Monday, April 07, 2014

Everest 2014: Icefall Route Complete, Sherpas To Camp 2

It was a busy weekend in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal, where the first teams have started to arrive in Everest Base Camp, and the tent city that will be their home for the next two months has begun to take form. Most of the climbers are still en route, but some have started to settle into BC, and are even looking at moving up the mountain already. While it is still early, it is time for the acclimatization process to get underway.

Perhaps the biggest piece of news from the past few days is that the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall has been completed. The Icefall Doctors finished the route last Friday and will continue to maintain it until the end of May. This will be the path that climbers use on their way up and down the mountain, and is often considered the scariest part of the entire climb. The Icefall consists of massive blocks of ice that are calving off the end of a glacier. They can move as much as 2-3 feet a day, which makes the ice very unstable. Collapses are not uncommon, and large crevasses plummet into unseen depths all around. The climbers must cross a series of ladders that are placed horizontally over those crevasses in order to make their way in and out of the Icefall. It can be very treacherous, but once they are on the other side, it is a clear shot up to Camp 1.

Speaking of which, Alan Arnette is reporting that now that the Icefall route is complete, the Sherpas have begun shuttling gear up to Camp 1 and Camp 2. They are preparing the way for their clients, by setting up camp, and having tents, food, and other equipment waiting for the climbers when they follow up the slopes later this week. Soon, those camps will start to see a steady stream of visitors too.

The IMG squad was  amongst the first to arrive in BC, with their first climbers reaching that point on Saturday. They'll be spending some time on nearby Lobuche as part of their standard acclimatization rotations, but the team went up the Base Camp to start to get settled. The Altitude Junkies are further back down the valley at the moment. After taking their rest day in Namche Bazaar last Friday, they moved up to Debouche on Saturday, and Dingboche yesterday. They are there for another day today as they continue to let their bodies adapt to the altitude. The Peak Freaks team is on about the same schedule, and both squads should arrive in EBC on Thursday or Friday of this week.

My friend Gulnur Tumbat is in the Khumbu now and making the trek herself. She's blogging about her experiences as she heads to Everest this spring. She was in Namche last Friday, where she reports headaches and insomnia, which are all common side effects of being at altitude. As she adapts to her surroundings, those symptoms should start to fade away, but they can also be worrisome in the early stages of the trek and climb, as the mountaineers adjust to their surroundings.

Reportedly, all of the climbing teams are meeting with officials from the Napli government before they depart for the Khumbu. This has been standard procedure for some time, but this year they are also being updated on some of the new rules that have been put in place. That includes the requirement for all climbers to bring down 8kg (17.6 pounds) of garbage when they depart from the mountain. They have also been informed of the presence of law enforcement in BC, a direct result of last year's much vaunted fight between the Sherpas and high profile European climbers, as well as the establishment of a checkpoint at the entrance to Base Camp to check for proper permits. None of these things are big surprises for anyone who has been following the early stages of the season, but it is good to hear that Nepal is following through with their promise to keep things orderly this year.

That's about it for now. We should see a lot more arrivals in Base Camp over the next few days, and the true work will begin. Those heading for the North Side BC in Tibet will probably get moving this week as well. The season is underway, although the climbing hasn't even commenced yet.

No comments: