Much like the melting of the snow and birds migrating north, one of the true signs that spring is just around the corner is the arrival of Sherpas in Everest Base Camp. That annual even began this past weekend with the first porters and team leaders reaching the mountain on the South Side in Nepal. In recent years, the big commercial teams have started sending their support team to BC early in order to stake their claim to their favorite camping spots. The Sherpas will now spend a few weeks getting things organized ahead of the arrival of the climbers in early April.
Of course, the most important of the Sherpas in Base Camp are the Icefall Doctors. They make up the team that are charged with finding and maintaining a safe path through the Khumbu Icefall each season. They arrived last week and have already started building the route that will allow the other climbers to make their way through the dangerous icefall throughout the season. It will take them several weeks to build the route, using ladders and rope to cross large crevasses. They’ll also be the final people to leave in June as well, since they have to ensure that the path remains viable until everyone gets up and down the mountain.
The support teams that are in EBC right now are busy clearing campsites of rocks, leveling the ground, and building the tent city that will be home for the climbers for the next two months. That includes kitchen tents and shared communal tents with television sets, satellite Internet connections, games, books and various other items to keep them occupied during their downtime.
Meanwhile, back in Kathmandu, the first commercial climbing guides and team leaders are starting to arrive. They’re busy organizing the logistics of their climb and seeing to all the last minute details before their clients arrive. It is a busy time in Nepal’s capital, which is where all of the climbers arrive and depart from, no matter if they’re climbing from the North or South Side.
Finally, at this moment, the climbers themselves are putting the final touches on their preparation and gear organization. By the end of the month, they’ll start to arrive in Kathmandu themselves, where the streets will go from simply loud and chaotic, to completely jammed with people. The influx of climbers and trekkers each spring is vital to the economy in Nepal, where many people make their living based on the travel and climbing industries.
In a few short weeks we’ll start getting regular updates on the status of the teams. On the South Side they’ll need to spend 8-10 days trekking through the Khumbu Valley just to get to Base Camp. Those heading north will have to wait for the Chinese to open the border to climbers. That usually takes a week or so longer, after which they can travel to Tibet and drive to Base Camp on the North Side to start their climbs.
It is the calm before the storm, but soon the spring climbing season in the Himalaya will begin. I’m personally looking forward to another interesting year.
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