Brian Dickinson - Reader Blog 13
4/25/11 - It was really cold up at Camp I, but luckily I had my -40 sleeping bag and I wore a couple down layers. I’m not sure what it is about altitude, but I woke up 4 times to pee. My bottle was frozen each time so that made life interesting. I woke up around 5 and started melting and boiling snow for coffee and breakfast. Pusan left me 2 bags of seafood noodles and one kimchee noodle. Nothing like noodles for breakfast… I went with seafood. Right when I was done eating Lochba showed up and asked if I was ready. I was expecting him at 8am and it was 7am. I said, give me 5 minutes and I was ready to roll.
The route to Camp II isn’t too difficult as it follows the western cwm (pronounced cwm) for a couple miles up to 21,000’. Along the way we found a couple ladders and crevasses to negotiate. One particular crevasse is so large and deep it requires 5 ladders tied together. And the ladders kind of curve to the right…little sketchy, but I had to cross it just for a picture. There’s a route around it that takes an extra 10 minutes, which I’ll use from here out. I’ve had a couple people ask me if the ladders are scary. There are probably 40 ladders on the route so some are less scary than others. A lot of it depends on what you’re crossing too. Some of the crevasses are so deep you can’t see the bottom. I find that on the descent they tend to be easier….probably because I’m tired and drunkenly staggering across them. The 5 ladders on the western cwm were scary because as soon as you step on it the entire system sags and sways back and forth. Today I was crossing a 2 section ladder and the Sherpa let go of my rope handle causing me to step backward off the ladder 3 rungs in. I stepped back and stuck my crampons in a Sherpa’s shin behind me. I felt so bad but he was fine and said it was the other Sherpa’s fault. On my first run through the Khumbu Ice Fall I was on a section all alone with 3 ladders tied together. I tightly grasped my hand hold rope and then it came completely off its anchor when I was in the middle of the crevasse. I came off balance but stayed calm and dealt with the situation, making it across without incident.
We moved efficiently (that’s fast in mountaineering terms) in the western cwm and made it to camp in a couple hours. The last half hour as we breached 21,000’ was in slow motion. We all felt great with plenty of air to breathe, but there’s something about being that high that makes your pack heavier and your body move slower. It’s also good to see the Sherpa stopping often to catch their breath…they are human! I’m not used to moving slow but this gave me a chance to practice my rest step. That’s where you take a step putting most the weight on one leg and pause for a second. It’s unnatural but makes a huge difference when climbing a large mountain with a heavy pack. Between each step is about a 3 second pause where instead of counting to 3 I recite the names, Emily, Jordan, JoAnna….. There’s nothing significant to the order other than it flows better and I feel like they are there cheering me on.
Camp II is at the base of Mt. Everest. You look straight up to see Camp III, Yellow Band, South Col, South Summit, Hillary Step and the true summit. It looks different than you see in pictures because we’re so close to the objective. Being this close makes it look very doable, but then taking a walk across camp brings you back to reality. The weather can dramatically change from freezing to 80+ in this region so you have to prepare for anything. I’ll wear my full body down suit above Camp III.
We made it to our cooking tent and had some spicy noodles and tea. We are sharing the tent with RMI / First Ascent but everyone is all over the map as far as their schedules so we don’t run into each other that often. After lunch we headed down. The descent through the western cwm is similar to the Muir snowfield on Mt. Rainier. We made great time in getting to Camp I in an hour. I then had to pack up my stuff so I told Lochba and another Sherpa helper to head down without me. I probably left 20 minutes later since I was chatting with Pusan and Dennis. I must have been moving quickly since I caught the Sherpa pretty fast. That was a mistake! They then thought I wanted to get down in a hurry and we hauled through the ice fall. We made it to basecamp in 2 hours. I’m now looking forward to a few days of rest before heading up to Camp II directly and then to Camp III!