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 Everest 2008: Alpine Ascents Everest Expedition arrives at Mt Everest Base camp

Everest Base Camp

Hi there Friends,

Up early and on the trail for five hours, we made it to our base camp at the foot of at Everest. At last we are here and ready to begin our great undertaking. Our fine Sherpa team has built us super campsite. We each have a tent of our own along with a cook tent, dinning hall and communications tent. We look forward to settling into our new digs. We all pitched in setting up our solar power system and lights for the main hall. Team members are well and seem to be handling the altitude with little stress. Join us as we learn what the climb will require of us.

Vern and Team

Earlier: Team Continues to Trek through the Khumbu
04-08-2008 : We are up and at it quite early, a beautiful sunny day, finally the clouds have dissipated and we now getting to see the mountains that lie all around this (…transmission break…). As we left Phortse we climbed towards an overlook where we could view the Tengboche Monastery, a vast complex that sticks out on a peninsula ridge into the middle of the valley of the Imja Khola, which is the river. We hiked all the way into Pangboche where we were granted audience with Lama Geishe. The Lama blessed us and prayed that we would be protected and come back safely and successfully from Mount Everest. He (…transmission break…) us with a kata scarf and prayer strings that we tie around our necks to help us have a safe return. From Pangboche we climb through the small town of Shomare and up a large hill over 14,000 feet again with views of Everest (… transmission break…)

Team Enjoying Namche 4/4/2008    

Friends, family and loved ones,

Members of the team slept well considering our just arriving in Namche Bazar which is 3522 meters above sea level. We arose early hopeful of catching dawns light on the summit slopes of Everest but our dreams were denied by unusual morning clouds. To better our acclimatization, we trekked up to the mountain village of Kumjung. We visited the school that Sir Edmund Hillary help establish. It is now quite a complex with buildings sponsored by many different countries. In further hopes of sighting the big "E" we took tea at the Everest View Hotel but were foiled again by clouds. Clouds that built though out the day until they couldn't stand it any longer. With a deafening clap of thunder, snow and hail painted the Namche in winter.

This could make trekking to our next destination, the village of Thame, a bit of a slog. But please don't let a little moisture keep you away. 

See you tomorrow, Vern

Earlier Update: Tashi Delek from Phakding 04/03/2008    

April 3- Phakding

Tashi Delek from the village of Phakding in the Khumbu Valley!

Our flights this morning out of Kathmandu went as smoothly as they ever go which is definitely something to be thankful for. This past October Winslow and I were delayed 5 days trying to get our flight out of the city. So today was payback- we had a nice 6:30 a.m. breakfast, left for the airport at 7 a.m. and landed in Lukla just after 10. Just like clockwork.

The Lukla landing is always an exciting one with its short 7% grade runway and didn’t fail to disappoint with the added fun of some limited visibility on the approach. We lost some elevation coming into Phakding from the 9,000+ level of Lukla which is nice for day one. Tomorrow we’ll be up early to begin our day up to Namche Bazaar. The crew is psyched to be hitting the “capital of the Khumbu”. Surprisingly we only have 4 people out of our 14 that have not been in Nepal so many of our team members are veterans of this trek.

Today our last MI-17 heli cargo flight was able to make it into Syangboche which sits over 12,000’ just above Namche Bazaar. Our first helicopter cargo flight was about a week ago. The gear, food and equipment from that flight began its journey to BC today aboard a long train of yaks. Many of our Sherpa climbing staff are headed with those loads as well to start establishing the BC for the season. Most likely they will arrive on the 5th giving them a week to set up for our arrival on the 12th. The work to get BC in shape is extensive. It’s a true construction crew breaking up the ice and moving large rocks to create a more hospitable and flat environment for our home the next couple months.

I know you’ve been introduced to the team already through previous cybercasts and the team bios. In a few days time we’ll be posting the link to another website which will cover the group that consists of myself, Jeff Dossett and Melissa Arnot. We hope you’ll follow along with this cybercast as well as that site.

Alpine Ascents’ 2008 Everest Expedition is definitely underway despite the turns and twists of the last couple weeks. With permits in hand not only are we excited but the large numbers of Nepalis that depend on expeditions for work each season are ecstatic. It is good to see that the Nepal government has seen the value of keeping the season alive.

We’ll be in touch over the next couple days.

Namaste, Dave Morton

Team at Namche 04/03/2008    

Hello family and friends,

Today is Thursday the 3rd. We are sending this cybercast from Namche Bazaar the Sherpa capital located at about 11,000 ft. It sits in a horseshoe shaped valley with mountains all around. We traveled through the Sagarmata National Park. We ascended three thousand feet over a distance of five miles.

Namche Bazaar is a beautiful village and leading market place in the Khumbu valley. We will stay here two nights acclimating to this altitude before ascending higher to Thame. Along the route we crossed numerous bridges over the Dud Koshi river. John mentions that the wind was always blowing up the valley.

We are enjoying the hospitality of the Panorama lodge. Looking forward to spending a full day tomorrow at Namche Bazaar.

All the best,

John and Jose Luis

Earlier Update: Kathmandu Tour 4/1/2008    

Namaste friends, family and loved ones,

The team had a real eye opening look at life (and death) on our tour of Katmandu today. As the early morning light dawned we ascended the 365 steps to the top of the famous Monkey Temple that looks down upon the city. Home to over 900 rascally primates and a Buhdda-eyed stupa, the temple mount is stunningly picturesque. Students sang for us at the boarding school where we sponsor 18 young scholars. We were awed by the Hindu cremation pyres along Katmandu's holy river. The Sadhus (holy men) however, garnished the most photos as they struck up meditative poses amongst shrines of Shiva.

The team is in high spirits as we anticipate an early morning departure to the mountains. So, please stay tuned for our further adventures.

Peace,  Vern

Everest from the South Side in Nepal

sbrr2.jpg (46375 bytes)

Full size picture

Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350 meters)

This is a picture of the popular South Col Route up Mt. Everest.  Base camp is located at 17,500 feet.   This is where climbers begin their true trip up the mountain.  This is also where support staff often remain to monitor the expeditions and provide medical assistance when necessary.  Many organizations offer hiking trips which just go to base camp as the trip is not technically challenging (though you must be very fit). 

From base camp, climbers typically train and acclimate (permitting the body to adjust to the decreased oxygen in the air) by traveling and bringing supplies back and forth through the often treacherous Khumbu Icefall.    This training and recuperation continues throughout the climb, with the final summit push often being the only time to climbers do not go back and forth between camps to train, bring supplies, and recuperate for the next push. 

The Icefall is in constant motion.  It contains enormous ice seracs, often larger than houses, which dangle precariously over the climbers heads, threatening to fall at any moment without warning, as the climbers cross endless crevasses and listen to continuous ice creaking below.  This often acts as a testing ground to judge if less experienced climbers will be capable of continuing.   The Icefall is located between 17,500 and 19,500 feet.

Camp I - 5900 meters

After the Icefall, the climbers arrive at Camp I, which is located at 19,500 feet.  Depending on the type of expedition, Camp I will either be stocked by the climbers as they ascend and descend the Icefall, or by Sherpas in advance.

The area between Camp I and Camp II is known as the Western Cwm.  As the climbers reach Camp II at 21,000 feet, they may be temporarily out of sight of their support at Base camp.  Nonetheless, modern communication devises permit the parties to stay in contact.

Camp II - 6500 meters

As the climbers leave Camp II, they travel towards the Lhotse face (Lhotse is a 27,920 foot mountain bordering Everest).  The Lhotse face is a steep, shiny icy wall.  Though not technically extremely difficult, one misstep or slip could mean a climber's life.  Indeed, many climbers have lost their lives through such mishaps. 

Camp III - 23,700 feet (7200 meters)

To reach Camp III, climbers must negotiate the Lhotse Face. Climbing a sheer wall of ice demands skill, strength and stamina. It is so steep and treacherous that many  Sherpas move directly from Camp II to Camp IV on the South Col, refusing to stay on the Lhotse Face.

Camp IV - 26,300 feet (8000 meters)

As you’re leaving C4…it’s a little bit of a down slope, with the uphill side to the left. There are typically snow on the ledges to walk down on, interspersed with rock, along with some fixed rope. The problem with the rope is that the anchors are bad, and there’s not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately it’s not too steep, but there is a ton of exposure and people are usually tired when walking down from camp. The rock is a little down sloping to the right as well, and with crampons on, it can be bit tricky with any kind of wind. There’s a little short slope on reliable snow which leads to the top of the Geneva Spur, and the wind pressure gradient across the spur can increase there as you’re getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can create some footing issues during the rappel, because it’s impossible to see over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to leave Camp 4 without gas, as it’s easier to keep moving down the Spur when it’s important to see all the small rock steps and where the old feet are going. Navigating down through all of the spaghetti of fixed ropes is a bit of a challenge, especially with mush for brains at that point. One lands on some lower ledges which aren’t so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid. At this point, it’s just a matter of staying upright, and usually, the wind has died significantly after dropping off the Spur. The route turns hard to the left onto the snowfield that leads to the top of the Yellow Bands.

Camp IV, which is at 26,300 on the Lhotse face, is typically the climbers' first overnight stay in the Death Zone.  The Death Zone is above 26,000 feet.  Though there is nothing magical about that altitude, it is at this altitude that most human bodies lose all ability to acclimate. Accordingly, the body slowly begins to deteriorate and die - thus, the name "Death Zone."  The longer a climber stays at this altitude, the more likely illness (HACE - high altitude cerebral edema - or HAPE - high altitude pulmonary edema) or death will occur.  Most climbers will use oxygen to climb and sleep at this altitude and above.  Generally, Sherpas refuse to sleep on the Lhotse face and will travel to either Camp II or Camp IV.

Camp IV is located at 26,300 feet. This is the final major camp for the summit push.  It is at this point that the climbers make their final preparations.  It is also a haven for worn-out climbers on their exhausting descent from summit attempts (both successful and not).  Sherpas or other climbers will often wait here with supplies and hot tea for returning climbers.

From Camp IV, climbers will push through the Balcony, at 27,500 feet, to the Hillary Step at 28,800 feet.  The Hillary Step, an over 70 foot rock step, is named after Sir. Edmond Hillary, who in 1953, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to summit Everest.  The Hillary Step, which is climbed with fixed ropes, often becomes a bottleneck as only one climber can climb at a time.  Though the Hillary Step would not be difficult at sea level for experienced climbers, at Everest's altitude, it is considered the most technically challenging aspect of the climb.

Summit - 29,028 feet (8848 meters)

Once the climbers ascend the Hillary Step, they slowly and laboriously proceed to the summit at 29,028 feet.  The summit sits at the top of the world.  Though not the closest place to the sun due to the earth's curve, it is the highest peak on earth.  Due to the decreased air pressure, the summit contains less than one third the oxygen as at sea level.  If dropped off on the summit directly from sea level (impossible in reality), a person would die within minutes.  Typically, climbers achieving the great summit will take pictures, gain their composure, briefly enjoy the view, then return to Camp IV as quickly as possible.   The risk of staying at the summit and the exhaustion from achieving the summit is too great to permit climbers to fully enjoy the great accomplishment at that moment.  

As most readers of this page know, the return trip can be even more dangerous than the climb to the summit.

Pictures from Enrique Guallart-Furio web site http://ww2.encis.es/avent/

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