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Bend's Mountain Link Guides put four climbers on the summit of Everest!

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Mountain Link climbers Garrett Madison, Michael Lindaas , and Tap and Heidi Richards

Garrett Madison of Bend celebrates with Dawa Sherpa on Mount Everest summit, with the Nepali flag.

May 23, 2006 We are all back in base and leaving for Pheriche and hopefully taking a helicopter to Kathmandu Wednesday.

May 21, 2006 This morning at 6 AM Mountain Link climbers Garrett Madison, Michael Lindaas , and Tap and Heidi Richards stood on top of Mt. Everest, along with the five Mountain Link climbing Sherpas who we have become very close with over the last six weeks. Because of recent snowfall we had to re-establish many parts of the route. Weather conditions were not ideal with strong winds up high and clouds closing in as we descended, but because we have an exceptionally strong and cohesive team we were the only team to climb the South Col route successfully today! We are now resting at the South Col (camp 4) tonight and will descend all the way to camp 2 tomorrow, then base camp the following day. As seasoned climbing professionals we are reminded today that Everest truly is still a great mountaineering challenge, to be regarded with the utmost respect from anyone daring enough to attempt her summit. -Garrett Madison, the South Col

May 20, 2006 10:55 pm PST All members of the team are back at Camp 4. Tap called sounding tired (not surprised) and everyone is doing well. Tomorrow they will either head to camp 2 or all the way to base. They had a great day and are enjoying some rest. Everyone is healthy and looking forward to returning to base camp. We are feeling the support from everyone stateside. JJ Justman

May 20, 2006 6:00 pm PST Tap and Mike Summit! Tap radioed down and as his voice crackled with emotion we all had tear in our eye. No one deserves this summit more than Tap. After his birthday celebration, Mike Lindaas has made the summit. JJ Justman

May 20, 2006 5:30 pm PST "Heidi Richards and Garrett Madison are on top! Tap and Mike have just ascended the Hillary Step. It is 6:00am Everest Time on Sunday"

May 20 2:30 PST Tap called down but it was hard to hear because he is high on the mountain. Everything is fine, I will get back to you soon. JJ Justman


Hi everyone, it's JJ Justman. Tap just called from Camp 4. He along with Heidi, Mike, Garrett and our five Superstar Sherpas have just left the south col for the summit of Mount Everest! It is 9:50PM here at Everest. Tap is going to call down again at 3:00AM, which is roughly 2:00PM PST. Stay tuned for more updates. Garrett is planning on doing a live feed from the summit with photos and video! The weather as reported by Tap is beautiful! For those of you who do not know Tap, this is his fourth attempt on the big E. His attempt in 2001 was put to a halt just one hour from the summit. Why? Tap helped save the lives of two climber's from certain death. So say a prayer, do a chant, throw back a shot of tequila, whatever to send positive vibes to Tap, Heidi, Mike and Garrett. JJ Justman

May 19, 2006 8:55 pm PST Team members Tap, Heidi, Mike and Garrett are between camp 3 and 4 at 8:46 pm PST Friday evening. Once they hit Camp 4 (about 4 hrs from now, it will be 12 noon-ish Sat early afternoon, Everest Mountain time) they will rest for a few hours then go for the summit in the evening. They hope to summit Sunday morning between 3am and 12 noon. That will be between 3pm to 12 midnight PST Saturday for us here in the states. The weather window is open, climbers are strong and feeling all the support from those cheering them on. We will see and hear from them when they are near the S. col. Keep checking in for updates. This is the final summit push! We send strong minds and happy hearts to those on the mountain.

Chris, Lhawang, JJ and the Doc are on their way down to base camp. They should arrive in 3-4 hours. They report to be in good spirits and are in contact with the summit team.

May 19, 2006. Weather has changed and team members are holding a Camp 3. Our team had some decisions to make and there were a lot of meetings up at Camp 3 with the weather forecast and calls made to our weatherman back in Seattle. Forecast for the next three days is not good, and the summit would have to occur in 30 to 50 mph. winds. Check back for another update as it comes available.

May 18, 2006.
We all arrived. Tomorrow we will head to high camp, at the south col.
We achieved Camp 3 - got in around 2 pm. It was a tough, tough day for me - real hard - one of the toughest days I've ever had. And, the team, all six Western climbers are here and in good spirits. And soon as we arrived we went into our tents to relax. We're on oxygen and that helps us rest and keeps us warm. It's a beautiful day. Some of our friends summitted today, and weather looks clear for tomorrow and through the 20th. Tomorrow is going to be a tough, tough day as well, but I think I can do that. I tell you what though, I don't know how I can go and get 6 or 7 hours rest and then go out and do a 16 hour day - they say the oxygen will help me, but we'll just do the best we can. The team is just great - in good spirits. The Sherpa team will come up tomorrow on the South Col. Chris Balsiger

Just an additional note, people may be interested in Camp 3. We're right at 24,000 feet. We have three, two-man tents. We have lines all around the tent and we don't even go outside the tent without being clipped in. There are holes all around. Camp itself, of course, is on solid rock so it's more spread out. From here, the route is really clear and it's always fun to see the mountain chip away. Of course if you know something of Everest, you know we're only 5,000 feet away - less than a mile. But when you're sucking air and taking 30 seconds for each step, you might as well be 100 miles away. I thought everyone might get a kick out of the camp and those who know oxygen, I'll sleep tonight on 2-liter and then climb tomorrow on 3-liter and in the tough sections, I'll crank it to 4. Goes without saying, all of us have support, but we've got to be realistic here. I told a real famous climber, good friend Dave Hahn, who is an American going for the record, sets the summit for western climbers, and just a real gentleman - that of the last of the surviving climbers, I am by far the oldest - makes you feel good to know that you're a fish out of water. Hahn is a good friend with all of our team and he'll try to summit with us. Chris Balsiger

May 17, 2006. The weather is holding. A lot of teams of course are moving up, but the target date we have selected is the 20th. We have enough spare oxygen and spare food that in case we don't get to go on the 20th, we can go on the 21st. We have pretty much committed that that's our window. We're heading for a summit then on the 20th or the 21st. If it goes beyond that, we're done and we'll back out. Plan is to leave at about 6:00 tomorrow and head up to Camp 3. We're looking at about an 8 hour day and we will not be on oxygen. As soon as we arrive at Camp 3, I will go on oxygen and the whole team will as well, to rest and rejuvenate. Next day, we'll get up early and move out about 6:00 or so and move up to Camp 4. We expect about a 10 hour day and then we assume that within the window, we'll be there. From the weather report, it looks like the jet stream is gone. There's precipitation coming in around the 19th but it appears it's going to come in way below us at about 20,000 feet or even below that. Appreciate the support and everything. We couldn't be healthier, and we're very pleased now, in hindsight, in our decision to go to Kathmandu. Everyone is very healthy, very strong, and we'll be fit to go. If it's good enough, it's good enough, if not, it's not, but we'll take it one day at a time. We have now committed and we'll either summit on the 20th or the 21st. Chris Balsiger

May 17, 2006. The Mountain Link climbing team arrived at camp 2 yesterday, and is resting today. Tomorrow the team plans to climb to camp 3 and spend the night there, then moving to the South Col. There are over 100 climbers anticipating a summit attempt during the next 4 days, so we should have a well established route by the time we go for the top!  Click here to see the latest photos of the team, the most recent photos are at the end of the slide show. Garrett Madison

May 16, 2006. It's Tuesday afternoon here and we're all safe in Camp 2. A lot of excitement here - a lot of teams are heading up and I think the first attempt for the summit from the south side will be made tomorrow. Our plans - we're going to rest tomorrow and then we're going to head up on Thursday morning. Weather is clear. Our summit day will be the 20th. A few teams will be going tomorrow on the 17th, but the bulk of the teams agree that the window is on the 18th - 20th. Breath is good, acclimatization is good - so we'll rest tomorrow and then we'll go for it. Chris Balsiger

May 15, 2006. The Team has moved up the mountain. Part of the group is at camp 1 and some of the team went to camp 2. More info to come...



Tap & Heidi Richards: second married couple to climb all seven summits!


May 21, 2006 Back at Camp 2
Today the team descended from the south col to camp 2 (advanced base camp). Tomorrow we plan to descend to base camp. Thanks to all for the love and support that has helped make this expedition a remarkable journey for everyone. Congratulations to Tap & Heidi Richards for becoming the second married couple to climb all seven summits!




Bend climbers celebrate Everest triumph
Mountain Link team reaches world's tallest point

Posted: 11:28 PM, May. 20, 2006
By Barney Lerten,

Four members of a Bend-based climbing team, including two Bend residents, reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world's tallest place on Sunday, then sent back triumphant photos and even a brief video clip from the 29,035-foot summit that were posted at the Website of Mountain Link guide service.

"Heidi Richards (of Seattle) and Garrett Madison (of Bend) are on top!" said a dispatch posted Saturday evening at Mountain Link's Website ( Richards' husband, Tap, also of Seattle, and Mike Lindaas, also of Bend, raced the summit a while later after ascending the "Hillary Step," named for Sir Edmund Hillary, the first successful climber of the world's tallest peak.

Tap Richards succeeded on his fourth attempt to reach the peak's summit, according to the climbers. "His attempt in 2001 was put to a halt just one hour from the summit," wrote fellow climber J.J. Justman, who scaled the summit in 2004 but who was part of a group that turned back before the final summit push this time. He said Richards didn't make it last time because he "helped save the lives of two climbers from certain death. So say a prayer, do a chant, throw back a shot of tequila, whatever to send positive vibes to Tap, Heidi, Mike and Garrett."

Lindaas made the summit after a birthday celebration, Justman wrote. In a dispatched received late Saturday night, Justman said all of the team was back safely at Camp 4, located at 26,300 feet, and would head the next day to Camp 2 or all the way to the base.

"They had a great day and are enjoying some rest," Justman said. "Everyone is healthy and looking forward to returning to base camp. We are feeling the support from everyone stateside."

Madison later wrote that at 6 a.m. Sunday, the four climbers "stood on top of Mt. Everest, along with the five Mountain Link climbing Sherpas who we have become very close with over the last six weeks."

"Because of recent snowfall, we had to re-establish any parts of the route," he wrote. "Weather conditions were not ideal, with strong winds up high and clouds closing in as we descended, but because we have an exceptionally strong and cohesive team, we were the only team to climb the South Col route successfully today!"

"We are now resting at the South Col (camp 4) tonight and will descend all the way to camp 2 tomorrow (Monday), then base camp the following day," Madison said.

The Bend climber concluded, "As seasoned climbing professionals, we are reminded today that Everest truly is still a great mountaineering challenge, to be regarded with the utmost respect from anyone daring enough to attempt her summit."

A 15-second RealVideo clip from the summit, viewable at the team's Website, shows the panorama of mountain peaks jutting up from the clouds in bright sunshine. "Summit of Mount Everest," the photographer narrates as he pans the camera, panting a bit from the thin oxygen. You can hear the winds buffeting the happy climbers.

Others who turned back before the final summit push included Robert Link, who reached the summit in 1990, and Chris Balsiger of Texas, who is funding the expedition and had hoped to complete his bid to climb the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

More than 200 climbers have reached the top of Everest this spring, but seven have died on the mountain, according to



Here is the rest of the story
"Chris Balsiger graduated from Indiana University Kelley School of Business in 1977 with an MBA in finance. He joined Owens-Illinois in May 1977, where he worked as a Senior Financial Analyst in international operations. In April of 1980, he joined Seven Oaks International and served as Senior Vice-President of Operations. In April of 1980, Chris, along with Supervalu, Inc., founded North America Data Processors (NADP). Under his direction, NADP merged with Indiana Data in January of 1997 to form International Outsourcing Specialists, where he now serves as CEO and a member of the Board of Directors.

Chris travels abroad extensively on business and to pursue his passion for high-altitude mountaineering. He has embarked on a personal challenge to scale the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Comprised of professionals and amateurs dedicated to high-altitude mountain climbing, the Balsiger Expedition team was formed to ascend the Seven Summits"

Chris Balsiger, over a period of four years, has methodically trained and summitted six of the coveted Seven Summits. He summited many of the seven continental high points accompanied by personal friends and members of his family, as many as eight Balsigers and fiancées including a ten month old boy!  He details his quest on a personal website written for his relatives and friends. He provides an insider's road map to the Seven Summits that is a must read in mountaineering literature, in my opinion.

Balsiger became a client and friend of Heidi Eichner and Tap Richards, colleagues who married and were part of the Robert Link Guide Service, Mountain Link, now of Bend Oregon. When it came time to summit the final peak of his quest, Mount Everest, Chris found it possible to fund an entire Expedition to be led by Robert and by Tap and Heidi. Link guides Garret Madison and Mike Lindaas joined JJ Justman on the Expedition. The Mountain Link Sherpa Team was supplemented by Bend Oregon Expedition Chef Jennifer Barton. Invited guests included fifteen Balsiger relatives and friends and two Expedition Doctor friends, many of whom trekked the region and climbed Island Peak during the long Expedition acclimatization period.

I sincerely hope the reader will follow the link below to Read More of the candid dispatches from Chris Balsiger on his personal web. Chris was physically unable to summit Everest on this occasion and every Mountaineer should stand with him as he makes an agonizing decision to descend leaving the possibility of a summit on the following day to four very much younger professional guides. Chris graciously thanks JJ Justman, who summitted Everest with another Oregon Guide in 2004, for shepherding him down the steep hard snow slopes of the Lhotse Face -- "very steep, very treacherous", when on the fixed rope he slipped down the face. The exposed ladder crossings of the ice fall followed. Chris makes it clear that Everest is a very dangerous place. Chris expresses his happiness that his Guides of the six previous summits Tap and Heidi, summited together.
--Robert Speik


Everest Wrap up
It has been a couple of weeks now since the team has returned from our spring Balsiger/ Mountain Link Everest expedition. I have had a chance to talk with the all the team members and there are a few things I would like to share with everyone who followed the expedition. The large question about our expedition is whether or not it failed or succeeded. Although team members reached the summit we failed in our number one objective; which was to shake hands with Chris Balsiger on the summit and safely return home.

Chris has climbed with Mountain Link for the past four and half years. We have had some great experiences together in the mountains; from surviving an icefall on Rainier (which would have ended most people's desire to ever climb again - instead Chris was back six weeks later and reached the summit) to successful summits on many of the major peaks of the world. He has become both a good mountaineer and a friend. He has been more than generous with our staff and remained a gentleman even in the most difficult situations. Chris put together an expedition and financed it with the intention of reaching the top.

I had several discussions with Chris in the planning stages of the trip to put together a team of experienced high altitude professional climbers. This was not only to increase Chris's odds for success but also to help increase the safety aspect as well. My idea was this; if we are going to the "World Series" of climbing we are going to need a strong pitching staff in case a starter needs to be replaced. An example of that is what happened to me. I got an infection in my lower leg that turned into a blood clot that could have been fatal had I not received proper medical attention in Kathmandu. This was after only one trip into the Khumbu Icefall. I became the starter that fell apart. I felt good about the expedition knowing the quality of the team.

An excerpt: We made it to Camp 3. The plan will be to head to high camp, at the south col, tomorrow. The day was a difficult one.……

For more details please go to our website dispatch page - see below. If you would like to read a personalized account of the trip go to Chris Balsiger's site - see below.

The end result was Chris descended from Camp 3 and did not have the opportunity to make another attempt. On big mountains, this happens to all climbers at different times in their careers. I believe that one can only find solace in knowing that it was an excellent attempt, yet unfinished business. A difficult personal decision will need to be made on whether or not to make another attempt.

A special thanks to the sponsors, the trek team, and to all of the people that have wished us well on our Everest adventure.
--Robert Link


Apa Sherpa's Everest summit number 16!

02:38 am EST May 19, 2006
The word just arrived: Apa Sherpa is on the summit of Everest, and he is bored. Just kidding, but consider the man has watched the same view 16 times now. It's a world record nevertheless and this is a climber who deserves it too. Congratulations champ!

Everest 2006 has been a sad year for Everest Sherpas and Apa in particular. April 21, 3 Sherpas lost their lives in the Everest ice fall - 2 from Apa's Asian-Trekking Team.

Apa's good friend Ang Phinjo Sherpa was hired by IMG, Lhakpa Tseri and Dawa Temba were employed by Asian Trekking on an Expedition listed as led by Douglas Tumminello & Apa Sherpa (Team No Limit).

US friends of Apa Sherpa received a phone call from Lhakpa Nuru “Gelek” Sherpa (Thame), also a member of Apa’s Asian-Trekking Team. Lhakpa was actually walking between Dawa and Lhakpa Tshering when the accident happened and asked to send a note out to his circle of US friends. He wanted to let everyone know that he was safe, although he came very close to not being.

Lhakpa said about the accident: "There were a dozen or so Sherpas moving across the line. Apparently, it happened very suddenly. They heard a crack, then ice and debris started coming down. Lhakpa Tshering was in front of him and Dawa Temba was behind him. They both fell down. Our Lhakpa was partially buried by the snow, but was able to dig out. Other Sherpas, including his 'cousin-brother from AAI' helped him down to base camp."

Apa was reportedly very shaken by the event. But yesterday he jetted out of C2 - and nailed another record Everest summit this morning.
--Michael Chessler




Read more . . .
Mountain Link website
The Balsiger Mount Everest Expedition

Bend team set to scale Mount Everest
Dispatches from Mountain Link's Everest summit
Photos from JJ's expedition to the top of Everest
Robert Link autographs a poster
Senior Guide Garrett Madison moves to Bend, Oregon

Ed Viesturs
Steve House
Conrad Messner
Tomaz Humar

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