Everest Expedition

Mt. Everest expedition starts from Kathmandu, Nepal, from where climbers fly to Lukla (2860 m), which marks a starting point for over a week’s hike to Everest Base Camp (5400m). During the hike, climbers’ bodies will have a chance to acclimatise, i.e. adapt to thin air. At Base Camp, there will be a few days rest and a local tradition, Puja ceremony, where the climbers and their climbing gear are blessed, will take place. During the following weeks, four camps will be set up on the mountain.
Climbing gear will be carried to higher camps and as climbers stay overnight at camps, bodies will continue to acclimatise. After setting up the route and making 3-­4 acclimatisation rounds all the way up to Camp 3 and back to Base Camp, climbers are ready for the summit push. Climbers rest and wait for favorable weather window before setting off on the summit attempt, which usually takes place more than a month after arriving to Base Camp.

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The Route to the Top

Everest Base Camp on Khumbu Glacier is your home and service station on the mountain. Here, you can still have some comfort like the tent just for yourself, personal things like books and even a camp shower every now and then if you can bare the cold after. Keeping in touch with the outside world is only possible via satellite phone. You are already face to face with the forces of nature; trying to sleep at night is hard listening to the massive boom of avalanches and the cracking sound of collapsing ice seracs around you. Feelings of fear, hope and frustration cross your mind. From here, some will start the actual climb towards the summit pursuing their dream while many return home already at this point.

From Base Camp the expedition continues into the notorious Khumbu Icefall. House­sized seracs, crevasses and moving ice blocks make Khumbu Icefall one of the most dangerous parts of the route. To minimize the risks, you head out before dawn when the temperature is still cold enough to keep the ice blocks from collapsing. Here, for the first time, you will step on ladders with crampons to cross vast crevasses. Thin air makes breathing and even the smallest effort strenuous. Depending on your acclimatisation you will reach camp 1 after 3­-7 hours climb and you can congratulate yourself for having completed the first leg of the climb!

Here climbers will stay overnight to acclimatize. At night, booming sounds originating from massive crevasses opening and closing on the glacier around you and pounding headache due to lack of oxygen keep you awake. The journey continues from Camp 1 to Camp 2 through the Valley of Silence. The valley, extending on a flat area of eternal snow and ice, amazes with its beauty. Deep crevasses and frequent avalanches are characteristic of the valley. As its name suggests, the valley is usually protected from the winds which together with the altitude and clear weather often turns this leg of the route unbearably hot in the daytime having started the climb in the cold of the night. The valley is still one of the easiest parts on the mountain even though the ever-­changing weather conditions and deep snow may change the situation fast. Here, for the first time, Everest is right in front of the your eyes. After 3-­4 hours of seemingly endless climb, you will reach Camp 2.

Camp 2 is located close the foot of the icy Lhotse wall, where it is possible to admire the breathtaking views and watch clouds move up from the valley into to the camp. You can speed up the acclimatisation process by taking walks around the camp looking for climbing gear left behind by earlier expeditions. Here is your last chance to have a proper meal in a while. The route to Camp 3, which is in the middle of the icy and snowy Lhotse wall, is fixed with ropes but climbing the steep wall is tough. Your thoughts may not be too clear but it is crucial to concentrate, as just one single slip can seal your destiny. The climb will take 4­-7 hours.

Camp 3 is right in the middle of the steep Lhotse face. The hard climb is rewarded with a grand view. Here you should be secured in ropes at all times as the tents are set up on a narrow platform on the steep ice face, where it takes only one slip to fall. Going to the toilet at night is an effort with laborious dressing up and ensuring safety. Every now and then you will hear a howling sound as rocks or blocks of ice fall down the face. In this altitude, the nature really begins to challenge your will to get higher. The ultimate goal is literally getting clearer which offers some much needed relief, though. From Camp 3 the journey continues towards the Death zone, where the human body can only survive a few days. From this point forward most mountaineers will start using supplemental oxygen. The climb up starts before dawn when it’s extremely cold. Then again, when the sun comes up, the heat can become suffocating in full down gear. You will reach Camp 4 after 4­-7 hours climb.

The intimidating name of Camp 4 is based on brutal facts: the amount of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life. The temperature can drop to – ­40°C and uncovered skin can get frostbite in an instant. The cold, scary darkness outside is not inviting and just resting in the tent makes you feel weak. Here you must constantly keep melting water from snow to hydrate yourself and get some rest before the summit push. The hard wind is shaking the tent canvas and most do not sleep a wink. The most demanding challenge is still ahead and the risks at their highest. Temperate weather and mild wind are crucial factors in deciding whether to attempt the summit or not. If the weather gets worse the mountaineers must descend.

The summit attempt starts in the evening when you put on all your warmest gear and head out into the dark night. There are still 850 altitude meters and 10­-12 hours to the top. The climbers’ head lamps form a line of light slowly moving up the dark face. It is extremely cold, totally silent and scary but the adrenaline keeps you on the move at times you feel like giving up. Finally, after hours of agonising climb, a blue beam of light can be seen in the horizon: the sun is rising! The lucky ones get to see the mountain reflecting a giant shadow onto the morning mist. The world below bathes in the rays of the morning light, which brings back hope and warmth into your body. Via the South Summit you will reach a sharp, steep ridge, where a slip to the left would make you fall over 2000 meters and a slip to the right 3000 meters down. The final challenge is the steep rock face Hillary Step, where due to a large number of climbers, you might have to wait for your turn. Finally, 8-­16 hours from the start you can see a white peak in the horizon. Taking the last steps to the top of the world rewards all the months or even years of preparation and hard work. However, the visit on the top of the world must be as short as possible in order to safely return to Camp 4 before dark and usual bad weather in the afternoons. After all, on the top, you are only half way. After two nights of no sleep and climbing up to 20 hours on the summit day, you take the last exhausted steps into your tent and fall into your deepest sleep ever. The following day, when the sun wakes you up and later on when you finally reach the Base Camp, you can congratulate yourself: you made it!

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