If you asked Teddy Elizabeth Anderson what life is like at the 17,500-foot base camp on Mount Everest, chances are she would burst out laughing.
"We spend a lot of time in side-splitting laughter and looking for ways to get into innocent trouble," Anderson, 32, wrote in an e-mail interview. "Honestly, that is what these trips, all climbing trips, are about for me. Having lots of fun and laughing a lot.
"No matter how big a mountain, how difficult the climbing, how long and mundane the trips can get, it is all about supporting each other and finding ways to keep it light," she said.
While she is deadly serious about her job as Everest base camp manager for Mountain Madness, a Seattle-based adventure travel company, the 1993 graduate of South Medford High School figures a little high-altitude humor can ease the hardships. The firm offers guided trips to the top of the world's tallest mountain.
Anderson arrived at the camp in early April with the firm's climbing team, which includes client Brian Smith, 37, a 1988 graduate of South Medford High School. Smith, an experienced mountain climber, was suffering from high altitude pulmonary edema but hopes to summit 29,035-foot Everest at the end of the month. The Mail Tribune has been following his attempts.
To put it in perspective, base camp on Everest is 8,000 feet higher than the top of Mount McLoughlin at 9,500 feet.
Although Anderson hasn't summitted Everest, she is an experienced mountain climber and river guide. This is her second visit to Nepal, having climbed 22,500-foot Ama Dablam in 2004.
"Ama Dablam is thought by many to be the most beautiful mountain in the Himalayas," she explained. "It is very steep and technical and has a success rate of only about 20 percent."
The second child of seven siblings, she is the daughter of the late Alison Anderson Ricks and former longtime Medford businessman Ross Anderson, who now lives in Salt Lake City, where she also lives.
After attending Hoover Elementary School, Hedrick Junior High School and graduating from South Medford High School, she traveled the world, from Alaska to the South Pole. She worked as a carpenter to help build a new science research building at the South Pole station in Antarctica during that region's summer beginning in October of 1999.
"It was a pretty amazing place to spend the turn of the millennium," she said, adding she returned to the South Pole the following year.
During the winter of 2003, she worked as an assistant mountain guide on Aconcagua, the South American mountain that rises to 22,841 feet, making it the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas.
She has spent recent summers in the northern hemisphere working as a river guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. But her focus now is base camp on Mount Everest. A typical day includes writing e-mail dispatches for the firm's Web site, communicating with the company office and packing food and gear for high-altitude camps.
"I help with any issues that come up, whether it be contacting other teams about their logistics, tracking down equipment that we need for our trip or keeping track of the inventory of everything we need for the expedition," she wrote. "When the climbers are on the mountain I spend a lot of time figuring out logistics from below, and giving them weather reports by radio.
"If there are any problems on the mountain I help to manage them from below," she added.
Base camp is on the Khumbu glacier, meaning the tents are all sitting on ice, she said.
"Throughout the season everything melts out from beneath us," she wrote. "We have to move our tents and improve the platforms they are on."
Although the mornings normally dawn sunny and clear, snow usually begins to fall by 2 p.m. with half a foot falling overnight, she said.
"Life at base camp is pretty simple," she wrote. "There are many other groups here and we have all become friends. There is plenty of room for socializing and having nice coffee hours in the morning."
At capacity, the base camp will hold about 800 people, she estimated.
"The best part of this job is the people — there are so many nice people around," she wrote.
But it is the Sherpas that have impressed her the most.
"The climbing Sherpas are so unbelievably strong," she said. "Westerners cannot even compete on the same ground.
"They work so hard and not a single one of us, beginning with Sir Edmund Hillary, would be able to climb here without them, with the exception of perhaps the world's 10 most elite alpinists," she said.
For more of Anderson's dispatches from the roof of the world, check out the Mountain Madness at www.mountainmadness.com online.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at firstname.lastname@example.org