What was the most challenging part of the trip?
The climbing was no different than climbing a Colorado 14ner, so that was no problem. Patience was the biggest challenge, I don’t like to sit around and wait. We were on the mountain for 45 days, but 25 of those days were spent waiting around.
So after all that waiting around, what were the conditions like?
When we first arrived on Everest things were really dry and icy after a long winter in the high Himalaya. But as the spring progressed we started getting these nice afternoon snow showers, which began to stick to all the icy faces, including the Lhotse Face. So from a skiing perspective the conditions went from being basically un-skiable to very good in a short period of time. Fortunately there was not too much snow so the climbing remained relatively easy, meaning there wasn't waist-deep snow to move through and the avalanche danger was low. On our summit day we witnessed the most beautiful snow conditions above the balcony, on what is called the Triangle face, and we were bummed we didn't have skis that day. I think these might have been some of the best ski conditions high on the mountain ever, and it was really too bad we weren't prepared to ski that day, because it really would have been all time!
What was your favorite part about the trip?
Even though I was guiding a client, I got to ski. I don’t like to go anywhere without bringing my skis with me.
Your friend Neal joined you, and he was part of a tragic Everest trip 15 years ago. What was this trip like for him?
For Neal Beidleman, who was an integral part of the 1996 Everest disaster, which was documented in "Into Thin Air", returning to Everest was an intense experience. There were some old wounds there that he may not have really known about and it was very healing for him to go revisit some of the sites, such as the South Col, where these events had taken place. Neal had some very emotional times up on the mountain, and many memories of the events of 15 years previous would come flooding back. Since Neal and I were making a documentary film about the trip I attempted to capture as many of these moments as possible on film and we did some wonderful interviews attempting to capture the drama that took place at the locations where they happened in 1996. Neal was under a lot less pressure this time around as a guide. Our team was small, with just one client, and we had a highly organized and professional trip this time around. Since everything was running so smoothly Neal was able to relax and really enjoy the mountain, the climbing, and the skiing. But he was also a bit of a celebrity in basecamp, since virtually all climbers nowadays up there have read "Into Thin Air" and know about Neal's role in that disaster.
Would you ever climb Everest again?
Yes, it was that cool.