Once the helicopters reach Ama Dablam, we conduct a flight brief with the pilots and the first group—Dakota, Hunter, and Dr. Jackson—who proceed to load up. Mike Ortiz, Tom Short, and I load up and fly into the mouth of the valley. As the helicopter climbs to altitude, we cross close to several peaks, a tactic used by the pilots to gain lift from the anabatic winds. We turn into the final heading and are staring right at Ama Dablam. Once the release is given, I step off the skid and pull it within six seconds. The view is even more amazing than Syangboche.
On the trek back, we come across a small lake with the clearest water we’ve ever seen. I look at one of the expedition team members, a former 75th Ranger Regiment operator, and say, “Let’s do this.” The cameras come out as we strip down to our boxers and leap into the cold, unforgiving waters. In retrospect, it was a natural ice bath that felt damn good on the joints.