What a difference a day makes, discount The US Air Force team now at Camp 1 reported sunny skies over a satellite phone audio update before they lost the connection. Several teams moved up to Camps 1 and 2 or touched the North Col while others returned back to Base Camp on both sides after their initial rotations.
Billi Beirling, climbing Nuptse and also blogging for Himex, posted a long update. They have had communications issues and also “forgot” to post an update. In the newsletter she details their Lobuche acclimatization experience and has an interesting section on the Icefall. They had the eight Icefall Doctors over for tea and discussed the conditions. Also, Himex is outfitting the Doctors with avalanche transceivers as they do for all their Sherpas and members.
Chhiring, who is also the base camp manager for the icefall doctors, further explained that this year the icefall was moving more quickly than in previous years. “The team has to go in more often this season as the ice is changing very fast, so the avalanche transceivers could not have come at a better time,” he said.
Ang Sarti, Ang Karmi, Gyalgen, Nima Wangchu, Thupden Dorjee, Nima Dorjee, Dorjee and Chhiring joined us for a cup of tea afterwards and Francois, our Nuptse guide, recapped what they had learnt. “They have certainly understood what the transceivers are all about; now they just have to practice a bit more,” he said. Other than the avalanche transceivers, the Icefall Doctors received boots from the German boot company Lowa and outdoor clothing from the Chinese outdoor company Toread.
It looks like most first time climbers are making the climb through the Icefall around 5 to 6 hours. They will get faster as their bodies acclimatize.
Dave Hahn, RMI, discusses fixing the Lhotse Face:
The teams have all joined forces to equip the Lhotse Face with fixed rope for the next series of acclimatization rounds. As a small team we will do our part by bringing gear up to Camp 2. If the weather holds then the ‘fixing’ will start on the 26th. That will clear the path to the South Col and then teams will begin establishing camps there.
Tim Rippel, Peak Freaks, keeps us informed on work to the summit in early May.
After CAMP 3 is fixed the Sherpa climbers will move up to fix the route with rope to Camp 4 and then the summit. If all goes well the summit rope should be fixed starting anytime after May 1st to 6th. This is the typical time it’s been fixed the past few years so we are on schedule and then if it’s a typical season we will get hit with weather that will ground everyone for a bit.
Of course this is always dependent on weather, which has been a challenge this April.
Phil Crampton, Altitude Junkies, reports the route from ABC to the North Col is “more direct than last season” making it faster. Others have commented that it is a bit steeper than usual. The Junkies’ Sherpas carried 60 bottles of oxygen to the North Col.
More reports on the difficulties of that first night at extreme altitude. Nelson Dellis with Altitude Junkies on the North noted:
Made it to Advanced Base Camp (ABC). It has been hard and we’re all struggling—the jump in altitude was significant and it’s taking its toll. I’m exhausted and have lost all my appetite. The rest of the team feels the same. We’re staying here for another night and then going up to the North Col. Then we’ll come back down to ABC for another night and try for the North Col again. I know that this is what I need to do to get to the summit in a few weeks, but I’m happy knowing that I won’t have to come up here again between now and then.
The first night at altitude is tough for almost every Everest climber.
Having reached camp earlier in the day, you passed the day resting, trying to recover from what was one of the most physical days of your climbing life. Knowing the temperature will drop like a rock as the sun sets, you have everything ready for darkness.
The sleeping bag is laid out neatly on top of two mattress, a thin one to protect from the cold and a thicker air filled version for comfort. This one serves as a constant source of worry for fear of puncturing it by accident. You take inventory before crawling into the bag: water bottle, headlamp, snack, pee bottle – they are all there.
Maybe you should put your water bottle and camera in your bag. No just the batteries. Electronics is another source of worry. No on the camera but yes on the water bottle.
What to wear? Wool cap, absolutely. Taking off your softshell pants makes sense but not the down jacket. Wait, you bought this -40F bag for a reason, so go with it. Quickly you make the decisions to strip down to only long underwear, but you put on your “sleeping socks” since your toes get cold at night. No gloves, yeah, the hat for sure. Shaking your head, you have to laugh at this level of indecision.
Just about then you hear a noise, flapping. Then movement. A gust of wind hits the tent. At first you think one of your teammates is playing a joke shaking the tent so hard you think it will collapse. You glance over at your tentmate, eyes connect but no words are said.
Settling into your bag, you are glad you put your down jacket in a stuff sack to use as a pillow. Lying on your back you are cold. -40F? Hmm.
You put your headlamp on. Maybe read for a few minutes. You can see your breath as you exhale. Holding the book above your head, your hands get cold. On with the gloves. You read a paragraph and put the book down. Now on your side, you start to relax.
It does not take long until your own body heat creates a snug cocoon. You close your eyes, your mind wanders. Then it happens, another gust of wind. This one is so hard you can actually feel tiny ice pellets hit your face as it punches through the thin nylon. And another hit. The material moves inward and touches your bag, you scoot towards the middle a bit.
Lying with your eyes wide open, you stare at the poles. Wondering. Glancing at your watch, your heart sinks. 9:36PM.
Another gust, another brush on the face. The pattern continues. But somehow with all the noise, you fall asleep, for a moment.
Waking up to loud gasps you sit straight up. Your tentmate is looking at you with concern, fear. Was I snoring? Then you realize it was you who was gasping. Cheyne–Stokes. You knew about this but were not prepared. The simple explanation is that you stop breathing due to lack of oxygen at this altitude. Your body, well, your body, notices and wakes you up to remind you to breath.
You look at your watch. 11:02PM
And the night goes on.
Memories are Everything