Month: April 2012

Everest Base Camp Living!

Everest Base Camp Living!

Greetings from Everest Base Camp.  Since last we checked in we had just descended from C2 after sleeping a few nights up high.  Since then we have spent the last few days resting, hydrating, consuming lots of calories, and in general regenerating our bodies and planning for our next trip up high.
The days spent at Everest Base Camp are an excellent excuse to relax and be lazy.  One of the joys of expedition climbing is having time to sit and enjoy a good book, write, and take some time to simply relax “guilt free” which has become an increasingly rare commodity in our modern society.  We also find a renewed appreciation for the simple things in life such as an unhurried hot shower or putting on a clean pair of socks and a fresh t-shirt for the first time in several days.
Weather has been pretty typical for April in the Himalayas.  Night time temperatures dip into the teens or low 20s.  During the daytime the mornings are clear, sunny, and usually very pleasant with little to no wind.  Most afternoons see the skies turn partly cloudy.  Occasionally it will cloud over enough for light snow to fall.  The ridge lines above 7000m or 24,000′  have been getting hit by strong winds of 60+ mph, which is typical for this time of year.  Recently at Base Camp we have seen the first signs of the coming spring.  Temperatures are starting to gradually warm up and the sun is peaking over the ridge tops a little earlier each morning.
After several days of rest and preparation we are now ready to make our next trip above Base Camp.  These forays we make to higher camps are referred to as “rotations”.  Here is the plan for our next rotation:
April 28:  Climb to C2 (6495m/21,309′)
April 29:  Rest at C2, small hike to stretch our legs
April 30:  Hike to the base of the Lhotse Face, return to C2
May 1:  Climb the Lhotse Face to C3 (7406m/24,300′), sleep here
May 2:  Return to C2
May 3:  Return to Base Camp
A special thanks to everybody for following along with us through this blog.  For all of you who have written words of encouragement in response to our posts on this blog please know we have read every single one of your comments.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support.  We will plan on checking in again after returning from our next rotation up high.
Below are a few pictures from the last few days of Base Camp living:

Teammates at dinner time.

One of our awesome Sherpa cooks in the kitchen. Our kitchen equipment includes several large propane burners hauled in by yaks. All water is boiled and the cooking area is kept clean at all times. These guys do a fantastic job in a challenging environment keeping us fed three square meals a day!

Pizza, potatoes, and cooked vegetables for dinner at Everest Base Camp!

Inside our shower at Everest Base Camp complete with slate flooring!

Our Base Camp shower's plumbing. A large blue drum is filled with icy water from the Khumbu Glacier. The water travels down a syphoned hose and passes through a gas powered "on demand" water heater on its way to the shower head.

Grooming rituals... Kurt getting acquainted with his beard trimmer at Everest Base Camp.

Fred (right) and teammate Atte from Finland (left) examining our oxygen system at Base Camp.

Fred satisfied with the fit of his oxygen mask that he'll use on our summit attempt in May.

Rest days are a great time to visit friends we are sharing the mountain with. On one afternoon Kurt and Atte visited long time good friends from Argentina. Over several rounds of South American Yerba Mate we caught up with Fernando Grajales and friends who help us with expedition logistics when we guide our Aconcagua expeditions. Left to right: Kurt, Fernando, Tomas, a Sherpa, Atte, Luciano, and another Sherpa.

A glacial lake on the Khumbu Glacier near our Base Camp.

Strong winds aloft create a snow plume off the ridge in front of the summit of Nuptse (7864m/25,800') as seen from Everest Base Camp.

Everest Team Reaches Camp 2!

Fred and Kurt in the Western Cwm.

Greetings from Everest Base Camp!  We are safely back here after spending four nights at Camps 1 & 2.  On April 19 we had a pre dawn breakfast and left EBC at 4:45am.  We navigated a short way by headlamp then put on our crampons and began climbing through the Khumbu Icefall.  After several previous acclimatization climbs we had become a very efficient climbing team and it showed as we made it past the Icefall and all the way to Camp 1 in a very respectable 4 1/2 hours arriving at 9:15.
Our goal by sleeping at Camps 1 & 2 was to continue the acclimatization process by living for a few days at higher elevation.  We spent the rest of April 19 doing just that.  We hydrated, read books, and generally relaxed as our bodies adjusted to this new elevation.  We had previously reported Camp 1 to be at 6120m.  After being there we are readjusting that elevation to 6100m/20,012′, which was still the highest altitude we had reached during the expedition up until then.
On April 20 we climbed to Camp 2 at 6495m/21,309′ then returned to Camp 1.  Our route to Camp 2 takes us farther up the Khumbu Glacier through an area we call the Western Cwm (pronounced “coom”).  The terrain levels out significantly over what it is in the Icafall.  We crossed a few ladders that bridged deep crevasses but overall found the route to be straightforward posing no real problems.  The scenery in the Western Cwm is spectacular. Dominating our view was Lhotse, the 4th highest mountain in the world at 8516m/27,939′.  Dramatically rising above the Western Cwm almost 6000′ to its summit is the Lhotse Face.  Later in the expedition our route from Camp 2 to 3 will take us directly up this face.  The summit of Mt. Everest also reveals itself (to the left of Lhotse) during our climb to Camp 2.
The Western Cwm is a big valley with walls rising several thousand feet on three sides.  Solar radiation in the Cwm creates a dramatic rise in air temperature that can make climbing through it uncomfortably hot.  To combat this we left Camp 1 at 6:45am while the Cwm was still in shade.  By the time the sun reached us after 8am we were well on our way to Camp 2.  Arriving at our destination three hours after departing we relaxed, hydrated, and had an early lunch before returning to Camp 1.
On April 21 we moved up to Camp 2.  We had received a weather forecast calling for the jet stream to make a significant drop in elevation which would threaten to give us high winds over these days we had planned to spend at Camp 2.  “Weather forecasts” are just that though; they’re forecasts.  To rely solely on them without using good mountaineering sense and judgment is a good way to shortchange your climbing team.  Also, we have no idea how hard the winds would blow.  Given that we had all the clothing and equipment to withstand inclement weather we went ahead with our plans to move to Camp 2.  Winds went from calm to a steady 20-25 mph.  This added a wind chill to the air temperature but nothing we weren’t prepared to handle.
Winds stayed steady all day and all night with occasional gusts hitting 60+ mph.  On April 22 we decided to stay with our plan to take an acclimatization hike towards the base of the Lhotse Face.  Our goal was to try to hit 22,000’/6700m.  We put on our clothing layers and ventured out late morning from Camp 2.  With wind gusts ranging from 10-30 mph (and occasionally stronger) we roped up on the glaciated terrain and had a nice hike.  Only a handful of climbers have ventured this high so far this season.  The winds made the hike colder and more strenuous but this only served to add additional benefit to our acclimatization.  After hitting our intended altitude we descended back to Camp 2.  Winds continued for the rest of the day and evening.
On April 23 we woke at 3:45am to pack up and descend to Base Camp.  We wanted to hit the Khumbu Icefall in the early morning hours.  After breakfast we put on our climbing harnesses and crampons, saddled up our rucksacks, and left Camp 2.  Early morning cold temperatures coupled with wind made for raw conditions as we started walking at 5:15am.  We moved well going downhill though and we were through the Icefall and back to Base Camp at 9:00am.
Warmer temperatures and relatively thicker air greeted us here.  Our plan now is to rest for the next couple days.  We will plan on moving higher and hopefully climbing the Lhotse Face on our next trip up.  We’re currently planning on leaving on April 27.
Here are a few pictures from our adventures over the last few days:

April 19: Fred crossing a ladder spanning a large crevasse in the upper Khumbu Icefall en route to Camp 1.

April 19: Kancha Nuru Sherpa near the top of the Khumbu Icefall

Camp 1 on the Khumbu Glacier in the Western Cwm at 6100m/20,012'.

April 19: Kurt and Fred after arriving at Camp, 6100m/20,012'.

April 20: Looking up the Western Cwm during a day hike. Lhotse is the right peak on the skyline. The summit of Everest is just starting to reveal itself as the highest point on the left skyline.

Kurt and Kancha Nuru Sherpa in the Western Cwm. Mt. Everest is on the skyline above Kurt's head. Kancha reached the summit of Everest for the first time with Kurt on May 21, 2008. He has now summitted four times.

Ladder crossing in the Western Cwm.

Fred and Kancha at a rest break en route to Camp 2.

The Lhotse Face from Camp 2.

April 22: Kurt leading the way towards the base of the Lhotse Face.

April 22: Kurt, Fred, and Kancha near the base of the Lhotse Face during an acclimatization hike.

Everest Team Ready To Move Above Base Camp!

Since arriving at Base Camp (5365m/17,600′) our primary focus has been to start the acclimatization process in preparation for moving higher on the mountain.  Acclimatizing is the term used for the human body as it adjusts to higher elevation.  As one ascends the available oxygen diminishes.  By the time we hit approximately 5500m or 18,000′ we have half the available oxygen as at sea level.  The summit of Everest (8850m/29,035′) has 21% of the O2 that’s at the ocean.  The human body’s reaction to living at higher elevation is to produce more red blood cells in an effort to more efficiently transport oxygen through our systems.  Climbing higher and returning to Base Camp helps this process nicely.

The view from our Base Camp. Mt. Everest is obscured from view by the prominent point left of center, which leads to Everest's West Ridge. The Khumbu Icefall is the broken up snow/ice directly above the dirt in the foreground.

We have now taken several acclimatizing day hikes and have had great success.  Each time we took another hike we felt stronger.  One hike we took was to Camp 1 of a nearby mountain called Pumo Ri (7165m/23,507′).  This striking peak sits on the border of Nepal and Tibet on the opposite side of the Khumbu Glacier from where Mt. Everest is located.  Hiking to C1 on Pumo Ri not only got us up to 5640m/18,503′ but we got a nice view of the route where we will soon be climbing.

Fred enjoying an acclimatization hike on Pumo Ri above Base Camp with the dramatic backdrop of Nuptse (right) and Everest (left).

Kurt on an acclimatization hike on Pumo Ri. The unnamed alpine lake below is at 5400m/17,716'.

Fred at the base of the Khumbu Icefall with Everest Base Camp behind.

We also climbed into the infamous Khumbu Icefall.  The Khumbu Glacier begins at an altitude of over 6700m or 22,000′.  It flows down past our Base Camp (we’re camped on the Khumbu Glacier) to its terminus at about 4900m or 16,000′.  There’s an area above Base Camp where two ridge lines on either side of the glacier angle towards each other forcing it to flow through a more narrow corridor.  Right at this location the terrain steepens considerably.  This causes the glacier to do two things:  (1) speed up its flow to about 3′-4′ per day, and (2) break up its smooth flow into large ice blocks that weigh several tons and crevasses that can be 30m or 100’+ deep.  This feature on a glacier is called an “icefall”.
To navigate through the Khumbu Icefall climbers must weave their way around and over countless large ice blocks and cross ladders that are anchored in the snow/ice to span the large crevasses.  We took three trips into the Khumbu Icefall.  Each successive time we went higher in elevation offering us the chance to further acclimatize.  This also gave us the opportunity to practice and get efficient with climbing techniques that we use as we climb higher on Mt Everest.  Climbing efficiently is essential for energy conservation on big mountains, and critical for a safe and successful ascent of Mt Everest.  Each time through we analyzed how the day went and identified areas that we could work on to help make the next trip more efficient.
Our last climb up the Khumbu Icefall was on Aprl 16. We made it to an altitude of 6050m/19,849′.  This brought us all the way through the Icefall to within about 30 minutes from Camp 1.  After a quick break for water and food we descended back to Base Camp.  We did the round trip in a very respectable 7 hours 40 minutes.  With the success of this latest climb we are now ready to explore and sleep higher on Mt Everest!
Our plan for the next few days (weather permitting) is to sleep as high as Camp 2 then return to Base Camp to rest and recuperate:
April 17-18:  Rest/prepare food and equipment for being at Camps 1 & 2.
April 19:  Move to Camp 1 (6120m/20,078′), sleep here.
April 20:  Climb to Camp 2, sleep at Camp 1.
April 21:  Climb to Camp 2 (6495m/21,309′), sleep here.
April 22:  Climb to base of the Lhotse Face (6750m/22,145′), sleep at C2.
April 23:  Return to Base Camp.
We plan on spending a few days resting at Base Camp then we will climb back to C2 and try to sleep above this camp.  To put us in position for a summit attempt we will establish Camp 3 at 7406m/24,300′ and Camp 4 at 7955m/26,100′.  More on these camps later.  Stay tuned…
We’re feeling strong and healthy as we prepare to make our move towards Camps 1 & 2.  A special thank you to all our family and friends for your continued support.  We will plan on checking in again after April 23!
Below are a few pictures of our adventures climbing in the Khumbu Icefall:

Fred crossing a crevasse on the Khumbu Glacier during an acclimatization climb on April 14, 2012.

Fred topping out on a large ice block while climbing in the Khumbu Icefall.

Fred climbing a ladder spanning an overhanging ice block in the Khumbu Icefall.

Fred crossing a ladder spanning a deep crevasse in the Khumbu Icefall on the descent of an acclimatization climb.

Kurt at the bottom of the Khumbu Icefall at the end of another successful acclimatization climb.

More from Everest Base Camp!

Fred enjoying an acclimatization hike on Pumo Ri above Base Camp with the dramatic backdrop of Nuptse (right) and Everest (left).

Our Sherpa's dancing at the end of the "Puja ceremony".

Kurt and Fred dancing with the Sherpa's at the culmination of the "Puja ceremony" at Everest Base Camp on April 10, 2012.

Fred (standing on the far left) joining our Sherpa's in their "Puja ceremony" at Everest Base Camp. They construct an alter where they burn juniper. They hang prayer flags from a post above the alter. A lama from the town of Pangboche walked up to read some pray

Everest Team Reaches Base Camp!

Greetings from Everest Base Camp at 5365m/17,600′.  We arrived here on Easter Sunday. After leaving Pheriche we spent three nights at a camp at the base of Lobuche Peak before moving to EBC.  Camped in a small amphitheater we were treated to outstanding views of the north face of Cholatse as well as distant peaks we passed by in prior days.  On April 8 we packed up our gear and trekked past the villages of Lobuche and Gorak Shep.  The route then drops onto the Khumbu Glacier.  Pumo Ri (7165m/23,507′), Nuptse (7864m/25,800′), Lhotse (8516m/27,939′), and Everest (8850m/29,035′) dominated our field of view.
Arriving at EBC caps off one of the all time classic treks in the world.  From the culture to the stunning scenery and the people and wildlife along the way this trek is an experience like no other!  There were several people who accompanied us to Everest Base Camp just to experience everything this trek has to offer.  After spending a couple days with us they took off on April 11 to descend back down valley en route to Kathmandu to catch flights home.
Since arriving at EBC our primary focus has been to get acclimated to this elevation.  Over the coming days we plan to take a few day hikes around our area and make our first forays into the Khumbu Icefall.  On April 10 we did our first training and practice on the skills and techniques needed to climb above EBC.  This included cramponing, ascending and descending fixed lines, and practicing walking across the rungs of ladders that will be spanning crevasses in the Icefall and beyond.

Fred practicing fixed line ascension on an ice tower on the Khumbu Glacier near our Base Camp.

Everest Team Moving Closer to Base Camp!

Mt. Everest (8850m/29,035') and Lhotse (8516m/27,939') the first and fourth highest mountains in the world with the Tenzing Norgay monument in the foreground. The first ascent of Mt. Everest is credited to Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa. This monument was built in 2003 in honor of Tenzing Norgay.

After 3 nights in Namche Bazaar we hiked 5 hours to the village of Deboche at 3820m/12,533′ where we spent the nights April 1 and 2 at the Rivendell Lodge.

Deboche is located 40m/131′ below Tengboche, site of the most well known Buddhist monasteries in the Khumbu.  The team visited the monastery then went next door to the best bakery in the Khumbu.  We sat outside enjoying freshly baked apple pie and chocolate cake under sunny skies with views of Everest (8850m/29,035′), Lhotse (8516m/27,939′), and Ama Dablam (6856m/22,493′).

The entrance to the Tengboche monastery.

Kurt and Fred at the Tengboche monastery.

Inside the Tengboche monastery.

On April 3 the team packed up to move to Pheriche (4240m/13,910′).  Along the hike we were treated to a close sighting of a group of Nepalese mountain goats perched on a shelf directly above our trail.  Moving higher the team passed through Pangboche where we visited Lama Geshe, a local monk who offered his blessing on our climb.  His blessings included chanting, incense burning, and the presentation of a scarf an a choker around each trekker’s neck along with a delicate “head butt”.  After our visit the weather turned cloudy and by noon light snow was falling.  We stopped at a tea house for lunch then finished our hike to Pheriche with snow creating a thin blanket on our trail.

A Nepalese mountain goat watching us from a perch above our trekking route.

Fred and Kurt on a suspension bridge spanning a river filled gorge far below.

Fred getting a "head butt" blessing from a lama in Pangboche.

The weather cleared on April 4 and the team decided to take an acclimatization day hike above Pheriche where we got nice views of the surrounding peaks.  Besides Everest there are many spectacular peaks in this region of the Himalayas.  Every new bend in our route reveals more of these beautiful mountains.  We feel humbled and truly blessed to be among these great peaks, many of which rise over a mile above us and are relatively unknown among the general mountaineering community.  Peaks within our field of view today included Tabuche (6495m/21,308′), Cholatse (6335m/20,784′), and Arakam Tse (6423m/21,072′) as well as the more well known Island Peak (6189m/20,304′), which is one of the most popular trekking peaks in the region.

Located in Pheriche is a high altitude medical clinic that has been in operation since 1973.  The Himalayan Rescue Association staffs it with doctors who provide service to trekkers and climbers in need of medical attention. The work done here over the past 39 years has led to a large contribution of what we know about high altitude medicine today.  The team visited the clinic in the afternoon after our day hike where one of the doctors shared some insights on high altitude medicine then gave us a tour of the facility.

On April 5 our plan is to move to Lobuche (5290m/17,355′) Base Camp.  Lobuche is another trekking peak in the area.  It’s Base Camp will be a nice place to continue our acclimatization.  We’ll spend three nights here then trek to Everest Base Camp!  It looks like we’ll be “out of range” from the outside world during this time.  The next time we expect to check in will be after we’re settled at Everest Base Camp.

We want to thank everybody for all your prayers and support during our journey so far.  We look forward to being in touch again soon!!

A Sherpani girl in Pangboche.

Sherpa's in Pangboche cultivating their fields preparing for the upcoming growing season when the monsoons come in June.

Yaks being herded past our route as the snow began to fall en route to Pheriche. Yaks are the local beast of burden in Nepal and Tibet. They normally live above 10,000'.

Fred nearing Pheriche Pass (4218m/13,838') en route to the village of Pheriche in a white out while light snow continued to fall.

Fred (right) and fellow team member Bandar (left) crossing a bridge shortly before arriving at Pheriche.

Fred and Kurt arriving at the Himalayan Hotel in Pheriche, the tea house where they slept in for two nights.

Fred, Brad, Lisa, Vanessa, and Karl enjoying the spectacular views on a day hike above Pheriche.

Kurt and Fred pause on a ridgeline where rocks were stacked to hang prayer flags during an acclimatization day hike above Pheriche.

A Himalayan Griffon souring above checking us out during our acclimatization day hike above Pheriche.

SMI founder and guide Kurt Wedberg with Ama Dablam in the background. Kurt climbed this mountain by the Southeast Ridge in October of 1998.

A group picture at approximately 15,000' during an acclimatization day hike above Pheriche. Fred and Kurt are trekking and sharing Base Camp with them during their Everest expedition. Front row: Kurt, Lopsong Sherpa, Bandar, Brad. Back Row: Kevin, Jan, Andy, Karl, Dwayne, Lisa, Catherine, Mark, Ray, John, Jenni, Justin, Vanessa, Fred, Purna, Mingma, Atte, Furi, and Tashi.

Everest Team Healthy And Moving Well

Kurt Wedberg and Fred Simmons on the deck of the Everest View Hotel above Namche Bazaar. The peak to the right is Ama Dablam. Everest is obscured by clouds behind.

Greetings from Namche Bazaar at 3440m/11,286′.  This village is located in a small natural amphitheater where three major routes coming from different valleys intersect.  The location of Namche makes it a natural center of commerce for the area.
We arrived here on March 29 with the intention of staying here three nights before continuing to higher elevation.  We checked in to the Khumbu Lodge, which is a well known tea house where many famous climbers have stayed over the years.
On March 30 we took a day hike to a couple nearby villages that are higher in elevation to see the sights and acclimatize.  Our first stop was the Everest View Hotel.  As the name suggests it is possible to see Everest from its perch.  Clouds obscured Everest but we were able to see several scenic and beautiful peaks including the stunning Ama Dablam (6856m/22,493′), which is known among the mountaineering community as being one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.  We sat on the deck of the hotel and sipped hot chocolates while enjoying the vistas before continuing on to the village of Khumjung at 3780m/12,401′.  Sir Edmund Hillary was instrumental in building a school here for the Sherpa community back in 1961.  Today 500+ kids attend school here from several villages including Namche.  The kids in Namche daily walk up and down the 440m/1444′ change in elevation for their education.  We visited the school and had lunch before descending back to Namche where we had a little time to relax and hydrate before dinner.

Kurt and Fred at the school at Khumjung (3780m/12,401'). After Sir Edmund Hillary became the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest he spent much of his life work to helping the Sherpa community. He helped found many schools including this one in 1961. The statue behind is a monument commemorating Hillary.

March 31 was a rest day for us.  We visited the local market where people are selling local vegetables, fruit, meat, and grains.  Team members also took time to shop in the tourist markets where they sell Tibetan made wool and silk rugs, yak wool shawls and scarfs, locally made beads, necklaces, yak bells and much more.  After lunch, a group of trekkers walked up to the rim of Namche’s amphitheater to visit the Sagarmatha National Park Conservation Museum and the Sherpa Museum that highlights and honors some of the famous Sherpas in mountaineering history.
Feeling healthy and strong we’re ready to pack up tomorrow for our move to the next village up the valley; Deboche at 3820m/12,533′.
Below are a few more pictures taken by Kurt Wedberg.   We will keep trying to upload more to the SMI photo gallery at

The village of Namche Bazaar sits in an amphitheater in the mountains of Nepal at 3440m/11,286'.

A Nepali lady at market day in Namche Bazaar.

Yak bells for sale in Namche Bazaar.

Sherpani's conducting business at market day i Namche Bazaar.

Men buying and selling fruit at market day in Namche Bazaar.

A local porter (left) buying fruit at the market in Nmche Bazaar.

The local meat market in Namche Bazaar.

A Nepali man selling hot peppers at the market in Namche Bazaar.

Kids in Khumjung.