Right on schedule, the first members are in the Western Cwm. The Sherpas have already been making trips there to establish the camps. While it is short in distance, the altitude makes it long in time. These are the distances and usual times from Everest Base Camp on the Nepal (south) side for a foreigner first time up. Sherpas times will be the lower of the range.
- Base Camp: 17,500’/5,334m
- C1: 19,500’/5,943m – 3-6 hours, 1.62 miles
- C2: 21,000’/6,400m – 2-3 hours, 1.74 miles
More and more leaders are commenting on the quality of the route through the Khumbu Icefall this year. Tim Mosedale said “… the route is perhaps the best and safest I’ve seen so a big shout to the Icefall Doctors for creating a safe passage. Thanks guys.”
Frying at Camp 1
David Hamilton, leader of the Jagged Globe team posted that they were the first team to arrive at Camp 1 this season, followed soon by one of the several IMG teams. He said “Team in Camp 1. Left BC at 0100 on a very cold starlit night. Very good conditions through the Icefall. Only 7 ladders. Many Sherpas on the route. Arrived at Camp 1 at 0700 to become the first group of the season to occupy. One other team arrived a few hours later. Hot and sunny afternoon.“
When most people think of climbing Mount Everest, they envision deadly cold temperatures, windchills below zero, frostbite, and everything else that comes with climbing mountains. But oddly enough, it’s not the cold but the heat that gets most people in the Western Cwm. The word cwm is a Welsh word for cirque or glaciated valley, which is a horseshoe type of mountain topology. This valley is surrounded by Everest’s West shoulder to the North, Lhotse to the East and Nuptse to the South. It is the gatekeeper for the traditional route to the South Col. It’s has a nickname, Valley of Silence because when the wind stops, it is early quiet. It is 2.5 miles long, carved out by the Khumbu Glacier which starts at the base of Lhotse Peak.
The stay at Camp 1 will be miserable. This week we will read many reports of climbers experiencing the incredible extremes in the Cwm. They are not exaggerating when they say it can go from 100F to below freezing in a matter of minutes. The sun reflects off the surrounding ice and snow laden slopes. When a cloud layer masks the hyper bright sun light, the true nature of climbing at 20,000′ becomes apparent. However, it is not only the heat but also the lack of wind that makes this section miserable. With a few thousand feet of solid rock walls surrounding the Cwm on three sides, there is almost no wind at the ground level. So as you walk in layers of clothing designed for snow, wind and cold protection – in the heat of the day – and the sun comes out … well, let’s just say I hope you remembered your sunscreen. This is what it’s like:
The climbers arrive at 8:00 am just as the sun begins to hit the tents. They are tired, questioning their resolve as they crawl into their tents. They spread out their personal gear along with their -20F down sleeping bag and lie down.
Within minutes, they are sweating, horribly hot, like in a sauna but no humidity except for the sweat now forming off their nose. They shift to reduce the body surface area against the down bag. They roll again. OMG, this is horrible! Who said it would be like a summer day in Atlanta but this at 20,000 feet in the Western Cwm? You look over at your tent mate, he is just as miserable and that makes you feel better.
All of a sudden a Sherpa appears at the door. “Hot tea?”
The tents at Camp 1 are perched on the Khumbu Glacier but close to where the Icefall begins. A bit further up the Cwm a series of crevasses begins, some you can down climb into and cross and then climb out, other requires ladders. IMG keeps mentioning this year of an “Ice cliff” suggesting one of the dips is pretty steep.
We will look at Camp 2 in a couple of days.
Mingma G Sherpa of Imagine Climb made a surprising post regarding his Lhotse team:
We, Lhotse team plan to continue for summit push if everything goes as we planned. Our Lhotse team consist of professional climbers so we don’t need that much acclimatization as other climbers. We may fix the route to Summit by 30 April. And from tomorrow onwards, we won’t have wifi and cell phone signal but information will be updated on www.facebook.com/climbermingma.
Mingma is certainly a strong climber. He made multiple attempts on 8000ers last year summiting Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Nanga Pabart, K2 and finished with an uncertain summit of Broad Peak. He is planning on returning to secure that summit for his record. You can read my interview with him we did on how his team was the only one to summit K2 last year.
Chillin in Tibet
Hanging out around #Everest2018 base camp at 17,000 feet. We do day hikes to acclimatize, get in our sleeping bags from about 8pm to 8am reading and listening to music/audio books in our individual tents. And engage in the all important so called “active rest” . Breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner are all highlights because of our wonderfully skilled kitchen staff. The dining tent and chill out tent have small heaters that keep us chatting away long after meals have ended. Occasionally, we enjoy even a heated shower. The gentleman on my team have experimented with the gondola sauna and swear by it. Even the two restrooms are clean, comfortable, commode styles. I’ve said this every day for the past 3 or 4 days, but tomorrow I’ll hand wash my clothes. It’s been two weeks, so it’s time!
But then the next day, things turned on her:
I performed terribly yesterday. I went for a training hike with two of my teammates and had to turn around an hour into it. It was more than humiliating. Aren’t we here to climb Everest? The moment I left them I was plagued with self-doubt, overwhelmed at the thought of my weakness. I quickly spiraled lower.
This isn’t the first time I put myself in a situation where I felt as though I was overextended, in over my head. I do it frequently, have for 20 years. It’s almost an addiction. I called my husband, Doug @resilientppt, and told him that after this trip, I would stop doing this to myself. What am I trying to prove? All our vacations, together and apart, revolve around skill development – skiing, ice climbing, even our wedding involved kiteboarding, and the honeymoon was hiking Kilimanjaro. I don’t have to make everything so challenging. Can’t we relax? Well, he was the wrong person to tell because not only does he constantly challenge himself too, but he respects me for doing so myself.
My pity party turned into a pep talk – one I really needed. He reminded me that I love doing this. I’m in my element here, once the climbing gets going. Too much downtime is never good. And these teammates I was hiking with…hadn’t I told him earlier that they were ultra-marathoners who trained in the Alps and sometimes did races that last 24 hours? They also have demanding careers, so to simply call them athletes, doesn’t do justice to their skills. But they are incredible athletes among other things. I shouldn’t expect myself to be able to keep up with @mike.runs and Harald (even though they were going slower for my sake). He reminded me that I should be happy to be a part of such a strong, capable team. I am.
This morning over breakfast my team was discussing how on any two month trip, one is bound to get sick (traveler’s stomach), so maybe it’s better to get it early on rather than later when we are higher up the mountain. That reminded me that we’re each also bound to have a bad day (or at least a not so good one). Maybe I was lucky that mine happened down near base camp and is now behind me. Today’s good hike erased yesterday’s bad one. I’m over it. Onwards and upwards!
Meanwhile the Polish team on the north side is having great time. For some reason I think they guys are trouble!! Kidding, looks like a fun group!
We have two different stories in this post: Mingma – who does not acclimatize and Courtney who is already suffering at base camp. Well, we all know that Sherpas perform unbelievably well at altitude and they can thank the preceding generations for that.
About 30,000 years ago, humans were first present on the Tibetan Plateau which is about 14,763’/4,500m. The first settlements appeared about 6,000–9,000 years ago. Over centuries the Tibetan people adapted to the high altitude in such a way that their bodies use oxygen more efficiently than low-landers. One population, the Sherpas, migrated from Tibet to eastern Nepal about 500 years ago and today use that metabolic advantage to their economic advantage.
For more reading on this visit these links Sherpas Superhuman Mountaineers , Why Sherpas Are Superhuman Mountain Climbing Powerhouses, and Metabolic basis to Sherpa altitude adaptation
40 Years later
Finally, the Himalayan Times has a nice story on the surviving eight members of the 1978 historic 12-member expedition — Wolfgang Nairz, Reinhold Messner, Peter Habeler, Helmut Hagner, Hanns Schell, Robert Schauer, Oswald Ölz and Raimund Margreiter. Of course this was the expedition where Messner and Habeler summited without supplemental oxygen on May 8. The rest off the team, on O’s , Bergmann, Schauer and Wolfgang summited five days earlier and Ölz and Karl made it on 11 May and Oppurg on May 14. Margreiter, Hagner and Schell were stopped by bad weather on May 7 and Knoll was stopped after his oxygen system failed near camp 4. True pioneers.
Trivia: Messner “only” climbed Everest twice. First on May 8, 1978, at 1:15 pm as part of this team from the Nepal side and on August 20, 1980, at 1:00 pm from the Tibet side, truly solo and unsupported except for a cook at base camp. His first summit was the 25th summit of Everest and his second ranks as the 41st.
Memories are Everything