Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Everest First Rotation: Anders Made it Safely to Camp One

Judy (Randy's wife/Anders' mom) here with an update from the guys:

Last night my kids and I were chatting on our family text with Anders, wishing him luck and sending our love as he was preparing to head off for the first very significant part of climbing Mt. Everest. It was 4:00 am Nepal time (6pm ours) and Anders was leaving for what is known as the "First Rotation".  Basically this First Rotation entails an extremely challenging climb up to Camp One (20,000 ft) and staying for 2 nights. Then, if the weather holds and the team is doing well, they will advance up to Camp Two (21,000) for 2 nights, then descend back to Base Camp (18,000).  All this is an effort to further acclimatize so they can handle the extreme altitude of this monster 29,000 foot mountain.  Once back at Base Camp they will recover a few days, then head up for Rotation Two to get even higher up the mountain. There are only two "prep" rotations, the next ascent will be game time, time to try to summit. But one day at a time....

You can see Camp 1, and their next goal of Camp II. Amazing how much higher the summit is!
Anders is traveling in a very impressive team of four: his guide Brent, the other climber John, and John's guide Geoff.  As usual Anders sounded optimistic and upbeat as he was getting ready to take on this initial challenge. He texted us that he loves us, thanks us for all the positive vibes, and ended with,  "It's a beautiful night, perfect for a stroll through the ice fall."  Their small team left Base Camp in the wee hours so they could tackle the Khumbu Ice Fall in the dark, while the terrain was more stable. In the daylight the ice shifts. The Khumbu Ice Fall is a steep, intimidating section of Everest, with lots of crevasses, ice pinnacles, seracs, and challenging icy ascents.

We weren't sure Anders' satlellite phone would work on the moutain, and needless to say,  we were all a bit worried overnight. I was VERY relieved this morning to get a call from him that they were safely at Camp One!  In Anders' understated way, he described this climb as a lot more "interesting" than most climbs. On some of his prior expeditions they end up "slugging along for hours" on an unvarying trail, whereas the ice fall in comparison is "exciting and very cool".  This "exciting" ascent entailed climbing up 2000 feet carrying 30 pound packs -- using crampons, ice axes, and fixed ropes, and climbing or crossing 15 ladders, some fixed horizontally over deep crevasses, some completely vertical to scale up steep ice faces using ice axes to haul themselves up. It's tough work. One of the biggest objective dangers in the Ice Fall is overhanging ice ledges that might dislodge; Anders said there was only one sketchy sector with an overhang and they hustled through in 10 minutes.  I'm sure that's supposed to make me feel reassured!  I asked Anders if today was scary, and he said, "Well, Mom, you wouldn't like it, but I felt safe the whole time."  It took them 6 hours to climb up to Camp One which is very fast.  Usually the first ascent through Khumba Ice Fall with some other climbing traffic and without being acclimatized can take from 10 - 12 hours. But Anders said his small team is very strong and can move quickly: the guides Brent and Geoff are unbelievable, John is super strong and I know Anders is speedy.  This is reassuring because then they can move swiftly through the danger zones.

The sherpas had climbed up earlier and set up a couple tents at Camp One, and their team of four carried up extra food, gear, and sleeping bags. So they are set up as well as anyone can be at this very remote camp. For a couple days they will be mostly hanging out, reading (Anders brought his Kindle), and trying to stay warm as their bodies adjust to the altitude. Weather today was fairly pleasant for Everest, with clouds rolling in as I spoke to Anders and a bit of snow predicted for overnight.  Hope they stay warm and safe up there!

Meanwhile, as Randy had reported on the previous blog, he is off on 4-day trek to pass the time while Anders is climbing and to explore some of the surrounding beauty with a young Sherpa as a guide. He forgot to bring along his chargers for his iPad and computer, so he will be a bit more out of touch than usual. However he did manage to text a bit this afternoon, so I was able to let him know Anders and team had made it safely to Camp One. Phew! Randy is heading to Goyko tomorrow which is a slightly bigger remote small village, but may have wifi. He has to cross a high pass and two glaciers, so I will be glad to hear from both my guys again tomorrow and know they are safe and doing well.

More tomorrow and we appreciate your prayers and good wishes for these (somewhat crazy) guys, and for the rest of the family trying to stay calm and positive at home!

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