Sunday, April 16, 2017

Into the Khumbu Ice Fall we go!

Last night after dinner, Anders and I skipped the movie (“The Departed”) as we had seen it before.  We repaired to our respective tents.  I did Face Time Audio with Alex and Jen back home—it was great to catch up with an extended conversation.  I then watched a TV show on my iPad and read a bit more on my Kindle (Mountain Shadow).

I went to bed in six layers and fell promptly to sleep around 9:30.  The next thing I knew it was 5:15 in the morning.  After a bit of fluid management, I went back to sleep and awoke at 7:45.  A full 10 hours of sleep—heaven!

After breakfast, Anders, Brent, John, Geoff and I walked up towards the top of Base Camp where we found the beginning of the trail that leads up to the summit of Everest.  We took that trail and begin the circuitous climb up into the lower section of the Khumbu Ice Fall.  To say it was amazing just doesn’t do it justice.

The path for the most part was easy from a physical perspective.  As an aside, I felt as good as I’ve felt above 15,000 feet and I was able to handle any of the little pitches with ease—I think I’ve finally acclimatized to 17,000+ feet.  We weaved in and out of seracs and as we approached the bottom portions of the West Shoulder of Everest and Nuptse they seemed to tower even more steeply and higher than they appeared to do so from Base Camp—man, these things are massive!

Looking up one couldn’t help but be impressed by the massive overhanging glaciers on both sides of the steeply ascending Ice Fall.  Literally, tons and tons of ice hanging thousands of feet above us.

As we climbed deeper into the Ice Fall, the path upwards became increasingly visible as we saw groups of Sherpas climbing up or rappelling down.  Despite the massive ice above us, I felt reassured about the path through the Ice Fall that Anders will need to negotiate several times in the near future.  To be clear however, it certainly did not look easy.

After we had ascended about 300-350 feet we came upon a short, very steep climb.  Here the team donned crampons and I elected to not climb upwards any more.  It was clear things were going to get considerably more vertical and the climbers needed to get some good work in—I certainly would have held them back.  This turned out to be a great call as Anders said it went relentlessly upwards from there, most of it requiring fixed rope climbing/descending.

After the team left me I lingered for a while watching people negotiate the path above me.  At one point I saw Anders and the other three several hundred feet above me.  Anders said the climbing was a lot of work and they continued upwards about 500 vertical feet from the point I stopped.

Meanwhile I weaved my way back down through the Ice Fall by myself—which was pretty straightforward.  About the time I was nearing Base Camp and Anders et al were topping out, an avalanche roared off the West shoulder of Everest falling downwards towards Base Camp and where I was.  Anders and team had a close to eye-level view of it and it was an impressive sight.  Down below, my mind quickly determined it was a “small” one and it represented no danger to anyone.  It was mesmerizing and I watched it for a good minute.

The rest of the trip back to our site was uneventful, although I picked up a canine friend who followed me for about a third of a mile.  In total I took about 2:30 and travelled about 2.5 miles.  I ascended and descended about 470 feet.  Anders and team rolled in about 90 minutes later and we are now sitting in the Long Tent post lunch.

BTW, since last night the winds have been 40-50 mph, relentlessly rustling the tents.  In a couple of places we had painful, horizontally driven spindrift to deal with.  All part of the program.   On the plus side, skies were clear again and the forecast is for clear skies and calming winds in the days ahead.

All good here at Everest!

Here are some pictures from today:

Early into the walk up along side Base Camp:


Anders leading the way:


The Ice Fall as we near the beginning of the Everest route:


Into the Ice Fall we go:


As we climb upwards, we rely on Brent to guide us:


The four amigos who will climb this beast together:


 Much of the trip through the Ice Fall that i did was straight forward:


Anders and I on the Everest summit route with the Ice Fall ascending in front of the West shoulder of Everest behind us:



I dropped back a bit to lend some perspective to this photo.  That and I'm a lot slower than the real climbers!


The path in the Ice Fall is pretty amazing:


We reach "Crampon Point" and the gang gears up as I prepare to say goodbye for now:


Anders, ready to rumble:


  Anders free climbing up towards Brent:




I watch the team climb higher for a bit:


Down below, I watch the small avalanche tumble off the West Shoulder:


Up above, Anders has more of a birds eye view of the rumbling avalanche:


The view from where Anders topped out today.  You can see Base Camp below:





1 comment:

Craig Barlow said...

Hi RC,

I'm really enjoying reading your blog! It's really starting to get exciting with Anders heading up into the Icefall. I know Anders from skydiving and we also chatted about climbing a little as I climbed Everest last year with Greg and IMG. Please say hi to Anders and tell him good luck over the next several weeks as things start to get real!

Craig Barlow