This past week was critical for our Everest climbers. After 7 to 10 days of trekking they reached Base Camp on the South or, after the same amount driving, the Chinese Base Camp on the North. Thus it was time to unwind, rest and regroup for the real task ahead.
The conditions seem to be excellent thus far. In early April it is quite normal to wake up to bitter cold, the early breakfast crowd begging for the sun to break over the Himalayan peaks. Then once you think it will be a nice day, just after lunch the clouds move in from down valley, the wind picks up and an afternoon snow squall sends everyone back to their tents for some forced sleep.
Getting to Work
Another important part of this first full week at EBC was the Puja. Many climbers posted their experiences but the common theme was one of appreciation for the dedication and responsibility of the Sherpas.
In between eating and sleeping the climbers got their first taste of fixed ropes and ladders, albeit, near Base Camp to try out their techniques before the real deal. A few teams arrived at EBC only to retrace their steps to Lobuche Peak or Kala Patar preferring to gain some acclimatization in what is perceived as a safer environment than the Khumbu Icefall.
Ian Ridley with Jagged Globe commented on their training:
This morning we went into the lower reaches of the icefall again and practiced our jumaring and abseiling. Pasang and Mingma had set up a course over the seracs that we each had to complete three times wearing different sized gloves. The last being big mitts. Trying to grip your ascender or screw a karabiner closed with these on is nye on impossible!
The Sherpas were busy. The Icefall Doctors have the route in through what is being called the most stable Icefall in recent memory. And the Sherpa Trains are under full power moving thousands of pounds of tents, food, fuel, ropes, oxygen bottles and other critical gear to Camps 1 and 2 on the South and Advanced base Camp on the North.
Not everyone is in the Khumbu on Everest, however. Guy Cotter, principle of Adventure Consultants, blogged about their trek to climb Manaslu and giving a helping hand this week:
… No sooner had he left when a local Sherpa woman arrived this her two year old son who had a badly burned hand. The poor little fellow had been roughly bandaged three days ago after it happened and was badly in need of treatment and medication. With the help of Phil and others we dressed and cleaned the wounds and will follow up tomorrow before we leave with antibiotics and dressings. It is distressing to see such a poor level of medical support in these remote regions and we hope this little boy recovers, something that would be a given in our societies back home, yet unless he receives help from the likes of us, his prognosis is much less certain. Be thankful for what you have.
It has been strangely quiet for the large sponsored West Ridge expeditions of NatGeo and Eddie Bauer. Maybe they are saving their powder until the main act; or the film? NatGeo has been posting pictures via Instragram (as if Instragram needed the publicity :)) and on Storify, but overall not really telling a lot about their climb. They did arrive at EBC last Wednesday.
Climb High, Sleep Low
This next week will start the true climbing with overnight trips to Camps 1 and 2 or ABC on the north; all well over 6000m. As many of you know, the purpose of these multiple trips to higher altitudes then retuning back lower is to trick the body into creating more red blood cells to carry oxygen to the muscles. There are more complicated physiological explanations but that captures the essence. It is a time-tested process that everyone goes through, even the Sherpas.
I created these two animations to help explain the Climb High, Sleep Low approach to acclimatization:
Throughout this process, the climbers will begin to understand why everyone who has ever climbed Everest said when asked about training took a deep breath and muttered “No, you don’t have to be in the best shape of your life, you have to be in Everest shape!”
I cover the Everest climbing season each year when I am not climbing, like this year, from my home in Colorado and all to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s. This disease took my mom Ida and two of my aunts. Alzheimer’s Disease has no treatments or cure and devastates individuals, families, caregivers and finances. But there is hope through research. You can read more at this link and perhaps make a donation to one of three non-profits if you appreciate this coverage.
Memories are Everything