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Sara Pelosi
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The team and I are all safe after this morning's #avalanche in the icefall

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My new friend Simon Calder wrote this wonderful article about our trek on Aconcagua

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Best of Carstensz
100 Photos - View album

If you don't like my posts, don't read them. If you are going to comment on my posts and say something negative, learn how to spell.

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Reflections on Carstensz Pyramid - 26 May 2013
San Francisco

Carstensz Pyramid Trek
Highest elevation: 16, 024 ft / 4884 m
Total elevation gain: 9572 ft / 2918 m
Total days hiking: 8
Total hours hiking: 55.5
Total distance: 40.58 mi

It's been 3 weeks since getting home. When people ask how the trip was, they always seem disappointed when I don't say it was amazing. It was hard and a bit demoralizing. Everest Base Camp and Kilimanjaro are both bucket list trips. This is anything but. On both of the other trips, we averaged more distance per day and reached a higher elevation, but the conditions on Carstensz are rough. We hiked about 17 miles more for Kili, but I was hiking for 17 more hours on Carstensz. It's just brutal.

I didn't have quite the homecoming I was hoping for when I got back. I've had a rough personal situation to deal with, and it probably hit me harder than it normally would have since I was still in a bit of shock after this trip. But my injuries are healing and the cold I've had since returning is just a little cough now. I'm again being reminded of how wonderful my friends all over the world are. I've very lucky for many reasons, even though things don't always go as planned.

The other half of our group made it back as well after we had Google's security team track them down. They had also gotten held up, but for them it was the porters demanding extra money, and they had missed their flights to get out of Papua. +Sam Gilbert also had a few infected wounds that are now healing, and +Florian Nagl got a serious lymph node infection, but everyone will be OK in the end.

Turns out one of the extras on our trip, Charles, wrote a book about the hike. How he wrote a book in a month is beyond me. We know that he wrote about us since the Amazon teaser mentions that Googlers were on the trip, but we don't know how much he wrote about us individually. We're guessing it's not very nice so none of us want to actually pay for the book (if you have Amazon prime and a Kindle you can get it for free if anyone wants to download it and tell me). He referred to all of the PR we worked so hard for on the Street View launch as "web spam" so we can't imagine the rest paints us in a better light. The teaser says he mentions it because he's sure his blurred out face will be in Street View. But since I'm the one who decides which photos we use, that's not going to happen. After we got out of the mine he had been texting his wife, holding his phone up in front of his face since he's old and can't see, calling us "entitled babies". He certainly wasn't very appreciative that I was the only reason he got to the summit since there was no way in hell the group would have waited for him. They were willing to wait for way too long for me, but there's no way they would have waited for just him, even if he had been able to go a little faster without me. Oh well.

Readjustment after these trips is always tough. Worrying about normal things seems so strange after days on end of stressing about basic essentials. This one has been particularly rough to snap out of because the whole thing seems so surreal. I've found that an interesting way to determine if I want to continue a conversation with someone is to answer the question, "What do you do?" with "Well, I was recently detained in Indonesia in the world's largest gold mine." The conversation either dies right there or turns out to be quite interesting.

Another question I keep getting asked is if I'll climb any more mountains. Right now I don't have any desire to see the inside of a tent, and I probably won't at least until my gear stops smelling like mildew. But I'm sure I'll do some of the local, less challenging ones like Whitney and Shasta. The next on the docket for Street View is likely Denali. I would need to do an insane amount of training and figure out a way to stay warm, but even then I'm not sure I'm up for it. You never know though. After each trip, eventually the memories of when I couldn't wait to get off the mountain fade, and the mountains start calling again...

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Notes from Carstensz Pyramid - 30 April 2013

Mild Risk of Death Expedition Indonesia - Day 8
Base Camp - Carstensz Pyramid summit - Base Camp

Summit day. Hardest day yet. We woke up at 1:15 AM for breakfast and were on the trail by 2:15. Only a few minutes later than planned. The first hour or so was trekking. I was cold before leaving Base Camp, but a few minutes in I was already warm since there was a pretty steep uphill climb. I felt terrible. I got to where the fixed ropes started and there were still some people there gearing up so I wasn't too far behind.

I ended up being second to last on the ropes, in front of Charles. We had one of the guides with us. The first climb wasn't too bad, except there were a ton of loose rocks that kept getting knocked down on us. It seemed like every 30 seconds someone was yelling, "rock!" Apparently our rock-climbing champion was the main culprit. The rocks falling on our heads slowed down me and Charles. We had to keep stopping and tucking our heads in until the rock showers ended.

I knew it was a tough summit, but I was unprepared for the HOURS of climbing we had. I for some reason was under the impression that there was much less climbing. Most sections weren't too bad, but a few definitely seemed harder than the advertised 5.8 rating. Some of the hardest parts of the day for me were the scree with no ropes. I'm so terrible on scree for some reason. I can't get any traction on the loose pebbles. I was basically crawling for part of it which annoyed Charles. We were going so slowly that we didn't stop for food or water often enough. I should have made everyone stop more.

Everyone else was gone by the time we got to the traverse. That meant I had to put a ton of trust in our guide, who had not been terribly helpful for most of the day, to not kill me. Charles was helpful. That thing was scary. I had no faith in the ropes at all. We had to strap ourselves into this thing, hang ourselves off over the cliff and get pulled across on a pulley system. We made it across, and I was expecting the worst to be over, but no. Almost immediately two spots where you had to essentially jump across a chasm. The advice our guide gave us was to say, "careful." Thanks, buddy. For the first one I was basically hanging over the abyss by my ascender and one rope.

The morning had been clear, but by the traverse the clouds had started rolling in. The team nicely waited for us at the summit which Charles and I got to around 11. They waited for longer than most groups would have. I had no business getting all the way to the summit, but my friends know me well enough to know I would have been devastated to go through all of this and not get to the top. If they hadn't waited, Charles and I probably wouldn't have made the summit since during most of the climb there was no way to pass someone on the fixed ropes. As soon as we got to the summit it started hailing. Fantastic. We snapped a few group shots and headed down. I wasn't at the top for more than 5 minutes. Our guides stayed and took photos for at least another 10-15 minutes after we left.

+Florian Nagl led the way down, which was actually fine with me. It was nice to be with the group and have encouragement and guidance on the tricky spots. It made me feel better that everyone was nervous on those. We got to the traverse and the guides were still nowhere in sight. I completely trusted Flo to not kill us, but I was shocked that the guides thought it was ok to let a client be responsible for other climbers' safety. Finally the guides appeared and instead of coming to help, they sat at the top of a ridge and took photos. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is kind of a big part of what you're being paid for. Finally everyone yelled at them and one went to the front to do the safety checks.

It must have taken an hour to get everyone across the traverse. I was getting super cold just standing there wet. I got moved up in the line so I could start moving again and try to get warm. After the traverse was a belay down a steep wall. It was fun to try to remember how to belay with altitude brain. Then came the scree again. I was freezing and quite a mess at this point. There were several more ropes to belay down. Flo, +Dan Fredinburg and +Michele Battelli caught up to me and realized how cold I was. They decided that Flo should belay me down so I didn't have to keep trying to get my ATC on and off swollen ropes with numb hands. I think Flo was also enjoying having something a little exciting to do. I kinda felt like an idiot though. I shouldn't have been up there.

It was taking forever to get down. At the last set of ropes, the guides had caught up to us. Flo told them to wait until we were off the ropes to start climbing down so they wouldn't knock rocks down on us. They didn't listen. Flo lost it on them. He was not happy. It was dark by the time we got off the ropes. I was struggling to walk. Michele very nicely guided me back to camp. I don't think I would have made it on my own. It took so long. On the ropes we had seen someone waiting for us below. It had been our cook. When it got dark he went back to camp, but he left us a thermos of tea. It was very nice of him. At one point, Michele and I saw the light from Flo's headlamp up ahead of us. He called to us and said he thought we were going the wrong way. Michele started yelling to the guides since they shouldn't have been far behind us. When they caught up to us, they barely acknowledged us and didn't offer to help. It was weird. People at camp heard Michele yelling and Dan, Graham and a guide who hadn't summitted came looking for us. Graham took over from Michele and helped me the rest of the way to camp. I was exhausted. I finally got to camp at 7:15 PM. We had been expecting to be done early to mid afternoon. At least summit day is over. Now to get out of this place.

Elevation: 16, 024 ft / 4884 m
Elevation gain: 2114 ft / 644 m
Total hours: 17
Total hours hiking: 16
Total distance: 2.08 mi

Photos from Day 8 -

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Notes from Carstensz Pyramid - 29 April 2013

Mild Risk of Death Expedition Indonesia - Day 7
Nasidome - Base Camp

Today had its ups and downs. I was planning to carry my small day pack, and as I was about ready to go, one of the guides tells me I have to carry the big backpack. This would have been fine had I known so I could pack appropriately. We spent about 20 minutes arguing with the porters, and in the end, everything was in the exact same bag it started in. I also woke up with my eye swollen. No idea why. Everything felt infected and disgusting. I can't even get a brush through my hair. It's gross.

We left at 8:40. Late of course, and it was already raining. The first half hour was miserable. My feet were swollen which made the blisters hurt badly, and we were climbing up muddy rocks in the rain. I was not happy. Shortly after the pain finally started to subside, I found +Florian Nagl waiting for me. He nicely walked with me again today. He did have to yell at me once when we were climbing in the rain and I was going too slowly, but overall it was a pleasant day compared to some of the others. This place reminds me of the Fire Swamp in the Princess Bride where they have to learn the tricks to survive. Fortunately there are no Rodents of Unusual Size here.

Today we learned that the clay-colored mud sometimes dries so hard that it's like rock and you can walk across it even though it looks like muddy swamp. There were 3 big climbs today. The last one was a scramble that was actually pretty fun. It also stopped raining shortly before we got there which was awesome. After the last climb it was a bunch of rollers before the last hour which was a drop into Base Camp. Flo and I caught up to Charles and +Dan Fredinburg just as the descent was starting. I was feeling the altitude and was getting a nasty headache from dehydration. Charles had fallen earlier and was in a lot of pain. One of the guides, who was a rock-climbing champion but knew nothing about trekking, ended up bringing up the rear. Kid didn't look so hot. The altitude was doing a number on him.

Base Camp was by a beautiful turquoise lake, but it was sadly full of trash from previous expeditions. It started raining hard minutes after we got to camp. We're hoping for no rain tomorrow, especially since we have a 1 AM wake up...

Base Camp elevation: 13,910 ft / 4240 m
Highest elevation: 14,601 ft / 4451 m
Net elevation gain: 1709 ft / 521 m
Total hours: 7
Total hours hiking: 6.5
Total distance: 5.7 mi

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Notes from Carstensz Pyramid - 28 April 2013

Mild Risk of Death Expedition Indonesia - Day 6
Ebai - Nasidome

Today was the first enjoyable day of the whole trek. The porters were annoyed at me this morning because it took so long for me to pack with busted fingers. We have to wait for them every morning so I don't really care. One of the porter women was standing next to me as I was bandaging myself. She kept clucking and shaking her head. New injury for today - my rain boots chafed the inside of my calf which is now raw. I wrapped my legs with tape which helped. I hate those damn boots.

We left camp a few minutes before 9. We finally got a pretty view of the mountains. The first half hour of walking hurt like hell. I later realized it's because my feet were swollen up twice the size they should be. +Florian Nagl walked with me all day. He kept a good pace, and I enjoyed having some company. We had random chats about the trek, work, dating. It's nice to have someone at home to talk about where I'm happy and excited for a change. It didn't rain last night so there wasn't too much mud. I hate the mud. We've started to learn about the mud - the clay-colored mud dries faster, uphill doesn't mean shallower mud, some plants look like they'll support your weight but they won't. I know way too much about mud now, and I still can't walk in it without falling.

During the hike (which was finally normal trekking!), it rained twice around lunchtime and everything turned to mud again. Fortunately we're getting high enough where there is more rock and less mud. Flo saved me from falling into the river at one point. I stepped on moss that was not solid. As I was slipping, Flo grabbed my backpack and pulled me back up. I'm so glad I didn't go into the water. We got to camp around 3, not too long after the group before us. Everyone was in good spirits, especially after we devoured the salami that +Sam Gilbert had brought. We had an early dinner then went to bed. The guides were playing music. This was the first time they played music. We had no idea they had speakers with them. The Coldplay song "Fix You" came on. It seemed oddly appropriate. "Lights will guide you home. [...] I will try to fix you."

Elevation: 12,201 ft / 3719 m
Elevation gain: 495 ft / 151 m
Total hours: 6
Total hours hiking: 5.5
Total distance: 8.1 mi

Photos from Day 6 -

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Notes from Carstensz Pyramid - 27 April 2013

Mild Risk of Death Expedition Indonesia - Day 5
Endotsugapa - Ebai

The entire hike today was through thick, disgusting mud. Every time I slipped or got my foot caught, it sucked the energy out of me. In the battle of the mud vs. Sara, the mud won hands down today. The cook walked with me for most of the day. He makes it easier because he picks an easy path and I can follow his footsteps. Everyone hates that the cook is with me though because it means dinner is later. Until about 2:30 it was uphill, then flat swamp. We're gaining some altitude now and we're all starting to feel it. The last part of the day was up and down, ending in a marshy valley. I was actually doing ok and starting to move at a decent pace when it started to downpour and the rain created another inch of mud on the ground.

I don't know if he was trying to motivate me or if he didn't know where we were, but the cook kept saying "one more up then down" before camp. That resulted in me not eating nearly enough because I thought we were close to camp for the last 2 hours of the hike. By the end I felt drunk and I could barely stand up. I was on the verge of tears when I got to camp. I felt so sick. Graham saw me and could probably tell I wasn't doing well. He led me to my tent, brought me some food and offered to be helpful. It was very nice of him. I should have asked him to open the zipties on my bag because stupid me sliced my finger open badly. Again. It was a deep cut. I was lucky I didn't do serious damage. I'll be amazed if I get out of here without something getting badly infected. Ugh.

Highest elevation: 12,418 ft / 3785 m
Camp elevation: 11,706 ft / 3568 m
Net elevation gain: 557 ft / 170 m
Total hours: 8
Total hours hiking: 7.5
Total distance: 6.9 mi

Photos from Day 5 -
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