Virtual Everest 2020: Camp 2

On their active rest day at Camp 1, our fictional climbers took a short hike into the Western Cwm. Today, they move to Camp 2 at 21,000-feet. If it’s sunny, it’s a brutal walk, if cloudy and windy, it’s a brutal hike. They want a Goldilocks experience: high clouds, light winds.

In the real world, the 2020 Chinese team was last reported at the Intermediate Camp at 21,300-feet between Chinese Base Camp and Advance Base Camp on the Tibet side. This is the 60th anniversary of the first Northside summit, so the Chinese are motivated to reach the top this year. The first recognized summit of Everest on the Tibet side was by Fu-Chou Wang, Gombu (Konbu), and Ying-Hai Qu at 4:20 a.m., 25 May 1960.

Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas is a joint project of Alan Arnette and several global guide companies. Our objective is to entertain Everest fans during the Coronavirus spring closure and raise money to help the Climbing Sherpas who are not working this spring. While there will be accurate historical references, this series is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Please join us by making a donation using the links below plus by adding your Everest experiences in the comment section.

Is Camp 2 Real?

“The route is in to the South Col,” Passang told her. This news was excellent. Now the Sherpas from all teams could begin to take tents, stoves, fuel, and the critical oxygen bottles to what is the last camp before the summit.

Also, it meant that the rope fixing team could begin to fix the sections from the Col to the Balcony, South Summit, and the summit. It appeared that Dawa’s earlier prediction that the rope fixers would reach the top around May 5 was accurate. The schedule looked good for member summits to start in mid-May, right on schedule.

As Guide told everyone just before they turned in for another difficult night at altitude, “Let’s be walking at 5:00 am, around sunrise, but have your headlamps on your helmet because it will be dark. There are crevasses all over this place as you saw yesterday, plus that ice cliff. Today will need to climb it, not turn back. C2 is not that far, but further than you think. At times it will not feel real. Sleep well.”

The second night was better for most people, but a few struggled. The morning routine was faster now; they had honed their dressing and packing techniques. Well, almost all of them.

Their packs were a reasonable weight for a member, around 15 to 20 pounds. But at altitude, everything is amplified. Each carried their sleeping bag, pads, and extra layers.  The altitude became apparent as they strapped on crampons and doubled backed their harness buckles. With helmets on, they started walking. Their breathing picked up.

A long line of almost 14 people, moved like snails at first. The route followed the boot path created by Mount Everest Guides and the scores of other teams in the Cwm. The fixed-line followed the track or the other way around. Every few hundred feet, there was an anchor that required bending over, unclipping from the line, moving the safety carabiner over the anchor then moving a second carabiner over. It was tedious but an element of safety that was non-negotiable.

After an hour, they came upon the ice cliff. It was steep, a 30-foot snow wall that was actually part of a collapsed crevasse. There were no ladders, only two dangling ropes, one to climb up, and the other for rappelling down.

Ice Cliff in the 2018 Western Cwm courtesy of International Mountain Guides

Snorer struggled with this setup on the training course at base camp, and now he was 2,500-feet higher. He was with Old Man and Guide as they approached the obstacle. “Well, this is it.” He said with significant anxiety in his voice.

“Hell, I’ll go first,” Old Man said as Guide and Snorer looked at each other with surprise. Like a Pro, he slid his ice axe into the gap between his back and pack and attached his jumar to the rope. With a confident kick, the front points of his crampons engaged the wall. He slid the jumar up a bit, and took another step, kicking in again. He moved easily, with confidence as he topped out. Snorer looked at Guide. They both smiled.

“Well, that’s how you do it,” Guide offered with a smirk. Snorer approached the wall like a heavyweight boxer to his opponent in Round One. He slid his ice axe into a spare carabiner on his harness like a gunfighter with his pistol into a holster. He attached his jumar like Old Man had. Guide called out, “Use your legs to climb, not your arms, Slow, short steps with good purchase for the crampons. No need to rush,” Old Man monitoring the activity from above added, “And remember to breathe.”

Snorer kicked his right foot into the wall; it bounced off. He tried again; this time with more force. It stuck. The jumar went higher. He kicked the other foot above the first; his body followed. Slowly he climbed the wall, one short step at a time. Halfway up, he found steps kicked in by other climbers. He placed the front third of his right boot into a step. He paused to take a few deep breaths.

“Good job!” Old Man greeted him at the top. Guide, still down below, clapped his hands together and let out a whistle. Snorer smiled at both, pleased with his performance. A boost in confidence. He walked away from the wall a bit faster than his usual pace.

The sun peeked out, rising over Lhotse. It was already after 7, almost 8:00. They had been moving for about two hours.

Camp 2 is located in a rocky ravine thousands of feet underneath the South Summit of Everest. It serves as Advanced Base Camp for most expeditions with permanent cooks, large dining tents with a long table, tablecloth, fake flowers, and golf-style chairs. They shared sleeping tents. “This is luxury compared to 14 Camp on Denali,” Boyfriend said. “Yeah, I like it, but feel bad for the Sherpas who haul this stuff up here for our comfort.” Girlfriend agreed.

Buddies, again in the lead, crested a small hill. “We are almost there,” they told a Sherpa. He just smiled and said, “Bistari. Far.” They kept walking, confident about being first to camp like they were to C1. The competitive nature of the duo was becoming obvious to everyone else. One stopped, suddenly bending over, and started his familiar cough. Their Sherpa stopped with them waiting for the episode to pass. “Bistari, bistari.”

C2 from above

They walked a bit slower now and saw a tiny red tent off in the distance. Encouraged, they picked up the pace but the coughing returned. Another hour passed. The red tent seemed to have multiplied. Now there was a line of them. They crested another hill as the sun was hitting the climbers hard. They stopped to strip off their jackets. Stripped down, only wearing thin, nylon white short sleeve shirts and a bandanna in their ball caps to drape over their neck, they felt cooler. At C1, they had lathered up with sunscreen but now reapplied as the sweat was wiping it away.

She came up behind them as they took a break. She has done the same changes a little earlier and was in a nylon top. “Sweating at 20,000-feet, in short sleeves.” She said. “Where is our camp?” She asked the Sherpa. “Last one at the top of the hill.” He said, not making eye contact.

They continued as a group of four reaching the rocky bottom of the ravine. They choose not to take off their crampons, even though most of the snow was gone. The angle increased. Thus far, over the previous two miles, it was steady, almost imperceptible. Now they felt it. Pausing for another break, they sat on a large boulder and drank the last of their water. Soon they could drink and eat at C2 if they ever got there!

High and higher, they passed camp after camp spread out amongst the rocky terrain. Each camp looked the same: a large dining tent, another for cooking surrounded by a sea of two or three-person sleeping tents. A couple of tall blue tents marked the toilets.

“Here!” The Sherpa called out. The three members looked up from staring at their boots. “Thank God,” Bud said and started coughing.

They dropped their packs by the dining tent and quickly sat in a chair. Hot lemon tea and crackers were on the table. They ate and drank with urgency. The Couple soon joined them.

“Look at that,” Dutch called out. He, Loner, Old Man, Snorer, and Guide were together with Passang and a Climbing Sherpa. “The Lhotse Face.” Dutch said with reverence. Old Man let his eye trace the boot path towards C3. “This was as far as I got last year,” he said to himself, not out loud. He was pleased with his performance today, especially on the ice cliff. He had more confidence. He felt ok, not great, not strong, tired like he expected but not as tired as he feared.

“That’s the big test!” Guide said to the team.

Everyone looked up. Then everyone looked down. They seemed to look down at their boots more than they looked up at the mountains.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

Climbing Sherpa Support

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