Judy here reporting in: As Randy is starting his long journey back to Delaware from Nepal, right now Anders is undertaking a strenuous journey of his own up the very steep Lhotse Face on his way to Camp 3 at 23,500 ft. I spoke with Anders earlier on his satellite phone as he was getting ready to spend his third night at Camp 2 before the climb up Lhotse face the next morning. At a frigid 6 degrees, he said he was feeling "pretty good" but admitted "it was a little cold"! Because he is getting more acclimatized, he was feeling much better than his previous visit to Camp 2. The first night had been pretty rough sleeping, but last night he had slept well. They were about to eat a carb-heavy dinner, and Anders said he'd been eating and drinking more than his first rotation, which was reassuring because at one point he had felt a little bit dehydrated on the first rotation.
They are about 10 hours ahead of us so, as I'm getting ready to go to sleep, Anders is probably well into this grueling 2000 foot ascent. Lhotse face is an extremely demanding, exhausting section of the Everest climb, rising in about 40 to 50 degrees pitches with occasionally steeper sections. The high-altitude sherpas have been hard at work using ice anchors and screws to set up fixed up and down lines which the climbers must clip onto at all times. Anders and his teammates will use harnesses, crampons, ice axes, and mechanical clamps called jumars to haul themselves up this face -- plus a lot of strength and determination. Lhotse Face is typically hard-packed blue ice with very little snow, so they will need to jam their crampons into the ice to get purchase. One intimidating part is that the ropes are about 200 feet long, so at every junction when a new rope starts, the climbers have to unclip and clip back onto the new rope. Another challenge on these fixed ropes is that, crazy as it sounds, sometimes there are actually traffic jams with other climbers or Sherpas transporting gear up and down the mountain. One might wonder how it is that so many people want to climb Everest that there is actually traffic!
Once up at Camp 3 there is only about 40% oxygen density, so the guys will not stay up there long before descending back to Camp 2. It used to be that climbers would spend a night at Camp 3 during this second rotation, but that is extremely rough without oxygen, so in recent years the recommended approach is climbing to Camp 3, hanging out a bit, then descending back down the face to Camp 2. I am not exactly sure how long it might take them to ascend the Lhotse face to Camp 3; I think maybe 6 hours or so. So I'm hopeful that in the morning I might hear from Anders that he, Brent, John, and Geoff are safely back at Camp 2. I will update when I hear that good news!!