Everest 2019: The Trekker’s Summit

Many people who to trek to Everest Base Camp do a summit of their own during the journey – literally and figuratively.

But first today’s headlines.

After a couple of days of rain and snow, the skies cleared and our trekkers and climbers enjoyed “warm” weather and clear skies. They are making great progress towards base camp and a few teams have already arrived.

IMG noted the conditions as Sherpas Pasang Kami and Chhewang Lendu went to Camps 1 and 2 in the Western Cwm to claim their spot:

They reported that Camp 2 is in great condition and the route up the Cwm is very similar to last year’s, with a steep climbing section near the Nuptse Shoulder. The only bad news of the day came when I asked the guys how the Lhotse Face looked. Their answer was… “blue!” It is a long season, but we sure would like to have a little more snow on the Lhotse Face instead of blue ice.

The reference to “steep section” may be similar to what has been the case for several years now involving four to six ladders to overcome an ice wall where the Khumbu Glacier drops steeply to create the Icefall. Trust me, this is not an easy ladder climb.

Ladders at the top of the Khumbu Icefall before earthquake
Ladders at the top of the Khumbu Icefall

The “blue ice” on the Lhotse Face is a bit more concerning. Usually the Face has some level of snow but is mostly hard packed. However, when it is dry, as this suggests, it is a physical climb. The climber must gain “purchase” with their crampons meaning they must step hard or kick their crampon spikes into the hard ice in order to get traction. Not difficult, but tiring especially at 6,700-meters/22,000-feet

Icy Lhotse Face
My boot on the Icy Lhotse Face in 2002

I’m getting reports of new fees being charged for teahouses. A disturbing trend in Nepal is the plethora of hidden fees beyond permits. Trekkers and climbers are surprised when they are asked for more and more money. The amounts are not individually large, but it continues to make Nepal suspect as to the integrity of trekking and climbing, imho. More on this later.

Love this picture from Myrmidon Expeditions receiving a blessing from the High Lama of Pangboche Monastery, Lama Nawang Paljor.


Now on to what they are experiencing on the trek.

It was an emotional day seeing the Chortens for those who died on Everest as you trekked to Lobuche at 4,940-meters/16,207-feet. But when you arrived at your teahouse you had a quiet dinner and went to bed early.

Actually you go to bed “early” each night. To be honest, sitting in the teahouse dining room with yak dung burning in the stove is not a delightful place. So you retreat to your room where the temperature is a smidge above 0F. This is why your down sleeping bag has become your best friend.

Gorak Shep

Today it’s a trek to the last village before Everest Base Camp, Gorak Shep. Located at the edge of a frozen lake at 5,164-meters/16,942-feet it serves as a host to Kala Patar.  You manage to get permission for one more photo of a child of the Khumbu, and you’re glad you did.

As you left Lobuche, the trail was somewhat behaved, smooth, no drastic ups and downs. You thought, I finally have this under control … until. As you approached Gorak Shep, the trail lost its mind! It climbed up steep rocky hills and then back down. Back up again – what the ..? Then you remembered where you were and all was right with the world.

Relax. Breathe. Peace. Kindness.

The yaks were in full view

And the Yak bells ….

Upper Khumbu

Now you began to see the long melted remnants of the Khumbu Glacier when it was miles longer than today. The high dirt walls with rocks at the top is the hint that a glacier once carved its way through this area.

You arrive at Kala Patar with Pumori standing proud in the background.

Kala Patar

For many trekkers to EBC, KP is their summit. Almost an inconsequential hill in the context of the Himalaya, KP offers an amazing view of Everest, especially at dawn or sunset. It is 5,550-meters/18,209-feet and has an unobstructed view.

You leave the teahouse, knowing it supposed to be cold and windy on top so you dress and pack accordingly. It only 386-meters/1,267-feet from your teahouse to the summit so how hard can this be? After all you went to 17,000 a couple of days ago … Ok it was hard then.

You and team cross the frozen lake, which you really didn’t notice, and begin the gradual climb. You were told it should be four hour round trip journey. Hmm, after half an hour you are questioning many things – their estimate, your fitness and your judgement. But you continue.

The trail is well worn as all have been in the Khumbu. You rarely look at anything other than your feet, exactly one meter or three feet ahead. When you do look up, the view is amazing, but …

Higher and higher … the wind picks up. You add an extra layer and pull on your secondary gloves. Yes, perhaps the Buff would be good now. Your breathing increases. You slow down. Another step and another.

A Sherpa that is climbing with you runs by to check on a member of your team .. “runs by” … Oh my.

A group is coming down, so you politely step aside to let them by. A total ruse as this is an excuse for you to stop and BREATH!!

And then you are there – your summit – Kala Patar.

Everest View from Kala Patar
Everest View from Kala Patar

As you lift your head up from your knees, you gasp a huge breath and you look into the horizon. There it is – Everest.\

This is now your third or fourth view but this one is different. The plume is real. Its huge. You can see the South Summit, the Hillary Step, the North side. You are seeing Everest like you always dreamed, and always hoped.

And its windy!

For trekkers, this summit view will last a lifetime. For climbers, it’s a taste of whats to come.

No matter, it’s the view of views and you made it.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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3 thoughts on “Everest 2019: The Trekker’s Summit

  1. Alan – love the blog posts as always! Quick question – are you planning to talk about the journey the teams/trekkers are making on the North side? Thanks and look forward to more great posts as the climbing begins on Big E!

    1. Thanks Mike. No, the trip to CBC on the North side is a bit boring compared to Nepal. They drive the entire way and spend the nights in small Tibetan towns that are pretty depressing. Not sure how I could make that exciting 🙂

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