mountain and have stated that they will not return until their requests are met by the Nepalese government. What they're asking for is certainly deserved and we support their cause 100%. They simply want the families of the deceased to be taken care of as well as assurances that they themselves and their families will be taken care of should they be hurt or killed while climbing Everest. There are other requests on their list (15 in all) but this is the general idea.

As I mentioned we feel that most of what they're asking for is valid and overdue. From what we understand 10% of Nepal's GDP is based on Everest revenue. It may be true that we climbers have substantially increased the quality of life here in the Khumbu Valley with all the money that's spent here climbing this mountain and trekking about but we hope that the government remembers that the climbing Sherpa are the ones putting their lives on the line, right along side us, on a daily basis. We cannot climb this mountain without them by our sides just as they were not able to climb it without our logistics and resources; we make a perfect and inseparable team. From the very beginning (1953) until today, Everest is climbed not by individuals but by partnerships.

There have been some horribly misinformed comments made lately about the relationship between the Sherpa people and western climbers. As I mentioned, both parties consider the other as equal partners in this quest. We take care of each other 24 hours a day. When the avalanche hit, it was actually western climbers (many of which were actually from our party) who spent the day, on the scene, treating the wounded and extracting the dead. We did not run from the scene. As a matter of fact, our western guides from camp one and from the Football field rushed towards the debris into the danger and were some of the first on the scene. We have several MD's as clients on our climbing team and some these docs spent their entire day volunteering their time down at BC medical treating the wounded and pronouncing the unfortunate dead. I write all of this to clear the air of the misinformed nonsense about our relationship with our Sherpa partners. We and the Sherpa people are a team of equals and there were many tears spilled and stomachs turned as we brought our friends down one by one.

We don't know how long it'll take this government to respond to the Sherpas' requests and we have limited time to move up this mountain. Several teams have already thrown in the towel and are headed downhill out of BC now. As for Marcus and me, we've decided to give it our all. We came here to climb E and we'll wait here patiently until our expedition leader tells us we can go up or we must go down. I think we're ready to climb this one. I think the weather is looking better by the day. The mountain conditions are certainly acceptable and we have the absolute best team (IMG) behind us.

Avalanches happen in the mountains. As we lay in our tents we hear them crash down around us several times everyday. Unfortunately, this is part of the risk; part of the adventure that we all signed up for. If the government and the Sherpa come to an agreement soon, Marcus and I will continue trudging uphill until we can go no further. If they decide to not give us that opportunity this year, we'll go home early, hug and kiss our loved ones and know that we've been lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time in these mountains and share many wonderful times in the Khumbu Valley with our mountain loving Sherpa brothers..

Jon

Saturday, April 19, 2014

We're all going to need a few days to figure things out


This picture was taken today as my friend Dawa Sherpa was leaving base camp. Dawa is the man who was by my side when the avalanche struck. He's the guy who spent all day yesterday digging his friends and neighbors out of the snow and sending their limp bodies hanging on a cable from a helicopter down to base camp. After a long 16 agonizing hours he showed up at my tent, before going to his own, to make sure I was ok. He's an amazing man and I have great respect for him. He's a perfect example of the selfless Sherpa people that we entrust with our lives while on the mountain and who we quickly learn to call our friends.
The Sherpa community here in Base Camp is naturally quite shaken by this event and most of them have decided to step back from this expedition for a few days, trek home to their villages and reassess the situation with their families.

Unfortunately the death toll is still climbing. We have recovered 16 lost souls as of an hour ago. We're hoping to locate two more of the missing today and get them back down here to BC, one way or another. This scene is a lot for us western climbers to take in so I can't imagine what our Sherpa partners are really feeling and thinking as we all witness the worst disaster in Everest history happening in front of our eyes. 
We've been getting a few questions and hearing a few comments that I'd like to try to address:

- This accident was just that - an accident; an act of nature where we humans happen to be in the way. It was not caused by "overcrowding". Matter of fact, there were only about 40 of us in the entire icefall and we were spread out. There was no one waiting for others in order to move up and no congestion anywhere in the icefall. It appeared to be perfect climbing conditions right up until the moment the thunder struck. 
- The avalanche took place just below camp 1 at about 19,000 ft and the time was approximately 6:45 am. 
- The Sherpa that were lost were carrying loads to support the upper camps. The fixed lines and ladders through the icefall were already in place. There were very few western climbers in the area and all of us had our climbing Sherpa by our sides and they all survived. 
- The trash scene on Mt Everest is not what it used to be. Through the great efforts of many organizations and individuals this mountain has been cleaned up and looks wonderful. All too often we hear stories about the abuse of nature but we rarely hear when people have gone to great lengths to reverse the damage. Everest is one of those stories.  Excessive trash did not cause this to happen. There is absolutely no garbage that I saw anywhere in the icefall. Actually we should all be proud of how good this place really looks. This was a random act of nature. 
This is a tough time for everyone here on the mountain but accidents, and even death, are part of the deal. If climbing Everest were easy and risk free, I suspect we'd all take a hike to the top of the world. The price that has been paid over the last 24 hours is a large price indeed. I guess the climbing Sherpa as well as all of us western climbers need a few moments or days to re-evaluate what's worth what in this life.

Early this morning I read a comment written about me where the author said, "I hope he finds what he's looking for up there." I appreciated that notion because it got me to thinking about what am I looking for, and I think I have found it whether I see the summit of Everest or not. I'm looking for an adventurous life. I want to see the whole world and all of its people. I want to lay in my death bed and know that I did and saw all that I wanted to in the time I spent spinning through space on this ball of mud. I want to know that I lived fully! So far in this life the things that I regret the most are the things I didn't do; the things I didn't have time for; the situations that scared me to much. I want to push myself to do and see until I can't anymore. I want to inspire my two boys to aim high, to take from this world and give to mankind more than they can imagine now. I hope I have a lot of life left to live and I hope I keep finding what I'm looking for. I'm glad my friend brought this topic up because I needed to remember today just why I'm here.

I'm so flattered that so many of you are following this adventure. It's awesome that I get to follow my dreams and I remember everyday that all of this would be hollow and meaningless without all of you being part of my life. 
Please send positive thoughts or prayers to the families of our fallen Sherpa brothers.

Peace - Jon

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tragedy on the mountain

As some of you have heard by now, there was a large avalanche in the icefall today. It came down off the left shoulder of Everest just as we were entering the "football" field, which is just below camp one. Marcus and I were each pushed down behind large blocks of ice by our Sherpas which shielded us from the brunt. These guys are truly amazing!  They saved our lives! We are shaken but ok. Unfortunately there are some still up there who were not so lucky today. As I write this I feel emotional and don't know what to say. One thought is that we were SO lucky! But the overwhelming feelings are for the poor families of the people that didn't make it. I'm so near to this situation right now that I can't think straight. Of course we are all asking ourselves that serious question of "why are we here??" I don't want to try to answer that question in this state of mind but it is the big question floating over our whole camp today.
I'll close with these thoughts; I feel so grateful! I do know this is part of climbing these big mountains and I'm willing to accept the risk. But I do love and appreciate my family and friends more than this adventure. I have a wonderful life and I'm SO lucky today. If I didn't have all of you in my life none of this would matter. I just wanted you all to know what happened and that I'm ok. Thank you for being part of my life.
As a buddy of mine reminded me in times like this.."Stay calm, say a prayer, move forward."
Peace and Love, Jon

Jon was near an avalanche but he is OK

Just in case you hear something on the news . . .

Jon called to say that he and Marcus are OK.   They were in the icefall when an avalanche fell off the west shoulder of Everest onto the icefall between the Football Field and Camp 1.  Now he's safe back at base camp.

CNN says that up to 10 people are missing.

Jon and I are counting our blessings.

Susan