For most Everest climbers this is week three or four away from home.They are making good on their acclimatization efforts with over 100climbers now having spent a night or two as high as camp 2 on the southhowever significantly fewer even touching the North Col on the north.
The fixed line on the south is already to the Yellow Band above camp3 and should be to the South Col in a few days. This will enable theSherpas to begin the incredibly hard work of ferrying hundreds ofoxygen bottles for their climber's summit bids.
Of note from an IMG dispatch was the use of ladders at the base ofthe Lhotse Face. There has been a huge bergshrund or crevasse at thebottom of Face forever(?) that climbers navigated around but it seemsit has expanded or the route now requires a ladder to obtain the Faceproper:
Phu Tshering and Karma Gyalzen went back up with thefixing team, which was able to reach almost to the bottom of the YellowBand where they turned around because of wind. They also managed toclaim our C3 site. The two ladders for the bottom of the Lhotse Facegot delivered to C2 this morning, and Eben went up with Damien Benegasand one another climber and fixed the ladders at the bergshrund.
The cash for trash program continues to clean the oldest rubbish offthe high slopes of Everest and this year includes bringing down yourown solid waste similar to the practices on Denali. We were alsoinformed that an effort would be made to remove the dead bodies fromEverest's south side not in keeping with the preferences of somefamilies.
The largest commercial teams including IMG, AAI, Peak Freaks andAdventure Consultants are working their formula. Himex continues toavoid the Icefall for their climbers but not their Sherpas with theirstrategy of acclimatization on nearby Lobuche Peak.
Small and independent teams are also doing well with similarresults. Thus far the weather is typical for mid to late April - coldnights with a few snow showers along with blustery winds at the highcamps. The north is also seeing harsh winds, but lower down, and coldertemps creating delays for some teams.
The world continues to watch the media blitz put on by JordanRomero's small team. He is doing satellite interviews on news shows viaSkype and tweeting profusely. He still at base camp but plan on a tripto the north col this week which will be an altitude record for theyoung climber, father and step-mom.
The trips through the Icefall are also fairly normal albeit withsome drama as noted by this dispatch from Allison Levine climbing withAAI:
We are just back down at BC after four nights up higheron the mountain–two nights at Camp 1 (19,600') and two nights at Camp 2(21,300'). It took us 8.5 hours to get from BC to Camp 1, because theKhumbu Icefall is just plain HARD to climb through. The terrain ischallenging enough on its own–but the worry about the moving icechunks/collapsing seracs creates a LOT of anxiety (a gigantic onecollapsed yesterday matter of fact but luckily no one was injured).
About 30 minutes into Monday's climb Derek had to turn back becausehe was having trouble breathing, so he did not continue up the mountainwith us. And after eight hours of climbing when we were about 30minutes from Camp 1 Vanessa (who is normally VERY strong) had some kindof respiratory attack and had to be put on an inhaler. Michael Horst,who is Jan's private guide, took Vanessa's backpack from her and helpedher into Camp 1, and she recovered quickly after a few hours ofrelaxing in a tent. But the important thing to note here is thataltitude can affect anyone at anytime–and it has nothing to dowith how fit you are or how strong you are or how experienced youare–altitude sickness can strike at any time (more details oncauses/treatments in a future blog). Sure, there are things that youcan do to prevent altitude sickness–proper acclimatization, goodhydration, plenty of calories (difficult to do at altitude because youreally lose your appetite), proper clothing to stay warm, but stillwith all of the precautions there are still absolutely no guarantees.
The climb on Wednesday from Camp 1 to Camp 2 took us about sixhours, and although there aren't any large overhanging seracs there areindeed massive crevasses all throughout the Western Cwm (pronounced"coom') as you can see from the photo. One of the most accomplishedclimbers in Everest history, Babu Chiri Sherpa (who held the speedrecord for climbing this mountain) actually died a few years ago whenhe fell into a crevasse at Camp 2 while out taking pictures. Sometimesno matter how good you are, and no matter how experienced youare–things can still go wrong. You can never let down your guardanywhere on this mountain. FYI, the mountain you see in the center ofthe photo is Lhotse which is another 8000 meter peak right next toEverest. Our Camp 3, which we will hit on our next rotation, istwo-thirds of the way up the Lhotse face.
A common question Everest climbers hear is about food. Becky Rippel explains what they are eating at base camp, sounds good!
Just another day at base camp doing what we do here.-eating!!! Some of the schools who are following us up the mountain thisyear asked what we eat? While at base camp we eat fresh local food.Vegetables and small amounts of fruit from the valley below. Apples areused mostly as their only choice for fresh fruit this time of year otherwise it's tinned fruit but our veggies are fresh. We have assorted cheeses, salami, eggs, chicken and buffalo for protein. AngKarsung bakes cakes, bread and pies. We eat potatoes cooked in variousways, pasta, rice and sushi is a Peak Freak's all time favourite.
Up on the mountain at Camp 2, we provide much of the same foods aswe do at base camp except some of the baking items get cut back. FromCamp 3 upwards we provide organic boil in the bag meals and lots offish which includes an abundance of smoked salmon and tuna. The boil inthe bags are things like curries, lentil stews, chili, lasagne, chickencasseroles, hash brown with bacon, beef stew, bean stews. They seem togo down well at altitude and the preparation is simple. Our Sherpasprefer to eat noodles up at the high camp, Ichiban style ones calledRara noodles. It's what they are used to and crave after a days hardwork.Breakfast we have sausage and eggs, pancakes, toast, museli,oatmeal. Base Camp lunch the climbers are fed provided with another hotmeal much like dinner. Today we had buffalo burgers, fries and salad
On a difficult note, Wendy Booker climbing with RMI has made the decision not to continue her expedition. She eloquently says:
The hardest choice I have had to face in the 12 years Ihave been living with MS was to turn back from a summit attempt onEverest… twice. I have had to recognize that on Everest I reached myboundary- sustained life above 17,000 feet, where the air is painfullythin and took my body to a place where it couldn’t function withMultiple Sclerosis. My MS could not tolerate the lack of oxygen to thebrain and the enormous daily temperature fluctuations on the mountain.Everyday while others on my team grew stronger I was getting weaker. Inoticed new symptoms I had not had before as well as a severe increaseof those I have lived with for years.
Great effort Wendy. We know you will continue your wonderful work on behalf of MS.
We are seeing this week that climbing Everest is not a simple"walk-up". It is harsh, challenging and real. However, what theclimbers have experienced thus far will pale in comparison to thedemands above camp 3 or the North Col. The oxygen is lower, the anglessteeper, perhaps the route is on more rock this year and the body istiring.
Will their training keep them going? Will the mind games win? Whatabout their equipment - what if the regulator fails? Weather? Can'tcontrol that.
Climbing Everest is a world of "what ifs". There is drama. Guides,leaders, climbers - everyone try's to avoid the drama and focus on thepositive. In the back of their minds, they know the reality. And theyknow why they are there. This is what it is all about.
Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site
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