Tarheel Expedition to Mt. Everest Base Camp

Thanks to everyone who supported me on my goal of visiting Mt. Everest Base Camp on foot. I set this goal almost three years ago in the Fall of 2006 after reading Ed Viesturs’ book No Shortcuts to the Top which I found to be one of the best climbing/adventure books out there.

I’ve always loved to be outdoors and high elevation trekking and climbing makes for me an insatiable combination of enjoyment and challenge. Travelling 10,000 miles to the other side of the world and spending a month adapting to new cultures, people, food, tiolets, volatile politics, highly dynamic environmental conditions, and high elevation made this trip really fun and rewarding (and I racked up 20,000 frequent flyer miles, haha).

On November 11th 2007 I put my goal into action when I sent the following message to four friends (Erik, Arvind, Charles D., and Wes) and my two brothers (Damon and Bryon).


You’re getting this email because I’ve either chatted with you (probably many times) about a trip to Everest Base Camp or I think you’re probably crazy enough to join me even though we haven’t talked about it yet.

... deleted details on trek cost and timing ...

That’s what I’ve come up with so far. I’m thinking about penciling in November 2008 on my calendar. Three weeks is a minimum so you’ll probably want to have a full month free.

I’d love to get everyone’s thoughts.


As it turns out, I only got one of the final participants correct on my first invitation attempt, Erik Severinghaus. Scott Dillard and Charlie Schmidt who later joined our crew would be invited by Erik and I respectively through various conversations during the planning process.

During the year and a half of planning we had at some points as many as eight people confirmed in our crew. In the end half dropped out as we expected, some of them very last minute. Our final crew included myself, Erik Severinghaus (UNC college friend and former and current business partner in Chicago, Il), Scott Dillard (UNC college friend and recent med school graduate in Mobile, AL), and Charlie Schmidt (high school friend and restaurant owner in Sylva, NC).

When we began to plan this trip in November of 2007 we planned to spend three weeks trekking in Nepal followed by one week of celebration and relaxation on the beaches of Thailand. Because of the schedules of a few of the people in our crew we ended up flipping the order and going to Thailand first which for most strategic reasons was quite backwards but because of timing was required. We also moved the trip from November 2008 to May 2009 to accommodate Scott’s May 9th 2009 graduation from medical school. The final trip schedule included three nights in Bangkok, Thailand, three nights on the southern Thai island of Ko Samui, two nights on the southern Thai island of Ko Phanang (including the famous Full Moon Party on the East Beach on May 9th), seven nights in Kathmandu, Nepal, and fourteen nights on the trekking route between Lukla, Nepal and Everest Base Camp.

In order to update family and friends back home of our progress I rented an Iridium Satellite Phone for the month and sent SMS text updates to Twitter almost daily. Until this trip I had forgotten how much it sucks to send text messages from old school T9 text input phones (ie: phones without a QWERTY keyboard). You can view my tweets between May 3rd 2009 and May 31st 2009 to see the updates I sent via satellite phone.

During our 14 days on the trekking route to Everest Base Camp we stayed in Lukla, Phakding, Namche Bazaar, Pangboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorak Shep, and Pherice for one or more nights along the way. We rode on one of the coolest and scariest flights you’ll ever see from Kathmandu to Lukla where the runway is cut into a cliff and ends abruptly at a brick wall. We walked and climbed 44,000 gross vertical feet round-trip and 8,600 net vertical feet one-way from Lukla to Everest Base Camp. We reached a maximum elevation of right around 18,000 feet where the atmosphere contains 45% of the oxygen that it does at sea level. We suffered the traditional headaches, coughing, lack of appetite, lack of energy, dizzyness, numbness, tingling, and diarea common with high altitude trekking. We reached Everest Base Camp on May 22nd 2009 at 12:20PM Nepali Local Time and returned to Gorak Shep that evening through a light blizzard of snow, ice, and clouds (we spent nine hours total on the trail that day). The following day as we descended to Pherice we heard word of 10 feet of snow that had fallen on Everest Base Camp immediately after we left putting all of the season-end camp breakdown and transport on hold because the yaks and porters couldn’t pass the trails.

For the best stories from the trip you’ll have to grab me in person. There are just too many to write down. Everyone else in our crew kept journals along the way but as Sarah always says I have a “memory like a steel trap” so I opted to spend my free time sleeping, reading, and listening to my iPod. Mostly sleeping. And additionally, I have a strong philosophy against writing down stories immediately when they happen. In these cases you’re apt to forget to include all of the great details that didn’t quite happen. These types of stories don’t get any better over time and therefore are far less interesting than their ever-improving counterparts. Those are the stories I like to tell. It’s worth mentioning that Big Fish is one of my most favorite movies of all times. That guy knows how to tell a story.

Anyway, to save countless thousands of words, I’ve titled and organized pictures from our trip and grouped them by segment. I hope you’ll take a look: Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek Pictures on Flickr.

As an aside, on the trip I was able to read a few books. Specifically Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and Other Short Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I tried like hell to get through The 80/20 Principle but I just couldn’t do it. I am permanantly stuck on page 30. When a book puts its own conclusion on the cover and you immediately identify with it, it becomes hard to want to spend 280 pages reconfirming it to yourself via someone else’s irrelevant examples. Maybe I’ll try this one again later.

Again, thanks to the Preation team, Ryan, Neil, Greg, Lee, Lynn, Phil, and Debbie for allowing me to be out of the country and completely disconnected from email and phone for an entire month in order to accomplish this goal. On the iContact side as well Ryan, Tim, our VP Team, and the Board of Directors all supported me from day one. I’m incredibly lucky to have such supportive co-workers and friends. And also Sarah, who after spending the last eight years together was kind enough (or possibly just mad enough) to let me jet off to Southeast Asia without her to do some backpacking with the boys for 29 days.

Thanks again to all. I’m glad to be home.