Everest 2013: Time To Go To Work!

It seems like I’ve been writing about the 2013 Everest climbing season quite a bit already and yet nothing has really happened yet. The past few weeks have been all about the arrival of teams in Kathmandu and their departures for Base Camp on both the North and South Sides of the mountain. I’ve written extensively about their trek up the Khumbu Valley, their Puja ceremonies and even what life in BC is like at the moment. But all of that has been just a prelude of what is to come. Now, most of the teams are in place on the South Side and the real work is about to begin.

The IMG team completed their Puja ceremony a few days ago, freeing them up to begin their climb, but rather than risk going through the icefall and heading up the mountain, they have now gone back down the valley to test their skills on Lobuche Peak, a 6145 meter (20,161 ft) mountain that serves as an excellent spot for training and acclimatization prior to beginning the ascent of Everest. Most of the team will be there for the next few days as they work to get their legs under them and their lungs ready for the thinner air to come.

Similarly, the RMI squad is training ahead of the start of their climb as well. They’re keeping it closer to Base Camp however by simply putting on their crampons and trekking on the nearby glacier. They’ll go up to about 5486 meters (18,000 ft), which is just short of the Khumbu Icefall, when things start to get a bit dicey. After a trek to stretch their legs, they’ll descend back to BC for some rest and relaxation. They’re still getting use to the altitude as well, but don’t expect them to stay stationary for too long. They’re likely to venture through the icefall for the first time in the next few days as they head up to Camp 1 for the first time.

In his latest dispatch from Base Camp, Tim Rippel of the Peak Freaks talks about his team getting down to business as well. Tim’s team arrived in BC yesterday and will begin a series of strategy and safety meetings today. This will give everyone a chance to catch their breath a bit before putting on the crampons for a walk on the glacier on Friday. This will be their first chance to really assess the level of skill each of the climbers possess before they begin the more challenging portions of the climb.

Tim says that Base Camp is busy, but it is hard to tell if it is any more crowded than last year at this point. There are a number of trekking teams in camp at the moment, but they’ll begin to clear out soon and only the climbers will remain. We’ll get a better assessment of just how crowded the South Side is in a few weeks time, once everyone is settled, but from all accounts it should have a similar population as last year.

It seems that 3G cell tower located in Gorak Shep is operating well so far this year. A number of teams have mentioned that they have both phone and data service all way up to Base Camp and likely beyond. This is good for communications and allows for updates from the mountain, which the teams appreciate when they are there for six or seven weeks at a time. The cell tower is solar powered however, so when the skies get overcast the service doesn’t work well or at all.

Speaking of the weather, it seems that it continues to be windy, cold and cloudy much of the time in Base Camp. There have been a lot of remarks in the dispatches about the low temperatures at the early part of the season. That can make for some comfortable days in the tents but when the teams are on the move it might be appreciated. Plus the cold temps are keeping the snow and ice on the mountain, which means it will be more stable than it was last year when climbers were dodging rocks and other debris that were dislodged above them. That made it rather unsafe to climb Everest at times, but this year is shaping up to be a very different experience.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more news as the teams begin heading up in the next few days.

Kraig Becker