Wednesday, May 19, 2010

END OF MY JOURNEY

End of my Journey

Hi All,

sorry for the delay in updating everything but a lot has been going on. My last report had me coming down from the North Col. We spent the next 3 days getting our butts kicked at ABC by the weather and wondering if we were going to get the chance to go back up the North Col, spend the night, climb up to camp 2 (25,900 ft) and then go back to ABC. The weather report wasn’t looking favorable and our team wasn’t feeling very good. Fanuru was so sick that he couldn’t even talk. Lopsang was still trying to get over his sinus infection and Julio’s cough was nagging him. On the eve of the 3rd night the team made the decision to hike down to base camp instead of back up the North Col. Little did we know how lucky we were. The day we hiked down to BC was the same day there was an avalanche on the North Col. Who knows whether we would have been caught in the avalanche. All I can tell you is that we were to climb up the North Col that day with team Jordan. Since we were more acclimatized than they were we would have been directly above them. When the avalanche hit, it took out the two Hungarians killing one and injuring the other. The Hungarians were located right above team Jordan. The avalanche hit Jordan and knocked him into his father with Jordan’s crampon hitting him in the head. Fortunately for Paul and Jordan the ropes held them to the mountain and Paul got a cut above his eye that needed only 4 stitches. As for our team, we only heard about the avalanche when we got down to base camp. Our plan was now to recoup for the next 5 or 7 days there at BC and then head back up to ABC and stay there for the rest of the climb. The next 3 days at BC were spent getting our appetites back, taking showers and changing our clothes, and trying to get weather reports. On the 3rd day we decided to walk down to a nearby Tibetan village (1 hour walk) to have some chicken and beers. About 100 yds from the village, I all of a sudden had a bout of vertigo. I went down to one knee, regulated my breathing and tried standing up. Again the vertigo hit me like a ton of bricks and I fell to the ground. I called out for Julio and the Sherpa’s and they came running back and picked me up off the ground. I put my arms over their shoulders and we walked to the village and went into a tea house. As I sat down I quipped to Julio about how funny it was that there was a black chicken that kept running back and forth across the room. He asked me what the hell I was talking about. After closer examination I realized that I now had a big black spot in the vision of my left eye and that there wasn’t any chicken in the room. Not good. At this point I became very tired and proceeded to pass out for the next two hours as Julio, Lopsang, Lhapka Gelu and Fanuru sat there and ate chicken and drank beers. When I woke up, I was pretty much in a daze and not in any position to walk back in the driving blizzard that had arrived so we paid for transportation to get us back to camp. At dinner that night, Julio and I went back and forth discussing all my alternatives and potential damages to my eye. In the end, it was determined that it was probably better that I leave the mountain. The next morning we arranged for the yaks to bring down my gear from ABC (2 days) and my transportation back to Kathmandu (2 day drive). While I was sad to leave the team and the mountain (without achieving my goals) I felt it was best to protect my eye. Over the next two days my head felt a little foggy but I thought it was because I wasn’t drinking enough water. On my last night at BC Fanuru had baked me a cake and we drank some whiskey to celebrate my climb. It was a great way to end my climb as we held our glasses high and cheered to Chomolungma and ate some cake! The next morning I was picked up by my Chinese driver Sumday for my 6 hour drive to Zangmu. It would have been a great drive had he spoke a lick of English but he didn’t. Instead it was like a cone of silence which was ok because it gave me time to reflect on my overall trip. More about that later. On the way back we had lunch in my favorite town of Tingri and spent the night in Zangmu. I’d have to say that night was fantastic as it was nice to actually have a real pillow under my head and be able to spread my feet out more than the width of my sleeping bag! I was excited to be getting back to Kathmandu and then home. The next morning we crossed the border without any problems and I met up with Geljen for my 4 hour ride back to Kathmandu. I could already start to feel the thickness and warming of the air. As we got closer to the city the heat and the smog started to appear and being back into civilization was quickly becoming a reality. When we finally pulled into the Yak and Yeti hotel all I could think about was taking a long shower and changing into some fresh clothes. As I got into my room I stood in front of the mirror and noticed that my clothes were hanging on me. It turned out that I had lost 20 lbs. on the mountain. An amazing weight loss in such a short period of time. My beard had grown in full and I was now staring at someone that I didn’t recognize. After cleaning myself up and putting on some shorts I headed out of the hotel to find an internet café to send off some emails and make some phone calls. Unfortunately, the Maoists decided to start their protests with the government and all offices, stores and transportation had been shut down. Not a thing was open and all the streets were empty. Everywhere I walked there were protesters along with soldiers just waiting to clash. It was kind of eerie walking around with the streets void of any cars and motorcycles yet nice to know that you weren’t going to get run over. So it was back to the hotel for dinner and some well deserved Everest beers! I used the hotel phone to call Sue for 15 minutes to let her know I was alright and back in Kathmandu and it cost me $105. Highway robbery but I didn’t have any alternative. The next day when I woke up my vision was all blurry. It was worse than what my vision was before I had my Lasik surgery 8 years ago. I could see well enough to walk around but when I went to the business center in the hotel to send some emails I wasn’t able to read the screen or anything for that matter. Now I had an even greater reason to visit the high altitude medical clinic that was right around the corner from the hotel. Fortunately it was open and I was the only patient at the time. I met with a young doctor who spoke English and we went over all my symptoms. Pretty quickly he pulled in the head of the clinic to talk to me about the seriousness of my situation. Apparently they see people like me all the time coming off of Everest. He said that he was pretty sure that I had a bad case of High Altitude Retinal Hemorrhaging along with cerebral hemorrhaging and that he wanted to get me to an Ophthalmologist as soon as possible. He also recommended for me to get an MRI when I get back to the states to see the extent of the hemorrhaging on my brain. He said I was a very lucky man that I had paid attention to my symptoms on the mountain and chose to come down. He mentioned that had I ignored what was happening to me and gone higher, I would have lost my vision and then slipped into a coma with limited chances of survival. OK, at this time I became worried because the extent of my condition was getting worse and not better and I had no idea I was as bad off as I was. Fortunately they were able to make an appointment for me with an Ophthalmologist just an hour later. The clinic had someone walk me over to their office of which I then went through an 1 ½ hour exam. The end result was that I had major hemorrhaging in my left eye and moderate in my right eye. The good news was that the doctor felt my blurry vision would correct itself over time and the eye hemorrhaging would dissipate over the next 2 or 3 months. He said it was very positive that the hemorrhaging didn’t reach the one area of my eye to cause any permanent damage. He also cautioned me that due to the extent of the bleeding in my eye that I also probably had extensive cerebral bleeding and that I should get it checked out once I got back to the US. The fact that I hadn’t had any vertigo since base camp or any headaches was a good sign that the pressure on my head had been relieved from coming down from the altitude. Now my next job was to deal with the airlines to change my flight home. Fortunately due to all the unrest in Kathmandu the airlines were willing to change my flights without charging me any extra fees. 2 days later I was on my way home! After 30 hours of flying and plane changes I arrived home on Mother’s day. Of course that was on purpose! Once I got home I went to see my Doctor, then an Ophthalmologist and finally a Neurologist. All confirmed what I had been originally told about my eyes and brain. My vision is back to normal but I still have the black spot. Apparently it will go away when the blood in my eye dissipates enough. We shall see. As for my head, it has been a tough road. I have been really tired and unable to do much in the way of tasks but I have been improving each day. The doctor said this is common for people with brain trauma. My memory is not what it used to be but I assume that will improve with time as well. The Doctor has banned me from any physical exercise for the next two months and to rest whenever I feel tired. Any of you that know me realize that it will be difficult for me to sit around and do nothing but that is what the Doctor is telling me to do. So now it is my job to do nothing but eat and we all know that is one of my favorite things! I’ve already gained some weight back, shaved my beard and back to studying the stock markets so almost back to business as usual.

I would really like to say thank you to all the people who have been following and commenting on my amazing journey over the last two months. It was great to read your supporting comments. It was really tough being on the mountain and it gave me strength to hear so many positives thoughts coming from you all. While I am very sad that I wasn’t able to reach my goal of 26,000 ft and then the summit I realize that I made the right decision to come off the mountain. It is tough for me to realize that my body won’t accept going higher than 20,000 ft but that is the way it is. It isn’t possible for me to go back and try again. In the end, I am glad that I had the opportunity to be there, see the mountain, climb the mountain, meet and climb with Lhapka Gelu and Julio Bird and then get home safely. Being away from home for such a long period of time you get a lot of chances to think about your life and all it encompasses. I am lucky that I have friends and family like you all to support me in my endeavors. We are all very lucky that we live here in the US. It truly is the land of opportunity and freedom. Make the most of it! If anyone has any questions about my climb or trip feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email. When I get all my pictures downloaded to the web I will send out an email on this blog with the address to view them. All the best, Bill Fisher

• My climbing partners, Julio Bird and Lhapka Gelu just summited on Monday. It is an amazing accomplishment that they both made it to the summit in such bad weather and difficult conditions. This is Lhapka Gelu’s 14th summit of Everest and makes Julio one of the few Americans and the only Puerto Rican to ever have summited from both the North and South sides!!! Congratulations to both of them on such an incredible achievement!

17 comments:

  1. Bill, you are truly an inspiration. What an incredible experience. What matters most is that you tried. You also returned (one-eyed, under weight and maybe a little grungy but that's Everest for you) with the right attitude and on Mother's Day no less. Cannot wait to hear more - our one hour conversation the other day wasn't nearly enough. On a serious note, I hope your eye recovers quickly. We can all learn from your experience. Welcome home!!

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  2. Hi Bill, congratulations on your amazing journey.
    You made the right decision at the right time. That shows a lot character and how responsible you are with yourself and the people you love. Many people don’t have the strength to do that and they would probably have chosen to continue climbing at all costs and be very irresponsible.
    I know how it feels to come home without a summit. But its not the summit that matters, its the amazing personal growth that you get when you try to climb the biggest and the most beautiful mountain in the world. That changes your life forever. That is priceless.
    Get well and recover soon.
    My best to you and your family.
    Take care and thanks for sharing the amazing journey.
    Gineth Soto

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  3. Thank you for the ride I enjoyed your daily blog and I feel that the summit is literal because in my eyes you have figuratively summited
    keep the faith
    you did good big time
    dave Kaplan
    south africa

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  4. Dude, I know as well as anyone the toll that big mountains can extract. I hope for you a speedy and complete recovery, but I also know there will be scars. Those scars will remind you of your experience at least once every day for the rest of your life. That's because your life has changed. Insist that the change is always positive and you'll do your part for a better world. I'm glad you are safe.

    Mark

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  5. Bill,
    All I can say is, Wow! Thanks for the ride.
    Lisa Nelson

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  6. I'm glad you are back.
    Take care and hope you feel better soon.

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  7. Welcome home Bill! While turning back from your ultimate goal was no doubt difficult, you showed tremendous courage and wisdom in making the right decision. I'm glad your home safe and I look forward to catching up over on my next trip to California in a few weeks. Take care and all the best.

    Alan

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  8. You took care of yourself and were considerate of your family when you decided to leave; that is something to take pride in. Good climb, and I am enjoying reading your blog.
    Denise (Julio's daughter)

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  9. Congrats Bill!! Great to have you back. We are proud of you!! Recover well.

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  10. Bill, I'm writing on behalf of the administrative team that works with Julio at Gundersen Lutheran in LaCrosse, WI. We've all been following both of your blogs. You did an amazing thing getting there, getting on the mountain, and making a decision that was right at the right time. You are our hero! We hope to meet you some day! Deb Rislow

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  11. so glad that you are home safe and sound - what a journey

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  12. Good thing you were able to have that LASIK consultation. Your stories have been a great inspiration to your readers, Bill. Yep, you're lucky you're living in the U.S., so take all those opportunities. Good luck with your journey!

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  13. Awesome blog you got, I like it

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  14. I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for publishing it.
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  15. Excellent and thoughtful end to your blogging I followed your blog with great interest. Thanks for all of the information and entertainment!
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