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Letters To And Fro.

Ottawa. Canada. April 29, 2005

By: Mike Swarbrick


Ben is finally back home in Ottawa. He’s been subjected to invasive surgery in order to have a plate and screws installed to repair his broken leg. He is recovering well. His spirit is strong.

 Shaunna still has a large mountain of a job ahead of her. She is presently at camp two and will soon climb with Pemba, Babu and Chongba for further acclimatization at camp three. 

On Wednesday she wrote:

“I am doing my best to stay strong. The gang here is so supportive and great. We are sorting through the oxygen today and tomorrow I will head up the mountain. Thanks for all your help and support. Miss ya lots.”


Letter to Shaunna:

Hey Shaunner,

They say "home is where the heart is" but mine is still up there in the Khumbu with you guys.

You are strong. Phases are understandable. You are going to experience some "roller coaster" downs, but without the downs, the ups wouldn't feel so good. Try to stay focussed on the job at hand while remembering that, for you, safety is job one. Always be aware of your surroundings. Stay safe. Stay strong.

Notes of support are in here from your old buddy McIlvride, also Franky, Pringle, Pauline, my family and others. Louisa Lambregts says there are many coming in at the college. She is preparing a page to post them on. We are all rooting for you.

Give big greetings, best wishes and thanks to all the guys for me.

I miss you too!

Love Mike.


Garry is doing a great job on his own but I still felt compelled to write the following:

Hi Garry

Just checking in to see how you're doing.

Trust you are well and persevering with style.

Missing you, Shaunna, the staff, the Khumbu (and others a lot).

Let me know if you need anything, I'll do my best to help.

Keep your chin up old man!

Do your best to give Shaunna all your support, (emotionally especially). It wasn't in the job description, but it is your key role now. In her presence, don't worry about Garry, Garry will be fine, worry about Shaunna. She will be under some pressure, some stress and in the company of some level of instinctive fear at many times on the hill.   

I know you are capable of doing the job but do me a favour and take it to the next level. Be her friend, be her assistant, be her big brother, be her rock, be the coach, team motivator and all 'round busy guy. The location and situation may at times demand more than you think you have to give, but you do have what it takes, I'm sure of it. It may mean that you have to dig a little bit deeper on the inside to find the resources to be all those things now but as Nike say's, "just do it". Your role is key.

Go hard my friend, but stay soft on the outside. Treat everyone in your camp with respect. Acknowledge their strengths, be their friend and they will love you.    

Your patience, your stamina and your metal may be tested daily but there will be times when you are the hub that keeps the wheels going round. Shaunna though, is the engine, keep her tuned-up with sincerity and good will.

Remember, you are not alone. You are part of a team.

Oh, and don't forget; You're two bloody feet away, get your own GodDamn breakfast!

Wishing I was there. 

He replies:

 “Thanks for the words of encouragement. Shaunna is very strong physically, but I know she misses Ben very much. I always new this expedition was about success and WILL DO EVERYTHING in my power to ensure that she gets to the summit safely and in good health emotionally and physically. We have had several excellent talks while in base camp and I have told her that I am here for her and the success of the expedition”

Take care and have a "Timmy's" for me


p.s. I have to get my own breakfast, there is no one else here.

Good on ya Garry!

Perhaps it was because I left the Khumbu in such a hurry that there was no time to properly say good-bye to everyone, or maybe, I’m still just a little jet lagged and  coming down from the “high”. I’m not sure what it is but I’m not quite myself yet.

A great friend of mine recently wrote to me. “Keep your head; you have so much to do back in Canada”

Pauline, you are so right!

Letter to self:

Keep your head. (So profound and yet so simple.) It’s hard. I’m trying.

(Practice what you preach butthead. )

Stay strong, stay focused, stay flexible, be a rock, be a motivator. Go hard, stay soft.

Never give up!

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