We’ve now been at base camp for several days. It’s situated on the edge of the Khumbu Glacier, about a 45 minute walk from the start of the icefall, at an elevation of about 17,300 ft. With 29 climbers, Sherpas, cook staff and guides it looks like a small village. There are about a dozen large tents – roughly 12’ X 20’ (used for dining, storage, communications and internet), Sherpa living quarters, kitchen facilities, bathroom/shower facilities and a tent for the Discovery film crew. In addition to those, there are roughly 40 two-person dome tents for all the climbers, guides and trekkers. We each have our own which is nice because it allows each of us to spread out and also have some privacy. We also have a large dome tent to relax in. It’s about 30’ in diameter with carpet, couches, a heater and a large flat panel TV. One side of it has clear windows that look out onto the flanks of Nuptse. We are located about 10 to 15 minutes down the valley from the normal base camp where all the other expeditions are camped. With a group this large we felt it would be best if we stayed a little ways away from everyone else.
The route through the ice fall was completed a couple of days ago by a group of Sherpas known as the “ice fall doctors”. They are paid with a portion of everyone’s permit fee and work through the entire climbing season to maintain the route through the ice fall, which is constantly shifting and moving. It’s a very dangerous job and rumor has it that they’re pretty much always drunk just so they can face the task each day. Right now there are 22 single ladders in all, which isn’t too bad. In most years there are usually a few spots where several ladders have to be lashed together.
Six of our Sherpas left at 4:00 a.m. yesterday to begin carrying gear up to Camp 1 and Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. These guys are amazingly strong. Their round trip time to Camp 2 was around 10 hours, with loads, which I’m pretty sure is faster than I’ll be able to do the one way trip. I guess I’ll find out eventually but not too soon. Most teams acclimatize by making several trips through the ice fall and making their way to progressively higher camps and coming down to base camp each time to recover. We’re going to acclimatize as far as possible by climbing Lobuche Peak (20,070 ft.) at least once and maybe twice which will eliminate at least one round trip through the ice fall. Obviously we’ll eventually have to make the trip through the ice fall for an acclimatization trip and for our summit attempt but that will be several weeks from now.
Just like on Manaslu, I came down with a cold when I arrived at base camp. I’m not alone though. I think about half the people in camp have some form of illness but at 17,300 feet it’s not much fun. I think I’m slowly on the mend and am just trying to take it pretty easy for now. The acclimatization process is very slow so it probably doesn’t seem like much is happening right now, which is true, but it’s one of the most important parts of the climb.
Himex base camp
Looking toward Everest from base camp. The west shoulder of Everest is in the center of the picture. The ice fall is the jumble of ice at the center/lower portion of the mountain. The route goes through the ice fall from left to right into the Western Cwm between Everest and Nuptse. The long strings just above all the dark rock are prayer flags : )
Inside the relaxation tent.
The climbing team. Bruce is standing on the far right.