The activity is building around Everest. Teams are trekking on the south and driving on the north and some are already at base camp. All is well on both sides of Everest at the moment.
Early April is an awkward time in the Everest timeline. There are literally hundreds of people scattered from Kathmandu to Lhasa to the trekking peaks of Nepal to tiny desolate towns in Tibet, and a few beginning to adjust to life at base camp.
Post after post reveal the Khumbu is still filled with people making their way to base camp. The weather has been pretty good for early April when it can be cold and snowy. This year seems on track to be ‘normal’ with the blue skies and reasonable winds.
The pictures of Everest however show a different story. The huge plume off the summits of Everest and Lhotse tell the tale of a Jet Stream sitting on top of the summit like it does for 50 weeks a year. But that first site of Everest is breathtaking.
You will read a lot this year, mainly in the non-climbing press, about reducing the time it takes to climb Everest thru the use of altitude tents, extra oxygen and overstaffing of support. At some point I will do a deep dive into this new approach. But one fact is crystal clear, the human body must adjust to high altitude or the consequences can be deadly.
Bulgarian climber, Atanas Skatov, is wanting to summit Lhotse then Everest this season is on his way to base camp when he posted this report of a person in trouble during the trek in:
… 1:30 o’clock at night I hear someone knocking on the door. I slept deeply and at first I thought I was dreaming, but I realized that actually a hammer. I jumped out of bed and opened it. It was the Irishman who is here with his son trekking to Base Camp. He was very embarrassed and explained that his son has severe pain around the heart and can not breathe. Immediately I went into the next room when the young man who was only 23 years old.
He was doubled over and was sitting up in bed wrapped with two quilt. It looked very bad and explained that there is severe pain around the heart and breathing hard. His father asked if she had pulmonary edema, but explained that pulmonary edema no pain around the heart and hardly of 3400 Metro can be obtained, provided that climb up gradually. Lina came and she was worried for the young man. I went looking for competent help from our guide Pemba, who did not know which room is sleeping, but I went looking for him around the hut. It turned out the first floor, and we are of 4 – ya. In Pemba we were together Ananpurna 2016 and together we got on top of the 1 may. He was the team’s Carlos Soria. Very good boy, always smiling and can count on him in the high mountains too. Pemba clung too, but could not help him.
At that moment we remembered that one of the two Pakistanis in our group, is a doctor. Come on, we began to seek out and him. He came and he was not able to give informed opinion. I think his muscles were cut or type of cramp of the muscles around the heart. I’m very sorry that so it happened here in Namche Bazaar has a clinic and tomorrow will go to review, but I think of him trekking over.
The protocol is to take it slow and steady on the trek spending as many as ten days between Lukla and EBC. But not everyone is happy with the pace to Base Camp. Ronnie Rein with Tim Mosedale posted:
After lunch I tried to read, but it didn’t flow. The audiobook was a little better but still it was the first time I really struggled as to what I should with myself. Looking at the same mountain, as nice as it is (say Ama Dablam), just doesn’t cut it for me. In retrospect I’d have preferred to move on rather than rest. That constant movement, which I have done on numerous long distance hikes, always brings excitement and some feeling of accomplishment each day. But then acclimatization commands such breaks. Just suck it up I guess. Base camp down days will be hard (and there will be many)
Sophie Wallace who is providing medical support for the Adventure Consultants team made this post on her first experience in the Khumbu:
Day 7-9. We left Pheriche, went to another bakery, past some yaks and ended up in Chukkung surrounded by an incredible amphitheatre of mountains with amazing ice fluting. Bloody cold and a gradual decrease in creature comforts, namely the toilet situation. Acclimatisation hike above Chukkung the next day to >5300m with views over the moraine. Then we moved to Lobuche where we sleep tonight (4900m). The team went up and over the high pass to acclimatise, I went down and back up (via another bakery) as I’m trying to shift a cold which has been dragging. I got the chance to see a different route to last time including the memorial hill containing monuments dedicated to those who lost their lives on the mountain. Eerily haunting but a sad and beautiful place for the souls who didn’t get to come home. Basecamp tomorrow where I can unpack for the next six weeks and maybe wash my hair again.
On the Tibet side, Ricky Munday continues to keep us updated as he drives towards CBC. He posted on Facebook. He is with the SummitClimb team:
Shelkar, Tibet – truly a one-horse town. I love how this photo represents Tibet’s nomadic history, it’s rapid development as China constructs housing at a ferocious rate, and the digital age in which we live, with solar-powered street lamps. We leave Shelkar for Everest Base Camp tomorrow!
Everest Base Camp
A rough estimate is that about 100 foreigners are already at Everest Base Camp (EBC) on the Nepal side. Over the next ten days this will swell to 1,000 people including foreigners, cooks, Sherpas and staff.
For the first few days, they mostly let their bodies catch up to the altitude, around 17,500′. Many are seeking to buy their EverestLink access card. This amazing service provides fairly high speed WiFi at base camp. Note, there is no connection above EBC i.e. at Camp 1 or on the summit.
The mobile phone provide, NCELL, does provide a signal from their antennas at Gorak Shep, but you have to wander around EBC to find a reliable 3G signal; a voice connection is a bit easier to find.
Many commercial guides will set up a training course where the Sherpas and guides will review basic skills including, fixed rope travel, climbing ice walls and slopes with crampons and crossing ladders.
The Sherpas, cooks and staff will be busy creating sleeping tent platforms, organizing the kitchen, finding a good source of water and building rock walls to mark their camp. This last part also keeps wandering yaks from exploring open tents!
Water is always an issue at EBC. While there is plenty of snow and ice around, after all EBC is located on the Khumbu Glacier, getting access to clean water is a huge job. Each year, a ‘cook boy’ will have the job of carrying a large blue barrel to the closest water, usually some small pond of melted ice, filling it up and hauling it back to the cook tent. There is it brought to a boil before using it for cooking and drinking. This year, a few guides brought pumps to transfer the water, but they must be very close to the source.
Another feature of EBC is the location of EverestER. This volunteer team of doctors provide medical services to all foreigners for the bargain price of $100 each plus unlimited services for SHerpas, porters, cooks and any Nepali. Their service is funded thru donations. To get a feel for how the season is going, how many people they treat is a good indicator.
The Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic (Everest ER,) a project of the Himalayan Rescue Association-USA (US based nonprofit charity org) and Himalayan Rescue Association (a non-profit Nepali NGO) was first established during the 2003 Everest 50th anniversary spring climbing season. This is their 14th season and will say at base camp until the end of spring climbing season or May 31.
The Icefall is back open after an ice serac collapsed on Monday covering the route. A few climbers are preparing to enter later this week but the Sherpas have been steadily making sortes’ to establish camps 1 and 2 in the Western Cwm.
One of the ways guide companies minimize the risk of climbing from the south side it to use the 20,000 foot trekking peak, Lobuche East for acclimatization thus eliminating one rotation thru the Icefall. The altitude is about the same as between Camps 1 and 2 in the Western Cwm. Himalayan Experience and IMG have used this peak for years.
Yesterday, 12 April, one of the IMG teams climbed to the summit and are now already back to Lobuche Base Camp. The climb takes a bit over four hours and we have reports of a “hard but good day”. From the summit, you get amazingly clear views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu and more.
There you have it for midweek. The key story is that everyone is adjusting to their new environment. Some are adjusting their GI system, other their lungs and a few their objective.
The trek in is a time to reflect on why you are there and are you ready. Almost everyone has a moment of doubt, that is normal. When they begin to feel the thin air at 16,00 feet or stop to take a breather on a small hill, those doubts enter their mind.
But it is OK. The body is adjusting. With the thin air, the body responds by breathing faster. So in a contradictory moment, when you feel like to are not ready, it is just the opposite, your body is busy making the necessary adjustments.
By the weekend, base camp will be very busy, on both sides. The Icefall Doctors will continue to manage the route to Camp 2. Over on the North, the Tibetan Sherpas will perhaps begin to establish a camp at the North Col while setting the fixed line to from Advanced Base Camp to Camp 1 at the Col.
In other words, the business of climbing Everest will be in full motion.
Memories are Everything