Category: Himalayas

Everest Expedition Wrap Up

Reuniting with friends, family, and loved ones is an important part of an expedition. From left to right: Fred Simmons, Fred's daughter Carolyn Simmons, and Kurt Wedberg. Carolyn got to witness first hand Fred and Kurt taking care of food cravings at a restaurant in LA!

Our Spring 2012 Everest Expedition is now over.  Fred and I managed to get up to the summit and back down in one piece.  It was a great life adventure like no other.  Like all big expeditions it will take some time for the full magnitude of what we accomplished to sink in.  For now we are fortunate enough to be in the position to enjoy every moment of that process.  We landed at LAX on May 24.  After a nice afternoon nap we worked on our first of many food cravings by getting dinner at a local burger joint called The Counter.  These huge burgers are made to order and loaded with mounds of toppings!!  This sent us into a satisfying food coma and soon we were back catching up on much needed sleep.  Climbing Mt. Everest takes a lot out of a person both physically and mentally.  Since we were standing on the summit only a week ago it’s understandable that our bodies are craving much deserved rest and a replenishment of calories!!

We have been asked a lot about our summit day.  For those interested here is a brief synopsis of how the day went:

The summit push took us seven days in total from Base Camp back to Base Camp.  We stayed right with our original projected schedule:

May 15:  Climb from Base Camp to Camp 2 (6495m/21,309′)
May 16:  Rest at C2
May 17:  Climb from C2 to C3 (7406m/24,300′)
May 18:  Climb from C3 to C4 (7955m/26,100′)
May 19:  Summit Day, return to C4
May 20:  Descend from C4 to C2
May 21:  Descend from C2 to Base Camp

After resting at C2 on the 16th it was time to move up to C3.  This begins the summit push in earnest.  As one moves into this rarified air the human body takes a toll.  If weather forced us to retreat it would take several days for us to recover sufficiently to try again.  We left C2 at 4:30am.  The route took us up the Lhotse Face, which is about 30-45 degrees in steepness.  Our goal was to get high on this face en route to C3 before the sun hit us.   Upon arriving at C3 we slept on oxygen overnight.  This gave our bodies a chance to recover.  On May 18 we woke early and began the climb to C4 at 7am.  Our route continued up the Lhotse Face then crossed left through the yellow band of shale.  After ascending the yellow band we traversed onto a rock promontory known as the Geneva Spur.  Topping out on the Spur the route then leveled off as it headed to the South Col where C4 is located.

After arriving at C4 at 1pm our goal was to relax and prepare for our summit push.  We relaxed on oxygen and made sure our rucksacks were packed.  We were planning to get an early start so every bit of rest we could get now would be important.  In the rarified air at C4 everything we did was a chore.  Although we had burned lots of calories and were hungry the act of digesting food was extremely difficult.  We did our best to hydrate and eat food though, which would be critical for our climb.

At 7:30pm we started getting ready.  We put on our climbing harnesses, boots, and crampons while wearing headlamps.  We shouldered our rucksacks each filled with an oxygen bottle and at 8:15pm we began our ascent.  Weather was cold with a steady wind blowing 20-30mph.  Many other headlamps could be seen ahead of us on the route.  Soon we were attaching ourselves to the fixed line that was anchored the previous day by an advance team of Sherpa’s and we settled into a rhythm of 3-4 deep breaths for each step we took up hill.

With no moon we had a blanket of stars above us but were aided very little in the way of light.  The beams of our headlamps illuminated our path a few feet in front of us, which proved enough for what we needed to see.  The terrain was mixed snow and rock angling at a steady 30-40 degrees.

After several hours of steady climbing we found ourselves topping out at a feature known as the Balcony.  Here we changed out our partially used oxygen bottles for fresh cylinders.  Wind speeds had picked up and we found ourselves covering our faces from the 40mph steady breeze that occasionally gusted to 50mph.  At 2am we shouldered our rucksacks once again and continued our ascent.  The route follows a ridgeline with steep drop offs on either side.  This leads to some rocky steps that have to be surmounted while wearing heavy gloves and crampons strapped to our boots.  Trying to keep a steady rhythm we maintained a solid 4-5 breaths for each step.  After 3 hours of climbing we found ourselves high up on Everest as light began to illuminate the eastern sky.  Above us was the South Summit of Everest.  Once we gained the South Summit the route descends slightly then follows a ridgeline to the actual summit.

It was right about this time that one of Fred’s crampons broke.  A piece had come off that held the front and back halves of the frame together.  Without this piece the crampon was rendered useless.  We stopped at an anchor point for our fixed line and examined the frame.  There was some older line still present from a previous year.  We took out a knife and cut some strands of this rope.  We then used these strands to attempt to tie the two halves of the crampon frame back together.  If it worked then Fred should be able to climb OK.  If not, I decided to give one of my crampons to Fred and have him continue on to the summit with our Sherpa Kancha Nuru.  I would then wait for their return.  Thankfully the rope held the frame in place and we continued on to the South Summit.

At the South Summit we made one more change in Fred’s oxygen.  At a standard flow rate of 3 liters per minute two oxygen bottles is enough to get up and down Everest assuming no unnecessary delays occur.  With a third bottle Fred was able to kick that up to a 5 liter flow.  This proved especially helpful on such a cold day.  Armed with a fresh bottle for Fred we continued on towards the summit of Everest.  The terrain gets more rocky in this area and eventually leads to the Hillary Step, the crux of the climb.  It is not difficult but it is about 40 feet of hands over feet rock climbing with sheer drop offs in both directions.  Clipping in to a new fixed line we climbed up and surmounted the Hillary Step one at a time.  Above the step the terrain turns into a gradual ridgeline leading to the summit.

After over 12 hours of climbing including a few delays along the way there was no higher point to climb.  Two months of hard work and effort had culminated in us reaching the highest point on our planet!!

Now we are back stateside and recovering nicely.  We have been tackling our many food cravings one by one.  It is a time of reflection and reconnecting with friends, family, and loved ones.  Climbing Everest has a way of humbly helping us gain a new rich appreciation for all we have in this world.  As we move forward through the coming days and weeks we plan to savor every minute of this process.

One thing we are thankful for is everybody who followed along on this blog and kept us in their thoughts and prayers.  It has been a joy to hear from so many of you and we look forward to continuing that process.

All the pictures we took during this expedition are now uploaded on to the SMI Photo Gallery web site.  For your viewing pleasure we invite you to look at them here:  http://www.kurtwedbergphotography.com/International-Expeditions/Himalayas/Mt-Everest-Spring-2012/23167265_3Zt2mR

May 18: Fred traversing off the Lhotse Face at approximately 25,500'/7772m.

Fred and Kancha Nuru Sherpa topping out on the Geneva Spur at approximately 25,900'/7894m as early afternoon snow flurries blow through.

Camp 4 at the South Col 7955m/26,100'.

Mt. Everest's South Summit is the highest point on the skyline. The actual summit sits behind the South Summit.

Fred and Kancha Nuru geared up and ready to begin the ascent to the summit.

May 19, 2012 9am: Summit Success!! Fred and Kurt on the top of Mt. Everest!!

 

Everest Team Down Safely!

May 19, 2012 9:00am: Fred Simmons and Kurt Wedberg on the summit of Mt. Everest (8850m/29,035').

After a successful summit of Mt. Everest on May 19, Fred and Kurt safely descended back to Base Camp.  The descent took two days.  They dropped from Camp 4 to Camp 2 on May 20.  On the 21st they woke early and descended through the Khumbu Icefall, which was the last of the objective hazards on the route to negotiate.

Once down in Everest Base Camp they quickly packed up all their gear and managed to secure a helicopter that flew them from EBC to Kathmandu.  Flights are re-booked for traveling home. Projected arrival in Los Angeles will be on the 24th.

Upon re-entering civilization and seeing all the comments on this blog plus all the messages on our emails and Facebook pages it has been heart warming seeing what everybody has written.  We promise you every single comment will be read if it hasn’t been already!!  We will do our best to respond as soon as we can!!

For the moment we are concentrating on having some good meals and doing our best to rehydrate.   It is difficult for us to believe at the moment that three days ago we were standing on top of the world!  We will be posting a report on summit day soon.  Stay tuned for that…

Thanks again for everybody’s prayers and well wishes and we look forward to being in touch again soon!!

 

Just In: Fred and Kurt make the Summit!

The May 19th Summit List!

The IMG climbers are now on the way down from the summit. Their goal now is to reach the South Col, and some of them will continue on down to Camp 2. Weather is holding and the conditions are good.

Here is the official summit list sent to the Ministry of Tourism:

  1. Mr. Duane Kent Nelson, USA
  2. Ms. Vanessa Audi Rhys O’Brien, USA
  3. Mr. Bandar Khalid Al-Faisal, USA
  4. Mr. Andreas Polloczek, GERMANY
  5. Mr. Atte Saku Juhani Miettinen, FINLAND
  6. Ms. Lisa Amatangel, USA
  7. Mr. Justin Reese Merle, USA
  8. Mr. Rehan Dost, CANADA
  9. Ms. Catherine Neumann, CANADA
  10. Mr. James Frederick Simmons, USA
  11. Mr. Kurt Alan Wedberg, USA
  12. Mingma Sherpa, Phortse
  13. Chhewang Lendu Sherpa, Phortse
  14. Mingma Tenjin Sherpa, Phortse
  15. Chhiring Sherpa, Sangkhuwasava
  16. Tenjing Gyalzen Sherpa, Phortse
  17. Mingma Dorjee Sherpa, Phortse
  18. Kanchha Nuru Sherpa, Phortse
  19. Mingma Tenzing Sherpa, Phortse
  20. Pemba Sherpa, Phortse
  21. Chheten Dorji Sherpa, Pangboche
  22. Finjo Dorjee Sherpa, Pangboche

(Published on the IMG website)

 

— A. Mayhew

Everest Team Leaving For Summit Bid!

Kurt Wedberg, Fred Simmons, and Kancha Nuru Sherpa at the base of the Lhotse Face at approximately 22,000'+ during an acclimatization climb earlier in the expedition.

After all the planning, preparation, acclimatization climbs, and getting rested and strong at Base Camp we are leaving for our summit attempt!  We spent the last couple days doing our final preparations as we have watched the weather show signs of improvement.

This season on Mt Everest has been characterized by higher and more consistent winds than normal.  We have watched the upper reaches of Mt Everest get blasted by 120+mph winds for most of this spring.  The summit of Mt Everest is high enough to be in jet stream force winds (it’s at an altitude where commercial airliners normally fly!), but to see the winds consistently blast the summit week after week with no abatement is unusual.  Each season in May the jet stream moves north of the Himalayas and raises in altitude as the weather pattern changes when the summer monsoon season begins to build to the south over India.  Sometimes the jet stream lifts off of the summit for as short as a couple days and other times it stops tickling the top of Everest for as long as a week or more.  Currently the weather is showing signs of this activity starting to occur.  We are receiving forecasts of a “medium” confidence level that are confirming what we’re seeing.

Our high camps are now in place and an advance team is heading up to the South Col where our highest camp is located at 7955m/26,100′.  This team’s job will be to carry up and anchor fixed rope into the steeper parts of the route to offer us protection while we climb.  With all our logistics in place and seeing what we want in the weather pattern the time is right for our summit attempt.  Here is our projected schedule:

May 15:  Climb from Base Camp to Camp 2 (6495m/21,309′)
May 16:  Rest at C2
May 17:  Climb from C2 to C3 (7406m/24,300′)
May 18:  Climb from C3 to C4 (7955m/26,100′)
May 19:  Summit Day, return to C4
May 20:  Descend from C4 to C2
May 21:  Descend from C2 to Base Camp

Climbing with us will be our faithful companion Kancha Nuru Sherpa.  Kancha is from the town of Phortse in the Solo Khumbu region of Nepal.  Many strong Sherpa’s have hailed from Phortse and they are fiercely proud of their reputation.  Kancha speaks good English having grown up walking to the neighboring village of Khumjung where Sir Edmund Hillary helped establish a school for the Sherpa community in 1961.  Following in the footsteps of the legendary Tigers Of The Snow including Tenzing Norgay who climbed with Hillary on the first ascent in 1953, Nawang Gombu who climbed with the first American Jim Whittaker in 1963 and became the first person to summit Everest twice, and many others Kancha first reached the summit of Mt Everest with Kurt Wedberg on May 21, 2008.  He has gone on to reach the summit each year since then.  It will be a pleasure to climb with Kancha once again on this summit attempt.

Our first goal on this climb is safety.  We plan to climb as safely as possible and return from this trip healthy.  Assuming we can stay within an acceptable margin of safety our second goal is to reach the summit of Mt Everest.  While we can’t eliminate danger we plan to do everything we can to minimize the risk.

Thank you to everybody for your continued prayers and support for our climb.  We have appreciated all the comments and well wishes thus far and we can definitely feel your support from half way around the world.  We will do our best to keep you updated on our progress along our journey and look forward to connecting with you all upon our return!

May 13, 8pm: The moon has been waning lately revealing a stunning blanket of stars overhead. Our dining tent at Base Camp is lit beautifully in the foreground. The West Shoulder of Everest is seen reaching into the night sky. Seeing views such as this is a real blessing and makes us realize how fortunate we are to be where we are.

Everest Team Poised and Ready for Summit Attempt!

May 12, 6pm: Mt Everest in evening light from Camp 1 on Pumo Ri, which sits across the valley from Everest.

 

The last time we checked in we had just returned from spending a few nights up high.  Since returning to Base Camp we have spent this time preparing ourselves physically and mentally for an attempt at reaching the summit.  For the last several days we have been hydrating, eating a lot of food, and taking a few day hikes to keep our legs fresh.  One of our hikes was to Kala Patar, which is a popular destination for trekkers because it offers a nice view of Mt Everest.  Another hike we have done is to the last town below Everest Base Camp, Gorak Shep.
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While up high we were faced with very challenging route conditions.  A dry winter had left very little snow on the ground.  As a result the route has a lot of hard ice showing.  We have also seen sections of the Lhotse Face get bombarded by rockfall.  We needed this portion of the route be moved.  We also needed some snow to fall to harden up the loose sections of the route so the rockfall would stop.  Thankfully over the past few days we have had some good snowfall.  The rockfall has stopped and there is now much more snow covering many of the previously icy sections of the route.
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Expeditions are all about teamwork.  In addition to needing route conditions to improve we have also needed to establish Camps 3 & 4 plus a route to the summit.  Over the past few days we have had a team of Sherpa’s take care of establishing Camp 3 at 7406m/24,300′ and Camp 4 at the South Col at 7955m/26,100′.
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Establishing the route to the summit mainly entails anchoring fixed rope on steep sections to protect climbers from bad fall potential.  With increasing winds at high elevations “fixing” a route to the summit is currently on hold.  We have a team in place and ready to go once weather improves.  In the meantime we are taking care of final preparations before we embark on our summit attempt.  We have packed several days worth of food, reviewed our oxygen equipment, and taken care of any fine tuning of equipment that has needed to get done.
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We plan to post a update once we know our exact time table.  It is anybody’s guess now as to when we embark but we are hoping it will be sometime within he next week.
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Below are a few pictures from the last few days.  As always you can view a sampling of photos taken since the start of our expedition at the SMI Photo Gallery site here:

May 11, 7am: Spindrift being reflected off of morning sun on Mt Everest's West Shoulder as winds increased up high.

Fred trimming his beard in preparation for our summit attempt to allow for a better fit of his oxygen mask.Our Base Camp as seen through a 400mm lens from Pumo Ri Camp 1.

Our Base Camp as seen through a 400mm lens from Pumo Ri Camp 1.

Fred enjoying some Internet time in a tea house at Gorak Shep.

Lhotse (8516m/27,939'), the 4th highest mountain in the world, in evening light from Pumo Ri Camp 1.

Mt Everest from Kala Patar.

Fred with the Angel wrapped in prayer flags atop Kala Patar.

Kurt on top of Kala Patar with Everest and Nuptse behind.

Fred wrapped up in prayer flags on top of Kala Patar.

Everest Team Safely Returns From Acclimatizing Up High

Kancha Nuru Sherpa, Kurt Wedberg, and Fred Simmons near the base of the Lhotse Face during an acclimatization day hike on May 1.

Camp 2 and the Lhotse Face at night. Look closely and three headlamps are visible at Camp 3.

It is snowing in Base Camp today May 5 as we write this. After spending several days sleeping up high we are safely back to rest and recuperate. We started off on schedule on April 28 and moved straight up to Camp 2 at 6495m/21,309′. Our plan was to rest a day, then take a couple day hikes, followed by a move up to Camp 3 at 7406m/24,300′ to sleep.

We acclimatized well at C2 and after three nights we were ready to move up to C3. We nixed that plan when we got to the base of the Lhotse Face, which is the next portion of our route. It turns out the Everest region is very dry right now. It hasn’t received much snow from the past winter. Normally the face would be solid firm snow but instead it is hard ice. Additionally, rock faces above that are usually frozen and covered in snow are now exposed with loose rock. Rocks are coming down the slick icy Lhotse Face at high speeds. We didn’t think it safe to ascend it in these conditions so we didn’t. Concerns were shared among several guides who were at C2. A bunch of us got together for a meeting to discuss route conditions and options. We decided a few people who were still fresh would explore a different way up to C3. The good news is a route was found to the lower end of C3 and a small party anchored fixed line into that area. We spent one more night at C2 then returned to Base Camp.

Our four nights we spent in total at C2 were productive. We got noticeably stronger each day and stayed healthy the entire time living at 6495m/21,309′ and above. In spite of falling short of reaching C3 we feel that after our time up high followed by a few days rest at Base Camp we will be ready to make a summit attempt. Before trying for the summit though we also need a big change in the weather pattern. The upper reaches of Mt. Everest have been pummeled by 120+ mph winds for several weeks now. With conditions like this a summit bid isn’t realistic. We also need some fresh snowfall; preferably 1′-2′. This would offer some anchoring of the slopes containing loose rocks. Fortunately our forecast over the next dew days is calling for just that; decreased winds and snowfall through May 10. Let’s hope the weather forecast is correct!

Up until this point our expedition has gone according to plans almost as smooth as clockwork. This is the first time we have encountered any amount of resistance from the mountain. In mountaineering there are things you can control and others you can’t. Our strategy now is to take care of the things we can control and set ourselves up for success should Mt. Everest present an opportunity to climb it. We are back at Base Camp resting, hydrating, recuperating, getting strong after spending time up high, staying healthy, and are preparing ourselves physically and mentally for a summit attempt. In spite of the conditions we recently encountered we are optimistic we will have an opportunity make a summit attempt soon! Thanks to everybody for your continued prayers and support. Your comments on the blog are awesome too! We will try to update you as soon as conditions on the mountain shake out over the coming days and we have our next plans in place.

Here are a few pictures from the last few days:

April 28, 6am: Looking back from the lower Khumbu Icefall at the early morning light on Pumo Ri (7165m/23,507') rising high above Everest Base Camp still in shade below.

April 28: Fred crossing a crevasse at the top of the Khumbu Icefall en route to Camp 2.

Camp 2 with the Lhotse Face behind.

May 1: Kurt and Fred near the base of the Lhotse Face. The people in between their heads behind was as close as they were willing to get to the face without being exposed to rock fall from above.

Climbers starting up the Lhotse Face in spite of constant rockfall. The source of the rockfall is from the Geneva Spur out of the photo to the left. Rocks small and large were raining down at a rate of 2+ per minute. These climbers were yelling "rock" while they slowly ascended completely exposed to the barrage.

Mt Everest guides discussing route conditions and options on the Lhotse Face. We all agreed exposing our clients, Sherpa's, and guides to the current conditions is unacceptable. Seated far left Max, Damian Benegos, Dave Hahn. Far right Eric, Adrian, Kurt Wedberg. (note: some full and last names left out upon request).

This cut away photo of the Lhotse Face attempts to show the old and new routes to Camp 3. The new route starts at the lower right of the photo and ends on the upper left. The location of the route exposed to rockfall starts on the lower left of the picture where the large horizontal crevasse ends on the right.

Some of our crack group of Sherpa's. There are no stronger people on the planet at extreme high altitude. Some of them will assist in carrying loads to our high camps and some will climb along side our team members on our summit attempts. From left to right: Pasang, Pemba, Cheten Dorjee, Phinjo Dorjee, Nima Nuru, Kancha Nuru (Phortse), Dasona, Phura Ongel, Kancha Nuru (Pangboche).

A helicopter hovering above Camp 2. Since the 1996 disaster on Everest it hasn't been until now that a helicopter can reliably reach this camp. The helicopter took two test flights with separate pilots taking turns at the controls. The following day they flew to 7600m/24,934'!!!

May 2, 7:30am: Fred crossing over a deep crevasse on a ladder in the Khumbu Icefall on our descent back to Base Camp.

May 4, 9pm: Headlamps light up team member's tents in this moonlight photo from Base Camp. Nuptse is to the right of the moon, and the West Shoulder of Everest is to the left. From Base Camp the West Shoulder obscures our view of Everest's summit.

May 5: The entire Mt Everest massif is shrouded in clouds as a storm brings much needed snow to the upper flanks of the mountain. This should help improve climbing conditions up high.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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:
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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”.
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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.
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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!
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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:
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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.
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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…
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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!
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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.