Everest 2013: North Side Arrivals

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It was another relatively calm and quiet weekend in Everest Base Camp on both sides of the mountain. Most of the teams made their way into camp last week and they spent the past few days getting settled and rested for the work ahead. Most are now preparing for their first foray up the mountain, which will likely begin to take place later this week. The trekking and traveling is now done for most of the climbers and it is time to get focused on why they all came to the Himalaya this spring, namely to climb the highest mountain on the planet.

While the South Side BC saw a steady stream of traffic over the past few weeks, the first teams on the North Side just started arriving yesterday. The Altitude Junkies, for instance, spent the latter part of last week driving the Friendship Highway through Tibet, using that time to acclimatize to the increased altitude. Unlike on the Nepali side of the mountain, those climbing in Tibet are able to travel to BC by 4×4 vehicle. This saves a lot of time and effort, but it also has to be done slowly in order to get use to the altitude.

The AJ team, which included Edita Nichols, reached BC yesterday, where they found their temporary home built and awaiting occupancy. That included 18 Mountain Hardwear dome tents, six large dining and communications tents, and two toilet/shower tents. They also have fully functional satellite Internet systems which will help them to say in touch in the days ahead. Tomorrow they’ll go through their Puja ceremony and with no icefall to contend with, will likely begin the first acclimatization treks up the mountain.

Back on the South Side of the mountain, it seems everyone is getting organized and ready to make their first moves through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. A number of Sherpa teams have already been moving through that area and have started shuttling gear and supplies up to Camps 1 and 2. The team leaders have also had their first meeting of the year and have started to work out the details of which teams will handle the all important task of fixing the ropes up the mountain. Over the past few years, a level of cooperation has emerged on Everest and it has led to a more efficient approach to getting the work done. This year will be no different and I suspect we’ll soon see the Sherpa teams going to work above Camp 2.

The RMI team hasn’t just been resting in BC. Yesterday they made their first trip into the icefall where they received some valuable experience for navigating through that section. The glacier is now on the move and every day brings changes to that section of the climb, but the Ice Doctors are doing a good job of maintaining the route and keeping it safe for the climbers. Those on the expedition with RMI went about halfway through the icefall as part of their practice, but then turned back to Base Camp to spend the rest of the day in their tents. Poor weather moved into the area in the afternoon, making it uncomfortable to be outside.

Speaking of weather, storms once again buffeted the upper slopes of Everest, Lhotse and other near by peaks over the weekend. Fresh snow fell high on those mountains, which should only help the teams when they do start to move up. Unlike last year’s dry and windy conditions, it is colder and wetter this year, which will help keep the mountain from crumbling around the climbers as they proceed. I think everyone is happy to have a safer Everest to climb this time out.

Finally, for a good idea of what life in Base Camp is like, and to learn the intricacies of peeing in a bottle while still inside your sleeping bag, be sure to check out the latest dispatch from David Tait. David is an Everest veteran to say least (five summits!) and does an excellent job of writing about the entire experience of being on the mountain with no punches pulled. His updates are always interesting, insightful and well written, so definitely worth a look.

More updates soon as the teams start to get on the move. They should be busy on Everest this week.

Kraig Becker