There is relative calm in both Everest Base Camps at the moment as the climbers rest and acclimatize in order to get ready for the work ahead. On the South Side, more teams continue to arrive in BC and by now the tent city has become quite a bustling place. On the North Side, most of the climbers are still in transit to their camps, having just crossed the border earlier in the week. Unlike on the Nepali side, where teams must travel to BC on foot, on the Tibetan side of the mountain is is possible to drive to Base Camp, although it must be done slowly, over a period of four days, to help aid in acclimatization. As a result, BC on the North Side is jut now coming alive although it will never be nearly as busy at it is on the South.
One of the biggest stories thus far this season has been the weather. Numerous dispatches have indicated that it is a cold and breeze spring on Everest, which bodes well for the climbing ahead but has made for chilly days and icy nights for the teams. A snow storm hit the South Side on Wednesday evening and continued into yesterday, causing many of the Sherpas to cancel their plans of shuttling gear up to Camp 1 and 2. Some of them attempted to complete that mission but were turned back by blizzard like conditions above Camp 1, other simply elected to stay in BC and wait for a better day today. From the sounds of things, conditions have improved now, but the weather patterns certainly seem to be unstable so far this spring.
While some of the new arrivals in Base Camp continue to relax and rest, others are busy with their acclimatization climbs. Take for example the IMG squad who are off on nearby Lobuche Peak, where they should be hitting the summit today. The 20,000-foot (6096 meter) mountain is the perfect place for the climbers to hone their technical skills without having to deal with the difficult Khumbu Icefall. With this warm-up climb out of the way, they’ll soon return to EBC where they’ll begin plotting their first foray up Everest itself.
Meanwhile, back at South Side Base Camp, other teams like RMI, Adventure Consultants and the Peak Freaks have been staying closer to home and practicing their skills on the Khumbu Glacier. That includes walking on the ice in crampons and learning to cross the ladders that the Ice Doctors put in place over the open crevasses in the icefall. Over the next six or seven weeks, the climbers will pass through that section three or four times before they make their summit bids, so it is important for them to get comfortable with that process early. If the weather stays decent, it is likely that they’ll begin putting those skills to use for real sometime in the next few days.
One of the climbers making her way to the North Side Base Camp is Edita Nichols who is climbing with the Altitude Junkies. She is chronicling her journey overland to that point, which is an entirely different experience from the trekkers who make the march on the South Side. Having crossed the border into Chinese controlled Tibet a couple of days ago, Edita and the rest of her teammates should arrive on the mountain this weekend. But for a sense of what it is like to make this journey, be sure to check out her dispatches.
Next week should be a busy one on both sides of the mountain. As the teams get full settled at last, they’ll start to head up the mountain. Most will first head up to Camp 1 and “tag” that point before turning back for Base Camp. After that, it’ll just be a matter of time before they head back up, spending some nights in their high camps and steadily working on their acclimatization. At the moment, the summit looks like a really long way off, but the next six weeks will likely pass in a blur. They have a lot of work ahead of them and it’ll be the most difficult, yet rewarding, thing that they have ever done.
Things are about to get much more interesting.
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