Valerio Massimo Everest Expedition 2009

Me on the summit of Cho Oyu with Everest in the background

The Summit Push Begins

May 17th, 2009 by Alix

 Valerio and Moises Testing Gear

Hi All, Alix here, as predicted in the last post. Before I begin I thought I should address the beard issue as it’s gaining such attention. Valerio had to shave the beard, despite the example of so many great adventurers, as there is a high chance of it freezing and interfering with his oxygen flow as he gets higher. So it wasn’t just vanity, or my insistence!


On to more mundane matters… this is a post in several different parts and timeframes. First we have the present, the 9:30am on the 17th, when I know that Valerio made it safely through the dreaded Icefall and is on his way up to Camp 2, where he’ll be staying for two nights before continuing up to Camp 3, Camp 4, and then on to final summit push some time during the night of the 20/21st.



Then I have what I wrote when I returned to my tent at 2:30am after an early wake up at 1:45 and excited, tense breakfast at 2am. The first group is 14 strong, including guides, and everyone was in good spirits as they left for the first step of the final stage of this long process:


2:30 am. Valerio just left; it was a somewhat spooky sight, headlamps glaring and fading in the darkness as owners did last checks on their gear, the only sounds hushed whispers and the clanking of d-clips. The night itself however was glorious – utterly clear and still after days and nights of continual storms, the crescent moon intensely bright, reflecting on the curve of the peaks around the camp. Billions of stars, looking much brighter and bigger than normal, littered the sky in unfamiliar places; the Big Dipper was very low in the sky and vertical. My tent suddenly seems huge; I take advantage of the space to sleep horizontally across the mats and away from a looming boulder which bothers me.


An hour later, I scrambled up a bit of the moraine to watch the trail of tiny headlamps making their way through the Icefall, witnessing a small avalanche which made sleeping for the rest of the night very hard.


Lastly, there is the note that Valerio wrote before he went to sleep last night:


Valerio, 8:30pm: If everything went to plan, I am in Camp 2 as you read this, having climbed through the Icefall and past Camp 1 last night and this morning.


We had an all-hands team meeting on the 14th May, where Russell outlined his plans for the summit push.  There would be two teams, with summit days a number of days apart. I’m in Team 1, which leaves tonight at 2:30am. As usual, we’ll be woken by a Sherpa with a hot towel and ‘bed tea’, although this time we’ll  be whispering to try not to disturb the others as we hastily pull on the clothes, boots, and harnesses that we spent today checking and fixing.


For the past few days I have been getting ready.  Resting, eating as much as I can, and checking and re-checking equipment.  Today was final packing day, and I have been going through my equipment with a fine tooth comb. My inner boots, which look (according to Alix) like a child’s image of what a basketball-playing astronaut would wear (does that make sense to anyone at all?) have come to pieces, so I have used the most advanced technology known to man and mountaineer to fix them: duct tape. Lots of it. I was surprised to find out that I climbed Cho Oyu in them without any insoles, so have managed to find some from another pair of boots and transfer, with the luxurious new inclusion of battery-operated footwarmers,  But the main focus has been to get mentally prepared now that the dates were known.  This is it, the end game after all the time here at EBC and above and all the training in the year prior to my departure.


I write this as I lie in my tent on the evening of the 16th May.  It is 8.30pm and I am getting up in a few hours to leave.  Now that the time has come I just want to get on with it.  As everyone says, the next seven days are going to be among the hardest of my life, but I feel as ready as I can be.


So this is my last post until I get back to Base Camp around the 25th or 26th.  I will take a Sat phone with me and Alix will post as I make my way up, and on summit night/day Alix will post my progress as I report down via radio.


For now – here we go! 


Over and out from EBC.


Back to Alix: So off he went, and now I’m left for a couple of days with the rest of the team before they too head off and EBC becomes a ghost camp for at least a week. The team are all strong so I’m confident but it’s certainly tense; over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of the climbers and I desperately want them all to summit. Russell has strict turnaround times for summit day so anyone not reaching the designated points within, for example, five hours or ten hours and so on, will be turned around no matter how close to the summit, which could be painful.


Fingers, toes, elbows and knees crossed for Valerio and everyone on the mountain.


X from an emptier EBC.

PS Thank you for the comments, they are so appreciated in our splendid isolation!




Tags: 19 Comments

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19 responses so far ↓

  • I’m thinking the inner boots look like converse hi tops but made out of insulated silver padded material?!

    I am crossing all my fingers, toes, legs, arms and possibly also hairs for Valerio and the rest of the team. Good luck guys and Alix try not to worry too much. Much love, A xxx

  • Best of luck to you Valerio!!!

    I also wanted to give a shout out to one of the sherpas, MY sherpa, Yonden Nuru. I’m his girl and I just wanted to send him all my love and wish him the best of luck as he goes for his first summit attempt! I love you sweetheart! Climb safely and come back to me soon! I’m anxiously waiting your return. I miss you you like there’s no tomorrow… I love love love you…. <3

    I think he’s in the second team that will be leaving so if you can somehow pass on this message to him before he departs for the summit that would be awesome!! It would mean the world to me.

    Thanks in advance Alix!
    I thoroughly enjoy keeping up with this blog. You’ve done such an awesome job with it :)

  • Good luck Valerio. Thinking and praying for you on your journey up Chomolungma. Very best wishes, Tim
    PS Some words from another Italian, Petrach c 1345: “Up where no overshadowing mountain stands, / Towards the great and the loftiest peak / A fiery longing draws me.”

  • Best of luck Val! I really hope you make it and I’ll be thinking of you so much on the 20th

    Lots of love Laura xxx

  • Alix, Jeanie and I will have you both on our minds continually. Your parents arrive tomorrow. Good luck and God bless.

  • Good luck Valerio and really enjoy the experience. I know how long it has been your dream – and am thrilled for you that it is finally happening. Was in Vail with Charlotte this spring and we were both remembering the fun time we had skiing there. Thanks too to Alix for keeping us all in touch and letting us share, somewhat vicariously from our comfy sofas, what it really feels like to be on Everest. Can’t wait to hear about it all in person when you get back. Diana x

  • Great that Valerio is on his way to the ‘final push’. I’m sure it can’t be easy for you Alix, as you wait in EBC for any communication from him. You will both be very much in our thoughts over the coming days and we await the BIG news. Ooohhh! You guys are SOooooo…… brave!!! Please keep those blogs coming.

  • Valerio – great blog, great adventure. Best of luck on the 20th in the icesteps of Hilary and Tenzing. Take care – “Do nothing in haste; look well to each step.” “Because it’s there.”

  • You are in our thoughts and we are willing you up that mountain! Alix your support is invaluable. This blog has given us all such a wonderful insight into the world of Everest. Thank you. May the climbers return safely to EBC. All our love X

  • so excited it’s finally happening ! i often think about both of you on that big mountain. it’s weird to think that while i am sitting at my desk in new york you are on the other side of the world climbing everest ! you must be thrilled !!! i hope the weather holds and you”ll have perfect conditions for the next couple of days.

    much love. s.

  • Best of luck Valerio! I’ll be praying to the weather gods. Hope you manage to get some sleep, Alix. Will be following avidly so please keep up the updates. N x

  • Fantastic news! With you all the way! l
    Looking forward to the summit pics. You too are a wonderful reporter Alix. Thank you.Greetings from us all. James.

  • Are my comments still being banned for profanity?

    Thinking of both of you over the next few days. Am thrilled for you to be there, call me as soon as you can…

    Lots of love,


  • Good luck to Valerio on the last push! Looking forward to the next update. What an amazing experience for both of you.


  • You know, Alix, they also serve who (only?) stand and…report.
    love to you,

  • .

    good info!!…