Everest 2012: Base Camp Arrivals and The Challenges of Kathmandu

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As expected, the first teams of climbers began arriving in Everest Base Camp over the weekend where they found the Sherpa teams had already established the locations that would be their homes for the weeks ahead. While they began to settle in and started planning for the climb ahead, other teams continued to work their way up the Khumbu Valley or have started their journeys into Tibet for approach from the North Side of the mountain.

One of the first squads to arrive was the Peak Freaks who reached BC on Saturday. This year they’ve expanded their operations to include two kitchen and two dining tents, one for the climbers themselves and another for the Sherpa teams who prefer to prepare and eat their food at different times. Upon arrival, the team was surprised to learn that the Sherpa guides have already been up to Camp 2 on the mountain where they’ve claimed a spot for their tents at that location. It’ll be several weeks yet before the western climbers make their way to that point, but it seems their guides have already begun shuttling supplies in preparation.

Ian Ridley arrived in BC yesterday where he reports the temperatures are still on the cool side. Over night temperatures fell to -16ºC/3ºF and while the sun brings warm conditions inside the tent (21ºC/70ºF) as soon as it falls back into the shade, those temperatures drop to just 2ºC/35ºF. He also notes that the constant creaking and cracking of the glacier has made it a bit unnerving to sleep in the tent thus far.

Phil Purdy has updated his blog from Base Camp as well, reporting on his own Easter Sunday arrival. He notes that his team will now rest for the next three or four day before they proceed through the Khumbu Icefall and up to Camp 1 as part of their first round of acclimatization. He says that he also expects their Puja ceremony to take place in the next day or two as well. Each team goes through a Puja before starting their climb, and during that ceremony Buddhist monks bless them and their gear, and ask the mountain to grant them safe passage to the summit.

Further down the valley, the Himex team spent a few days in Pheriche as part of the acclimatization process. They report that heavy snow hit the area, which made for some beautiful sights but cold conditions. As a result, most preferred to stay inside close to the fire while they were in the little village, but those comfortable conditions didn’t last long and today the team is trekking up to Lobuche camp where they’ll spend a few more days acclimatizing before moving on to BC.

Teams are starting their migration to the Tibetan side of the mountain as well. We already knew that the 7 Summits Club planned on flying to Lhasa on Thursday of this week, where they’ll begin their overland journey to Base Camp on the North Side of Everest. Joining them there will be the Altitude Junkies, who now say that they’ll begin their journey to Tibet starting tomorrow. They hope to be in BC by Saturday or Sunday of this week, where they’ll begin their prep work for going to the summit as well.

It hasn’t been an easy couple of days in Kathmandu where a number of teams are still finishing up their last minute planning before officially launching their expeditions. The storms that dumped snows across the Khumub this weekend resulted in rain in Nepal’s capitol city. Those rains flooded streets and made things a bit of a mess for a time. Waters have receded now, but residents and visitors are now in the midst of a “bandha” or strike today, which means traffic isn’t moving in or out of the city and protestors have taken to the streets. These strikes generally last just one day however, and business should return to normal tomorrow. For those caught up in the action, which happens on an annual basis, it can be a bit frustrating, but most plan around the protests making them mostly a minor inconvenience.

Finally, there have been reports from ExWeb and Alan Arnette about a couple of oxygen tanks exploding while being tested with masks over the past few days. Obviously most climbers make the ascent while using supplementary oxygen and the system needs to be working perfectly in order for them to actually have a chance at reaching the summit. The bottles in question were supplied by a company out of the U.K. called Summit Oxygen, who are a relatively new competitor to Posisk, which held a monopoly on bottled oxygen in the Himalaya for years. Fortunately, the exploding bottles have resulted in mostly minor injuries thus far, but this is obviously a volatile situation and one that will leave teams feeling a bit uneasy about their choice of bottled O’s. Let’s hope that these are a few isolated incidences and that there will be no further problems moving forward, particularly when the oxygen is put into action in a few weeks time.

Kraig Becker