For the past 15 years, early April in the Khumbu welcomes the soundof footsteps, yak bells, hushed conversations and dreams seeping fromaspiring climbers. This past week, the dirt trails were quite busy.
Expedition after expedition made their way to Lukla then Namche andon up the Khumbu towards base camp. RMI and Peak Freaks were among thefirst to arrive but Phil Crampton with Altitude Junkies may have beenthe first westerner to live in BC. He went up with his Sherpa team tohelp establish BC a few weeks ago.
The north teams had the usual stop and go excitement with being toldto to delay their entrance into Tibet, then they received their permitsbut no visa. Finally they received all the necessary paperwork to crossthe boarder; and they did. Teams are driving the newly paved highway tothe remote villages of Nylam and Tingri on their way to base camp. Afew teams are already there but no word on the fixed ropes yet.
I estimate over 200 people now living at Everest Base Camp on thesouth and perhaps half that many over on the north. These camps areliterally small cities with trail signs, water sources, toilets, cafes,wireless communication and more. Oh, and there are a bunch of peoplesneaking quick glances to their east - the Khumbu Icefall - their bignext step.
With the Icefall now open and the fixed ropes and ladders set toCamp 1, teams start thinking about that next step. We often think ofEverest and mountains as huge expansive places where there is plenty ofroom for everyone. However, on Everest, camp space comes at a premium.
Eric Simonson tells us that his Sherpa team have already reserved their spots at Camps 1 and 2 in the Western Cwm
Ang Jangbu reports from Everest Base Camp that theIcefall Doctors set the last five ladder sections today and that theroute is now open. When that happens, it is like dropping the greenflag at a Nascar race, with everyone putting peddle to the metal to getgood camp sites! Jangbu had Mingma Tenzing and Karma Rita, two of ourfastest Sherpas, lined up to lead the charge for our team up to C1 andC2, and they have now claimed our sites at those camps. The plan now isto hold the team puja on the 12th, and for a big wave of sherpas tocarry up on the 13th.
Camp 1 space is actually somewhat limited by Everest's West Shoulderto the north and the long ridge between Lhotse and Nuptse to the south.If you get too close to either, you risk avalanches or deep crevasses.Camp 2 is perched at the base of the Lhotse Face on a rocky area.Again, the space is somewhat limited to areas not in the path ofpotential avalanches, crevasses and unstable areas high up in the Cwm.
All this means that teams will try to reserve their favorite spot asearly as possible by sending Sherpas to leave a tent or two in theirspot. It is a similar story on the north with space even more limitedabove the North Col.
With the trek to base camp behind many climbers, certain memorieshave been sealed in their very essence. Once again, Leif Whittaker withthe RMI teams puts it well as he and Dave Hahn looked at the memorialsto fallen climbers at Dugla Pass:
I’m reminded of another thing as well. I’m reminded thatclimbing this mountain can kill you if you don’t respect it. I’mreminded that it has killed hundreds of climbers, many of whom wereprobably stronger than me. My connection to this fact feels unusuallypowerful, maybe because I’ve grown up hearing the names carved intothese memorials. I crouch next to the timeworn letters, listen to therumbling Dudh Kosi far below and breathe the thin alpine air, asking inmy head for the blessing of the spirits of past climbers that seem soclose, so intimate here. On an endeavor like this, we need all theblessings we can get.
You can follow his thoughts on the First Ascent blog.Leif is emerging as one of the most thoughtful blogger this season. TheFirst Ascent site is again emerging as a must visit site with theirclean, fast presentation; excellent writing and quality videos. Ofnote, they donated clothing and gear to the Icefall Doctors andEverestER staff this season - well done.
Regular followers of my coverage know I appreciate climbers who takethe time to share their feelings and observations during theexpedition. This takes a lot of time and focus. Another nice blog tofollow is the Himex site with updates from Billi Bieling. She is aprofessional journalist with the team and is currently introducing alltheir climbers. You can see what makes these people tick. Finally,another north expedition is the small one with Bill Fischer.You can feel the excitement as he writes about what he is seeing inKathmandu and the Khumbu as they bide their time before crossing theboarder for their north side climb.
I reported this week that Sir Edmund Hillary's ashes were to betaken to the summit by Apa Sherpa. Well it looks like this has changedaccording to this message to me from Nyima Tsering Sherpa:
This is to inform that the ashes of Sir Edmund Hillarytaking towards Everest has been canceled.In Sherpa religion and cultureHimalayas are regarded as the god therefore taking ashes to Himalaya isagainst the tradition.So there was a meeting with Apa sherpa and localsrepresentative of Khumbu Civil society requesting him not to takeHillary ashes to Everest which he happily accepted.So in the mean time,the Khumbu Civil Society also made the resolution not to let others tomake the Everest as a pubilicity tool. all the best for the climbers.Take care Nyima
I was a bit surprised when I saw the original report. Summits areconsidered sacred and it is not customary to even stand on the truesummit so this was a bit unusual. AFP News Agency also reported todayand quoted Dawa Steven Sherpa who is co-leading the expedition with ApaSherpa that :
“We met with a citizens’ committee here and they talkedto us about the ashes. The old lamas said that it would be inauspiciousto take the ashes to a holy place,” said expedition organiser DawaSteven Sherpa. “There were also concerns that placing Hillary’s asheson the summit could set a precedent, with other people wanting theirashes also to be scattered there,”
It now appears his ashes will be stored temporarily in a monastery,later spread in a memorial in the village where he established one ofhis his first school, Khumjung.
Most climbers have now been away from home for two weeks. Some arein base camp, a few still in Kathmandu and most are in between. As bothbase camps fill up, teams will conduct their final Puja, review gearyet again and start their initial acclimatization rotations into theIcefall and on to at least Camp 1.
Everest 2010 is in full swing!
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