Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Made it to Everest Camp 1!

6000 m - Camp 1, Khumbu Glacier - After a 1:45 a.m. wake-up call from our BC staff, a 2 a.m. breakfast, and last minute donning of our helmets/headlamps, harnesses and backpacks, we were on the trail to "crampon point" at the base of the Khumbu icefall. My supposed 'fresh' headlamp batteries weren't so fresh as they died just as I arrived at the icefall. Thank goodness for carrying a backup set of lithiums! Off we went into and up the icefall in the dark of night. Other then headlamps, the only other light was high in the heavens as the stars were numerous and brilliant.

The climb to Camp 1 was harder than I thought it would be. Not only did my body crave oxygen, something that continually becomes less abundant with each step up, but my intestinal tract decided to act up as well. Lucky me! We had over 20 ladder crossings, some spanning the well known dark chasms called crevasses while others were placed vertically when steep ice walls needed to be surmounted. At one point I was in a relatively safe spot to stop for a moment to adjust my pack and harness so I snapped a couple photos to give you an idea of what part of the icefall route looked like.

In the one photo you can see the colored tents of the standard Everest BC low and to the right with Pumori (peak to the left) starting to feel the sun's rays. The biggest concern (falling in a crevasse is not a welcome idea of course yet at least we are attached to fixed rope when crossing) when crossing through this dangerous place is serac fall. Seracs are large ice blocks (bigger than most homes) that can fall at any moment yet traveling through this amazing infrastructure at night increases our safety net as the temps are the coldest which decreases the flow of the icefall and therefore reduces this type of situation. Yet after about 5 hours I made it to Camp 1. 25% of traveling through the icefall is complete!

Following closely behind me was my partner for this entire climb, Eugene Constant. Eugene hails from and lives in France with his wife and 3 wonderful children, two of whom are similar in age to my own. It is nice for us to talk about our respective families during the down time. Even though we are living our dream of climbing up Everest nothing means more than getting back to them safely and as soon as possible. The real goal for sure.

We will rest here tonight before leaving early in the morning for Camp 2, approximately 400 vertical meters higher above the head of the glacier which you can see in the picture of Eugene and I. Immediately behind that you see Lhotse and the steep/icy Lhotse face. Due to the picture size you cannot see it but from here at Camp 1 we can see our route to Camp 3 perched midway up that wall. A thousand vertical meters lies between Camps 2 & 3. After a couple nights rest at camp 2 we will test both our physical and mental capacities on that section. One night at Camp 3 and we'll begin the process of down climbing.

I will try to dispatch again from Camp 2 and/or 3 soon and once again send a couple photos of our location and what we see. All my best to my family, friends and colleagues back home.