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Local women training for Everest summit attempt

Shauna Farnell

During every morning over the past few weeks, 15-month-old Frisco resident Hans Thompson says “Mama” when his father, Mark, shows him a picture of his mother.

Jody Thompson, 38, is getting used to higher altitudes as she and the other four women of Team No Boundaries – potentially the first-ever all-women group to summit Mount Everest – are practicing long hauls from the base camp at 17,600 feet to higher camps while waiting for an opportunity to summit. Joining Thompson on Team No Boundaries are former Summit County resident Kim Clark, 35, Lynn Prebble, 49, of Silver Cliff, Alison Levine, 36, of San Francisco and 58-year-old Midge Cross of Mazama, Wash. The team has been at it for about four weeks now, and despite some breathtaking obstacles – including literally losing its breath at 24,000-foot Camp Three, narrowly avoiding an avalanche and coping with a fellow climber falling to his death – is still in high spirits.

“They had really high winds last week,” said Mark Thompson, who hears from his wife about once a week via satellite telephone from base camp. “The wind chewed up Camp Two and Camp Three, ripped up their tents, and a British climber fell off Lhotse Face and died. That was definitely a psychological obstacle for them. They were talking 100-plus mile per hour winds up there.”

Last Tuesday, 38-year-old Peter Legate of Britain fell off the face, which is one of the steepest and most exposed sections of 29,035-foot Everest, and the section Thompson and her team had to scale immediately afterward to reach Camp Three. In an account by Kari Grossman on http://www.discovery.com, Levine said the climb was a brutal mix of no oxygen and steep blue ice requiring proficient crampon stepping and axing.

“I was taking about five breaths for every step, and then I got dry heaves at 23,000 feet,” Prebble said. “Steep ice is totally new for me and that’s what throws me for a loop. I end up totally out of breath when I get to the top of a steep section and I start panting.”

Luckily, Thompson and Clark are skilled on ice and are longstanding climbing partners in Summit County during the fall and winter. Still, at Camp Three no previous experience could soften the acclimatizing process of breathing at 24,000 feet.

“Jody said she felt really good and really strong, but had a lot of trouble dealing with that altitude,” said Mark Thompson, who ice climbs with his wife regularly during the season and is also no stranger to intense athletic feats, having won the 35-plus mens category of the Tour of the Gila road bike race in New Mexico last weekend.

“There is no oxygen and she had very little sleep. They just stayed up there (at Camp Three) one night, then came back down. They’re back at base camp now and are going to go back to Camp Three for another stay. They’re waiting for their chance. Historically, most of the action over the past 10 years, as far as good summit windows up Everest, have been between May 5 and May 10.”

The Camp Three site consists of platforms cut into the ice with tents secured to the mountain with cables and ice screws. In Grossman’s report, Clark said reaching that section was an encouraging but tough glimpse of what it will take to summit.

“It was so hard to breathe on the little steep sections, I’d do a little power move and then I’d have to sit there and get my breath back,” she said. “By the time we got here I knew I needed to get in the tent and warm up because I was pretty cold, but I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment.”

Challenging as it may be, Clark and Thompson seem to be maintaining the same ambitious spirit they had at their send-off party last month at the Blue Spruce in Frisco two days before their departure.

“It sounds like they’re really having a great time as a team,” Mark Thompson said. “They’re enjoying each other’s company. Jody said it’s good to be at base camp together again instead of in smaller tents. All the correspondence I’ve had was very confident and upbeat. I haven’t gotten the sense she’s having a tough go of it.”

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at sfarnell@summitdaily.com.


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