Symptoms of a potentially life-threatening condition prompted Durham mountaineer Bill Yeo to call off his attempt to summit Mount Everest last week.
Yeo was at Camp 3, a mountainside stop just below a ridgeline leading to Everest’s peak, when he began to cough up blood on Wednesday, his wife, Julie, told the Sun Journal Sunday afternoon.
The camp is at the 8,300 meter mark – 27,231 feet. Everest is 29,035 feet high.
At that altitude, someone coughing up blood could be suffering from high altitude pulmonary edema, according to Julie. HAPE can be deadly. If Yeo hadn’t climbed down from the camp at once, his life would have been in danger and he might have jeopardized the climb for partner John Bagnulo of New Vineyard and two other men they were climbing with.
Bagnulo and one of the others went on to summit Everest, reaching the highest point on Earth at about 7:30 a.m. Tibetan time on Thursday. May 11 was Bagnulo’s 36th birthday. He and Dave Watson of Burlington, Vt., one of the other climbers to join Bagnulo and Bill Yeo, apparently became the first Westerners to summit Everest this climbing season.
Since they made the climb Thursday, more than 40 climbers reached the peak following their trail up the North Face. High snow on the South Face has prevented anyone from reaching the summit from the more popular Nepalese side.
Both Maine climbers are on their way back to the United States now.
Julie Yeo elaborated on her husband’s high mountain incident in an e-mail to one of Bill’s sponsors, greatmoose.com: “At some point Bill noticed that when he spit he was spitting some blood. None of them knew what to make of it, so they waited, and he still was spitting up some blood. To be safe, Bill decided to turn around at Camp three and head down. He felt very comfortable with his decision. He felt great and knew he could have made the top, but he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone if he turned worse higher up.”
“We don’t know if Bill was getting HAPE or not,” she added, “but he sounded very comfortable about his decision not to make the top.”
She noted that her husband’s climb to 8,300 meters was a new all-time high for the man who’s already topped Alaska’s Mount McKinley – Denali – among others.
“Bill is in excellent shape at this point and very positive about the whole expedition,” Julie said.
She said he’s looking forward to getting home and editing his photos. An accomplished photographer, Bill took enough pictures to put together a slide show, and shot video of the expedition as well. Julie said the slide show will likely be posted on greatmoose.com.
“Bill says he has some awesome photos, video and stories and can’t wait to tell us all about them,” she told greatmoose.com.
Bill has said that he’d probably do some speaking about the trip, and perhaps combine talks with a slide show.
Bagnulo is also a top-notch photographer, his wife, Joanna, has said. He also plans to put together a record of the Everest expedition.
Julie said the two men were being escorted from Tibet to the Nepalese border by Chinese authorities – at a charge of $700. The trip from the Tibetan base camp back through Nepal to Katmandu generally takes a few days.
They’ll fly from Katmandu back to the United States, arriving likely this week.
Besides bagging mountain peaks, Bagnulo is a nutrition expert who taught classes in the subject at the University of Maine in Farmington.
Bill, a high mountain guide, also is an expert on skiing and bicycling for L.L. Bean.
To reach John Bagnulo:
To reach Bill Yeo: