The climbing is getting serious with teams now spread from 17,500′ to 21,500 at the base of the Lhotse Face. Sherpas are in full stride hauling tents, food, fuel and, critically, rope to fix the route to the summit on both sides.
There are almost 450 “westerner” climbers on both sides of Everest right now and that many additional Sherpas or Tibetans. Climbing Everest has gone from a dream to reality for many.
Leader Meeting at Base Camp, and a Death
Billie Bierling made a startling note on her post today that a Sherpa had died at Base Camp saying he became ill and did not realize how serious the situation had become. Apparently he was treated by the free medical services for the Sherpas through the volunteer team of Everest ER.
Update: Further information is now available reporting the Sherpa was 40 year-old Karsang Namgyal Sherpa climbing with Prestige Adventures and a team of 11 climbers, including three Iranians and a German. The cause of death is unknown and an autopsy will be performed in Kathmandu. He was the son of Ang Rita, a mainstay in the Sherpa community for decades with 10 summits, all without oxygen. Namgyal had several summits of Everest himself. My sincere condolences to his family and team.
Billie goes on to report on the leader meeting yesterday and the rope fixing above the Icefall. Some interesting comments included, Himex (Brice) bought and transported all the rope and protection this year, it cost $195 per climber and is charged through their operator. They hope to get started around April 24th. Her post is full of good details so please read on.
Lamas Biked In for Puja
Phil Crampton (Altitude Junkies) reports very high winds on the north, not uncommon, that caused them to have their Puja indoor, very uncommon. Axe has a nice video on his site of the happenings. I love the flexibility required to climb Everest:
By far the most exciting event of the past couple of days was the puja held for the Junkies’ Everest expedition on Wednesday. Three lamas from Rongbuk Monastery arrived at Base Camp early in the morning – by motorbike. One of the communal tents had been converted into a mini-gompa by our Sherpas, with ice axes and crampons sharing the large offering table with tormas, (ritual cakes) khatas (scarves) and a burning butter lamp. The prayer ceremony lasted about two hours and culminated with the whole team and the lamas gathering around the stone puja, decorated with prayer flags, and throwing tsampa flour into cold air (but mostly at each other, really). After the monks left, the celebration proper started… Involving quite a bit of drinking and competitions in flexibility, it certainly helped the Junkies loosen up – in body and mind: splits, headstands, ice-climbing imitations, poetry recitations, dancing and, yes, drinking, kept us laughing until dinner.
North Ropes to C2
A bit more important is that the CTMA has the ropes fixed all the way to Camp 2 at 25,200′/7700m which is equivalent to above Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face over on the South. This is more of a “normal” schedule with the North getting in before the South primarily due to the complications of the Icefall and the need for multiple teams to cooperate to set the lines on that side. The past few years, the CTMA has taken some criticism for being late in setting the lines to the summit. It’s a little early to say this but the north side seems to be operating well this year.
Climbing the to Camp 1
Sorry to say its too hot for any humour today – what a relief I hear you say!
The Western Cwm is an environment of contradictions. It can be so hot you want to strip down to literally no clothes and a moment later you are pulling on a knit cap and zipping your down jacket to your chin.
The last few hundred feet of climbing the Icefall is a pure tease. After several hours of navigating what feels like a corn maze, the route opens up and you can see the top of the Icefall and the beginning of the Western Cwm. Unfortunately it is at least an hour away.
Like a mirage, you continue to climb higher, mouth dry, legs and lungs screaming; seeing what you want to see. The final ladders go straight up and some are the multi-length variety lashed together with rope. You stand in the middle of a three length ladder for just a moment reverting to your childhood as it sways left to right and bounces randomly. Regaining your confidence you place your crampons on the next rung and scurry across and onto the Cwm proper.
Once again, straining you look for the yellow tents marking refuge, and the day’s objective. But you see on more endless snow. Oh, and something else. The West Shoulder of Everest dominates the left side and Nuptse on your right. Lhotse is far ahead but, damn, another crevasse causes you to go lower, not higher, until you reappear onto the flat section of the Cwm.
There they are! All of a sudden you begin the rationalization of “That wasn’t so bad.” as your pace increases nearing the yellow village. One by one you look at each tent before hearing your name called out by a Sherpa. Ah, you are home – for today.
Memories are Everything