Everest 2011: End of the Trek, Start of the Climb (Photos)
On the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier near Lobuche
Text by Dave Hahn, a guide for RMI Expeditions and First Ascent. In May 2010 Hahn reached the summit of Mount Everest for the 12th time, the most of any a non-Sherpa climber. This time, he is leading a Bill McGahan and his 16-year-old daughter, Sara, on a bid for the summit. Follow the team's Everest expedition in dispatches here.
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Dispatch 5: Everest Base Camp
Hello from Mount Everest Base Camp. We've been up at 17,500 feet for two nights already and it is beginning to feel like home.
We had high hopes for continuous communication possibilities this year, since we were hearing so much about the 3G cell service at Base Camp… but the reality is that we are still mostly on a dirt road version of the information super-highway. We didn't have much access to cell or web services when we trekked from Pheriche to Lobuche in new snow under overcast skies.
Leaving Pheriche in new snow
Things were cold in Lobuche, but not unpleasant as we passed the evening hours playing games in the dining room of the Eco Hotel. We stretched our legs some with a hike along the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. Bill and Sara got good at identifying the dozen or so Himalayan giants piercing the horizon around us. In the afternoon of our Lobuche rest day, we were excited to visit with Linden Mallory and his team of trekkers and climbers. They'd already spent a few nights at Everest Base Camp and were excitedly bound for Island Peak. Bill and Sara have climbed several times in the past with Linden and were naturally happy to see him again. When he completes his Island Peak climb and trek he'll make his way back up to Everest Base to join our team at about the point when we are getting into the Khumbu Icefall.
Hiking to Lobuche
Two days ago, myself, Lam Babu,and Bill and Sara marched out of 16,000-foot Lobuche and took just four easy hours to reach Base Camp at 17,500 feet. It was wonderful then to meet our Sherpa team and to reunite with Jeff Martin, who'd sprinted ahead to help get the camp set up. Camp is indeed set up and we were amazed at the hard work the Sherpa staff had accomplished in chopping out level tent-sites and rolling boulders around to carve out a camp on this rough section of glacier.
Now we've made the transition from tea-houses to tents… but it hasn't been that tough a transition. We are eating quite well now since Kumar, our chef of the past several RMI Everest expeditions, is back in the driver's seat and cranking out excellent meals.
Sunset on Nuptse as seen from Lobuche
- Nat Geo Expeditions
These first few days are purposely light on activity so that our bodies can catch up to the altitude, but we don't seem to be having a lot of trouble that way. It is nice now for each of us to be in our own tents and to be able to sort our climbing gear and clothing without moving to someplace new each day. New tents are popping up all around us as other teams get close to Base Camp. As expected, we were one of the first climbing teams to make it in for the season. We've already gotten to chat with the doctors of the "Everest ER" the clinic set up by the HRA about two camps away from us.
Later today we'll walk a little with our ice axes in hand, just for some light exercise, and tomorrow we are looking forward to our Puja ceremony… asking the blessing of the gods before we put ourselves at risk on this giant mountain.
The cell service may not be robust at Base Camp (it seems to be mostly a 9 to 5 kind of thing, due to a reliance on solar power, we suspect), but the glaciers are still functioning pretty efficiently up here. We are getting used to the sound of big ice avalanches on the steep faces around camp. Snow conditions seem much the way I've come to expect them in the past few years… it looks like it has been quite dry again in these high mountains.
The Khumbu glacier in the vicinity of Base Camp has just been melting steadily throughout the year, without much surface replenishment… although it is relatively cold now, there is already some water flowing in the streams. The word is that the Icefall Doctors have already pushed the climbing route close to the Camp I area, which is good news… we can't tell too much about the Icefall from looking up at it… it looks just as mean and ridiculous as ever, but it is nice to know that a path has been found through it once again.