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Apr 202012
Western Cwm Camp 1 Everest 2011

Western Cwm Camp 1 Everest 2011

A lot of movement on both sides of Everest. Teams have spent the night at camps 1 and 2 on the south and are now at ABC on the North. The Indian Pune team and the WMS gang have a few nice Icefall pictures. You can almost hear the heavy breathing!

Fixing Rope

The Sherpas continue to do the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively as a mind-boggling amount of rope is used to fix the south side route: 6.2 miles or 32, 808 feet or 10,00 meters! They use a nylon  kernmantle static rope design. The Sherpas are now fixing the line up the Lhotse Face, a lot of work but I noted the other day that the 1963 West Ridge expedition that put 5 people on the summit had 900 porters and 37 Sherpas; so Sherpas have always been the key on Everest.

The Icefall appears to be in good shape with multiple reports that it is fast this year, meaning few ladders (not sure of an exact number yet but less than 20?) and fewer ups and downs. There was a concern it was too close to Everest’s West Shoulder exposed to avalanche danger but the route has been that way for years avoiding the more dangerous south side. In 2009, a large serac did break off the West Shoulder onto the Icefall covering the entire Icefall.

Camp 1

Many teams are calling Camp 1 on the south located at the top of the Khumbu Icefall, home tonight. This is their first real taste of an Everest or Lhotse climb. The climb through the Icefall was tough. Reports went from 3 to 7 hours, a normal range. But what is unexpected is that first day in your tent at Camp 1.

Here you are surrounded by nothing but snow, ice and rock faces – at almost 20,000′ and you are hot. No, you are boiling. To escape the unrelenting sun, you crawl in your tent. If you are looking for more torture you pull out a thermometer and find it is over 105F degrees or 40C! You unzip every flap, throw your useless -40F (very expensive) down sleeping bag outside and lie on your back in your minimal underwear on your thin sleeping pad hoping to find that range between cold and wet.

The wind picks up and you are cold. Ugh! Your constant play by play brings grunts and snorts from your tentmate.

Soon someones suggests putting your, very expensive -40F sleeping bag on top of your tent for shade. Following directions you do only to find it reduced the inside temp by 20F degrees! Now it is only 85F. You adjust your sunglasses. A big drink of water, you roll on your side to reduce the contact with the now sweating sleeping pad and begin to complain to your tent mate. Not hearing any response you roll over to find yourself alone.

Another day on Everest!

The Technology Age

One day I think Everest Base Camp will look like a scene outside a hyper-publiczed US Court house with television crews, satellite vans and the like. Well we are getting close.

The PR people at National Geographic appear to only be updating their followers via an iPad app, so if you don’t have an iPad, you miss out on some nice HD video of their efforts on the West Ridge. By the way, they have spent a couple of nights at Camp 2 and are back in Base Camp.

But for a first hand look for the “rest of us”, Alpine Ascent’s lead guide, Garrett Madison, in partnership with Sportsideo just posted a wide ranging interview from EBC. It is mostly of Garrett but you get a sense of what EBC looks like this year. They promise more videos throughout the season like their teaser which is actually pretty good (turn the volume up!).

One of the more amazing lengths, climbers are going to stay in touch is by my favorite south side blogger Ian Ridley with Jagged Globe. Armed with a 3G cell phone, he seems to only be able to connect to his Twitter and Facebook account from the Icefall! So he regularly stops there to download his messages and make a tweet or two. Once again his post today is a great overview of his time at Camp 1 and back.

We set off down through the ice fall at 5.45 am and wthout incident made it to BC three hours later as David had predicted. Once again I stopped and picked up my emails/twitter/Facebook updates. I know this is starting to sound like a stuck record but I do really appreciate all of your comments and good wishes.

North Moving Higher

Mark Horrell with Altitude Junkies keeps us informed on their plans of moving to Advanced Base Camp for one week and then a night at the North Col and tagging C1 at 7500m. One of the differences in climbing from the north is you spend much more time at altitude. This is good in that it forces more acclimatization but can be tough on the body for the same reason. But it the proven formula for that side. He also notes that satellite communications has been difficult so we might not hear a lot for the next week.

46 yaks turned up at Base camp this morning to transport 1840kg of equipment up to Advanced Base Camp (ABC). Seven of our Sherpas went with them and the rest of us will be following tomorrow. After a week of rest at Base Camp we’re all pumped up for this our first foray up the mountain.

Although ABC is at 6400m, but for the altitude it’s an easy trek to get there up the ‘Magic Highway’, a strip of moraine running up the middle of the East Rongbuk Glacier which enables yaks to be taken up. We aim to spend a week or so at ABC, spend a night on the North Col at 7050m, and climb as high as 7500m to acclimatize. It’s been beautiful weather most of the time here at Base Camp, but Everest’s summit plume has been ever-present, sometimes dropping as low as the North Col, indicating high winds. We’re expecting it to be cold and windy, and all our plans are weather-dependent.

Apa Sherpa and the Great Himalaya Trail

After 4753 miles/1449km and 88 days, Apa Sherpa and Dawa Steven Sherpa have completed the Great Himalaya Trail across Nepal to raise awareness of climate change. They started on Jan 24. During a press conference yesterday, Apa told the press:

People in the mountains must be given livelihood opportunities that also address threats from climate change. Sustainable tourism development on the Great Himalaya Trail is possibly the only hope for the communities in foreseeable future. The experience of walking the entire length of Nepal’s Himalayas has made me even more committed in my resolve to speak for the mountains and mountain communities.

Congratulations on this project to the dedicated men. You can read more at their site

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

  4 Responses to “Everest 2012: Boiling at Camp 1”


    In this post, Mark Horrell mentions an ever present plume at the summit and consequently looks forward to a cold and windy climb. Can climbers make other predictions about their climb based on their ‘reading’ of the plume? Would there be different interpretations based on summit bids from the South or North?


      Hi Ann, Mark’s comments about the plume on Everest is a good observation that the Jet Stream is blowing directly over the summit. This means the winds are 100 to 200 mph eliminating all possibility of climbing. This is the same from both sides of the mountain. What climbers are looking for is when the plume is small or not there at all. This is an indication that it is safe to climb but not always. Generally climbers want winds under 30 mph – max. Winds can pick back up at any time creating almost instant frostbite conditions. In rare situations, climbers have been known to be blown off high summit ridges.

      As we approach mid May, the Jet Stream normally moves north driven by monsoons off India thus providing the “summit window”. But sometimes the Stream splits, like last year and it hovers north and south of the summit keeping weather forecasters up all night trying to give their best advice. My summit in 2011 was in 40 mph gust and we stayed on the summit only 10 minutes because it was so cold. The 1996 disaster, those climbers were thought to have experienced 115 mph winds.


    Alan, I am grateful for your vivid descriptions of the minor daily challenges, such as trying to get cool in the hot tent AND the grumbles and small talk about the frustrations we arm chair adventurers will never know. One blog mentioned the “bathroom” facilities” were much improved. This detail of daily life is seldom mentioned but just how have those “facilities” been improved both on the climb and at the camps?


      Ginny, thanks for the feedback on daily life on Everest. As for bathrooms, they are about as primitive as one can get. Most expeditions at base camp use a small tent, usually blue, covering a rock wall surrounding a blue plastic barrel with a toilet set positioned appropriately. The barrel is collected every few days by a porter who takes it via yak back to Gorak Shep or lower where the contents are “processed”. The key point here is the solid waste is removed from the glacier.

      However, some teams are using so called “green” techniques where individuals use a Clean Mountain Can aka CMC which is a small bucket with a biodegradable bag liner. The user sits on the bucket and enjoys the view. Once the bag is full, after 10 to 14 uses, the liner is changed and the bag is taken back down valley like the rest of the solid waste. This is the same system used on Denali and some other popular mountains around the world. You can read more at the Denali park page at

      While probably much more information that you ever wanted! This is becoming a serious problem for all the popular mountains around the world, especially when you get to the high camps where hauling waste back down is sometimes viewed as unproductive work for the Sherpas, climbers, guides or porters. Sadly, many teams simply go where they find a rock to hide behind or into a deep crevasse.

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