Moving up to camp 1 tomorrow; jumar/ladder training and a photo shoot filled the past 2 days

Tonight’s sleep will end early as we will convene for 3am breakfast and 3.30am departure to the Khumbu icefall. We leave early to avoid the heat of the day that not only brings sunburn, but also higher risks of avalanches, serac fall and potentially traffic jams with other teams. 

The weather looks ok albeit the forecasts suggests 30cm new snow. Its generally quite warm for the season and every day and night we are listening to a concert of avalanches and serac falls. Scary sometimes though they usually sound worse than they are. 

The aim tomorrow will be to gain c700m altitude from base camp to camp 1 at 6,000m, stay two nights and then move up to camp 2 (6,400m) for another night’s sleep. We’ll be cooking ourselves in C1 and all the team is next door picking their snacks and rations as I write this. We all probably underestimate how much our hunger will disappear at altitude. But heh! We can stash excess supplies anytime and consume later on the hill.

It will be tough going through the icefall at night and to altitude levels few of us are yet acclimatised for (only Steve has been as high when summitting Mera Peak and Lobuche East, my personal highpoint so far 5,800m). Take some painkillers for the headaches! 

Today and yesterday we have been preparing further for the technical challenges ahead. First, using ascender devices  (or jumars) that are used to ascend the fixed lines especially in steeper sections and safe abseiling techniques (it won’t be straight uphill to the top). Not too difficult though cumbersome to operate with mitts. 

Second, we practiced how to cross ladders safely. These are prevalent in the Khumbu icefall and the Western cwm to bridge crevasses (some as deep as 50m or 80m). The longest vertical ladder Tim has encountered was made up of 13 (!) individual ladders. Will be fun and probably shaky!

Our morning finished (would you believe it) with a photo shoot. We all served as models for the sunglass & goggle review of Tim. Steve Brown was the man behind the camera as usual. Some cool pics in a stunnig environment. 

P.S. the beard keeps growing!


5,800m test hike; bye Mo & Zena

Having rested and waited out fairly stormy weather we decided to go for a climb today. Mo and Zena said goodbye and made their way towards Loboche and will probably climb up to Kala Patthar (5,500m) for some great views of Everest & co. Will miss you both! 

Our hike took us through base camp (25min to entrance from our site … more if you get lost) and then pretty much straight up the hill. The terrain featured loads of boulders and slippery underground. 

Pace wise, Steve (Australia), Jon and Rory took the lead. I was much slower and formed the challenger group by myself. Its just that every step takes effort and if you go to fast you burn. So take it slow. I arrived some 20min after the leaders – not too bad for a 400m altitude gain. We were now at 5,650m. Steve (photo) arrived 10min after me and Billy turned around half way still struggling to find his breath. Blake didn’t start at all and continues to nurse his ankle(s).

After a brief eat & drink rest in a thankfully sheltered place (winds were super strong sometimes throwing me off balance), I continued my way higher. Only the guides Tim and new arrival Scott (assistant guide) did the same while my fellow climbers returned to base camp.

The way higher led onto even more slippery terrain and so I tried to climb using the larger boulders. After less than an hour we got to 5,800m. Great views of Everest summit, Lhotse and the entire base camp neatly located next to the massive Khumbu glacier.

The way down was mixed. First, I did twist my ankle (still hurts, but not much swollen). Second, the traffic into base camp picked up massively with loads of trekkers around and slowing things down. Finding our camp wasn’t easy either as the sun had melted snow and ice to the extent that the whole scenery changed. Amazing! 

Afternoon and evening were quiet, as most of us were tired. Still waiting for better wifi.

Life at Everest base camp

I am lying in my tent and the winds are (still) shaking my tent. The sleeping bag is very comfi and I had a cery good rest without any interruptions. In today’s post I wanted to shed a little light on how we spent time here at Everest base camp having been here now for three nights and given it will be my home potentially until late May.

The camp is I reckon some 2km long and situated directly on the Khumbu glacier and very close to the actual icefall with all its crevasses and constantly moving bits and pieces. Each team has claimed their territory and in some cases defend it vigorously (I leave out names here for now). Mingling with other teams seems like a no-no so far. 

Within each camp there is some key infrastructure:

  • Mess tent: Arguably the heart of the camp. Here we spent most of our down time to eat, play (monopoly deal being king), chat and do briefings.

  • Kitchen tent: Good food is key and so far we been catered for well. More importantly even is a constant supply of hot water. 

  • Storage / communication tent: here you can find a lot of snacks, dry food for higher up, commincation and charging gear and stuff you don’t wanna keep in your tent (like climbing and high altitude kit).

  • Toilet tent: Men usually use for no2, women no1&2. The collective output goes into a barrel that is replaced when needed. Fellow hiker Mo had her tent blown away while in action – scared for life (but hilarious) ;o) 

  • Shower tent: operated with heated water from the kitchen and a pump. Looks simple, feels great!
  • Sleeping tents: the only bit of real privacy. Required for such a long trip. Sherpa’s have the same tents than we do, but share.

  • Sherpa mess tent: Common area (when not in kitchen) and eating quarters. Surely a few card games go down here too. 

Beyond the individual camps there are communal places such as the Everest ER tent (emergency & rescue) staffed wit experienced doctors, nurses and rescue pilots, the Sagarmartha pollution and control committee (SPCC) that houses the ice fall doctors (fixing the ropes to the summits), the radio and wifi station (Usd50 per 1GB, ncell also available but patchy) and several heli landing spots for transport, rescue and supplies in & out of the camp. 

Daily rountine

On non-climbing days (and there will be quite a few), we usually start with breakfast at 8am though hot drinks are being provided from 7am. The offering varies from porridge, pancakes, muesli to french toast, fried and boiled eggs and sometimes even bacon (like yesterday).

Afterwards we typically have the first session of games, take a stroll, do some washing or things like reinforcig tents.

Lunch is served around noon. We have often potatoes (fried, boiled, even salad), rice (cooked, fried, with veg etc), cooked veg, tuna, sardines, sausages, traditional dahl bat … plenty of stuff. By the time we had our pudding it will be 1.30pm or thereabout. More games after or a nap ;o)

3-4pm we use for briefings either on general issues or the next day. This goes hand in hand with some munchy stuff like cheese etc and more tea. More games and wifi if you must. We try to limit wifi from 3pm though a poor connection often takes care of that ;o)

Dinner is 6pm and is followed by the hot water bottle supply for the night ahead. We usually hit the sleeping bags between 8-9pm. Depends how long our monopoly deal thirst lasts and what is ahead the day after. 

Then its time to get cosy in your tent, read a book and to report to dream land. Nite, nite …

Loboche to EBC: Hi base camp; bye Jo, Mike, Berny, Sami & Luka

Today was little about the way, but more about the destination – Everest base camp. The trail out of Loboche leads you right up the Khumbu valley. So no choice but joining the army of ants that hikes up to EBC or Kala Patar for good views. Annoying really given many aren’t well acclimatised and slow and some shouldn’t be here at all. 

I reached our lunch point Gorak Shep after 1:50min (5km, 250m ascent). All of us quickly made use of the not so quick 3G network before we moved on to Everest base camp a further 5km (well, we are at the very back of the camp). The trail remained busy. 

Right at the first heliport at EBC entrance a trekker was flown out (I presume altitude sickness) and we got some good footage of heli start/landing. 

Base camp itself is surreal. Many, mostly yellow/orange, tents planted right on the glacier. The icefall with its ice towers right next to the camp. And the icefall is massive! ​​

After a tea, it was time to say goodbye to some of the base camp trekkers – see you in London Jo, Mike, Sami, Berny & Luka (they are by virtue of a chopper already back in Kathmandu).

Then it was time to move into my tent. It will be my home for the coming 4-6weeks. Nice and cosy. Every so often the surrounding mountains remind of the danger – I counted 3 avalanches before nightfall. And then heavy snow kicked in covering the the whole camp in white. Beautiful!

The evening I spent mostly in my new home. Lying in my new RAB 1400 expedition sleeping bag (-40 degrees) and reading book number 4 – ‘In den Wäldern Sibieriens’. I was outright happy. This is the real deal now!

Dingboche to Loboche: Camping above 5,000m 

After the dull rest day I was indeed looking forward to something new, something different. Once we left Dingboche behind I was immediately in better mood and enjoyed my audiobook amidst great views. On this first day, we’d hike up from 4,350m to just above 5,000m. 

We left late that day (for there was no rush and porters needed to setup camp) and enjoyed a last coffee and cakes at the Himlayan cafe & bakery (thanks go to Billy for the treat). By 10:45am we departed leaving Billy behind who was on doctor’s orders to rest more and catch up with us in Lobuche. Half way through the climb a last mobile reception, which most of us used to check  out for the coming three days. 

At our first restpoint, Tim shared a story of a chopper rescue on Ama Dablam. A German guide and Japanese climber couldn’t move higher nor lower and required help. The German got down, but the chopper went down when trying to get the second leaving both pilots dead. Still, a second heli was sent to fetch the climber. It was a big spectacle at the time.

After 3hours we reached the campground and moved into basecamp-like round tents for two people. Plenty of space for gear too. I shared with Jon again. We all had snacks and lunch and then I wondered off to check out the area. Some good views of camp, where Steve was busy taking pictures of people with his pro gear and the great backdrop of Ama.

Dinner was a short affair and some night photography followed. Everyone was keen to slip into his or her sleeping bag given the freezing temperatures. Getting up at night for toilet routines was nice (given the full moon), but painful. Many people (well, men) used their pee bottles (the 2l inflateable wide mouth Nalgene comes with highest regards), which is fine once one gets used to it (that is both peeing and tolerating someone in the same tent doing so). 

The next day started similarly relaxed and we wouldn’t leave before 10:15 for our next campsite at 5,450m (thats 600m higher than Mt Blanc summit!). The hike added some 400m in altitude, but took a mere 1:45h. We arrived in a magnificent valley guarded by Lhotse, Ama Dablam and other ridges. Lunch was excellent with sausages on the menu! Everyone happy, as teahouse menu’s can be monotonous. 

I spent all day reading a Beglian/French detective novel based in Paris. It has been recommended to me by a book shop keeper in London and is the first case of Inspector Maigret. I think there are more than 75 from the same author. So much lies ahead. Fun read and by now the third book I got through (well, my philosophy book only half until I gave up).

I was in bed early preffering the entertainment of audiobooks (now, ‘the unlikely pilgrimage of harold fry’). Next day we were to stay here and attempt the nearby 5,800m peak Pokalde.

My innovation of having a huge, green garbage bag over my sleeping bag and mat didn’t really work out. I rather ended up with a wet sleeping bag from all the moisture I lost overnight. 

Our hike up Pokalde next morning turned out brief. Tim was concerned about snow build up on top of already lose rocks and so we went to a smaller peak nearby with great views. Steve did a pro photo shoot with large flash lights that help you balance the bright background. Good shots (hope I can share some later on).

I wasn’t happy to retire at camp at 11am and so I wandered off to a nearby icefall. Pretty stuff. The tall ice walls reminded me of the gates to mordor in lord of the rings. Nice 2,5h hike up and down. Then it was time to relax listening to the adventures of harold fry. 

The night was the best one yet. I slept straight to 2:45am. Then a toilet round was required. Overall, still quite relaxing and this time without the plastic bag. I bet Jon was glad about that. 

In the morning it was time to pack. We were moving! Right up was Kongma La  pass some 100m higher up. While hiking up there one could hear the frozen lake making all sort of noises in the valley. Mo struggled a bit with a cough and found it hard to catch her breath. But this is only Mo uphill. As soon as we started down, she faced past everyone! All good then.

After the pass, the trail took us into the Khumbu valley with its glacier reaching far down though covered in debris. We hiked up and down the morraine. The glacier is just huge and maneuvering through the rocks takes some skill and patience. On the other end, Loboche waited for us.

There is nothing spectacular to be said about this village. No mobile, but Wifi (USD6/200mb). A handful of tea houses that are busy with climbers and base camp hikers alike. Jon and I had a bit of downtime over priced can of San Miguel (U$7-8). 

Highlight of the day was the reunion with a fully recovered Billy. Sadly, now Blake is down with fever. Fingers crossed it turns into a one day only affair. Otherwise all folks are healthy though every move makes you breath hard (including getting up the staircase to our rooms).

Off to Kniffel and Monopoly. Tomorrow we hit base camp. How time flies!

Climb on!