Mt. Everest Expedition: Bill McGahan’s Basecamp Observations

Posted by: | April 14, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

The last few days have been filled with training, climbing and socializing around our Base Camp.  A few observations:

  1. Everest Base Camp has now swelled to about 350 people, with all the corresponding tents and equipment.  It is massive, and it takes up acres and acres of space on top of a moving glacier.  In addition, Everest BC is visited each day by organized groups of trekkers who hike up from Lukla to see the place (and the show).  The glacier is not flat, but is a series of small undulations in the moving ice (which is mostly covered with rocks). Yesterday during a training run we climbed a portion of the way up the Khumbu Icefall and, from close to 18,000 feet, we got to see the entire camp. What a sight!

  2. Socializing.  Last night our group invited over the Base Camp doctors for dinner.  The head physician has been running the Base Camp medical clinic for 9 years, so she was well known to Dave Hahn (who, again, seems to know everyone).  The Base Camp doctors are incredibly knowledgeable about high altitude illnesses, and their presence in camp has no doubt saved many lives.  They are here to treat everyone, including climbers, climbing Sherpas, porters, and trekkers (and anyone else).  The ten of us had a great meal, and then played speed scrabble (which encouraged the use of slang words), and then Apples to Apples.  As an aside, we all learned some interesting slang words from the different nationalities (Scotland, Nepal, etc.).  Sara McGahan even threw in some slang used by 10th graders. I know that I learned quite a bit.

  3. It is up to a group of incredibly courageous and talented Sherpas to fix line up Mt. Everest each year through one of the most dangerous parts of the climb - the Khumbu Icefall.  These folks - called “Icefall Doctors” - are employed directly by the national park and are paid out of the fees the climbers pay to access the mountain.  The Khumbu Icefall is the section of Mt. Everest that is between Basecamp and Camp I, and it is extremely dangerous because it is ever shifting as the glacier slowly moves ahead and tumbles down the mountain, and also because it is susceptible to avalanches from surrounding peaks.  When shifting or an avalanche takes place, massive amounts of solid ice moves (and you don’t want to be anywhere in the neighborhood when it happens).  The Icefall Doctors also place ladders across huge crevasses and rope up steep sections of the Icefall, which is used by climbers to pull themselves up the mountain, but, as importantly, to “clip into” for safety.  There would be literally no way for a climber of my capability to climb this mountain without the Icefall Doctors.  They are amazing people.

  4.  In the incredibly capable hands of our lead guide Dave Hahn, Sara and I have been climbing around Base Camp in order to do two things: 1) continue to acclimatize, and 2) work on the skills that we need to move quickly up the mountain.  One of the greatest dangers that we face on Everest is avalanches, and speed is one of our best ways to minimize our danger.  We are working hard to be able to move quickly and safely though the icefall.  We need to be able to breathe (this always helps!) and to have a comfort level on ladders and fixed line.  Dave has spent days with us helping us
with these skills, and we will be continuing to work on them in the days ahead. Only then will we venture up to higher places on the mountain.

  5.  Fun.  One of the reasons that trekkers and climbers alike come to Base Camp is that it is a fun place.  Every day people come by to socialize with us.  Mark Tucker (our Base Camp manager) is always ready with some kind of game.  Mark and I teamed up to win a horse shoe throwing contest, and the other night we had a poker tournament (Texas hold em) with guides from other groups.  We have also played golf on the frozen ponds on the icefall, with yours truly hitting a hole in one, much to the chagrin of Mr. Tucker (it earned me 50 rupees - ha!).  So, there is always something going on, with people coming and going, and it is one of my favorite things about climbing. The people are adventurous, interesting, international, and fun loving - the best people in the world in my opinion.

So, thanks for following our blog.  We are working hard and will have more to report in the days ahead.

Bill M.

Sara and Bill at the internet cafe... Border with Tibet behind them on the Lho La Pass. Photo by Dave Hahn Bill playing horseshoes at Basecamp. Photo by Dave Hahn Bill and Sara up for a journey to the first ladders in the Icefall. Photo by Dave Hahn Into the jumble. Photo by Dave Hahn

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Comments

hi bill and sara.  I love reading your blog each morning.  best of luck to you both!  love, becca

Posted by: becca newton on 4/15/2011 at 5:53 am

Keep the blogs coming.  My 8-year old daughter and I are really enjoying your posts and pictures.  Good luck to Bill, Sara, and the rest of the climbers.  Hope you reach the top and stay safe.

Posted by: E.Black on 4/14/2011 at 6:56 pm

Bill!! Love the blog… I can only imagine the stories and fun. Keep plugging away and enjoying this amazing experience. Wish I was there!! Take care, T

Posted by: Tara Minnax on 4/14/2011 at 10:00 am

Bill & Sara,
Just as an historical reference, your Dad and Grandfather and I were glued to the Hillary expedition in 1953. Yes, we had electricity then and even TV. I was only a baby then,of course. Wouldn’t he be astonished to see you both there now!!

Posted by: Marie McGahan on 4/14/2011 at 7:55 am

This is very exciting to read about and it sounds like a lot of fun! Can’t believe there are 350 people in base camp. It’s almost as big as Dawson County GA. Get that signed card for the hold-in-one. Glad you have the Ice Doctors and their knowledgeability. Be safe and know that we are so proud of you. Much love.

Posted by: Mom on 4/14/2011 at 7:18 am

All that way to get a hole-in-one.  Looks like your bro won’t have to climb Everest, but I might need to record an elusive hole-in-one. 

Thinking about you and Sarah everyday and excitedly following the progress.

Posted by: BK on 4/14/2011 at 5:27 am

Bro - glad to see that your gaming skills transfer internationally and to high altitudes.  Please get a signed card on that hole-in-one.  I am sure it is a record for highest hole-in-one.  I will notify Guinness.  Glad to hear that you are doing well and we continue to excitedly follow your progress.  Be careful and we are proud of you and Sara! - Bro

Posted by: Martin on 4/14/2011 at 5:20 am

Thanks for taking us along for the ride with you!  The Greeen and White are buzzing as we follow your progress.  Go Cats!

Posted by: Henry G on 4/14/2011 at 4:44 am

Way to go everyone. Hi Mark, still love playing games I see. Remember that catch we had in the Ngoragora Crater back in ‘02? You will remember me best for hiking up with soda and water on your way down. Lots of things have changed over the past 9 years. All for the better. Mark email when you get a chance.

Friends of mine are heading your way soon, say hi to Melody and Ron for me.

Stephai

Posted by: Stephani Krzysik on 4/14/2011 at 2:35 am

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