Everest is running at full throttle on both sides this week. Teams are climbing to Camp 2 on the South and ABC on the North. All is reported well, with decent weather. Snow is forecasted for the weekend so they may cut their rotations a bit short this time.
EverestEr, the fully volunteer organization that provides medical care to climbers, Sherpas and Nepali on the south side is a bit busy thus far. If you have ever used their services, have a friend or family on Everest or just want to help this amazing organization, click this link to see how. They updated us with over 100 patients already seen this season:
Base camp is growing by the day, and we’ve seen 101 patients in the clinic so far. As climbers advance to higher camps, we expect to see more. Holding with our experience (and mission!) 61 (60%) of our patients have been Nepali. Also as in past years, our most common presentations have been related to upper respiratory problems- viral respiratory infections, high altitude cough, sore throats. We saw one patient with snow blindness (it happens easily up here, especially after snow, when sunlight reflects from every direction.)
Most of our community are adept at acclimatizing to altitude, but even so, we see the occasional new arrival and/or trekker who doesn’t quite keep up with the demands that hypoxia puts on the body. We’ve treated 2 cases of acute mountain sickness, 2 cases of high altitude pulmonary edema, and 1 case of high altitude cerebral edema. One patient was caught out on a very windy day and suffered superficial frostbite that is responding to treatment. We’ve had to urgently evacuate 4 patients to lower altitude and further care, and some have been able to get down to recover on their own.
Sophie Wallace, the team Doc with Adventure Consultants gives us a look at the scale of their team:
So our climbers left in the early hours of this morning to make it through the Khumbu icefall to camp 1. A pretty scary place so we were sleeping with our radios on waiting for news of their safe arrival. The weather is gorgeous again so today was laundry and shower day and then a few medical consults with some of our sherpa team. We are a team of 60 excluding me, with 42 Nepali team members consisting of 27 climbing Sherpas, 8 Basecamp cook and water guys and 7 camp 2 cook team members. I’ve had over 60 consults so far but all very manageable and everyone doing well.
Love this post from Andy Anderson on the North side about a run-in with a yak!!
Successful overnight at 19k last night. We are still on track to leave for advanced basecamp (with a night at middle camp) on April 22.
Coming from a relatively low state (like Iowa) has made acclimating to high elevations difficult. I (Andy) was sick as a dog the first two nights at basecamp (17k). Severe headache, vomiting, etc. No matter how good of shape you are in high elevation mountaineering demands a very slow acclimation pace – crazy slow!
After returning to basecamp (17k) from our acclimating overnight to 19k we are both happy and healthy – no major issues. Acclimating is heading in the right direction.On our way down from our overnight trip, I was almost trampled by a yak – she had a twinkle in her eye. I was lucky this time. Below is not a picture of said yak (I was too busy diving out of the way), but you should be able to get a feel for how much one of those horns might hurt if properly placed.
In all seriousness, yaks make the climb on the north side more comfortable for climbers and safer for porters/Sherpas. They haul ~90 pounds of gear from basecamp to advanced basecamp – a 30 mile round trip journey going from 17k to 21.5k. They usually make the trip over two-three days (just like climbers). Each yak costs about $300 for their service and a single yak driver is allowed to drive (at most) four yaks at a time. This is an important part of local yak drivers’ yearly income. Climb on, yaks!
Another quick report from the north side is from Jon Gupta, Mountain Expeditions. I appreciate Jon’s humble style and honest delivery
Of the more popular headlines regarding Everest is that the mountain is covered in trash left by selfish climbers. Click bait to be sure. But there is a story behind the headlines, especially for 2017. Let me be clear upfront, in no way do I promote leaving trash on any mountain, any street, anywhere. Period.
Who, What, Where?
First, my own personal observations after going to Nepal since 1997 is that there is trash on the trails on on the mountains – full stop. Sadly this is no different than on any of the most popular world mountains from Mont Blanc to Denali to Elbrus (one of the worse) to Aconcagua.
And not to point fingers, but I have seen the local guides toss a candy wrappers, AND I have seen many a wad of toilet paper left on the ground with a foreigner walking away. So lots of responsibility to go around.
Many western teams are now using WAG Bags aka Blue Bags to bring down solid human waste but the local teams need to get on the bandwagon for this to make a real difference. More climbers are with Nepali Outfitters than western teams these days.
Last year I was on the Everest route headed to Lhotse and as I approached Camp 2, I was appalled. There was trash everywhere. Tin cans, food wrappers, fuel canisters, shredded tents and more. This was my 6th expedition on this area since 2002 and I had never seen such a mess.
The reason for it was the earthquake in 2015. That year, there were over 100 people at Camp 2 when the quake hit. Teams rushed to leave the Western Cwm by helicopter, fearing aftershocks would make downclimbing the Icefall suicidal. Many teams simply walked away from their camps, fully stocked and ready for the season.
There was an effort to consolidate camps a bit later when a helicopter took a small team of Sherpas back to Camp 1 and 2 where they collected a lot of the gear and stored it under mesh nets for the winter. Amazingly, it was fully recovered in 2016 with no ill effect.
But the camps that were left unsecured were shattered by the hurricane force winter winds, spreading debris all over the area used for Camp 2. Back at Everest Base Camp, the avalanche that took 18 lives also devastated camps and spread debris throughout the EBC area. The Indian Army did a fantastic job of cleaning up what they could before leaving the area in 2015.
Leave No Trace
Last point before I get to what is being done today. A lot of the trash left high on Everest, both sides, came from pre-2000 expeditions when the concept of Leave No Trace was not as ingrained as it is today. That trash slowly makes it way down to base camp transported by glacial movement. Each season there is new trash and sometimes body parts that appear.
Before you decry the horrible climbing community, when tents are left expeditiously as in a medical emergency, they become shredded quickly and soon freeze sold into the mountain. It takes a strong person with an ice axe to chip it out, if they can at all. It is long, tiring and dangerous work at 22,000 feet.
Today after lunch, and after a productive day of part of our group training, resting, and hiking we decided to go out into the lower icefall and pickup trash. Our team of climbers came up with the idea after a dinner discussion about the trash we had seen the day before walking into the lower icefall. I have never thought the reporting and media coverage of Everest being a big trash dump was fair or accurate. There is trash around though. Not so much in Basecamp as it is pretty regulated but it’s around, and as the glacier is melting out we are seeing more from years past.
I’m not interested in self promotion here, or promotion of the company I work for but would love to see the Everest community, a community I have been a part of for the past 7 seasons, come together and make a difference here. It won’t be perfect and I’m not speaking from any higher moral ground but just genuinely want to make a small difference. In an hour our team picked up close to a hundred pounds of trash just a short walk from Basecamp. It’s mostly small pieces of plastic bags, wrappers, tent pieces, batteries, old prayer flags, pieces of grain sacks and old cans. One day I would love to help make happen a day in Basecamp where we all stopped for a day and spent an hour collecting trash. Through some simple education and leadership in time it will happen. There are a lot of things that are happening here that continue progress and make this a better place. Many other teams are, and have done a lot to make this community safer and better for everyone involved over the years.
I want to keep it positive here, and if you’ve read the many negative articles about this place, I think you should forget what you read from people who’ve hardly spent anytime here and come see this incredible place for yourself one day. I think you will be surprised, in a positive way! It was awesome to see our whole team out there with trash bags picking up trash, so a huge thank you to your family or friends that are here on this team making a difference…
A few years ago, the Nepal government announced they would require each Everest climber to deliver a bag filled with 8Kg/17 pounds of trash they collected on the mountain. This rule has never been enforced.
What is enforced, to a limited degree, is each expedition must make a $4,000 waste deposit before each season to receive their permit. If they are deemed to have left trash on the mountain, they forfeit the deposit. While good intentioned, this has not been used for the original purpose but more of a way for some corrupt officials to line their pockets by keeping the deposit based on some other alleged infraction, for example forging a summit picture of a client.
Let me add that there have been dedicated teams to bring trash down from Everest, at least on the Nepal side. One of the leading companies in this effort has been Nepal based Asian Trekking.
Making a Difference
Thank you Ben and team for what you are doing. I hope others join your efforts.
As with most movement, any significant change begins with individuals making a decision to make a difference.
Memories are Eveything