Their goal in sight, Team USX plans to start their summit of Mount Everest this week. But their expected summit day has been delayed.
After receiving an updated weather forecast on Wednesday, the team decided to spend one more day at advanced base camp, pushing their projected summit day to May 23. Their attempt will be the first since deadly avalanches closed the mountain the past two years.
Army 2nd Lt. Harold Earls, a recent graduate of West Point and former Army baseball player, is leading the expedition to raise awareness for PTSD. Their mission took on renewed purpose this month when the team learned of the suicide of Marine veteran Dan Sidles, one of their climbing buddies.
The upper portions of Mount Everest are covered in more than 3 feet of snow, and because of the changing weather conditions, the Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association has been prevented from fixing the Team USX ropes from Camp 3 to the summit.
The team is approaching from the treacherous North Col, the northern route from Tibet. It’s a 1,000-foot wall of ice that is mostly protected from the wind. Earls said heat has been a factor with UV rays four times stronger than at the beach because of ice reflection and slightly closer proximity to the outer atmosphere and the sun.
Earls said while waiting for another group of climbers to descend, the weather shifted bringing a storm. “Winds were blowing snow sideways, spindrift was sliding down the icy slope, hitting us in the face and the cold was crippling,” he added.
Weather conditions, which remain the team’s primary concern, have not diminished an “amazing” and “overwhelming” undertaking, said retired Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes.
Jukes, a single-leg amputee who would be the first combat-wounded veteran to summit Everest, describes life at windy base camp in the video above.
“I find bliss in being able to enjoy the mountains without limitations and I am grateful the team understands this freedom,” added Army Capt. Elyse Ping Medvigy via Instagram. “We each experience the mountains in separate ways but come together to work as a team through obstacles.”
Follow their expedition in the photo gallery below: