Settling into Everest Base Camp

Apr 13, 2010
Outside Magazine

Right on schedule, the second week of April, camps 1 and 2 arealready in according to this email I revived from Phil Crampton ofAltitude Junkies:

My Sherpas have already established camp one and camptwo so we plan to continue to stock camp two in anticipation of theclimbers sleeping there. We will take a few more days rest at BC andthen sleep at one before moving to camp two for a few evenings beforereturning to base. We are a climbing team of seven members, one basecamp manager and ten climbing Sherpas with five base camp cooks so weshould have enough staff to keep everyone happy.

It was April 14th last year when the first teams reported thesecamps established, identical to 2007. During this time at base camp,teams are reviewing and brushing up on skills, including a fewtechniques many climbers have not experienced - walking across a ladderwith crampons. The RMI teams is taking this approach for training:

We rigged several ladders over the glacial rocks tosimulate the icefall in which we practiced walking up and down theshaky ladders. For starters, we began in our trekking shoes steppingfrom rung to rung getting used to the shake and wobble of the aluminumladders. Once everyone felt comfortable with this, we put on our stiff8,000 meter boots and ran the course again. After this, we continuedour progression and added roped hand lines while wearing crampons whichbest replicates the actual movement during icefall travel. With theaddition of hand lines, we were able to steepen the ladder grade forboth uphill and downhill travel and even practiced several "emergency"scenarios. One scenario involved stopping mid crossing and kneelingdown on the ladder rungs to re-attach a crampon that had "accidentally"popped off. Although this was not a very likely scenario, it had theadvantage of addressing a "possibility" while increasing confidence andagility.

EverestER has the Blog of the Daywith their story of a Rai Nepali kitchen worker  who nearly died. Hewas carried to the clinic on the back of a porter with a blood sat of29%. A must read for what Luanne and her team does for the locals, forfree, for anyone asking for help. You can support them with  a donationat their site.

You may note the picture was taken by renown climber,cinematographer (Imax) David Breashears.  The Gear Junkie made thisreport on his site:

Breashears took time to film at the Hanesbrands Puja. Heshared in the blessed food and drinks offered after the ceremony, acelebration bathed in sunlight and juniper smoke. Later, Breashearspassed around a booklet previewing the “Rivers of Ice” show, includingdecades-old photos juxtaposed with pictures he has taken from similarvantages today. Glaciers that were once fat and white are now brown andcurdled. Near one peak, a deep lake sits in the place where a glacieronce grew. “We’re not making any blanket statements about climatechange,” Breashears said. “But the pictures illustrate a message in aquick, obvious way.”

This month, Breashears will photograph around Everest Base Camp witha special super-high-resolution camera system that stitches 200 or moredigital photos together to create a seamless panoramic collage. If youcan’t make it to Base Camp to see the photo show, go online to see morefrom the “Rivers of Ice” series at

Some climbers have already visited the first ladder in the Icefall,a common way of saying hello to what is up next. I am sure the pulserates are up a bit.

Life is getting into a rhythm at Everest Base Camp. Report afterreport note the cold nights and warm days. They will wish for the coldonce they get into the heat of the Western Cwm! Over on the north BillBurke reports heavy snow overnight, not unusual for the north side. Healso said that ABC has not been established on the north. We may seethe first summits from the south this year.

Tents are now arranged, even some nice stone lines mark the trailsbetween tents. Radio antennas are up that will allow climbers to stayin contact with their base camps. even the helicopter can land now fora quick evacuation or a dignitary's visit.

But it is a time of biding time for many while they adjust to thenew altitude. Billie Bierling with Himex documented their morningroutine:

After breakfast the climbers usually potter around, sortout their climbing gear, read books or send emails via their satellitesystems, just to get ready again for lunch. The rest of the day isspent in pretty much the same manner until dinner is served, and eventhough it may still be really special to get away from the stress andjust do nothing, the ‘hanging around’ at base camp can become a mentalchallenge after a while –but I will tell you more about this later,when I am actually there and the members will have been there for a fewweeks.

Another activity is the annual rebuilding of the helicopter pad atbase camp. The Finnish team made this update. They leave for camp 1tomorrow.

Once Puja was finished, we had a tasty lunch before aphysical exercise. Under the cloudy sky, we headed to build ahelicopter landing field. About 50 people, from all around the basecamp, were working hard for creating a chance for an emergencyevacuation. The field was made by hammering an ice hilltop to the flatwith mine axes and carrying rocks around. At this altitude it didn’ttake long to get exhausted but there were all the time three people ina queue, so there were plenty of chances to rest a little bit every nowand again. Working for three hours we were ready for dinner.

The Sherpas continue to stock the upper camps with supplies. RMI's Mark Tucker notes:

Our Sherpa team had great weather for their trip to CampTwo with a big hunk of supplies for the teams nest at that 21,500 ftcamp. They started out at 4:00 am this morning and returned to basecampfor lunch, these guys are tough.

A regular climber will take a minimum of four round trips through the Icefall, whereas the Sherpas many take as many as 20!

4513888313_6d91be189a Elite climber, Simone Moro is climbing Everest without supplementaloxygen this year plus looking at a new route on Lhotse. He is makingregular posts to his blog and has a nice picture of this year's basecamp.

Another great view is via Peak Freak's Lucille deBeaudrap's SPOT tracker.Click the hybrid view to see a dated image of base camp and the zoominto the top of her track. It appears Lucille is doing a fair bit ofwandering around EBC! Great shot, thanks for sharing this with us.

Similar to when the Chinese were trying to take the Olympic torch tothe summit of Everest, this year, there is a cell phone tower near basecamp. The SummitClimb team reports on the details:

I am writing from our new China Mobile Communicationstent in basecamp. The world's largest mobile phone company, in all oftheir wisdom, has put up a mobile phone tower down at the lower RongbukMonastery. So, if you are positioned correctly and have the right simcard installed in your phone/ mobile device, you can make and receivetelephone calls, send and receive sms/text messages, browse theinternet, as well as send and receive emails from right here inbasecamp.

Our team's basecamp is located about 500 metres directly east of theSandy Irvine Memorial, may God rest his soul. Between us and theRongbuk Monastery lies a 7 metre high low gravel hill. We havediscovered that this hill blocks clear mobile reception from prettymuch everywhere in our basecamp, but if you stand atop the hill, youcan get a good signal.

So, using our ingenuity ("smart like tractor, strong like bull" orwas that "strong like tractor, smart like bull") we have erected one ofour sleeping tents on top of the hill and this has become our 'ChinaMobile Tent' so we can have more of a clear shot at the Rongbuk MobileTower. That way, instead of standing atop the hill shivering in thewind trying to use a phone or surf the internet on a laptop, we can sitinside a comfortable, warm, windproof tent and communicate with theoutside world. So far, so good, it seems to be working as its 22:43 pmon a windy night and I am in the China Mobile Communications Tentsending you this email.

It could be quite jammed since 32 teams are expected to be climbingfrom the north this year. Keep in mind a team could be two people.

Climb on!


Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site

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