Khumbu Ice Fall and Camp I
4/21/11 - Last night I staged my gear for an early morning climb. When I woke up I found out it was just me since Dennis and Veronica decided to take a light day to fully recover from some illness. Up here most people get the Khumbu cough, which is just an annoying cough that leads to either nothing (annoyance), vomiting or breaking of ribs. Pusan Sherpa and I headed up the Khumbu Ice Fall at 6:15 am with minimal gear (crampons, harness, helmet, etc.).
We moved efficiently at 17,500’ toward our 19,700’ destination. The path through the ice fall is amazing. It’s like being on another planet with the huge ceracs, hidden frozen ponds and crevasses with ladders for crossing. The same climb at a lower altitude wouldn’t be too bad but up this high every bit counts. We crossed 30+ ladders of different flavors (single, double and triple tied together, straight across deep crevasses and straight up and down). The route zigzags left to right to avoid major obstacles and is equipped top to bottom with fixed lines. Nepal employs 8 Sherpa called “Ice Fall Doctors” to establish and maintain the route.
I felt very strong and acclimated toward the top of the ice fall and then the route went on and on forever. In the past Camp I was lower, but due to the continuous downward shift of the Khumbu Ice Fall they have been forced to make camp higher. This will be nice later in life when we are hammering our way toward the summit, but for the first time climbing the ice fall I was starting to wonder where the heck C1 was? Basically when you see it, you’re there. Side note: a little over a week ago when I was heading down from Everest Basecamp I met and walked with a guy who had been through the Ice Fall 2 years in a row and planned to make a summit attempt this year. He looked at me and said it’s really hard and it will probably take me 8-10 hours my first time. I said thanks! I made it in less than 4 hours.
It was windy up at Camp I but it was awesome to be that close to my objective. Camp II wasn’t visible since you slog up and over a rolling hill with one of the biggest crevassed section requiring 5 ladders tied together. But I could clearly see Camp III, South Col and the summit! We rested for a few minutes in the wind, ate lunch and then prepared to head down.
At almost 20,000’ going down isn’t as easy as it sounds. We had to negotiate our return route, rappel the ice cliffs, cross the ladders, etc. Plus after a long day it’s easy to get complacent and make mistakes. Most accidents occur on the way down. So it’s imperative to keep focused on each step. You aren’t safe until you’re back in your tent. Today was a good day. Tomorrow I plan to rest at basecamp before heading back up. We should be heading up in a few days to sleep at Camp I and then climb to Camp II.