- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Gabriel Barral
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katie Bono
- Anne Gilbert Chase
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Cody Doolan
- Paul Edgren
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- Josh Gautreau
- Thomas Greene
- Casey Grom
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Tim Hardin
- Mike Haugen
- Andy Hildebrand
- Mike Hinckley
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- J.J. Justman
- Levi Kepsel
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Katy Laveck
- Ben Liken
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Andres Marin
- Jeff Martin
- Erik Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Logan Randolph
- Tyler Reid
- Dave Reynolds
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Shaun Sears
- Garrett Stevens
- Jason Thompson
- Mike Tomlinson
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Maile Wade
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Bryson Williams
- Dan Windham
- Robby Young
Posts from 05/2009
This was the third day of rest for my team. We began it in the usual way, by collecting outside the dining tent for coffee in the sun. Except this morning we sat in light fog until the sun finally burned it all away. Even in fog, sitting on a few thousand feet of ice, it wasn’t uncomfortable as now we are past mid-May and temperatures are relatively mild. Kent Harvey, Seth Waterfall and I are by now on pretty much the same internal clock… Erica, being a teenager and therefore presumably in need of more sleep, sometimes still needs a morning yell when the breakfast gets served. With the fog gone, we watched Melissa Arnot work her way safely down through the lowest part of the icefall. She is feeling better and we figure a couple of days BC rest will make her a strong addition to our upcoming summit bid. We could hear Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker from time to time on the morning radio, working their way up through the Yellow Band and ultimately the Geneva Spur, the final barrier guarding the approach to the South Col. They, along with Jake Norton, Gerry Moffatt, and John Griber, reported calm and easy conditions on the Lhotse Face and it was obvious they were making fine progress on their way into high camp. Tendi and Lama Babu spent last night at the South Col, building up the camp for the rest of our team and even scouting the first few hours of the route to the summit to make sure that the fixed ropes were still useable after last week’s snowstorms.
Erica Dohring and I went for a light hike toward civilization after breakfast. We didn’t go all the way to Gorak Shep as neither of us wanted that much (or that little) civilization at this stage of the game, having gotten quite used to basecamp living and not requiring too much more than that before the summit. But the trail toward Gorak Shep is still useful. Basecamp is in a dead-end valley… there really aren’t any exits, save some very burly climbing routes that might take one up Pumori, Lingtren, Khumbutse or Nuptse… or of course, one could wander up the Khumbu Icefall, but we only intend to do that one more time. The trail down-valley toward Gorak Shep was the next best thing for us on this morning. We still need to rest and recuperate from our pushes to high altitude, but then we also need to stretch our legs for this final push to the highest of altitudes. We were relieved to note that the trekker traffic had greatly diminished on the trail, along with the yak trains and porters… not that we don’t like yaks, trekkers and porters, just that it is easier walking on an empty track now that the season has moved along. Erica and I got just far enough down the trail to enjoy an unobstructed view of Everest’s rocky summit pyramid. Before heading back to Base, we sat watching the mountain for a time, not picking up any of the usual signs of wind… no cloud plume spawned by the summit, no streamers of snow. It all looked pretty serene and contrary to the forecasts, which still call for winds of 40 and 50 knots on these days. It gave us hope that our first summit team will luck out with calm conditions tonight so as to launch their final push. Most of the other teams are in the camps behind and below them now, lining up for what could be a busy four or five days of Everest summiting. We hope they all succeed and that the Jet Stream drifts far to the North in our next days of rest.
We are torn between fully imagining the challenges and discomforts that our first team faces, now that they are safely tucked in the tents at Camp IV, and giving our imaginations a break (since we’ll face all of those same challenges ourselves soon enough). Tonight will be an interesting time. Linden Mallory will do the important work of staying up through the night, here at basecamp, so as to monitor the first team’s progress. They don’t have to go for it tonight. Winds may build up on the Col and prevent an attempt, but our gang would still have the ability to hunker down and wait a day for better conditions. But of course, the clock is now ticking… the team is now breathing bottled Oxygen (with the exception of Ed Viesturs) and using up resources -to say nothing of brain and brawn cells… We hope they get their break soon and jump all over the opportunity.
Peter Whittaker on the radio with Linden Mallory.
Peter Whittaker explains choice to stop climbing for the night.
Today is our fortieth day in Base Camp. Everyone is still hanging in there, mentally. Mostly due to our huge store of snacks and games. I won’t lie though, living in a tent for this long is a tough prospect, even for seasoned mountain guides.
Soon enough we’ll be heading back up on the mountain for our summit bid. Erica, Dave and I are getting pretty excited for it. Our last rotation on the mountain presented some challenges but we’re all healthy and in good spirits. After a few more days of rest we should be all set to go for it.
For now it’s all about resting, hydrating and eating here at BC. The trick is to get a good rest without letting the legs stiffen-up too much. We do this by going for little hikes around camp. It always ends up as a tea-fest though as whenever you go by a friend’s camp they invariably invite you in for a cup and a snack.
Today camp has finally started to thin out. The weather is starting to look good for summit bids and every morning a few more teams have headed up. This works to our strategy as we are trying to summit after the main push of climbers. This is so that we avoid big traffic jams on summit day. It’s all a timing game for us now.
So until we leave for the summit it’s going to be an endless stream of candy bars, Scrabble, card games, potato chips, iPods and sleeping. Not necessarily in that order. Soon enough we’ll be heading back up, leaving the luxuries of Base Camp behind. It won’t be too tough for me. I really can’t wait to get a shot at the summit. All we need is a bit of good luck and some nice weather.
Waking up at 3:30 a.m. is never easy, especially at 17,500 ft. Somehow though, as the alarm went off yesterday morning, it was easy to rise. The wind was blowing gently, making the tents speak - I think they were saying “get outta here.” As I began crunching through the icefall, the normal adrenaline kicked my pace up a notch, but also the excitement for what is ahead. Even though I have been through the icefall many times, this time it feels different. I am hopeful that when I come back down, I will not have to go back up again - this is our summit push.
As I wind through the ice blocks and snow-covered crevasses, I have to admit I am filled with a new kind of trepidation. Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain on this earth, and even in normal conditions it would hand me a challenge. This year has been different though, as it has been filled with some extra challenges. I wanted to attempt to climb without supplemental oxygen, and that certainly added an unknown element to the trip. I have had many questions for myself since I made that decision, the biggest of course being: “Is it possible?” Early on in the trip I injured my ankle and that has really slowed me down, not just physically but mentally as well. I really feel like I need to be 100% to try to climb without O2, and as the trip has gone on, it has become clear that this isn’t the case. At any rate, climbing Mt. Everest will still give me a great challenge and there is still so much work to be done.
As I lie in my tent resting at Camp 2, I think about the climbers surrounding me. It is certainly humbling to be around some of the world’s best (and strongest) mountaineers, as well as the cameramen who work twice as hard as any of the climbers. It is also pretty special to see Erica attempt to tackle a goal so large. At times I have to remind myself that she is really one of the only people here who isn’t climbing for a profession, and I admire her strength and adaptability to work with this group.
Today is a rest day, and my mind is already playing with the thoughts about summit day - how will the weather be, will I feel strong, how can I be an asset to the team… But summit day could still be days away, so for now I will quiet my mind, rest my body, and let the gratitude I feel for where I am right now wash over me.
We are back down in the lap of luxury…aka Everest Basecamp. Our final round of preparation is finished; next time up will be for all the summit marbles.
The last couple of days at ABC were somewhat surreal. Yesterday morning, I came out of the tent at 6 AM fully expecting to still be in the middle of the storm we’d been enjoying for days. The forecasts had called for the same bit of jet stream to be snaking back and forth over the range, with continued potential for big snowfall. But as I looked up at the Lhotse Face, trying to decide whether we’d go for our planned sleepover at Camp III, the storm was nowhere to be seen. Certainly, the absence of this big snow and wind event was a good thing…but I was confused nonetheless. Was it a trap? Was it the well-known “sucker hole” phenomenon, wherein a break in the clouds lures climbers (also known as suckers) up to some place where they will be more vulnerable when the real storm rolls back in? I wanted my climbers-Seth, Erica and Kent-to get the exercise and confidence that would come with another attack on the Lhotse Face, and ideally, I wanted them to have a night up there near 24,000 ft. But if we were merely in a lull in the storm, and we cranked on up to Camp III well, then I could all too easily envision a little too much experience being gained, holding on all night as a hurricane tried to separate us from the wall and perhaps some good frostbite experience the following morning as we tried rapping down frozen ropes in a gale. So to get back to the point I stood there at ABC yesterday morning, looking at exactly the calm conditions I’d been hoping for all night, and I chickened out.
Seth was poking his head out of his tent and watching me chew on all of this in the shadows. He seemed to understand and agree with my concerns…we hadn’t actually planned to do this CIII sleeping rotation without support and because no Sherpas had been able to get up from BC through the storm of the past day, we would essentially be undertaking the push with just Ang Kaji’s help. Kaji is very capable, but the workload included an unknown (but most likely significant) amount of digging to get a storm-ravaged Camp III back in condition for our stay. “Sleeping” at Camp III is already an experience in misery…it is debatable as to whether humans actually acclimate to 24,000 ft. (as opposed to just dying cell by cell and becoming accustomed to that)...but I’ve always felt that it was useful to get the first shock of such an uncomfortable night out of the way before any summit bid. But add a few other shocks to that practice night and people can get so badly worked ok that they are not in any way, shape or form ready for the summit push the following week. SO by the time that Kent stuck his head out of his tent, I’d firmly decided that we would NOT attempt Camp III on this calm and pretty morning. Over breakfast, I explained that we’d just go for another hike to the base of the Lhotse Face. Since I was prone to frustration over how nice the weather seemed and how little we were taking “advantage” of the day I tried rationalizing for my partners so that they might avoid such glum and unproductive thoughts themselves. Perhaps it wasn’t a “lull” in a storm at all perhaps it was the beginning of the big shift toward better weather that everybody had been waiting for. And without a run up the Lhotse Face, we had still managed to cobble together a pretty decent acclimatization round at ABC while nearly all other teams were sitting down valley, fretting over forecasts. Ang Kaji, Seth, Erica and I were all still healthy, we had all of ABC to ourselves (each team had basically left just one caretaker/cook per camp), and yesterday turned out to be nothing short of a stunningly nice, calm, warm day with an awesome sunset not really the kind of stuff to get frustrated over.
This morning we came on down toward BC. Carefully, since there hadn’t been much traffic and the route through the Western Cwm was disguised by a few inches of new snow. Crevasses were lurking and just begging to be revealed by a misstep of my size 14.5 boots in the new powder. Then we came to the first Sherpas working up from BC and they got the benefit of our tracks while we enjoyed theirs. Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker weren’t far behind with our first summit team. They’d come up through the Icefall and reported that a big chunk of the route had fallen out with a collapse near the glacier’s center. I wasn’t too concerned for our proposed descent since Peter’s team had alerted the Icefall Doctors to the problem. We took a rest at old Camp I with summit-bound Melissa and Gerry, along with most of our Sherpa team. Looking around at the remaining tents belonging to other teams, I was amazed at how destructive the storm had been. Poles were broken, whole tents were uprooted and displaced, tents were half buried and squashed Camp I was a widespread mess. So I was pleased to find our First Ascent tent, intact and well anchored apparently ready for the next storm.
We bid our teammates good luck, donned our climbing helmets and dove down into the Khumbu Icefall. Sure enough, when we reached the collapse in the middle, Icefall Doc Ang Nima from Dingboche was already swinging his trusty hammer and fixing new rope with a partner. They’d cobbled together a fine detour that we took full advantage of. As usual, it was sobering to see the expanse of glacier (two acres?) that had simply caved in, but I was satisfied with the timing of the event. The glacier is welcome to do whatever it wants in the dead of night…just settle down for morning, please. My gang settled into Basecamp by about 11 a.m., about the same time that our teammates were getting to their new home at ABC…we’d pulled a neat switch. I’m sure that Peter, Ed, Melissa, Gerry, Jake, and John Griber were anxious as anything to get up there and get on with their climb, while we were pleased as punch to head for the showers and thick camp mattresses of BC again.
I’m scared of Mount Everest. There, I said it. In fact, I’m scared of most mountains I climb, even ones like Rainier which I’ve climbed close to 90 times. But it’s a fear which I embrace and welcome with each new climb.
My fear began in 1984, when I watched Winds of Everest, a film about the first American ascent of Everest’s North Side (incidentally, it was led by Lou Whittaker, and his son, Peter, climbed above 25,000 feet on the expedition). The opening narration by John Denver reads:
In the eternal lives of mountains, the ambitions of men are as insignificant as the snow that swirls from their rocky ridges. The lives of man are transitory…the mountain is everlasting.
It’s a notion that has never been lost on me, a constant reminder that mountains do not forgive complacency, that any peak - no matter how familiar, no matter how many times you have climbed it - can be a deadly, dangerous place. Fear, in the mountain realm, is a good thing.
I’ve been to Everest before. My first trip here was to the Northeast Ridge in 1999. This is my 6th expedition to Everest, my 8th to an 8,000 meter peak. I was able to sneak to the top of Everest by the Southeast Ridge in 2002, and the Northeast in 2003.
In many ways, this is familiar turf, a comfortable stomping ground. One would think, then, that gearing up for our summit bid would be simple, devoid of much thought, anticipation, or trepidation about the days to come. But that is far from the case.
We’ve all read the press reports that love to tout today’s Everest as a “walk up,” “a highway,” and the like. Sure, the mountain today is not Hillary and Tenzing’s Everest, or Whittaker and Gombu’s. It’s changed considerably over the years-a little physically and a lot in how it’s climbed. However, the reality is that it’s still 29,035 feet tall, there’s no tram or escalator (yet), and to get to the top one must still put one foot in front of the other for 12,000 vertical feet above basecamp.
As I prepare for our summit bid, that reality is never far from my mind.
I gaze up at the Icefall looming immediately out of camp, and see its hazards. It was only a week ago that it claimed a life. Gotta be ready to move fast there, as always, but maybe even a bit faster this time. From there, the Western Cwm presents little danger - aside from oppressive heat at times - but I know its couple of miles of length can take a lot out of a climber, and I’ll need to arrive at Camp 2 feeling strong - lots of mountain above that.
The Lhotse Face - a couple thousand feet of steep snow and ice - is made more approachable with fixed lines, but still a place for caution. Falling rocks are one hazard, and simply missing a clip or taking a fall are other real hazards. No complacency there, I tell myself, remembering the climber who died in 2002. Climb strong, safe, and smart.
From Camp 3, it gets more serious. Approaching 8,000 meters - the famed death zone - both the mind and the body suffer, and there’s still a lot of mountain to climb. While I’ve been fortunate to always perform well up high, I never kid myself into believing it will be easy. A myriad of things can go wrong - a stomach bug, cold, infection - can all take you out of the running. Above Camp 3, we’re in down suits, breathing oxygen; communication becomes more difficult, peripheral vision obscured. And ahead lie the Yellow Band and Geneva Spur…neither overly technical or challenging, but made at least interesting given their location. No mistakes here either. It’s a long way down!
Finally, the South Col, Camp 4, 26,000 feet. Not even a glimmer of relaxation here. We’ll pull into the Col in early afternoon, brew up, lie down, and in a handful of hours begin walking again, in the dark, up the Triangle Face and toward the summit. It’s a long day from the Col… perhaps 4 hours to the Balcony at 27,500 feet. Another 2 hours or so from there to the South Summit, 28,750 feet. And then it gets interesting: here’s where things most often begin to unravel. From the South Summit lies the most exposed and technical terrain of summit day, if not of the entire climb. And there are bottlenecks: find yourself up there with a crowd, and you can wait for an hour or more to ascend the Hillary Step and get to the top. There’s no passing lane; standing room only.
But then you finally hit the top. Celebration! Elation! Congratulations! And then the realization that the top is only 1/2 way…there’s still 12,000 feet of dangerous terrain between the top and bottom. No champagne yet, not until every team member - Nepalis and Westerners alike - are safely back at basecamp. Never let your guard down…the mountain doesn’t care about your ambitions.
Sure, I’ve climbed Everest before. I’ll be with a strong team with ample experience. The weather looks reasonable. But, despite all that, I still have a lot of trepidation. I’m scared of Mount Everest…and I’m happy to be.
This was a great day for staying put. That said, it sounded like everything outside our little tents was moving around. The forecast called for snow and wind - the reality was exactly that. I was wide-awake at 5:40 a.m., listening to what sounded like a 20-minute train derailment: an avalanche pouring off Everest’s Southwest face. Several times I zipped down the tent door, only to see that we were still in the milky midst of the turbulent powder cloud thrown off by the slide. I knew the actual debris couldn’t possibly hit ABC - but it was a reminder to me that it wouldn’t be a day for wandering around. The decision had been made the night before that our expedition business would be put on hold. No Sherpas shuttling supplies or camera memory cards-no members going on upper mountain “hikes” in a whiteout.
My gang was due for an ABC rest day in any event, but lack of morning sun and abundant frost shaking from tent ceilings kept us all deep in our sleeping bags this morning. Pathetic as it may sound, we were too lazy to even get up and begin resting.
Once up and about, we were granted breaks in the cloud that allowed us to dry our gear and view the mayhem up on the heights. Huge ribbons of snow and cloud tore back and forth across the mountain faces and circled us. The Niagara Falls noise of it all eventually became accepted background to our head tunes and reading.
Not much thought was given to an Everest summit today. Our radio traffic with BC just confirmed that the rest of the team was wisely pushing back climbing plans. It can be difficult deciding whether marginal weather should dictate climbing plans. Thankfully, that is no longer a problem. Real Himalayan storms don’t invite calculation and outfoxing. Rather, it is an obvious time for patience, for rehydration, for resting and recharging,,, and the tying down of loose objects.
It is like a ghost town up here at ABC. We don’t mind a bit, having fought half the day to get here from Basecamp. Most others were struggling to get elsewhere. There is a storm sumo wrestling with the exposed summits of Everest and Lhotse today. Since this one is coming out of the west, 25,000 ft Nuptse gives us some protection down here in the Cwm. We still get good strong belts of wind and blowing snow, but we know it could be a lot worse at Camp III and Camp IV in this pattern. Our friends up at the South Col - hoping for a break so as to ring the summit bell - didn’t get a break. They were forced to retreat this morning just as we were tentatively moving up. We were tentatively moving up because that seemed like the smart way to be with a 4 AM sky full of clouds, a couple of inches of new snow on the ground, and untested legs in our crew.
It didn’t take long at all for Erica’s legs to prove they were ready for climbing today. I could hear her crampons digging in just a few steps behind me for all of the first dark hour-she was cruising over the same ice that had defeated her 24 hours earlier. I focused on other problems. The big one was the misbehaving cloud ceiling. It was steadily dropping as we climbed and the morning light came on. The more I could see, the less I could see. When we took the first short break it was snowing, and I polled my team as to whether they thought it would intensify. There were six of us today - the five usual suspects (Seth, Erica, Kent, Ang Kaji and me) plus Maila - the Camp II cook who had been enjoying a brief Basecamp vacation from one of the toughest jobs on the hill. Maila thought-as we all did-that the snow was just getting started, and that there wasn’t much point in going on. None of us wanted to be doing the braille thing through a Khumbu Icefall whiteout. And there definitely weren’t any takers for a stroll in close to the Nuptse avalanche chutes beyond Camp I, with serious snow coming down.
So we very nearly called it quits at 5 AM, before getting into the worst of the Icefall. The retreat plan was sound - and we hated it. This acclimatization round is important - it is our “tryout” for a summit bid. We want the extra strength, skill and confidence that may come from it. We can’t really get that by going an hour out of BC every day. And the calendar is moving on to the phat part of May. We want to be ready. We decided to hedge our bets-pushing onto the middle of the Icefall - another hour along, for a final call on the weather.
In that next hour, the snow quit and the clouds lifted. We knew the storm wasn’t finished, but we saw our little window of opportunity for scampering out of the Icefall and past Nuptse, and we were determined to take full advantage.
Long story short - our little gamble worked. We arrived at ABC at midday excited as kids (even those of us not quite kids anymore). Excited with storm adrenaline, excited to have put things on the line, and to have made correct climbing decisions, and to feel the fitness we didn’t have 5 weeks ago.
We called down to BC to boast - but also to be assured that the rest of our team is coping well with their summit holding pattern. They are not alone in that - as I said, we’ve got ABC pretty much to ourselves - and we barely had to make room for other climbers today on the route. Most are lower. Most are waiting for summit weather.
Written by erstad17 on May 1, 2009
As a Nikon shooter myself, I’m proud to see the Nikon name at Everest. Is there a specific reason why you wouldn’t go full frame? Do you carry a backup to the D300?
Answered by Jake Norton on May 11, 2009
Hi erstad17…good to hear from another Nikon shooter! As for the full frame issue, I’m not personally against full frame, but have not gone that direction for a couple of reasons. First, I personally do not see a huge benefit to full frame, it being a somewhat arbitrary size anyway; I find the DX format to take a little getting used to at first, but now quite familiar and good. But, more importantly, I use the D300 (and used the D200 previously, and the D100 before that) primarily because of size and weight. Both, of course, are major issues when shooting on Everest. The “prosumer” Nikon (digital) line has always treated me quite well, with exceptional performance in the extreme cold, with a great balance of weight and quality. I do have backup cameras with me - a D300, D200, and D100 in case I’m really in trouble - but do not carry them with me all the time. Again, finding the balance with weight, space, etc. Thanks for your questions, and keep shooting!
Written by Grizmtn on April 28, 2009
Thanks for all the great footage and comments. Allows folks like me in faraway Montana to get a glimpse at a fascinating other world through the eyes of experts. Question for Dave Hahn: Since you were involved in the search for evidence of the Mallory & Irvine expedition, and the finding of Mallory’s body, do you think the north route has been scoured enough (hopefully not by treasure hunters) to have discovered Irvine and the sought after camera if they were there, or is the area complex and difficult enough that Irvine’s remains may be hiding in some nook of the yellowband?
Answered by Dave Hahn on May 11, 2009
Hi Grizmtn. There probably is still more to be found high on the north side regarding the Mallory and Irvine mystery. Just as you say, the area is complex and difficult enough to keep plenty hidden, including Andrew Irvine’s remains and whichever camera(s) he and George Mallory had with them on June 8, 1924. I trust you use the term “treasure hunters” as I do, with tongue-in-cheek when it comes to those exploring Everest’s North Face. A dumber way to get rich has yet to be conceived. I still feel that Irvine’s remains may be hidden on a ledge within the Yellow Band but I doubt I’ll risk my life again to confirm that. That said, it is hard for me to imagine a better season for searching than this dry one. Jake Norton and I covered some good ground (rock) in our 2004 Yellow Band search, but due to snowdrifts, we can’t categorically say that those same ledges didn’t still hold clues to the mystery. Best Regards, DH
Written by GB on April 25, 2009
It’s exciting following the climb through the dispatches and photos. Does the beauty of the mountains ever stop you in your tracks and make you want to look around in awe at your surroundings? How do you respond when climbing with a client or climbing partner? Safe climbing!
Answered by Seth Waterfall on May 11, 2009
Hello GB. Thanks for following our expedition. I can safely speak for the team when I say…heck yeah, the beauty of the mountains stops us in our tracks! Fortunately, this style of mountaineering allows for plenty of time to soak up the surroundings. But in fact it is very necessary to be aware of what’s going on around you at all times when you’re in the mountains, especially while guiding. I regularly encourage my clients to avoid just looking down and following my boot prints. One needs to be aware of everything going on around you and a good team member is always looking out for everyone.
Written by T-Dawg on April 25, 2009
Quick question: do the Sherpas get acclimatized well before the expedition teams arrive? Also, after watching the video about waste collection, and yeah, this is a little gross, when at ABC or when you all reach HC, what happens when “nature calls”? Do the Sherpas bring up latrine tents or do you bust out the shovel? I’m sure some inquiring minds are wondering.
Answered by Seth Waterfall on May 11, 2009
T-Dawg, the Sherpas on our team arrived about one to two weeks before us. That plus the fact that they, for the most part, live at a much higher altitude than us ‘westerners,’ gives them a head start on acclimatizing. That said, they are definitely predisposed to be more adaptable to altitude, but the mechanism there is poorly understood. There’s no doubt, however, that these guys are tough as nails. Now to your question about ‘number two.’ In my experience, every popular mountain has its own rules regarding waste disposal. Here it is no different. The rules just change depending on where you are on the mountain. At base camp, the waste is removed and dealt with down the valley. Higher up on the mountain this is not practical, and the waste is deposited in a crevasse in the glacier.
Written by DrewEvansPhoto
What do you all do during downtime like this, besides heal and rest?
Answered by Seth Waterfall on May 11, 2009
Hi DEP. We all do different things to relieve the boredom of rest days. With the advent of video iPods, the game is totally different and movie watching is an indescribable pleasure. Of course, reading is great and we’ve got a little book exchange and tons of magazines. We also eat, play cards, fly our one kite, play Frisbee, and make fun of each other mercilessly. That’s all in addition to helping maintain the camp and taking care of ourselves. It’s just tons of fun at base camp.
If you follow mountaineering much, you already know that climbers often don’t do what they said they were going to do. And I assure you that there are good reasons for such contradictory and inconsistent behavior. For instance, yesterday I said that I would lead my sub-team of Erica, Seth, Kent and Ang Kaji in an effort to get up early and go on up the hill to ABC. I lied. We did get up early…at 3AM…and we did give it a try, but then we came back down to BC.
It was a beautiful night and each of us got up and out of the tents professing to have slept well. There was a massively full moon lighting things as we swallowed coffee and rice porridge. There weren’t any headlights already in the Icefall, and in fact we were the first to venture onto the route this morning. This didn’t surprise me as many potential summit climbers are well down valley in the tea houses right now, taking a rest before their final bids on the mountain. Their Sherpa teams have, for the most part, already carried all the equipment that is needed for those final bids. So things are quiet on the climbing route at the moment and we seem to be the only folks still thinking of going up for practice and acclimatization. Being slightly out-of-synch with the general mob is exactly to my liking though. As we strapped on our spikes, I was pleased to contemplate cruising through the Icefall route without any traffic considerations. I led the way and began to experience a strange fringe benefit of being first. The glacier kept popping and snapping with my passage…sometimes playfully, sometimes with a rifle-crack that made one want to duck and cover. Lots of daytime melt water runs on the surface of a big glacier in Spring and it freezes solid in cracks and seams at night…whoever puts weight on it first breaks the new bonds. Knowing this intellectually and being surprised out of your socks by a loud CRACK on a quiet night are two different things.
We’d been walking for just a half hour when the International Space Station whizzed through the dark sky over Lhotse’s summit. Out to the West, the full moon was crashing dramatically to earth over Cholatse’s summit. It was yet another very beautiful morning. But we all knew something was wrong, just the same. We weren’t coming close to our intended pace for the day. Our initial hope was that Erica was just having a slow start, but after a couple of hours, it was clear that she was having more of an “off” day that we needed to pay attention to. Her knee was aching from an old twist and every awkward step up in the ice was a little slower as a result. These things happen to all of us…even when we’ve got big plans for the day. We’d already passed through the big avalanche scar on the route and were in the “popcorn” section when I did the math and figured it just didn’t make sense for us to try getting to ABC as planned. We’d all be too tired, overworked and dehydrated from so much extra time spent out on the trail with packs on our backs. Better to get on back to BC, have Erica’s knee checked by the HRA docs and with a green light, go for it again tomorrow…hoping for an “on” day. It was a little strange to be back in basecamp in time for the regularly scheduled breakfast with the gang, but I don’t see it as too big a setback. Certainly not as big a setback as a grindingly slow day through the Icefall would have been. The rest of our team is still in a holding pattern, trying to get over minor ailments and trying to get enough exercise in so as to stay sane in this weather-waiting period. Luckily for their sanity, things clouded over and got cold, mean and nasty for the afternoon at BC. It is easier waiting for good weather when one feels like one is actually in bad weather, but of course the weather perceived from basecamp is not always the actual -and more significant- weather at 8000 meters. It doesn’t take too much imagination and extrapolation today though to believe that things are rough and grim at 8000 meters, but rumor has it that climbers are camped at the South Col and gunning for the summit tonight. Good luck to them…if they happen to do what they said they were going to do, that is.
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