baby uggs boots Two Miamians Take on Mount Everest
Contact Us,Santiago Perez grabs for the carabiner, but it slips from his frostbitten fingers. His glove liners are worn away, so ice crystals form on his skin. Fearing he might lose digits, he tries to flex his hand inside the cavity of an unwieldy mitten, but it merely twitches. Nothing can dull the alternating sharp pricks of pain and aching numbness in his fingertips.
Stuck with two blocks of ice for hands, the bearded, gaunt climber relies on his feet. He swings his crampons into the mountainside, but falters. The metal spikes of his boots screech along the icy surface. He looks down and shudders. Just a couple of hours ago, when he and his group had left Camp 4, a desultory way station on the climb up Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, his toe heaters had stopped working. At the time, he told himself not to turn back. But as he pushes on, every step is a near miss.
As Santiago looks up to check progress, his goggles fog with a thin layer of ice. He lifts them and struggles to see. The wind sears his cheeks.
Gasping into the vacuum, the withered 40 year old climber breaks into a hacking cough. At this altitude, 27,000 feet above sea level, a nascent lung infection has worsened. With each hollow, dry sputter, Santiago becomes more certain he’s choking to death.
He knows this landscape punishes hesitation. The frozen corpses that litter the route are evidence. But the pain is too much to handle, so he stops to rest.
Hours ago, he was walking among the stars at a height traversed only by commercial aircraft. Now, night has yielded to day. Though there’s no air pollution here, he’s immersed in bleached white. “It’s like you’re inside a Ping Pong ball,” he says.
Only positive thoughts, Santiago tells himself, but doubt creeps in. After all, many routes are flooded with inexperienced climbers, and the winds are hitting well over 50 mph. In just the past few weeks, six alpinists have died, including one of the world’s most accomplished free climbers, “Swiss Machine” Ueli Steck. He had been exactly Santiago’s age. And he had perished trying to acclimatize. Roland Yearwood, an American doctor from Alabama, had also literally drowned in the thin air just a few days earlier.
As Santiago stalled for time, he couldn’t help but think, I’m in the death zone at the very same height where my buddy Nelson almost died, not just once, but three times. Santiago had heard the heart stopping stories when he and Nelson Dellis, an idiosyncratic, six foot six 33 year old, trained together at a CrossFit gym in Wynwood. They were two guys from the flattest part of America. You couldn’t write that in a movie script.
A couple of months ago, they had stood beside each other, lifting weights and challenging one another. But now here Santiago was, alone, thinking the unthinkable: Everest takes down even the mightiest of men.
Santiago Perez (right) trekked Everest during one of the mountain’s busiest seasons.
In 2014, a column of glacial ice on the western shoulder of Mount Everest caved. Sixteen Nepalese guides, called sherpas, were killed in what would be called the Khumbu Icefall. Three bodies were never recovered.
On average, sherpas make $5,000 per year $4,300 more than the national average but for the remainder of that season, they all went on strike out of respect for their fallen colleagues.
The following year brought little relief. Many climbers from the aborted 2014 season returned, but late that April, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rattled Nepal and surrounding countries. One hundred thirty miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, “Mountain Daughter” Pumori shook violently, triggering an avalanche that swept from its peak into Everest’s base camp on the south side.
Ladders flew through the air like giant spears, and tents tumbled across the Khumbu Glacier into the lower icefall. Nearly 9,000 people in Nepal died that day more than a dozen at base camp. Considered the deadliest season on record, 2015 was the first time in 41 years that no one reached the Everest summit.
To resuscitate business, the Nepalese government in 2016 announced that all unused permits from 2014 and 2015 would be extended into 2017.
Even so, many of the 350 to 450 sherpas who shepherded climbers each year had become certain the mountain was either cursed or deeply displeased. Some alpinists decided to wait before returning.
In 2017, when the extension granted after the avalanche and earthquake was set to expire, many climbers returned. Nepal added to the demand by advertising in India and China. By late March, the government had issued 371 permits, the most in generations.
Over the next few weeks, base camp filled up. By mid April, Everest welcomed almost a thousand people including sherpas and guides on and around the mountain. Among them were inexperienced climbers and guides eager to make an easy buck.