Everest 2010: Teams Streaming into Base Camp

Apr 9, 2010
Outside Magazine

Everest_2002_275-225x169 RMI and Peak Freaks have arrived in Everest Base Camp in Nepal. The first of many.

It is critical to take your time getting to BC. Tim Rippel explainsthat two of his climbers are going lower, not higher, due to the impactof altitude. He does an excellent job of explain what is happening:

Unfortunately they have reached their wall and are notshowing the ability to acclimatize at these elevations. It happens. Ithas nothing to do with fitness, it is entirely a haemoglobin thing.Also it should be noted that your chemical make up can also change atanytime. One trip you do well, the next not so well. One really can'trely on previous experiences that much, most of the time you can- butnot always. Today  Pat Morrow (from the 1982) Canadian Everestexpedition and Austrian climber Reinhold Messner both claim to suffersymptoms of AMS when returning to altitude. It's a tricky thing.Remember it was Austrian Reinhold Messner that was the first tosuccessfully climb Everest in 1976 without the use of supplementaryoxygen.

Then there are people who break the rules of "going slow and only rising the recommended height per day".Seems each year people either ignore these important recommendations orare misled. Last autumn we had to organize an Asian women who hired alocal guide. The guide broke the rules- buyer beware!... Sometimeslocal guides hired off the streets in Kathmandu or Lukla don'tunderstand the importance of an acclimatization schedule or a clientmay insist that the job offer comes with a fast schedule.

In this case the client wanted to push higher faster and it cameclose to costing her her life. She was shutting down on the trail. Hadwe not intervened and organized to get her out, it is quite possibleshe would have passed away. Her pulse was 110 and her oxygen saturationlevel was 58%, she couldn't stand and her eyes were rolling back. Iorganized a porter with a basket, put her in it and sent them down thetrail immediately. It was late afternoon and they needed to dropelevation quickly and before dark. I found out later that she survivedthe night and eventually made it safely back to Kathmandu.

A few teams are still in Kathmandu, by design, and will miss theinitial rush to the high camps. This is not a bad strategy in thatsteps are kicked into the route and all the "hot spots" are discovered.Well at least until the Icefall moves which can be 3 feet a day!

The fixed ropes for the South Col route is now in all the way tocamp 1 in the Western Cwm but don't look for teams to be there for afew days.

The first order of business for every team arriving at base camp isto get settled. This is a long expedition and there is no need to rush.They need to become further acclimatized to the altitude now they areliving at 17,500'.

One of the early chores is toset up the electronics. This means solar panels, deep cell batteriesand generators. All this drives the never ending thirst for power. Asis normal these days, many climbers have their own blogs. In 2009, Icounted 25. I have 23 listed already for 2010!

Once plugged in and recharging, climbers often mill around BCmeeting their neighbors and staring at the Icefall. They are thinking alot about the days and weeks to come.

TA Loeffler shares her early days with this post:

It has been a heck of a day, a big arduous walk formany, got in about midday, got tents set up, got some lunch from ouramazing kitchen crew. You should see our amazing Sherpa staff, they areabsolutely amazing in all the work they have done to transform theglacier into our home for the next two months. Some of the stone work,they have leveled platforms, the kitchen tent is absolutely amazing, weare marveling at their work, and humbled by their strength. Prettyexcited to be here, big smiles all round as people realized their goalof getting to base camp as trekkers or getting to base camp to beginthe climb as climbers, so big day, exciting day.

Next up for the teams already in BC is the Puja. The Sherpas willnot touch the Icefall without an official Puja. And this requires aLama to trek up from a village or in some cases, one of the Sherpas isa Lama and can perform the ceremony. But, it must be done before thefirst climber goes higher.

Over on the north, teams continue their move. It was reported thatone European team has already arrived at the north base camp. Thispoints out how unreliable the early information is on the Chinese side.Previously they said no teams were allowed to cross the boarder untilApril 10 and arrive at BC until April 15th. Keep in mind thatinformation from Everest is always a bit sketchy and even more so fromthe north side.

The North SummitClimb team reports from Tingri that that have 168yaks to ferry gear from BC to ABC! Also they comment that the roads inTibet are almost empty showing that the boarder crossing is probably anissue for many. This is one of the primary roads between Lhasa andIndia.

Finally, here is a bit of trivia. How tall is Everest? First a bit of history.

In 1841 a British surveyor named Sir George Everest identified thelocation of the mountain. Fifteen years later using trigonometry andmeasurements from 12 different survey stations around the mountain'Peak XV' was surveyed as the world's highest mountain at 29,002 feet.In 1865 it was re-named Mt. Everest and is called Sagarmatha by theNepalese and Chomolungma in Tibet. In 1955, the height was adjusted to29,028'.

On May 5,1999 a National Geographic Society Expedition put a GPSreceiver on the summit. Using a second Trimble GPS receiver at the26,000' South Col they could make an extremely accurate measurement byrunning the two receivers simultaneously. The new altitude was 29,035feet or 8,850 meters.

However, the Nepalese still use 29,028' (8847m) as the officialaltitude. And the Chinese use 29,015 (8844m). The difference being ifyou count the snow on top of the rock at the summit or not. I stilldon't know how they measured the ever changing snow depth.

To further complicate things, Everest is still growing as the Indianplate continues it's move north under Asia. This is what originallycreated the Himalayan Range. Everest is estimated to grow 1/4" eachyear and is over a foot higher than when it was first summited in 1953.This according to Professor Roger Bilham.

OK, it appears a compromise has been reached and the official heightof Mt. Everest is ....  both 29,015 and 29,028. Nepal and China agreedto accept each others measurement. Meanwhile most climbers use 29,035or 8850 because it is higher. Glad we got that cleared up!

Climb On!


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

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