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ExplorersWeb Week in Review
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May 1, 2005 14: 50 EST
What a week in North Pole history! Tom Avery's expedition beat Peary's time to the pole - setting a new world speed record, and ace climber Korean Mr. Park set the world first Adventure Grand Slam. (NP/SP and all 14, 8000ers).

Meantime, over in Himalaya, we lost an Everest climber. In other Himalayan news, for many Everest teams, the acclimatization process is complete. North Siders have spent the night at Camp 1 (North Col 7050 m), and on the South Side, they are heading down from Camp 3. Sherpas have laid in some supplies at 8300m on the North Side. To the south, they’re fixing the route up to Camp 4.

Teams are also on their marks for summit pushes on Dhaula, Annapurna, Shisha and Cho Oyu. And high above, a M-class sun flare alert is up for expedition sat phones.

Ultimate North: They've done it! At 13:32 GMT April 26, Tom Avery and his team made it to the North Pole, 7 miles ahead of Peary's expedition. With an 18.8 mile sprint on the last day, the Ultimate North team broke Peary’s 1909 speed record to the North Pole. The new record for the fastest North Pole expedition is 36 days, 22 hours and 11 minutes.

”There were times yesterday when I genuinely believed that we might not make it." "Having gone to bed after Day 36 with 15.9 miles to go to the Pole, we woke up the next morning to find that thanks to the ice drift, that target had increased to 18.6 miles,” dispatched Tom straight from the pole over Contact 3.0.

"Clouds rolled in and just above the horizon we could see three thin black water clouds, indicating that open water was not far away. The first lead was over a quarter of a mile wide but at nearly four inches thick, the ice was just about thick enough to support our weight and we were soon safely across."

"But Sedna had one final surprise for us. We crossed a few more freshly frozen leads before coming to one of no more than fifty yards in width that remained unfrozen in the center. It stretched from east to west as far as we could see, completely blocking our path to the Pole....So we turned back on our tracks and headed off in the other direction wondering if we would ever find a way to the Pole at all...Raven's team broke through the thin ice, all of them ending up in the water in the center of the lead...the dogs were able to haul themselves out of the water and return to safer ground..."

"After what seemed like hours, we finally made it across a stretch of slightly thicker ice and soon we were making our final steps to the Pole, which was located on a small flat area of snow, no larger than a tennis court and surrounded by pressure ridges. We counted down the last sixty feet to the Pole on the GPS side by side and arrived just after 7:30 am local time. We hugged, laughed and cracked open the champagne. We had done it.”

They made it! Park: "This Grand Slam is for my friends lost in Himalaya" Mr Park has completed the world's first true Adventure Grand Slam: Seok Park has climbed the world's tallest mountains - the 14, 8000ers - and walked on foot to both poles - a cross-over in the extremes no adventurer in the world has accomplished before.

Young Seok Park, 41, arrived at the pole at 14:45 central time (19:45UTC) Saturday, April 30. It took the team 53 days 3 hours 15 minutes from Ward Hunt Island to the pole. Seok sent a message to ExWeb through his home team: "Mr. Park would like to thank many people from all around the world who have been so supportive of his attempt at the first mountaineering grand slam. There have been many ups and downs, for sure ; his thoughts are always with friends he lost in the himalayas. This grand slam is for them."

Everest climber down Canadian Dr. Sean Egan who was leading the Kanatek expedition on Mount Everest, collapsed and died on his way down the mountain. It was Dr Egan’s third trip to the mountain, and it was to be his first summit attempt. Dr Egan had been suffering from a respiratory infection, since arriving at Base Camp on Mount Everest and had decided to head down the mountain to a lower altitude to aid his recovery and to seek further medical advice.

He was in Tukhla, on his way to Pheriche, when it is believed he suffered a cardiac arrest, just before noon on Friday April 29th. 63 years old, Egan hoped to be the oldest Canadian to ever summit Mount Everest. Ireland-born Sean Egan was an athlete gravitating towards endurance-driven athletic events. The expedition even held a game of Hockey on the Khumbu Glacier. "Just tell everyone that I love them,” were Sean's last words to his team mate, Harold.

Cho Oyu drama Veikka summited Cho Oyu while Ed Viesturs turned back with Jimmy Chin who suffered cerebral edema, reported GreatOutdoors.com. The team is next grabbing a chopper to Anna BC to maintain their acclimatization.

Annapurna North: Climbers forced back to BC Tons of snow and poor weather conditions forced the Italian team back to BC. “We could have reached the summit if the weather hadn't turned so bad,” reported Gnaro. “However we have overcome all the difficulties and the route is fixed. We will rest and wait for the snow to settle before launching a second bid,” said the climbers mid last week.

Annapurna crowding up The Italians have been alone on the north side of the mountain, much as Piotr Pustelnik and his team on the south. But last week, Italian Abele Blanc and Tirolean Christian Kuntner reached Annapurna North, setting their BC lower down the valley. Heading their way is now also Ed Viesturs and Veikka Gustafsson. Inaki might join Piotr on the South side - after Dhaulagiri where the climbers plan a summit push any time now.

Everest Wrap-up Everest teams were fortifying their camps in preparation for high winds and wet weather Friday. For many teams, the acclimatization process is complete. North Siders have spent the night at Camp 1 (North Col 7050 m), and on the South Side, some climbers are already heading down from Camp 3. Now they have to hang tight until a weather window opens. Meanwhile, the Sherpas continue to push upward. They’ve laid in some supplies at 8300m on the North Side. To the south, they’re fixing the route up to Camp 4. The jet stream was back in town on Friday, but starting on the weekend, the wind should drop back down to 5-10 m/s (11-22 mph).

Everest North: Stairway to the summit? CTMA (Chinese/Tibetan Mountaineering Association) has contracted Himex to fix the ropes on the North side. Russell’s crew attacked the task with amazing efficacy, plus a little help from some other teams. They hauled in 10,000 meters of brand-new, extra strong blue rope from Kathmandu. Old ropes have been replaced, belays have been checked, and ladders put in place over crevassed sections. Swiss guide Kari Kobler, who coordinated the rope-fixing tasks on K2 last summer, joins Brice this year on Everest, suggesting a revolutionary idea: Bolting metal stairs similar to the ‘Via Ferrata’ routes on many European walls. They would be 150mm long “step bolts” onto the second and first step to speed up the climbing for everyone.

Everest South: Ladder on Hillary Step? Well, currently there are no plans to develop the world’s highest crag by bolting routes on the side of the third step, but there are rumors that Himex is considering to fix a ladder on the Hillary step, from the Tibetan side. The Himex Sherpa team has almost finished it's work on the North side and it is still April.

After the bomb - 7 Summits Club Everest: Salted fish, empty glaciers and the Yeti's cave After the Maoist bombs, and the tank rides - the Abramov/Kikstra joint adventure on Everest continues. Last week Harry sent over a report from the past five days, and Abramov chimed in with his version. Read why it's no good to be alergic to mushrooms on Everest, where to find Yeti's cave, why Harry is keeping an eye out for the fabled Indian female team, why Everest North is still a serene place, and why Harry's "Song of the day' is "Everything's broken and no-one speaks English..."

Abramov's take on the expedition Shrapnel and all, Abramov keeps his cool on Everest as usual. "First, we opened our camp, and Tibetan monks came for the procedure (Puja - ed note). And happy Birthday to Yura Taidakov! He will turn 50 on April 25. We ordered watermelons and six sheep. There will be a big party in BC, it's a shame I am in ABC."

BaseCampMD - Khumbu cough, HAPE and chilblains on Everest's South Side BaseCampMD is a joint project started by Luanne Freer, ExWeb, and the Himalayan Rescue Association. Besides treating sick climbers, saving a few lives and printing ExWeb's free weather reports, the clinic offers daily info on the current health status on the mountain. In spite of a quiet month this far, the clinic is as busy as ever: "We're seeing a lot of patients (27% of our census to date) with viral upper respiratory complaints (sore throat, nasal congestion, headache, aches). The common cold is tough to fight at high altitude, and can slow down an expedition quickly! As expected, the dreaded Khumbu cough has slowed down 22% of our clinic visitors as well. We've seen 4 cases of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), all of the HAPE patients have been treated and were able to descend on their own power to lower altitudes to recover."

Everest 2005: Live GEO and altitude tracking on both sides! Last week we ran a story on the new Contact GEO technology - Nigel Clark (Alpine Ascent client) has been using it - on Everest's South Side. Now check out Duncan Chessell (currently guiding for Himex) on the North Ridge! Duncan has emerged as the "king of dispatches" on Everest lately, with live positions, altitude tracking, live pics and several videos from the mountain. He's the one who reports on the status of the ropes - and other meaty stuff from Everest's North Side.

On his tracking site, you will also find weather forecasts for the different altitude levels, and you can compare them with his on-site reports, live images and video. The Everest map is created from classic Everest pictures by the legendary Bradford Washburn. The maps are treated and projected on 3D models of the mountain by Swiss scientists. Finally, CONTACT 3.0 brings it all together with instant positioning systems.

High China news: Everest true altitude in August Outdoor Exploration (a big climbing magazine in China), is exchanging content with ExWeb. The mag ran a story about the best of ExWeb 2004 expeditions, and in return, we got an update a week back on the current Chinese activities in the Himalaya: Once installed on the summit, the survey beacon will collect altitude and weather data June 1-10, to be analyzed June 10-20 when all members of the survey expedition withdraw to Lhasa. Sometime between June 20th and August, the survey data will be analyzed by computer, and Everest's precise elevation will finally be determined.

Daughters of Everest airing in May “I want to scale Everest because my father’s foreign friends know my country better than I do,” proclaimed Dolma Sherpa. She was one of the five women to participate in the first-ever expedition of Sherpa women to climb Mount Everest in 2000. Never before had a Sherpa woman survived the climb. Full of suspense and breathtaking high altitude footage, the film provides the dramatic and close up portrait of this historic expedition. Check out airtime and places near you on MountEverest.net.

Dhaulagiri ready for the summit push: "This is looking great, guys!" It's all about pasta and high spirits in Dhaula BC right now. The international/Italian team on Dhaulagiri are ready for their summit push. “After two weeks, I am ready for the summit bid,” reported Ińaki Ochoa. “All we need is, as always, some good weather. I feel good, motivated and strong. This is looking great, guys!” Two of the sherpas working for the Koreans are ace climbers Serap Jambu, one of the few men who have summited K2 twice, (not to mention nine Everest summits), and Dawa, currently on his way to his fifth Dhaulagiri summit.

Maoist fees on Manaslu Russian Serguey Bogomolov and Georgian Gia Torladze are joining a Spanish expedition to Manaslu this season. Serguey Bogomolov, 44, has summited 11 8,000ers. In July 2002 he climbed Shisha Pangma by a new route, crossing to the formerly unclimbed North-East ridge. Last year he attempted Annapurna’s South face as part of Piotr Pustelnik’s team. The two climbers have reached BC and met with Japanese, Spanish and German expeditions there. Serguey reports that Maoists take money from each expedition - 100 rupees per person/per day and 1000 rupees from trekkers per person for the whole trek. They give receipts on payment.

Summit push on Cho Oyu RussianClimb also spoke via Sat phone to the young Kazakh ace climbers Maxut Zhumayev and Vassily Pivtsov currently in Cho Oyu BC, climbing with gear borrowed to them by Serguey and paid for by Gia! (Their own gear was stuck Delhi). The guys are resting, but plan for a summit push next time they head up the mountain.

Shisha Pangma South - Everest supercouloir Ralf, Gerlinde and Hirotaka have parked their BC at 5200m, the same spot as last year, "we feel at home again in our 'Lake-Side-Resort'. The lake is frozen but there is much less snow covering it than last year, reports the climbers - an echoe of other dispatches around Himalaya this season reporting little snow and icy slopes on most mountains, including Everest. The climbers acclimatized on neighboring peak Pungpa Ri, and are ready to launch their attempt up Shisha Pangma’s South face in alpine style.

Summit push on Shisha Pangma Gerfried Göschl, Guenther Unterberger and Martin Nuess reached the summit of the 7068m high Jebo Kangijale Peak, "Possibly a first ascent, for sure the first Syrians on the summit! It is a first 7000m high mountain for Günther, and Gerfried's second," reported the expedition. "After some celebrations and rest days we hope for good weather conditions to attempt the summit of Shisha Pangma."

Kammerlander and friends: Ski descent from Jasemba Italian Hans Kammerlander is back in the Himalaya where he will attempt to open a new route on Jasemba (7,350m) along with Karl Unterkircher and Alois Brugger. Hans intends to ski down from the summit. He has accomplished partial ski descents on Everest, Shisha Pangma, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and Kangchenjunga.

Chomo-Lonzo traverse After two days of rest, the team consisting of Trommsdorff, Graziani, and Wagnon departed last week up Chomo-Lonzo’s Western glacier, where they’ll set a higher camp. The first goal is the Northern summit. From that point they can prepare for a second push, in which they will attempt a traverse of Chomo-Lonzo’s three summits.

Makalu: Spaniards brave icy West Pillar, dodge winds The Al Filo team and a group of military guys from the Spanish Army’s High Mountaineering Corps, is fixing its way up the ice-encrusted West Pillar. Compared to their last attempt three years ago, they are facing tougher conditions, with ice covering many sections. On April 21st they reached C2, at 6,500m. Since then, they have split into three-man teams, working in shifts on the route up to Camp 3. Earlier in the week they had fixed 650m of rope. Meanwhile, two other Spanish teams are making their way up the normal route. Patxi Gońi and Julen Requeta opened the trail up to 7000m. They plan to take a short cut to avoid the wind: “We decided to climb slightly to the right side of the couloir to avoid the Makalu La saddle.

Annapurna South - live pics, and climb up to C2 this weekend In the past week, the Annapurna South Face climbers reported fog, and a descent to BC through terrible weather: "We almost chose the wrong couloir. Had we gone down that route it would have ended in some vertical seracs." The climbers came down to BC after spending a few hungry nights in Camp 1 (Sherpas had dumped the supplies somewhere else), and organizing an evacuation of their sick cook from BC. Friday, the team headed back up he mountain. The next plan is to fix ropes to Camp II, or even further. Check out fresh images from the climb on MountEverest.net.

Simone Moro: "I want to do something different" Italian Simone Moro came up with his next goal by asking himself a simple question: What is the highest unclimbed peak? It took him over two months of intensive research to find the answer. He wanted an independent mountain, not a satellite peak or the fore summit of a bigger one (like Lhotse Middle-East, nearly 8400m). He was looking for a peak that was off the beaten track, and far away from the crowds. A mountain where he could really get a sense of adventure and discovery, but that would still present a technical challenge. He found Batura II, 7762m, near Nanga Parbat and Rakaposhi. Interested? Then don’t miss Simone’s complete report next week in an Explorersweb special: The research, the pictures, the maps, and the clues to one of the most original expeditions this year. "Of course I will climb 8000ers, but in different ways: Winter ascents, new routes, something that fills me,” he told ExWeb in last weeks interview.

Himalayan Cataract Project: Success even before reaching Base Camp After restoring sight to 250 people, the North Face Cataract Project team is headed for Cholatse, but whatever happens on the mountain, they are one of the very few teams that can justly claim success even before reaching Base Camp. The expedition also introduced Contact to Dawa - the first sherpa to use the tech: "This is Dawa's first dispatch and it will not be the last. Next month, after he is done with our expedition, he's going to venture off on an amazing bicycle journey and will be equiped with the same Contact 3.0 dispatching system that we're using on this trip." Read about Dawa's upcoming trip in his very first dispatch.

More miracle work in Nepal - new visions of Everest The North Face catarac expedition is not the only team working miracles in Himalaya. A mountaineer pointed ExWeb to the Tilganga Eye Camp. Since 1994 Tilganga has screened more than 950,000 people and performed nearly 70,000 operations - Cataract surgeries accounting for the majority of these. Each year, more and more operations have been conducted through the Surgicentre and at outreach clinics, which are set up temporarily in remote communities of Nepal.

April blues for Saito T. S. Eliot said “April is the cruelest month.” It hasn’t been that bad for Saito-san and his boat, Shuten-Doji II, but I wouldn’t exactly call it smooth sailing, either. According to Saito-san, he has experienced the following April blues:
1. The engine is stopped
2. The mainsail is broken
3. The auto-helm cannot be used due to low electric power
4. The steering wheel has trouble

Francis Joyon: Escape from New York In downtown New York, somewhere between the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero, a sailor waits for the weather to change. Dwarfed by the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan, Francis Joyon and his 90 foot trimaran “IDEC” rest in the marina. Since April 10th, he has been waiting for a weather window to make his break from New York harbor. But the weather has just been too calm (how often do you hear that in New York?)

Tiny update: Talking to ghosts and shedding pounds Well, he doesn’t exactly talk to ghosts; it’s more like an interior dialogue. Hey, don’t judge the guy. You’d get lonely too if you’d been at sea for months with no human contact. As he puts it, “The world goes about its business and knows nothing of you. Splendid isolation." On a day like that, rowing is out of the question. That leaves time for odd jobs, like making plans for the arrival in Antigua, and stowing away old clothes that don’t fit anymore. Forget weight-loss drugs; try rowing across the Atlantic to shed pounds. As Tiny puts it, “When you’re trying to imagine how skinny I look, think Ghandi.” Last week, Tiny passed the 500 miles to go mark.

Polar Challenge race kicks off The 16 Polar Challenge teams are under way, and they have their skis and compasses pointed to the Magnetic North Pole. Check out Polar Challenge’s website to follow the teams’ progress on the live race map, powered by Contact 3.0 GEO.

Expedition Siberia: Mikael and Johan After completing their expedition last week, a sense of “what now?” sets in: “I just experience emptiness right now. I feel run down, slightly miserable and somewhat somber. I feel totally drained of all my energy. After having spent almost 10 months, fully concentrated, suddenly it is all over. Just like that.”

Expedition Svalbard Safe and toasty at home, Vesa reflects on his physical accomplishment, and ponders future expeditions: “This last report is written from home. I'm currently lying on my sofa. Me and my sofa, we have found together some kind of a deeper universal connection, it is kind of a symbiosis. My toes have felt a bit cold for few days, so I filled a bucket with hot water and put my feet there, now they start to feel better.”

“To me it became clear that it would be nice to have expeditions like this in the future, too. I have had a dream of doing something similar at Antarctica. I have had thoughts about that place for a long time. It does not have to be a Pole trip, just want to do something at that continent, there is so much to see (is there anything besides pure ice?!?!?!).”

Franz Josef Land The guys from the Franz Josef Land expedition have made it to Moscow. It’s their first stop on the way to exploring the Arctic wilderness of FJL, the Russian archipelago 559 miles from the North Pole. They’ll only be using skis and sleds, in an effort to relive the experiences of the original pioneers.

Flawless re-entry for ISS crew On Sunday, the 10th crew of the International Space Station touched down in Kazakhstan. They had spent more than six months in space, completing two spacewalks, and continuing Station maintenance and scientific experiments. The landing was right on target, as opposed to the 2003 return to Earth flight. That capsule flew 400 km off course due to a computer error, prompting a massive search party to fan out over the steppes of Kazakhstan. Not this time. The recovery team reached the capsule in minutes after it made a soft landing in the Kazakh soil.

2005 Space Conference - Personal spaceflight with Burt Rutan, Elon Musk and Hugh Downs Planetary Protection, Space Science and Personal Spaceflight will top panels at the 2005 International Space Development Conference in Washington. The summit promises to be very cool, touching many of our favorite subjects and featuring some of our favorite Space people! Register today - the opening day, May 19, is only weeks away!

Deep Impact: Target in sight Lock and load. According to NASA, sixty-nine days before it gets up-close-and-personal with a comet, the Deep Impact spacecraft successfully photographed its quarry, comet Tempel 1, from a distance of 64 million kilometers (39.7 million miles). When exactly will the “rendezvous” to occur? On a perfect day for fireworks, the 4th of July. Deep Impact is comprised of two parts, a "flyby" spacecraft and a smaller "impactor." The impactor will be released into the comet's path for a planned high-speed collision on July 4.

Shuttle flight pushed back to July After months of anticipation for a May launch, NASA decided to push the Space Shuttle's Return to Flight launch window back to July. They determined that more safety precautions should be taken before the launch. "Sending brave men and women into space is not without risk, but we will do everything possible to reduce those risks. If it takes more time to achieve that goal, then so be it,” said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

M-class sun flare alert for sat phones More than four years after solar maximum, there's one big sun spot transiting the solar disk now, alerts SpaceWeather.com. Since it appeared on April 25th, sunspot 756 has tripled in size. It's now about five times wider than Earth and very dynamic.

Sky watchers in Alaska and Canada should be alert for auroras on May 1st and 2nd. That's when Earth is expected to run into a solar wind stream flowing from a coronal hole on the sun. The flare is M-class (medium-sized) and can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions. In 2003, expeditions’ communications went haywire in a flare that "was more than twice as big as the previous record flare," according to the scientists.

Scientists classify solar flares in 3 categories: X-class flares are big; they are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. M-class flares are medium-sized; they generally cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.

Read these stories - and more! - at ExplorersWeb.com.

Image "Ernie goes swimming" live over Contact 3.0, courtesy of UltimateNorth Barclay expedition.
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Special mention:

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The Spirit of Adventure

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