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Apr 262017
 

The first round of acclimatization rotations are mostly completed on both sides of Everest. Not be be repetitive, but this season continues to be “normal”.

A few teams are just starting their rotations, so the mountain is very busy. A spat of high winds created havoc for some, but again most teams worked their way thru it. While still a bit windy today, the weather appears to be decent for the next week or so.

 

 

“Normal”

When I say normal, especially in quotes, I mean there have been no major natural events like avalanches, earthquakes or unusual weather. There have been no reports of conflict on the routes.

By normal, I do mean that people are getting sick, injured, quitting and giving up. They are bored, discouraged and disappointed. They realize that they didn’t train hard enough, or went with the wrong team. They miss home.

By normal, I mean they are stunned by the incredible beauty of seeing the North Face of Everest or winding their way through the Icefall. Seeing the summit of Everest for the first time from Camp 2, takes their breath away. They laugh easily over dinner. They are making lifelong friends. They wake up to the sounds of prayer flags flapping in the breeze. The frost on their tent reminds them of what they are doing and where they are.

Yes, normal has many definitions just as each person’s experience is uniquely personal. And each person will have so much to say when they get home.

For some, the experience is illuminating. Wendy Gustin made this post recently:

I absolutely LOVED going thru the ice fall on the way to camp 1. It’s like a great big obstacle course for climbers. There are vertical walls to conquer using an ascender and digging in with crampons, large crevices with ladders laying horizontally across to scamper over and vertical ladders to climb- sometimes several of them roped together in order to reach the right height. I wish I had more photos of the ice fall to share, but it’s very important to stay fully focused on each and every step.

For others, it can be trying. George Kashough made this post along with a video on his Facebook page that you should see

I’m back in base camp! In a nut shell I got to IBC and felt great. Once at ABC @21k I felt terrible and had some altitude sickness. Last year I never got sick in regards with altitude so I think it was a mistake to gain weight for this trip and should have just done what worked last year. Either way I eventually recovered and am back on track. Here’s a video I took half way up the North Col.

Nepal Climbers to Camp 2

On the south side,  multiple teams have spent several nights at Camp 2 around 21,300 feet or 6500 meters. They are back at Everest Base Camp now to rest, eat, drink and let the body work on the acclimatization process. Their next trip up will be to either tag Camp 3 at 23,000 feet or 7000 meters or to spend one incredibly miserable night there. But as I was once told, this is your ticket to attempt the summit.

This animation I created a few years ago shows the most conservative program of acclimatizing on the south side, Today, most teams will eliminate a couple of these rotations. But it is good to get a visualization of the process

Tibet Climbers to North Col

On the north side, climbers have spent or tagged the North Col at 23,000 feet or 7000 meters. Many climbers have spent a night or two at Interim Camp and then on to Advanced Base Camp. ABC serves as the main base for many in their acclimatization process but some teams return all the way to Chinese Base Camp and even go down to the local Tibetan village for R&R.

One major difference between the north and south is that the camps are much higher on the north, so by spending a few nights at the North Col, it is the same as Camp 3 on the south. This is good news/bad news in that the body is pushed harder to adapt to the thin air, but also, the body is pushed harder to adapt to the thin air – quicker. Overall, the high camps are mostly viewed as a benefit by most.

Arnold Coster, now at ABC, posted their process:

24 April we left BC after breakfast for a 4-5 hour walk to interim camp at 5800m. We always split the 22km walk with 1200m elevation gain up the first time up, therefore we use this interim camp. The trail is very gradually in the beginning, until we reach the glacier moraine. Then the trail has lots of ups and downs, before it reaches interim camps. The yaks joined us carrying food, fuel and some member equipment to make our walk easier.

The next day we woke up early for the next stretch to ABC. A long walk along the ice pinnacles of the eastern rongbuk glacier.
By 2pm the whole team was in camp, beaten up by the altitude and wind, but satisfied! The next days we take it easy, so our bodies can adjust to the altitude jump. So we are all doing fine, until next dispatch!

For the north side. this is another animation I created a few years ago shows the most conservative program of acclimatizing. Similar to the south animation, today, most teams will eliminate a couple of these rotations. But it is good to get a visualization of the process

Acclimatization

This is a strange word that evokes a lot of emotions from many people. Basically it means putting your body where it was not designed to be 🙂

You are asking it to adapt to the new environment thru a complex series of chemical changes throughout the body include changing the PH of the blood, the amount of hematocrit, the thickness of the blood, the urine output, respiratory rate and many other changes. This is a good tutorial as is Dr. Peter Hackett’s site if you are interested.

In any event, this process has long since been nicknamed “climb high, sleep low” where the climbers go to ever increasing altitudes, stay a night or two then return to a lower altitude to recover. This is that standard technique used for decades. Today, the use of altitude tents is quickly becoming popular but that is a subject for another time.

Supplemental oxygen is not normally used until the summit push and then climbers go on Os between 23,500/7000 meters and 26,000 feet/8000 meters. For those climbing without supplemental oxygen, the usual process it to reach 8000 meters before their summit push. For those attempting a speed record to the summit, like Kilian Jornet, he will run up another 8000 meter peak, Cho Oyu, before his attempt!

Alex Abramov of 7 Summits Club is trying a novel approach this  year as he explains in his recent post:

Day 10, April 26 (evening)

Expedition of Seven Summits Club

New policy of oxygen acclimatization

Given the last year’s experience and the experience of 17 Himalayan expeditions of Alexander Abramov and Sergey Larin we developed a plan of “mild acclimatization in a short time”.

At each new elevation we sleep with supplemental oxygen. This is unusual and no one is doing it but us. But this does help us avoid altitude sickness the next morning. Last year no one on our team got sick. I’m talking about the first days of acclimatization which are the most critical. And just now we had oxygen equipment practice and went to sleep with oxygen at the Base Camp. 5100 meters.

We’ll do the same at Intermediate Camp at 5800 meters and the first night at ABC at 6400 meters.

We acquired enough oxygen for this. This is a new development in acclimatization and we’re willing listen to your criticism. No promises of taking it seriously though. )))

Finally just to show the wide diversity of thought around acclimatizing, Ueli Steck doesn’t believe in spending nights up high but did take two nights at Camp 2 to check out the West Ridge last week:

Quick Day from Basecamp up to 7000m and back. I love it its such a great place here. I still believe in active aclimatisation. This is way more effective then spending Nights up in the Altitude!

The Climb Goes On

OK, Everest 2017 continues. There will be a bit of a lull for those back at base camp/Advanced Base Camp. But the activity will pick up soon.

With the winds calming down soon (hopefully), look for the Sherpas to reach the summit later this week or early next on both sides with the fixed rope. Then look out! Who knows who will get there next!!

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

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  3 Responses to “Everest 2017: 1st Acclimitization Completed”

  1.  

    Thank you, Alan, for all the great reporting! As to the criticism of the current status of mountaineering, whether it be Everest or wherever, is what people personally make of it. If people want to climb using fixed ropes, so be it. Let them achieve their dream their way. If you do not wish to climb that way, that is your choice and more power to you. Please do not degrade other people’s efforts because you do not agree with the way they have chosen to accomplish their climb.

    •  

      Thanks Adina.

      Climbing style is one of those discussions based on opinions and philosophy. I tend not see it as black and white, right or wrong but rather personal choice that is support or limited by skills.

      While we may look in the mirror and see Alex Honold, Ueli Steck, Reinhold Messner, Lynn Hill, Steph Davis, or Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, we are who we are, and I for one respect that.