Everest 2024: Icefall Doctors Mark Season Start

Icefall Doctors training in 2016. Courtesy of Pemba Sherpa

The Icefall Doctors are on their way to Everest Base Camp to install the fixed rope and ladders from Base Camp to Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. Usually, this work is completed by the time most climbers arrive in early April. This year, they attended a one-day training session at the Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) in Phortse and a week-long training program at Everest Base Camp. The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, SPCC, said that Conrad Anker and KCC instructors taught the courses. Seven Summits Treks will fix the route from Camp 2 to the summit.

According to the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), the team includes BC Manager Tshering Tenji Sherpa, icefall doctors Ang Sarki Sherpa, Dawa Nuru Sherpa, Pemba Tshering Sherpa, Ngima Tenzi Sherpa, Nawang Chhimi Sherpa, Dawa Chhiri Sherpa, Dawa Zangbu Sherpa, and Mingma Gyalzen Sherpa, kitchen staff Ngawang Thanten and Ongdi Gelbu Sherpa, and garbage management staff Yam Bahadur Lama.

2024 Icefall Doctors
2024 Icefall Doctors

Trash Removal

Collecting trash from the mountains has thankfully increased in recent years. In a renewed partnership, The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), Sita Air and TARA AIR will airlift garbage from Lukla to Kathmandu for recycling.

As a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Tara Air has been supporting the SPCC to airlift garbage from Lukla to Kathmandu free of cost since 2016. With their support, we have transported over 65 tons of recyclables to Kathmandu and handed them over to our Kathmandu-based partner, Blue Waste, to remove items of value before recycling.

Sherpa Training at Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC)

The Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) was founded by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation (ALCF) to preserve Alex Lowe’s legacy by providing direction and financial support to sustainable, community-based humanitarian programs designed to help the people who live in remote regions of the world. Jennifer Lowe-Anker established the ALCF in December 1999 after the death of her late husband, Alex Lowe. She is an artist and author residing in Bozeman, Montana, with her husband, Conrad Anker.

Founded in 2003, the KCC mission statement reads:

to increase the safety margin of Nepali climbers and high altitude workers by encouraging responsible climbing practices in a supportive and community-based program.

In 2018, I sat down with one of the local principals running the KCC, Tenzing Sherpa, who is also a Sherpa Guide. He also runs the electric co-op for Phortse. I asked the 20-something Sherpa why the training was important compared to the older generation of Sherpas who have been guiding on Everest for decades. “We are learning techniques such as how to build equalized anchor systems, proper knots or crevasse rescue systems, plus learning the signs of altitude sickness. This makes our job safer and the mountains safer for the members.”

The KCC headquarters houses technical climbing gear, educational materials, indoor and outdoor training walls, and an office. Flexible spaces provide classrooms for training and a community meeting place for Phortse. A medical clinic, library, and caretaker’s quarters support both the KCC and the village of Phortse. While the Sherpa ethnicity dominates the classes, they are open to everyone and have even had a few participants from Pakistan.

Conrad Anker, who led the North Face Climbing team, works with the KCC and teaches courses from time to time, as he did this year. The training takes place the last two weeks of January and the first week of February each year for eighty students, usually eighteen to twenty-five years old. The class is divided into four sections: basic climbing skills, including knots, rock climbing, ice climbing and basic first aid. There is also an English-language segment. They have trained over 2,000 men and women since 2003. Each student must pay their own small tuition and insurance or find a sponsor.

In January 2024, the KCC trained seventy-four people, primarily Sherpas, in climbing techniques. The youngest student was eighteen, and the oldest was forty-eight.
KCC Winter 2024 Class
KCC Winter 2024 Class

The KCC is donor supported and shows these supporters on their website: The North Face, Communities Foundation Of Boulder, VF Europe BVBA, John Bass, High Performance, LTD, Oakley, Inc, VF Hong Kong Limited, Summit Coffee, Bos Foundation, Mazamas, Tim and Mary Barnard, Pamela and Bob Street, Snowbird Renaissance Center, Thomas Beers, Destin Middle School, Bishop Family Foundation, MSU University Foundation, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Alpinist, LLC, Wilderness Travel, Bluewater Ropes, Bass, Richard, Petzl, Black Diamond, Patagonia, Rite in the Rain, Mountain Hardwear, Mountain Gear, Himalayan Rescue Association, Serac Adventure Films, Friends Of Nepal, Big Sky Wind Drinkers, Adventure Medical Kits, Communities Foundation of Texas, Dale & Elaine Smith, Messner Mountain Foundation Inc, Cottonwood Enterprises, Mammut, Friends of Hyalite.

EverestER: A Base Camp Lifeline

EverestER volunteer medical clinic at Everest Base Camp is up and running and already treating “customers.” They provide medical services to clients for a small fee that the guide company usually pays, but their services are free to Sherpas and locals.

The Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal (HRA) started the first-ever Medical Camp at Everest Base Camp in the spring of 2023. The HRA is a voluntary non-profit organization formed in 1973 to reduce casualties in the Nepal Himalayas, especially considering the increasing number of Nepalese and foreigners who trek up into the remote wilderness.

Dr. Luanne Freer describes her involvement: “Everest ER became a reality in 2003 after a visit to Everest base camp in 2002 when I dreamed of an expansion of the Himalayan Rescue Association mission to provide expert mountain medical care using proceeds from the care of trekkers and climbers to subsidize healthcare for local Nepali citizens. But part of that dream included the eventual transition of logistics to the HRA (check!), and medical direction to Nepali doctors.”

In 2003, EverestER treated nearly 600 patients and, as usual, respiratory symptoms, from viral infections to HAPE, were the most common complaint, accounting for well over 50% of our patient visits.

Adventure Consultants also provide training for their team. Guy Cotter noted, “As part of our ongoing effort to encourage the development of our Nepalese staff, we are pleased to support Wilderness First Aid training just completed in Kathmandu. The more skills we all develop, the stronger we are as a team and the better the outcomes for our groups and local staff on treks and expeditions!”

Adventure Consultants 2024 Medical training Class
Adventure Consultants 2024 Medical Training Class

EBC Taking Shape

With the Icefall Doctors arriving and the EverestER high-altitude already established at EBC, other teams are building out their spots at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall.

International Mountain Guides reports on their blog:

The IMG climbers and trekkers will arrive in Kathmandu at the end of March, but our team in Nepal is well underway with preparations. Up in the Khumbu, IMG senior sherpa guide Ang Karma went to Base Camp in mid-January and claimed our camp site. In the coming days we’ll be sending a team up there to make tent platforms, which is always a big job since the glacier continually moves and wipes out all the old platforms, and new ones need to be chopped into the ice, and all the rocky morainal debris moved.

Recently we sent several sling loads of gear up to Syangboche by helicopter, which was received by longtime IMG sirdar Ang Passang. Down in Kathmandu, Jangbu and Phunuru are meeting with our cooks Nima and Kaji to complete the food purchasing. We are looking forward to a good spring season, with IMG climbers going to Lobuche, Mera, Ama Dablam, Lhotse, and Everest. All’s well in Nepal!

Best Laid Plans …

In other news, I cannot find one Nepali or foreign guide who understands the new rules around WAG bags or the so-called “GPS Chip” plans. I have serious doubts whether both new rules will be enacted this year or ever. However, Tashi Lhapka Sherpa of Seven Summits Treks and 14 Peaks told me, “I think there is still time to select the right one [tracking device].”

Around the World

In other mountain news, two peaks that have been off-limits to climbers are now re-opening. The Ecuadorean volcano Cotopaxi at 19,347’/5,897m.has finally calmed down, and guides are now planning trips. It has been closed because of eruptions for over a year. I found Ecuador and climbing its volcanoes a fantastic experience. It is a friendly environment and a great value that’s much easier than some other places new climbers usually go.

Starting in late August or September 2024, guides will offer climbs of one of the 7 Summits, Carstensz Pyramid (16,023’/4884m) on West Papua (Irian Jaya) in Indonesia’s New Guinea. Local unrest had made it too dangerous for visitors, but things have calmed down there as well. Here’s a pic from days gone by!

Carstensz Pyramid
Alan on the Tyrolean Traverse in 2011 on Carstensz Pyramid

Best of luck to all climbing this season. Stay safe and come home.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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One thought on “Everest 2024: Icefall Doctors Mark Season Start

  1. A little tip : a big French youtuber named Inoxtag will attempt Mt Everest this year. Videos of his training are on his youtube channel. I think this year season’s will have many eyes on it !

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