Time has come to leave Everest Base Camp for our team’s acclimatization rotation to Camp 1 and Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. The purpose for this is to naturally change our blood chemistry to better deal with the lower level of oxygen molecules available at the higher altitudes.
The available oxygen at base camp is half that of sea level and on the summit of Everest, it drops to one -third. Using supplemental oxygen reduces the effective altitude felt by the body by about 1, 000 meters so acclimatizing is key to climbing any large mountain.
We will leave tonight at 1:00 am and travel through the Khumbu Icefall in the dark of night when the temperatures are the coldest to minimize exposure to the moving ice and hanging seracs that have threatened climbers in the Icefall for decades.
Many teams have already made this journey this year with no issues.
We will spend one night at Camp1 and three or four at Camp 2. During this time we will climb up the Lhotse Face, perhaps as high as Camp 3 at 23,500, but not spend the night as some other teams do. On my previous climbs of Everest (note I am climbing Lhotse this year -not Everest), I have spent a miserable night at C3. It was considered “paying your dues” in the old school mantra of “climb high, sleep low” approach to acclimatization.
While some expeditions still try to get that night in at C3, others feel it is too much of an energy drain and the short time at that altitude does not really accomplish much in terms of acclimatization. Personally, I think this is extremely individual and there is no blanket rule. However, I can say that by reaching 7000 meters or higher before heading to the summit later, is a huge boost in confidence so there is value.
Early reports have the Lhotse Face very icy and hard. The route is expected to swing to the climber’s right near the base and avoid the rock-fall prone face. This is similar to 2012 that also had a dry winter and is the same route used by the first Everest summit team in 1953.
The jet stream has moved back on top of Everest the last couple of days, all the way down to the mid-7000-meter level. As I write this at EBC, the winds are gusty. Teams at C2 are reporting strong cold winds.
I will try to post an audio dispatch via satellite phone during the next 5 or 6 days since there is no internet connection up there (thank goodness 🙂 ) I’ll post a complete report upon my return.
All is on schedule for Everest south right now. The teams on Tibet have just arrived and appear to be running a week or so late but this should not be a problem as the season runs later on that side as they do not have to deal with the melting Icefall.
It’s way too early to predict when the first summits may occur, but historically May 19- 21 has been the top few days on the south.
Finally, April 25 is the one year anniversary of the Nepal avalanche that killed over 9000 and made millions homeless. I was walking to Camp 2 in the Western Cwm last year when it hit. As I climb tomorrow, the day will not be lost on me and millions of others around the world.
Memories are Everything