Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

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Holding Pattern

Everest 2016  •  May 13

5-10-16 through…?

Flying back to EBC on 5-10-16 was lots of fun.  We got to work with a pilot who has a certain… flare for the unexpected.  Apparently we were a bit on the heavy side, even after our group was divided into two, and this made for some spicy maneuvering over the Khumbu Glacier, but of course we set down without a hitch.

Our ride arrives at the helipad above Namche. (GoPro Screenshot)
Our ride arrives at the helipad above Namche. (GoPro Screenshot)
The She-Yeti (Emily) watches the world drop away. (GoPro Screenshot)
The She-Yeti (Emily) watches the world drop away. (GoPro Screenshot)
Namche is visible through the windshield. (GoPro Screenshot)
Namche is visible through the windshield. (GoPro Screenshot)
But just for a moment, before we dive steeply into the gorge below town. I love this. (GoPro Screenshot)
But just for a moment, before we dive steeply into the gorge below town. I love this. (GoPro Screenshot)
OK, there it is. Farewell, fair city. (GoPro Screenshot)
OK, there it is. Farewell, fair city. (GoPro Screenshot)
The Tenzing-Hillary memorial stupa, visible as a small white dot on the trail to Tengboche. (GoPro Screenshot)
The Tenzing-Hillary memorial stupa, visible as a small white dot on the trail to Tengboche. (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily surveys the terrain, including the rugged Phortse trail slashing across the mountainside across the valley. (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily surveys the terrain, including the rugged Phortse trail slashing across the mountainside across the valley. (GoPro Screenshot)
Pangboche comes into view. (GoPro Screenshot)
Pangboche comes into view. (GoPro Screenshot)
A righteous hairpin turn puts us on final approach to Phortse. Ama Dablam in the left skylight. Total flying time from Namche: 6 minutes. (GoPro Screenshot)
A righteous hairpin turn puts us on final approach to Phortse. Ama Dablam in the left skylight. Total flying time from Namche: 6 minutes. (GoPro Screenshot)
Figuring out the load situation on the ground in Phortse for moving us higher..... (GoPro Screenshot)
Figuring out the load situation on the ground in Phortse for moving us higher….. (GoPro Screenshot)
We went with me, Nicky, and all the packs. Check out Nicky's crossed fingers in the window. Can't hurt.... (GoPro Screenshot)
We went with me, Nicky, and all the packs. Check out Nicky’s crossed fingers in the window. Can’t hurt…. (GoPro Screenshot)
The Imja Khola, the river that runs through Phortse. Lobuche in the distance at the top of the valley. (GoPro Screenshot)
The Imja Khola, the river that runs through Phortse. Lobuche in the distance at the top of the valley. (GoPro Screenshot)
The hamlet of Dukla, where the Khumbu Valley makes a dogleg to the right. (GoPro Screenshot)
The hamlet of Dukla, where the Khumbu Valley makes a dogleg to the right. (GoPro Screenshot)
The chortens at Dukla, barely visible as a line of stone pillars, each a memorial to a fallen climber. (GoPro Screenshot)
The chortens at Dukla, barely visible as a line of stone pillars, each a memorial to a fallen climber. (GoPro Screenshot)
Approaching the Khumbu Glacier proper. Pumori in the left skylight. (GoPro Screenshot)
Approaching the Khumbu Glacier proper. Pumori in the left skylight. (GoPro Screenshot)
Nicky recording me recording her.  What is wrong with us?  Still, cool photo!  (Photo: Nicky Lowry).
Nicky recording me recording her. What is wrong with us? Still, cool photo! (Photo: Nicky Lowry).
Fearsome face of Nuptse. Oh, how I missed you. (GoPro Screenshot)
Fearsome face of Nuptse. Oh, how I missed you. (GoPro Screenshot)
Here we go. Home again. (GoPro Screenshot)
Here we go. Home again. (GoPro Screenshot)
IMG EBC sits atop this small hill, at the edge of a sinkhole crater. (GoPro Screenshot)
IMG EBC sits atop this small hill, at the edge of a sinkhole crater. (GoPro Screenshot)
Touchdown, smooth as can be, on the helipad. Nice. (GoPro Screenshot)
Touchdown, smooth as can be, on the helipad. Nice. (GoPro Screenshot)
Nicky hotfoots it out of the LZ in anticipation of our buddies' arrival. (GoPro Screenshot)
Nicky hotfoots it out of the LZ in anticipation of our buddies’ arrival. (GoPro Screenshot)
There they are.... (GoPro Screenshot)
There they are…. (GoPro Screenshot)
Bob strolls off the bird, no problem. (GoPro Screenshot)
Bob strolls off the bird, no problem. (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily is so stoked... no surprise. (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily is so stoked… no surprise. (GoPro Screenshot)

It feels great to be back here.  Very reassuring to be with the rest of the team, and enjoyable to catch up with them.  A big snowstorm had moved through the evening of 5-9-16, so when we landed everything was cloaked in pure, beautiful white snow.  Everything seemed to be new again.

But, the mountain was not ready to welcome us back.  Climbing Everest involves knowing everything you can about weather conditions aloft… Remember, the summit touches the jet stream, if it is in the neighborhood, and summit winds above 50 knots per hour are not unusual.  That is just not safe (and not fun) for us.

Usually we climb when the jet stream pitches up north of the mountain, in response to high pressure air masses over the Bay of Bengal.  As of now, the jet stream is still making that migration north, and will soon touch the summit again.  We simply do not know when conditions will be favorable for a summit attempt, but I assure you we will not leave EBC until the forecasts look good. Not for a window lasting for a few hours, but truly good and solid and safe. Our leadership here is the best in the business—Ang Jangbu and Greg Vernovage know exactly what they are doing.  Our guides Justin Merle and Emily Johnston are superb and champing at the bit.  Our Sherpa climbing partners are simply phenomenal, not only hyper-strong but also endlessly cheerful and helpful and optimistic.

You will read about others having summited already, or summiting before we go up there.  We are genuinely happy for them.  Everyone has a slightly different formula they use to decide when to pull the trigger.  I am very, very happy with IMG’s formula.

So… we wait.  We eat.  We hydrate.  We sleep.  We walk.  We shower.  We watch the avalanches thunder down Nuptse.  We listen to the glacier creak and groan beneath our tents.  We dream of hitting the drones with stones–or worse.  We repeat the process.  Day after day.  For as long as it takes.  Cabin fever is a real risk, but the view really does help.  Only a handful of people will ever get to live here, even if briefly.  And, we greatly appreciate your email messages, etc.  Thank goodness we have robust net access…. this allows me to keep in close touch with home,  which is like a boost to my soul every time.

I am fit and well… just the tiniest amount of sinus discharge, and a rare dry cough a couple of times per day.  My chest wall is almost pain free.  My legs are thin (I have probably lost 20 pounds so far), but still strong.  It does not get to look any better than this.  If we can keep our focus, and stay on target, we will be ready to move up the mountain when conditions are ripe.

Wish I could tell you when that will happen.  I can’t… both because the weather changes all the time, and because we do not broadcast our departure plans.  As a leader in the field, IMG’s every move is scrutinized by the competition, and if other teams know we are going up, it could trigger a stampede of sorts.

Thus, this may well be my last blog entry for the next couple of weeks.  Know that we are all well here, and all raring to go.  If things happen as we anticipate, I will send a message from the summit, and then again when we are safely down.  Please follow the IMG blog for details, it is a great source of info.

And… thanks for following us.  I just got some statistics on the blog, and was stunned to see that almost 3,000 people are following it—that is amazing, and far exceeds the 25 folks I would have predicted.  Your interest and support are golden to us, I assure you.

Concept of the day: Stay the Course!

42 thoughts on “Holding Pattern

  1. Be safe and Godspeed! We are sending every good vibe your way. Love you so much, and am so proud of you, summit or not!

  2. I have enjoyed your blog very much. The pictures have been amazing. Safe travels and tell Justin Uncle Jon and Aunt MO say Hi!

  3. Again, thanks so much for posting! Our mother (Bob’s) is 91 and visiting me-she is so thankful to be able to see her son and daughter-in-law in so many pictures. She is not really keen on all the terrain…but still greatful for all the pictures. Thank you so much Paul. Safe journey to all!

  4. Dear Paul, Your words and photos give a glimpse of what an amazing adventure you are on! We are sending all our hopes for favorable jet streams and ongoing hot showers. Best wishes, Alison Roxby

    1. Thanks so much Alison, your positive thoughts will have a big impact I am sure! So glad you are following along!

  5. Could the “bit on the heavy side” have been caused by too much chocolate cake in Namche? 🙂 Thanks for celebrating Emily’s birthday. Good to know my big sister is well watched after.

    Thank you for letting me enjoy your adventure from the comforts of Seattle; keep up the great coverage.
    Caroline

    1. The stats don’t include us, either. They *do* include Paul, though. It’s the only site on our entire Google Analytics account with such a strong showing in Nepal.(Not even Julia Quinn is as strong in Nepal. Heh.) Looking forward to seeing what the stats for this week are coming out of Malta.

      1. Thanks Sis. I do not read the blog myself, so if there are Nepal hits they are friends. Thanks again for sharing those stats with us.

  6. I’m glad you’re in a holding pattern – better safe than sorry! Thanks for all the great pictures and updates- I linked your blog on my site!

    1. Thanks Alison, for this and for everything, including running the show w/o me, I am sure all is in great shape back home!

  7. Dr. Paul and Dr. Emily
    What a memorable adventure. Thanks so much for sharing it with us in great detail. Experiencing the big E as friends, climbing partners, climbers, and docs makes for a multifaceted diamond.
    Keep your eyes on the prize = a safe return to all who care for you
    R&A

  8. Dear p2,
    Thanks for keeping us in the loop and along for the virtual ride!
    Best wishes for a safe and successful summit!

    cheers,
    geoff (g2)

    1. Thanks so much Geoff… hope all is good at home, including the clinic! Appreciate your support so much.

  9. Wishing you a safe, healthy climb. I cannot imagine you as 20lbs lighter, but thanks for all the photos! Good luck!

    1. Oh I’m probably going to drop 5-10 more… you will not have to imagine anything, I am coming home ASAP! Thanks Rupali.

  10. I’m not really sure about this whole “fingers crossed” thing, I prefer something more dependable…..but if there is a chance, then, well I got my fingers crossed too, along with the other 3000 followers !

  11. I’ve loved following your journey, Paul, and have read every entry and admired every picture. This is not something I’ll ever do, but I’m so enjoying living vicariously through you. I know I’m just one of many people sending enthusiastic support your way, but know that it’s genuine. Godspeed – can’t wait to hear that you’ve reached the top of the world.

  12. Your adventures are absolutely fascinating! I look forward to each installment. Lots of luck when you finally get to go (hoping for soon!)

  13. On May 12, NPR carried a piece on climbers making the summit. Can’t wait to hear that it is you!

  14. Paul, we miss you like crazy here in Seattle. Just not the same without your warm smile! 🙂 I’m so glad your cough is down to 2-a-day and your chest pain is better and sinuses down to a drip. We’re all sending you prayers for safeness! Love, Wes and Debra

    1. Thanks so much guys, it is great to get net access again and read these nice comments… miss you too! Headed home, and hope to be at work late next week if all goes well! –p2

  15. Paul, Thanks so much for sharing your adventure – all the complexities, the sublime beauty, and friendships. Shout out to energetic, ebullient, enthusiastic, excellent Emily, from her 530am running friends. We wish you all the best as you attempt to make it to the top of the world and look forward to your safe return.

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