I’m back in base camp, safe and sound! It was a longer trip up the mountain than I expected (9 days vs 5 days) so it is wonderful to have some clean clothes and socks to wear once again!
We set off at 3.30am to Camp 1, situated at the top of the Khumbu Icefall at 6,000m / 20,000ft. The climb was quite difficult, with several jumps and vertical sections where ladders had not yet been installed. Many parts are still quite exposed, so we went as quickly as possible – and with no photo stops I’m afraid. Twice more since my climb the route has been partially destroyed by ice tower collapse, fortunately with no casualties. These risks are very real.
We reached Camp 1 in very strong winds, and as we were unable to put up a tent we dived into the equipment tent for refuge. Fortunately it was full of foam mattresses and bags of snacks. Not a bad start!
Myself and Tunang, my guide, spent 3 nights at Camp 1 (in our own tent eventually!), one extra than planned due to a blackout day in memory of the 2014 Avalanche. It was nice to be on the mountain, but perhaps wasn’t the most interesting 72 hours. However, we were virtually the only people in the entire camp, and that was a special honor, to look out at just snow, rock and ice. In any case, our tent’s location was enough to keep me on my toes.
On the 4th day we took the walk up the Western Cwm to Camp 2, located on the northern edge of the glacier at 6,500m / 21,300ft or so. The first part of the climb is a seemingly unending up-and-down, over-and-across the crevassed glacier, resulting in a slow and tiring progression. Some of those crevasses are imposingly deep; I will get some photos next time once I can afford a spare hand off the safety rope!
The second part of the climb is a flat, gradual climb, as the crevasses in this section are not yet open. The challenge of this section is that Camp 2 is visible but never seems to get closer – annoying but certainly not too bad, and the view makes up for it! Everest itself looms large over the route, a gigantic monolith towering 2,500m above, even at this height. Soon enough we reached the rock-covered area and the climb up to our camp at the highest point.
My performance in that section was a solid 2h 18 mins. It’s not a race – quite the opposite in fact – but I still felt good about the time. Maybe this acclimatization thing is actually working!
Camp 2 is a unique place. It’s cold, harsh and spectacular. Tucked in below the Lohtse face, for the first time I felt surrounded by the himalaya, with these great mountains imposing themselves in every direction. It is surreal, an experience which starts to vindicate some of my reasons for being here.
The only downside is that Camp 2 is a messy place, a surprise at this altitude. I’m sure that historical pollution standards have not helped, but I saw that people are mostly considerate. What really makes the difference, as far as I can tell, is all the equipment, food and supplies which had to be abandoned when the camp was evacuated by helicopter after the earthquake in 2015. So don’t be too quick to judge if you see pictures of rusty cans, broken tents and torn prayer flags in the papers.
Other than that it’s great to be there. More of Camp 2 (and my adventures to Camp 3!) in Part 2!