Here's the latest installment on swimmer Craig Hummer's trek to Mount Everest, where he is the "talent" on an OLN film crew. — Phil Whitten
By Craig Hummer
MOUNT EVEREST BASE, May 14. THE weather has been holding, the athletes are on their way, and all fingers are crossed that the summit window is now around the 20th.
I can only dream of the day we are through here and get to load into cars, take that 10-hour drive to the Tibet/Nepal border, and then race to Kathmandu, another four hours away!
A few hang-ups stand in the way. Do we get searched at the border? Do we stay together as a group? If so, we
would have to wait 2-3 days for the athletes to make
it back down from the summit. We’re not sure that our
expedition leader, Russell Brice, knows the unwritten
rule of television, which is that the production crew
BOLTS the second the show is done! I hope my “limo” is
waiting with the engine on…
The jet stream has moved north, so we have had clear,
but cold weather for the past few days. It has been
much better than the ear-piercing and bone-shattering
wind we had, so we are all grateful. In fact, as the
picture illustrating this report attests, I took the
opportunity to plunge into the icy waters.
Now, the “dare” was for me to wear the “Yak Speedo.” (a Speedo suit lined with yak fur).
I can say, not only did I fulfill my responsibilities of the bet, but also “upped the ante.” After the photo was taken, I actually dove into the glacial pool in the picture. My professional opinion- 40 degrees- freshwater! I may hold the altitude record for donning a Speedo. Someone other than I will have to call
“Guinness” …. or Speedo.
We were supposed to follow and film the athletes today
as they left Base Camp. I’d be lying if I said there
was no fear or apprehension. All exuded some
confidence, but the ladies — Colleen in particular —
looked a bit spooked. Since we did not follow them, I
took the opportunity to hit an all-time high.
Unfortunately I did not take a camera, because the
sights were more than amazing. I hiked west of our
Rongbuk Valley and started a steep ascent almost
immediately. Now, I hesitate to give you all this
info, especially since my wife will read it and she may not be too happy with me.
But what the heck. I managed to climb over five hours straight up, and after reaching a southern peak, traversed a snow field, in order to “summit. My final altitude- 20,436 feet- and let me tell you, it was worth every painful step. Once I crested the ridge, I was able to see roughly a dozen glaciers draining into another valley to the west. I also caught sight of another 8,000-meter peak, and I felt as if I was higher than the atmosphere, the air was so thin and the ability to breathe so limited.
On the way up, I passed through the area the birds call home, and managed to see some
local “deer” at about 19,000 feet. They, of course,
skipped across the boulders and scree, looking at me
in a mocking manner, and daring me to keep climbing. I
took their dare, but they were long gone by the time I
made it to the top.
It took me another three hours to descend, and any ideas I had of having a good time were soon forgotten. After traversing the snow field, at 20,000 feet, the
opposite ridge presented some more than difficult challenges. I was glad I had paid attention to my one lesson from climbing legend, and my co-host, Conrad
I used all the moves I could remember, and even
improvised a few, in order to get down. I’m not
kidding when I say, at one point, I was hanging on by
three fingers over a 1,000-foot glacial precipice. My
“holds” were out of necessity, rather than sport, but
I must say, I can see how people get into this whole
climbing thing! (Don’t worry, Gooch, I’m done with my
adventuresome streak here on the mountain.)
I’m VERY happy to be back on solid ground. And VERY tired. The memories of that climb will be with me forever, and it seems highlight after highlight presents itself each day.
Our camp is a bit vacant at the moment, we had three
tech people leave today, and the athletes and their
crew (numbering eight) left as well. Maybe now I can
get second helpings at dinner!
Well, I hope everyone gets a good chuckle out of the
photo. As for me, it’s time to study, the 9-hour show
is looming, and we all anticipate a smooth one, but
we’ll start rehearsals tomorrow.