11 Ropes Course & Base Camp Layout
I think I'm falling in love with our space heater. I'm sitting right next to
the thing right now as I type this and am trying to hatch a plan for hiding
this contraption in my backpack unnoticed and getting it to high camp. I
wonder if anyone will notice.Today we spent the morning playing around on the
ropes course that Willie pulled together. This of course only after we woke
again to beautiful and warm skies. And what do warm skies bring? Melting snow.
And what does melting snow bring? Avalanche.
The three of us moved gingerly through the ropes course while Willie
familiarized us with types of challenges and obstacles we will be facing
within days. After moving directly up and across aluminum ladders with
mechanical ascenders, we traversed along narrow ledges and relied on ropes to
rappel back to the beginning. With time, our confidence grew and we picked up
on little tips and pointers Willie taught us in order to make our time in the
Icefall more comfortable.
I have been asked by several people what exactly our Base Camp life is like.
So since we have another slow day (it's snowing outside right now), I thought
it might be good to take the chance to describe our camp layout and the
earthier side of camp life. All things considered, our camp is fairly cush
compared to some other camps which are very expeditionary in nature (read: one
tent, one cook pot). With each day, we try to improve just a little more. For
example, two days ago we put in the camp shower- a plastic canvas tent that
has a propane heater installed on the outside where water is injected into
heat coils when our generator is running. The water then is pumped into a
shower head and with the use of an on/off switch you can take a -quick-
shower. It is important to zip the door closed all the way or an errant wisp
of wind will leave you shaking uncontrollably.. the water isn't that hot but
this is truly a luzury item. I took a shower for the first time yesterday
since Namche Bazaar... so mebbe like 10 days? I'll probably take one in a day
or two again but only after the sun comes out and it isn't windy. Everyone's
stinky here and you can't really smell anyway so it's not that bad.
Our tents are located in several areas across the camp site. Joe, Francisco
and I are located in one area. Lama Jambu and Tendi are located in another.
Lhakpa moved his tent from next to Willies because the generator was too loud,
and the cook staff and other support team members crash in their respective
tents- there's plenty of room in there for them and they are truly happy with
this arrangement. Each tent is home for the next several weeks. We try to keep
ours clean and well organized in order to feel like you have more space
inside. The tent models we use are Mountain Hardware Trangos and North Face
VE-25s- 4 season hardened models that can withstand just about anything thrown
at them. Except as it turns out, UV Rays. These rays are so intense here that
one tent has only about a 2 or 3 season service life before the rays
structurally weaken the fabric beyond serviceability. Each tent has a little
garden solar light out front and is anchored down with heavy glacier rocks
should stronger wind gusts come along. There is a front window to see out of
and through the rain fly, we also have three foam and air matresses to keep
comfortable from the rocks below and insulated from ground freeze. Last night
while trying to sleep I could hear the glacier creak, groan and snap
There are two toilets, both covered in blue tarp- one western (a.k.a. there's
a toilet seat) and one of the Middle Eastern/ Nepali model which is more a
hole in the rocks. There's an unwritten rule to not pee in the barrel- human
waste is transported out and weighed for charges. Peeing in the barrel will
increase weight dramatically and therefore, we have designated sites for that.
There is an actual rule in Everest Base Camp that if you were to lose your
mind and drop a bomb outside of your cans- and are caught.. congratulations!
You are now the proud owner of a $5000 fine. Like many other items in camp, we
have solar lights to illuminate the inside once darkness descends across camp.
We do our own laundry by asking the cook staff for a "washing pot" and then
scrubbing dirty clothes like crazy in water that turns brown quickly. Once
these items are clean, we lay them on a rock to dry- you have to do that b/c
if you try to line dry them they'll just flash freeze- even when it's fairly
warm thanks to the UV rays. The air is still below freezing. The camp is
powered by a 16 year old Honda generator and this accompishes two things: it
powers the lights that illuminate the community shelter and cook tent. It also
recharges two automobile dry-cell batteries that power items when the
generator is off.
Everest from the South Side
Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350
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).
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.
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 -
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.
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 -
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 youíre leaving C4Öitís 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 thereís not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately
itís 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. Thereís 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 youíre getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can
create some footing issues during the rappel, because itís impossible to see
over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to
leave Camp 4 without gas, as itís easier to keep moving down the Spur when
itís 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 arenít so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid.
At this point, itís 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.
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.
29,028 feet (8848 meters)
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.
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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