Everest 2024: First Days at Base Camp & 1st 8000er summit

We have our first 8000er summit of the spring season. Seven Summits Trek’s rope-fixing team topped out on Makalu at 4:40 p.m. Meanwhile, commercial teams stream into Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side. However, the Icefall Docs still have problems in the upper Icefall. Thankfully, most teams are still on their trek, so there’s no problem.

On the Tibet side, Adventure Peaks reports, “It looks like the border might not open until the 17th of April, so the team is planning to head to Langtang to start acclimatizing.” The next 8000er summit will probably be on Annapurna this Friday. Heavy snow and avalanche danger have stalled progress, but conditions are improving.

EverestER notes their first rescue of the season: a patient with suspected HACE. The patient received dexamethasone and was flown to the hospital at a lower altitude for further evaluation and treatment. As of April 10, the Everest Nepal permit tally has 209 foreigners across 18 teams. Tibet does not report permit updates.

Let’s look at what a climber goes through on their first day at Everest Base Camp.


The Beginning – Everest Base Camp

You made it to your new home for the next six weeks. Yesterday, you were greeted by the climbing Sidar, the base camp manager, the cook and other people who really run the place. Everyone is happy, friendly and professional. You felt good, but those first few hours were still a shock.

“Welcome to Everest Base Camp.” This greeting is repeated to each person arriving–climber or trekker. The staff seem genuinely pleased to see them arrive. You glance around and take it all in. It’s a sensory smorgasbord. A deep, long inhale takes the cold, crisp air deep into your lungs. It almost stings. The sounds: hissing cook stoves, axes pounding ice to create flat tent platforms, a frenzied conversation outside on one tent that you wonder is good news or sobbed, and lots of laughs. You feel instantly at home.

You find your tent, the fourth orange one in a row of seven orange tents—all lined up perfectly as if someone had used a laser pointer. This will be your personal tent; you share one at the other camps. Somehow, your two duffle bags—the red and black ones—were already next to your shelter. How did they know? This is the first of many mysteries you’ll witness during an Everest expedition.

You sling your day pack off your shoulder and let it fall to the rocky ground. As your eyes follow your pack, you look carefully at the “ground.” It was, in fact, a layer of dirt and rocks on top of ice. Then you remember: You are actually standing on the Khumbu Glacier.

Looking up, the Khumbu Icefall comes into focus. “Man, that thing is huge,” you say to no one in particular. The 609-meter/2,000-foot expanse of moving ice rests gently between the flanks of Nuptse and the West Shoulder of Everest. Looking at the shoulder, you search for the serac released in 2014—April 18 to be exact. There will be no climbing on that date again this year as everyone takes a day to remember the tragedy of 16 lives taken.

Adjusting your sunglasses, your attention turns back to the tent. You bend over and tug the zipper, holding the nylon flaps closed. As you stand back up, you realize you haven’t taken a breath and instinctively gasp the thin air into your lungs.  It is cold. It is dry. This will be one of your major challenges in staying healthy over the next month.

Dragging your duffles into the vestibule, you crawl into your tent. Hey, there’s a mattress already in here. Nice! But when you reach over to pat it, you feel rocks poking through. OK, this is why you brought your own – that incredibly thick DownMat XP 9 from Exped.

Thanks to the miracle of engineers wearing hats with tiny propellers, the outside of your miracle mat is made of 75 D Polyester, TPU Polyether film laminate that is hydrolysis resistant, honeycomb embossed, and Oeko-Tex® 100 certified! But wait! It is filled, thanks to the generosity of geese, with 8.8 ounces of 700 fill power down, IDFL certified! That’s a whopping R-value of 8!! This baby weighs in at 31.6 ounces, and this is why it’s staying at base camp and not going any higher. (It’s also why you thanked the yak that hauled your duffels here.)

“Wow, the air is thin here!”, you say again to no one. You begin to question yourself after getting so excited about your sleeping pad and talking out loud.

You begin to pull items out of your red duffle bag one by one. The black one has all your climbing gear, but the red one is filled with your sleeping bag, base camp clothes, comfortable boots, down booties, snacks, more jackets, gloves and hats. Most importantly, it holds your link with your home.

You pull out a collection of pictures you had printed before you left. You have a small white, furry yeti doll that you received as a good luck gift from your niece. And you have a tiny heart carved from a crystal that you will carry in your pocket to the summit and back. You hold the heart in your hand and feel the cold temperature. The texture is smooth. The memory is strong.

You survey the tent for places to store your collection. The mesh pockets are a great place to hold books, gloves, a few snacks. The mesh sling attached to the ceiling is a great place for your headlamp that will stay at base camp. You have two more for up high. Slowly, you find a home for everything and stuff the now almost empty duffle into the back vestibule. Pulling your -20F down sleeping bag out of its stuff sack, you hope it will loft up before you need it tonight.

The black duffle looks lonely. Great, now you are giving human emotions to your duffle bags. You need coffee.

Wandering over to a huge yellow tent, you walk in, standing up. This is the dining tent where a lot will happen – meals, snacks, conversations, meetings – it’s the town center of your little village.

The long aluminum table has a plastic tablecloth that could have come from your great, great Grandmother’s kitchen. The cloth chairs are neatly placed side by side. The plastic yellow and red daisies are a nice touch, sitting in the middle of the table next to the Nescafe, Tang and Oreos. You count the chairs. It matches the number of guides and members. You have a large group, but there are bigger teams.

Two stainless steel pitchers are purposefully placed at each end of the table. You grab a ceramic coffee cup, put two scoops of Nescafe, powdered milk, and a bit of sugar before slowly adding hot water from the pitcher. You take your time doing this simple task, not wanting to get out of breath again. Stirring the concoction delivers a coffee smell to the tent. It smells good. The first sip prompts a smile as you sit down at the chair in the middle of the table, just like where your tent is on tent row.

“This is pretty good.” You say again to no one. “Hey mate, how’s the coffee?” says a familiar voice. Glancing over, it’s one of the guides. He’s a Kiwi. “Not bad.” You reply as he makes his own brew and sits across the table. “So, how’s your tent?”

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything


A video tour of my tent at Camp 2 later in the expedition:

 


The Podcast on alanarnette.com

You can listen to #everest2024 podcasts on SpotifyApple Podcast, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Anchor, and more. Just search for “alan arnette” on your favorite podcast platform.


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One thought on “Everest 2024: First Days at Base Camp & 1st 8000er summit

  1. I just sooo enjoy these stories and podcasts. I don’t recall your doing this in the last few years. It makes me feel a part of the action.

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