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The Only Way is Up

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition
Trail below ama_0.JPG
Team Australia.JPG
David McGrain 3_2.JPG

The following blog is courtesy of Billie Bierling, Himalayan Experience:

I have just spoken to our guide Adrian, who together with the team was basking in the sunshine having lunch on their way to the next stop in Pheriche. This Sherpa village lies at an altitude of 4,240m (13,990ft) and is home to a clinic, which is run by the Himalayan Rescue Association, a non-profit organisation. The health post is open during the trekking season and serves trekkers as well as porters for altitude sickness and other ailments and is usually staffed with two western volunteer doctors. It also offers a daily talk on high altitude sickness, which will certainly be a good lecture for our team to visit on Friday afternoon.

“Everyone is feeling great and today is the first day that the clouds have given way to beautiful sunshine and blue skies. We can finally enjoy the glorious views of Everest and Lhotse. I guess we must have pleased the Gods during the blessing we received from the Lama in the old monastery in Pangboche,” Adrian told me over the phone.

Telephony in the Khumbu has become almost ubiquitous, as Nepal’s two mobile phone operators have built several towers in the region. There is even reception at Base Camp, however, it can be volatile requiring the data-seeking mountaineer to wave their laptops, iPads or phones through the air while teetering on a rock or an iceberg to get reception.

While the team is edging their way up the Khumbu, our Sherpa team has been working hard setting up our temporary home on the glacier at 5,350m (17,650ft) for the past two weeks. “All the sleeping tents, dining, kitchen and communication tents, toilet and shower area as well as the White Pod are up,” Adrian continued. The White Pod is a Swiss design in the shape of a huge dome that provides a warm and homey environment with a cinema style TV, DVDs, a fully stocked bar, a coffee machine, games, carpet and armchairs. Here members can relax in an atmosphere, which reminds them of home. It may sound very flash, however, considering that the group will spend almost two months at Base Camp, which can be cold and hostile at times, such a place is necessary to gather thoughts and recharge the batteries for the next acclimatisation climb.

However, before reaching this luxury, the team will spend two nights in Pheriche to further acclimatise before they trek up to our Lobuje Camp. This camp was set up by our Sherpas on the foot of Lobuje East (6,119m/20,190ft), which the team will climb later this month to fully acclimatise before they manage the Khumbu Icefall and go to Camp II on Everest.

In order to continue our “Meet the Team’ series, I am pleased to introduce Chimu McGrain and Greg Paul to you today.

Chimu McGrain

Chimu, who hardly ever uses his official name ‘David’, is from Austin, Texas and has been married to Beth for 21 years. The father of five children (Megan, Rachel, Ashley, Lily and Jack) works in real estate investments and creates public funds for the indigenous peoples of South America. He has a huge passion for South American cultures and is working towards keeping their history alive through his foundation, which aims at preserving the indigenous people of the Andes. It was through the people that he was first attracted to the mountains and not the mountains themselves. The 49-year-old has climbed on numerous expeditions from the Jungles of Colombia to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia.

How did you first come across Everest and who inspired you to climb it?

I was inspired by Russell Brice’s Discovery show on Everest.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?  

Being able to let go of the family to leave for the mountain.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

It’s certainly the mental game and being away from home for so long.

How do you think Everest will change your life?

I hope the climb will strengthen my biography for the family foundation created to help the indigenous peoples of South America.

How mentally prepared are you for the possibility of not getting to the top? 

I am totally prepared for this. Everything in life happens for a reason. I can accept anything along the way, knowing that I will learn from the experience.

What will you carry to the summit?  

A miniature lego Indian figure, the Peruvian flag and my foundation’s logo emblem.

If you are interested in Chum’s organisation, you can check out on


Greg Paul

Greg from Alpine in Utah is an avid skier, who has been intrigued by Mount Everest since his childhood. The 57-year-old has been married to Billie, who is joining him up to Everest Base Camp, for 33 years, and they have five children and seven grandchildren. The partner in a real estate securities firm is also one of the owners of a climbing gym, which has been referred to as the ‘Best Crag in Utah’ (www.momentumclimbing.com). Like some of our other contenders, Greg is on his way to complete the Seven Summits. So far, he has Aconcagua under his belt and has attempted Denali and Elbrus, however, he was forced back by bad weather on both expeditions.

How did you first come across Everest and who inspired you to climb it?

As a skier I have always loved mountains and have been intrigued by Mt. Everest.  I have Nancy Feagin and Martin Frey (past successful Everest climbers) to thank for convincing me that this year is my year to climb Mt. Everest.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Getting to the top of Aconcagua and surviving a five-day blizzard on Denali.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

Being away so long from Kevin, my 12-year-old son, my older children, my grandchildren and of course, my wife.

How do you think Everest will change your life?

Just being in the Himalaya is a fulfilment of a life-long dream. Climbing on Mt. Everest will be an unforgettable adventure that I will be able to share with my family and friends.

How mentally prepared are you for the possibility of not getting to the top?

It would be a disappointment, but it is more important that I come back in one piece and healthy to my family. 

What will you carry to the summit?

Besides oxygen, a photo of my family, my son’s class pictures and some sponsor logos. I am also planning to take the new Apple Ipad to the top.