A little delayed due to lack of connectivity, but a recap of the last week.
And so finally here we have the opportunity of heading into Camp 1 of Mt. Everest via the very famous Khumbu icefall. If anything I was beyond nervous as I’ve heard so many stories on the Icefall, the danger and the challenges.
In the 2014 season, a massive avalanche halted the season due to the sad casualties of Sherpa climbers who lost their lives while fixing ropes and ladders. In 2015, the powerful earthquake in Nepal also closed the season and all the climbers on Camp 1 had to be evacuated because the conditions to descend through the Icefall were too dangerous. So needless, facing climbing the Khumbu Icefall had me too nervous of not knowing what to expect. Early estimates had mentioned that we’d be crossing over 200 ladders, then the number got adjusted to 40, then 20….. A little tricky to determine the extent of how challenging this area would be.
And so with a 12:30am wake-up call (I had barely fallen asleep at 9:30pm) we had to be ready and in the dining room for breakfast. We promptly departed at 1:30am, and I was sleepy as ever, with my energy at a really low point as I needed more sleep.
Luckily the skies were clear and there was very little wind. As we started our climb, the beauty of the massive icefalls added a natural light that kept competing with our powerful headlamps. As we easily caught up to the same steps we had practiced a couple of days before, it was now the new territory that spooked me.
Dorjee, Mark, Brian, Danny and I were on one team. Paul and Lydia shortly following us. For a good time after our last ladder, we were just climbing up, pulling ourselves up by encountering fixed ropes through the various chunks of the icefalls and not too many ladders were visible. By around 4am, the beautiful light of dawn brought the clarity into this frozen landscape and it was just gorgeous watching the natural light against the ice. At a particular juncture, Dorjee stopped us and pointed us to the site of the 2014 disaster where the avalanche had fallen. A very eerie feeling and quite sad to see still leftover of such tragedy: broken ladders, ladders still submerged in hard rock ice, untied ropes. My only contribution was to say a prayer to the fallen hardworking souls.
As we kept climbing, we can across a large vertical climb made up of 5 ladders. OMG! I thought long horizontal ladders would be challenging, this particular massive ladder climb was wobbly at the middle and so inclined at the very top that for the first time I felt extremely vulnerable to get to the top and easily let go. The wobbliness was so shaky but luckily one of our Sherpa’s helped at the top to reconnect into the safety rope to continue our climb.
The rest of the climb through the icefall had the similar pattern until almost the end of the icefall. Here we had a long vertical wall which didn’t have a ladder but a very steep wall which we’d have to cross with the help of the ascender and our crampons. As we had people traffic ahead of us, I saw for the first time a reality that was quite somber. There was a climbing porter who didn’t have any experience with these type of incline climbs. Though he had the shoes and crampons, he was going to try climbing this rope without the ascender. As someone gave him an ascender he didn’t know how to properly use it and got stuck hanging from one of the ropes as other people descending ignored him. As a massive cold powerful wind hit us (these are the type of winds that can easily freeze your extremities and at times give frost bite) we yelled for help. Dorjee who was ahead arranged for someone to help this unexperienced porter and then the rest of us proceeded. As I got to the top of this wall, my hands were so frozen that Dorjee helped warning them up. Sad to see the reality on some of the challenges in this incredible mountain.
We then proceeded to the rest of the walk into Camp 1, an amazing and opened field full of holes/crevasses. Our tents have already been built and by 7am we all had arrived to Camp 1. I was so exhausted, having given everything I had in me, and all I needed was my sleeping bag. Though our sweet team of Sherpa’s had Lemon tea and cookies waiting, as soon I was done, my new tentmate Mark and I promptly accommodated our gear and easily fell asleep until being awoken by Lunch, then asleep again until dinner.
Tomorrow we’ll do a walk into halfway of Camp 2, though for now the altitude is hitting my head and rest and hydration are the only cures to combat altitude.
Treat of the day: Arriving safely at Camp 1