Brian Smith, a 1988 South Medford High School graduate, is sending periodic e-mail dispatches to the Mail Tribune from Mount Everest, where he hopes to reach the summit by mid-May. The son of Larry and Linda Smith of Jacksonville, Brian Smith began his treacherous adventure when he arrived in Kathmandu March 28.
In his last dispatch, dated Wednesday, Smith reported a medical emergency, having developed every alpine climber's worst nightmare, high-altitude pulmonary edema. Smith refers to the deadly condition as "HAPE," and the only cure is oxygen and a quick descent.
Today, I made the difficult decision to descend two days down to Namche Bazaar at 11,000 feet. I will spend a few days recovering and see how things go.
If the team makes an early season ascent to the summit my personal summit dreams are over for now. If they are delayed and I do recover, then I will re-join the team for a summit bid.
I allowed the BBC to film my emotional decision at the Everest ER this morning.
Discovery Channel will probably be purchasing the program from the BBC, so you can all watch me get emotional on TV as I talk about my 22-year dream coming to an end for now and describing my night at camp II with HAPE and how I thought I would not be returning home as my lungs rapidly filled with plasma fluid.
Getting on O2 (oxygen) quickly was definitely the right move. I thought about the Gamow bag (a portable pressure chamber used in HAPE emergencies), but I could not tolerate lying down at that point. The BBC is going to be following my team to the summit from base and tie in my story, HAPE, my dreams and disappointments with the team's hopeful success.
We all came to an agreement that if I attempt a summit bid without recovering fully that I will be making a one-way trip up Everest and will become one of more than 200 fatalities on the mountain endangering my team and the sherpas. I did not come here to die, so I am making the tough decision to descend. Having just had HAPE, my body is definitely a ticking time bomb at extreme altitude right now.
A good storm has moved in here, so rather then descending today I have delayed my descent to the morning. It has been a month since I have seen life so I am looking forward to seeing trees, grass and rhododendrons in bloom. With the new storm I am sure that it will rain much of the way down into the valley once I drop below the snow zone.
I have met many climbers here who have made two to three attempts at Everest. The overall statistics I have heard are 1 in 4 who attempt the summit make the summit and of those that make the summit over history 1 in 12 have died making the attempt. I guess I am not the only one to have had extreme altitude health issues. Next season or the season after I will find a way to get back to Mount Everest and be successful. This is a dream that I will not give up on until it has been completed. Comparing Mount Everest to Mount Rainier, which is widely considered the lower 48's most dangerous and difficult mountain: 10,000 per year attempt the mountain, 5,000 make the summit and 100 have lost their lives for their climbing dream. On Everest, we have had 2,500 successful summits with around 200 of them losing their lives in the 54 years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay Sherpa's historic climb.
Thank you all for your love, prayer and support during the adventure of my lifetime. I know that there have been many thousands of people following my progress and I appreciate that. I will write more of my night at camp II later in the week.