Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

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Expedition Archives: Everest 2016


Everest: The Rematch

March 24, 2016

I am headed back to climb Mt. Everest tomorrow.  Here are answers so some of the questions I’ve gotten in recent months. Really?  Really.  You are really going back there?  Why not cut your losses and stop while you are ahead? My goal has not changed.  The earthquake was an unprecedented freak act of nature… … Continue reading Everest: The Rematch


Seoul Train

March 25, 2016

Time always seems to get compressed as the departure date approaches.  The logistics of getting packed are one thing, and wrapping up work is something else entirely.  Much less chaos than last time… but still… too much chaos!  I managed to leave a minimal mess behind, so there’s that.  But, worst of all, there is … Continue reading Seoul Train


Kathmandu Redux

March 26, 2016

Great day.  Met the whole team (minus my buddies still in transit), and everyone is super.  While my lovely wife was caucusing for Hillary (GO HILLARY), I was tending to sundry details like setting up my data plan and tying up loose ends.  And, most importantly, getting to know this great team. And, we tried to … Continue reading Kathmandu Redux


Service, Devotion, and LUKLA

March 27, 2016

Up at 4 AM to get ready for the flight to Lukla.  This small village is the de-facto start of treks in the Khumbu valley, because it has an airport that can accommodate fixed-wing or helicopter flights.  It’s just about 100 miles away from Kathmandu, but the rugged terrain that lies between make them very, … Continue reading Service, Devotion, and LUKLA


Great to be Back

March 28, 2016

Back to Tribuvahn at first light  The airport was inexplicably virtually empty, a complete change from 24 hours earlier, and a real surprise considering how many flights had been cancelled.  We went straight through security and waited only a few minutes until we hopped into a pickup truck and drove across the airport to the … Continue reading Great to be Back


This Will Be Awesome

March 29, 2016

First night in the Khumbu… I slept from 10 PM to 3:30 AM, still getting over my jet lag.  It was amazing to lie there in the dark, listening to the Dudh Kosi rushing below the tea house.  Outside, it was intensely cold, and very clear—the storm had passed! Nice breakfast, then on the trail.  … Continue reading This Will Be Awesome


Resilience and Dentistry

March 30, 2016

What a lovely rest day in Namche.  The purpose of rest days is… to rest, meaning to allow our bodies to acclimatize to the increasing elevations.  Namche is about 11,200 feet AMSL, so if we push it too hard we could end up with headache, nausea, fatigue, etc. Rest days rarely involve sitting around.  We … Continue reading Resilience and Dentistry


Trail to Tengboche

March 31, 2016

Things looked a bit grim when we woke up… I guess conditions would have been worse if it had started to rain blood or frogs, but short of that it looked pretty darn rotten.  But, no worries, we are hardcore mountaineers! Up into the freezing rain, mixed with graupel and hail… I took a page … Continue reading Trail to Tengboche


Rest Day in Tengboche

April 1, 2016

I slept well… fairly well, anyway, with few dog-barking interruptions. At one point, circa 3 AM, I looked out my window and found that the fog had cleared. I was gobsmacked by the view of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam in the starlight. This view never gets old for me. But, with the intense … Continue reading Rest Day in Tengboche


Closing a Circle

April 2, 2016

Spectacular scenery and clear skies at the time of our departure from Tengboche this morning.  Chilly air soon became warm, and we made good progress.  In fact, I had to strip off my merino long underwear, to the delight of everyone.  I still think there is a market for quick-release long johns… why does no … Continue reading Closing a Circle


Righteous in Pheriche

April 3, 2016

A planned rest day in Pheriche. Just like last year, we took a morning hike up the hill behind town.  This hill is actually the medial moraine of the Khumbu glacier, which deposited masses of stone and earth here millennia ago.  It has since retreated, and has left a beautiful acclimatization route in its wake. … Continue reading Righteous in Pheriche


A Whole New Lobuche

April 4, 2016

We bid farewell to the last built structures until the end of the expedition, and walked away from Pheriche right after breakfast.  The tea houses have been fun in their own way, with amenities like hot showers, flush toilets, a choice of foods, beds with mattresses and blankets, and even alcohol for purchase (although we … Continue reading A Whole New Lobuche


Unwinding at LBC

April 5, 2016

Slept pretty well last night… we are now at 15,600 feet AMSL, and the low oxygen tension has a variety of effects. For one, I am having strange, vivid dreams.  Not bad, not good, just odd.  I think others on the team are, too. Because this is a planned rest day, we were able to … Continue reading Unwinding at LBC


Zhongla Rocks

April 6, 2016

There were rumors of internet connectivity at the village of Zhongla. I hesitate to call it a village—more like four tea houses that are seasonally staffed to serve trekkers ascending and descending the nearby Cho La pass.  We had seen it the previous day, during our hike up the ridge above LBC.  It seemed to … Continue reading Zhongla Rocks


Welcome Home… Again

April 7, 2016

Big day today, as we moved from LBC to EBC.  I remember this day well from last year: Long, stunningly beautiful, painful, exhausting. Pretty much a repeat of that experience… except there is NO SNOW on the route, temperatures are a bit warmer, and I am not nearly as ill as I was last time.  … Continue reading Welcome Home… Again


Settlin’ In

April 8, 2016

A restful day at EBC. I slept poorly, but can feel that I am almost over this stupid viral URI. Auspicious day to unpack, improve the tent, take a shower, and establish contact with my family. I was even able to put up a blog post from the toasty confines of my own tent, true … Continue reading Settlin’ In


Climbers on Ice

April 9, 2016

This is one of my favorite days of the trip: Technical training in the lower Khumbu Glacier.  No new information, but a nice refresher and way to build our confidence as we get ready tackle the higher ice on Lobuche and Everest. Last year this was a blast, but even more fun today.  Something must … Continue reading Climbers on Ice


Puja and a Walk

April 10, 2016

Just as last year, we were fortunate to be involved in a Puja, or blessing ceremony, at EBC.  The purpose of the Puja is to ask respectfully for safe passage on the upper mountain from Miolangsangma, the goddess who lives there and presides over all that happens here.  There have been two tragic seasons leading … Continue reading Puja and a Walk


Lobuche High Camp

April 11, 2016

Lobuche is a great training peak for a variety of reasons, including elevation, exposure, mixed terrain, and relative safety.  Plus, it is very beautiful!  Last year we had scads of new powder on the route,in fact we had to delay our ascent by a couple of days for this reason.  This year, all is dry, … Continue reading Lobuche High Camp


Lobuche East False Summit

April 12, 2016

We had an amazing climb.  Certainly very different from last year, with bare slabs at the start and bulletproof sun cups up high.  Tougher than last time, and a better experience for me overall.  We performed well, and I think we passed this test in high style. Highlight for me was definitely talking to Zoe … Continue reading Lobuche East False Summit


Resting in EBC

April 15, 2016

4-13-16 trough 4-15-16 After Lobuche we spent the night in LBC, then headed back to EBC the next day.  As usual, the trek is easier the second time… still, I felt tired when we got back home.  A great sense of relief being back here… now, we can focus on climbing Mt Everest. Camp life … Continue reading Resting in EBC


Football Field

April 16, 2016

Part of our training and acclimatization involves getting halfway up the Khumbu icefall, to a relatively safe spot called the “football field.”  Last year this was a challenging task, although hauntingly beautiful. Today, as last year, we left EBC circa 4 AM. I felt pretty good at the start, and was keenly interested to see … Continue reading Football Field


Glacier Fun

April 18, 2016

Our two day break is coming to a close… at 3:30 AM tomorrow, we will climb to Camp 1, spend two nights, then climb to Camp 2 for another two nights, then come all the way back down to EBC. It’s no good to sit around on our backsides all day… even a short walk … Continue reading Glacier Fun


To Camp 1

April 19, 2016

Our goal: Rotate to Camp 1 for two nights, then Camp 2 for two nights, then return to EBC. Early wake-up.  Early breakfast.  Early departure.  We are getting good at these pre-dawn starts. The rationale for leaving in the dark is to reduce the amount of time we must spend in the sunshine up high—not … Continue reading To Camp 1


Stretching our Legs

April 20, 2016

Nice night at Camp 1.  Clear night.  Very few avvys to disturb our sleep.  I got to watch an episode of Vikings with the Hesses.  All good. Just as last year, our plan for today was very simple: walk about halfway to Camp 2 to stretch our legs and get a feel for the route. … Continue reading Stretching our Legs


Return to Camp 2

April 21, 2016

Excited to make the move to Camp 2.  The cwm is deep, long, beautiful, and could be punishing if I tried to move too quickly.  Patience is the watchword of the day. The rollers felt easier than yesterday, and although I got a bit puffed on them, I felt strong overall. Just like last time, … Continue reading Return to Camp 2


A New High

April 22, 2016

I slept fine, though I was constantly aware of a distant roaring sound.  A jet engine… but, odd, we have never seen an aircraft contrail once on this whole expedition.  Sure enough, that low roar you hear is the sound of the jet stream slamming into the summit of everest, just over one horizontal mile … Continue reading A New High


Down to EBC

April 23, 2016

It was a successful rotation, but I was still very eager to return to the luxuries of EBC.  Showers. Single tents. Thicker atmosphere.  Warmer temperatures.  All we had to do was walk from Camp 2…. Blustery, cold, and windy at the start of the day.  This makes everything tougher. We also had to separate our … Continue reading Down to EBC


Leisure Time

April 28, 2016

4-24-16 through 4-28-16 After our rotation to Camps 1 and 2, we planned to take four full rest days to get back on our feet.  I really needed this time off…coming down was tough for me, not only because I felt exhausted but also because my cough increased substantially.  First night back at EBC was … Continue reading Leisure Time


Spinning on Ice

April 29, 2016

Our day began as planned.  Because my cough was triggered by deep breathing, I decided to walk extra-slowly today, in hopes of keeping my lungs under control.  Thus, I chose to leave an hour earlier than standard departure (2:30 AM instead of 3:30 AM).  This may not sound like a big difference, but we are … Continue reading Spinning on Ice


Happy Birthday

April 30, 2016

The route through yesterday’s collapse was repaired circa 9 AM…. We really made the right choice by turning around!  Today’s plan was identical to yesterday’s: Walk out of camp at 2:30 AM, head up the icefall, and make it to Camp 1 a short time after the sun hits the glacier.  Based on how good … Continue reading Happy Birthday


Slow Down and Wait

May 2, 2016

I slept poorly that night, sinuses filling constantly with bloody discharge, and cough triggering whenever I rolled from side to side (I am strictly a side sleeper).  Plus, my ribcage hurt like crazy whenever I coughed or rolled over… in summary, not a great night.  BUT, the comforts of Camp 2 were alluring (meal tent, … Continue reading Slow Down and Wait


Face the Face

May 3, 2016

Circa 5 AM we started out towards the bergschrund in clear skies and cold, cold temperatures.  I began at the head of the pack, eager to make a good showing.  But, I knew better, because this would put me at risk of lung irritation.  Emily Johnston called me on it, as expected: “You need to … Continue reading Face the Face


Drop Like a Stone

May 4, 2016

We predicted that descending the Lhotse face would be much easier than climbing it had been.  This proved to be true: my ascent took just under 11 hours, and the total descent was just over 4 hours.  I am convinced that if traffic had not been so horrendous on the route, we would have made … Continue reading Drop Like a Stone


Find My Way Back

May 5, 2016

I slept poorly, eager for the move back to EBC.  I had a feeling that if I could just get through the next few hours, everything would be OK.  EBC: Hot meals, hot showers, my own warm tent, internet, phone… all the luxuries I could want.  Just get down this, smoothly and safely, and then … Continue reading Find My Way Back


Breathe It In

May 10, 2016

5-6-16 through 5-10-16 Well, here’s the thing: I was sick during the C3 rotation.  I did well on the way down, but had been very slow on the way up.  And, even back in EBC, my cough and sinus discharge continued.  It was clear that I needed to heal and improve if the summit was … Continue reading Breathe It In


Holding Pattern

May 13, 2016

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, … Continue reading Holding Pattern


From Everest to Seattle to You

May 14, 2016

The next few posts are brought to you from Paul’s wife Julie. He cannot blog from the mountain, but he can text me via his InReach satellite communicator. These will be brief, as he can only send 140 characters at a time, but at least you’ll all know how he’s doing! “Happy news that the forecast … Continue reading From Everest to Seattle to You


Farewell, EBC

May 14, 2016

We watched the weather daily, actually twice daily, looking for any favorable changes in the predicted wind and precip patterns up high.  Initially we hoped for summit conditions on May 21, but the wind speeds remained high on two different models, and there seemed little hope of shooting for the summit before May 23.  Justin … Continue reading Farewell, EBC


Back to Camp One

May 15, 2016

Paul is on his way to the summit, but it will take a few days to get there. He reports in from Camp 1: “Speedy, solid icefall climb… Hope it’s my last icefall ascent. Relaxing day at Camp 1; Spartan but beautiful, and fine weather. Fit & well.”



May 15, 2016

The alarm did not need to sound that night—I was already awake at 1 AM.  The usual details needed tending-to in the tent, including a last text message to Julie, and then I was out the door.  As I sealed the tent, I took one last look at the postcard hanging from the ceiling, our … Continue reading Liftoff…


Strong Like Ox

May 16, 2016

The latest from Paul, who is chilling at Camp 2, generally recognized to be the most comfortable way station on the mountain. “Snappy climb to Camp 2, my fastest yet. I feel strong like ox, smart like tractor. Resting here today & tomorrow before heading higher. Conditions good.”  


Up the Cwm

May 16, 2016

Cold temperatures, low winds, and clear skies greeted us in the morning.  I had hoped for some cloud cover to spare us from cooking in the solar oven of the Cwm, but it was not meant to be.  No worries, we got moving early enough to avoid the brunt of the sunshine.  We should top … Continue reading Up the Cwm


Strange Witness

May 19, 2016

From Julie: Paul and I have text conversations almost every day, and he sent me this from Camp 3: “Great climb, feeling good, nice conditions, oxygen working well. Could not have gone better.” I think he might be a little drunk on bottled O2, because he went on to say that I was married to … Continue reading Strange Witness


Heartbreak at Camp 3

May 19, 2016

Again, the weather behaved as predicted, and we had clear skies and just a bit of wind when we left Camp 2 at dawn.  I counted very few figures on the route above us.  My lungs felt fine.  Not much sleep to speak of, but I still felt fine.  Hot damn, we are going to … Continue reading Heartbreak at Camp 3


This is it!

May 20, 2016

From Julie: At 3:12am PDT, Paul texted: “Hi dear. I leave here 9PM, hope to summit in under 12 hrs, if weather and traffic good.” 9pm NPT=8:15am PDT. Follow his progress via satellite tracker.


To the South Col…

May 20, 2016

After I came home, I was asked the same questions over and over again: Did you make the summit?  Did you use oxygen?  Would you do it again?  And… How did you go to the bathroom?  The answer to that last one depends on the phase of the expedition you have in mind, but on … Continue reading To the South Col…



May 21, 2016


Top of Planet Earth

May 21, 2016

I don’t remember actually sleeping that evening. We laid there from 6:00 PM until about 8:30 PM, and I tried to settle my thoughts, to achieve some sort of mental—if not physical—rest. But, my monkey mind continued chatter and squawk. I must have drifted off briefly, though, because when I checked my watch for the … Continue reading Top of Planet Earth



May 21, 2016

My fingers were becoming painful in the cold. Getting the photos I wanted meant wearing just the merino liners, and they could only stave off the wind for so long. I’m not sure what the temperature was on the summit, but would guess circa -10F before the wind chill. Actually, the wind was not too … Continue reading Down


Deliverance From 27,000 Feet: Clarifications

May 22, 2016

On December 19, 2017, the New York Times published an article called “Deliverance From 27,000 Feet” by John Branch. It is excellent. I am glad to have contributed information and images that I hope will provide some sense of clarity and closure for the families of the fallen. Comments on the story have fallen into … Continue reading Deliverance From 27,000 Feet: Clarifications