For most Everest climbers this is week three or four away from home. They are making good on their acclimatization efforts with over 100 climbers now having spent a night or two as high as camp 2 on the south however significantly fewer even touching the North Col on the north.
The fixed line on the south is already to the Yellow Band above camp 3 and should be to the South Col in a few days. This will enable the Sherpas to begin the incredibly hard work of ferrying hundreds of oxygen bottles for their climber’s summit bids.
Of note from an IMG dispatch was the use of ladders at the base of the Lhotse Face. There has been a huge bergshrund or crevasse at the bottom of Face forever(?) that climbers navigated around but it seems it has expanded or the route now requires a ladder to obtain the Face proper:
Phu Tshering and Karma Gyalzen went back up with the fixing team, cheap which was able to reach almost to the bottom of the Yellow Band where they turned around because of wind. They also managed to claim our C3 site. The two ladders for the bottom of the Lhotse Face got delivered to C2 this morning, and Eben went up with Damien Benegas and one another climber and fixed the ladders at the bergshrund.
The cash for trash program continues to clean the oldest rubbish off the high slopes of Everest and this year includes bringing down your own solid waste similar to the practices on Denali. We were also informed that an effort would be made to remove the dead bodies from Everest’s south side not in keeping with the preferences of some families.
The largest commercial teams including IMG, AAI, Peak Freaks and Adventure Consultants are working their formula. Himex continues to avoid the Icefall for their climbers but not their Sherpas with their strategy of acclimatization on nearby Lobuche Peak.
Small and independent teams are also doing well with similar results. Thus far the weather is typical for mid to late April – cold nights with a few snow showers along with blustery winds at the high camps. The north is also seeing harsh winds, but lower down, and colder temps creating delays for some teams.
The world continues to watch the media blitz put on by Jordan Romero’s small team. He is doing satellite interviews on news shows via Skype and tweeting profusely. He still at base camp but plan on a trip to the north col this week which will be an altitude record for the young climber, father and step-mom.
The trips through the Icefall are also fairly normal albeit with some drama as noted by this dispatch from Allison Levine climbing with AAI:
We are just back down at BC after four nights up higher on the mountain–two nights at Camp 1 (19,600′) and two nights at Camp 2 (21,300′). It took us 8.5 hours to get from BC to Camp 1, because the Khumbu Icefall is just plain HARD to climb through. The terrain is challenging enough on its own–but the worry about the moving ice chunks/collapsing seracs creates a LOT of anxiety (a gigantic one collapsed yesterday matter of fact but luckily no one was injured).
About 30 minutes into Monday’s climb Derek had to turn back because he was having trouble breathing, so he did not continue up the mountain with us. And after eight hours of climbing when we were about 30 minutes from Camp 1 Vanessa (who is normally VERY strong) had some kind of respiratory attack and had to be put on an inhaler. Michael Horst, who is Jan’s private guide, took Vanessa’s backpack from her and helped her into Camp 1, and she recovered quickly after a few hours of relaxing in a tent. But the important thing to note here is that altitude can affect anyone at anytime–and it has nothing to do with how fit you are or how strong you are or how experienced you are–altitude sickness can strike at any time (more details on causes/ments in a future blog). Sure, there are things that you can do to prevent altitude sickness–proper acclimatization, good hydration, plenty of calories (difficult to do at altitude because you really lose your appetite), proper clothing to stay warm, but still with all of the precautions there are still absolutely no guarantees.
The climb on Wednesday from Camp 1 to Camp 2 took us about six hours, and although there aren’t any large overhanging seracs there are indeed massive crevasses all throughout the Western Cwm (pronounced “coom’) as you can see from the photo. One of the most accomplished climbers in Everest history, Babu Chiri Sherpa (who held the speed record for climbing this mountain) actually died a few years ago when he fell into a crevasse at Camp 2 while out taking pictures. Sometimes no matter how good you are, and no matter how experienced you are–things can still go wrong. You can never let down your guard anywhere on this mountain. FYI, the mountain you see in the center of the photo is Lhotse which is another 8000 meter peak right next to Everest. Our Camp 3, which we will hit on our next rotation, is two-thirds of the way up the Lhotse face.
A common question Everest climbers hear is about food. Becky Rippel explains what they are eating at base camp, sounds good!
Just another day at base camp doing what we do here.- eating!!! Some of the schools who are following us up the mountain this year asked what we eat? While at base camp we eat fresh local food. Vegetables and small amounts of fruit from the valley below. Apples are used mostly as their only choice for fresh fruit this time of year otherwise it’s tinned fruit but our veggies are fresh. We have assorted cheeses, salami, eggs, chicken and buffalo for protein. Ang Karsung bakes cakes, bread and pies. We eat potatoes cooked in various ways, pasta, rice and sushi is a Peak Freak’s all time favourite.
Up on the mountain at Camp 2, we provide much of the same foods as we do at base camp except some of the baking items get cut back. From Camp 3 upwards we provide organic boil in the bag meals and lots of fish which includes an abundance of smoked salmon and tuna. The boil in the bags are things like curries, lentil stews, chili, lasagne, chicken casseroles, hash brown with bacon, beef stew, bean stews. They seem to go down well at altitude and the preparation is simple. Our Sherpas prefer to eat noodles up at the high camp, Ichiban style ones called Rara noodles. It’s what they are used to and crave after a days hard work.Breakfast we have sausage and eggs, pancakes, toast, museli, oatmeal. Base Camp lunch the climbers are fed provided with another hot meal much like dinner. Today we had buffalo burgers, fries and salad
On a difficult note, Wendy Booker climbing with RMI has made the decision not to continue her expedition. She eloquently says:
The hardest choice I have had to face in the 12 years I have been living with MS was to turn back from a summit attempt on Everest… twice. I have had to recognize that on Everest I reached my boundary- sustained life above 17,000 feet, where the air is painfully thin and took my body to a place where it couldn’t function with Multiple Sclerosis. My MS could not tolerate the lack of oxygen to the brain and the enormous daily temperature fluctuations on the mountain. Everyday while others on my team grew stronger I was getting weaker. I noticed new symptoms I had not had before as well as a severe increase of those I have lived with for years.
Great effort Wendy. We know you will continue your wonderful work on behalf of MS.
We are seeing this week that climbing Everest is not a simple “walk-up”. It is harsh, challenging and real. However, what the climbers have experienced thus far will pale in comparison to the demands above camp 3 or the North Col. The oxygen is lower, the angles steeper, perhaps the route is on more rock this year and the body is tiring.
Will their training keep them going? Will the mind games win? What about their equipment – what if the regulator fails? Weather? Can’t control that.
Climbing Everest is a world of “what ifs”. There is drama. Guides, leaders, climbers – everyone try’s to avoid the drama and focus on the positive. In the back of their minds, they know the reality. And they know why they are there. This is what it is all about.
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My trip report for climbing Mount Whitney is now posted.