Everest 2014: The South Side Trek Begins

lukla unloading aj

Now that April is here at last, the Himalayan climbing season will officially get underway with the first teams starting their treks to Everest Base Camp on the South Side. Depending on the route they take, and how quickly they want to get there, that hike can take somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 days. The trek is an important one however, as it starts the acclimatization process, allowing the climbers to begin to adapt to the altitudes they’ll be facing once they start the climb. For most, this is the true start of the expedition. This is when it becomes real, as they leave the relative comforts of Kathmandu behind and enter the Himalaya for the first time.

Once again, Alan Arnette does the best job of conveying the experience. In a blog post that went live this morning, he talks about the trek, which begins with a flight to what some believe is the most dangerous airport in the world – Tenzing-Hillary located in Lukla. It features a landing strip that actually runs at an angle up the side of a mountain. The approach is quite harrowing, but the scenery out the window is breathtaking, which at least helps to keep your mind off the scary landing. The video below, which Alan took back in 2008, gives you a sense of what it is like.

Once on the ground, the trail to Everest is actually right off the tarmac. You collect your pack, walk up a short flight of stairs, and begin the walk. Most only go a short distance the first day, actually dropping in altitude as the acclimatization process begin. Day 2 starts the long, sometimes difficult, hike up to Namche Bazaar, the largest town in the Khumbu Valley, which is where most people take their first rest day, and have access to surprisingly decent Internet access, before they wander out into the more remote areas of region.

If the weather holds, and things go according to schedule, one of my friends will begin her trek to EBC today. Her name is Gulnur Tumbat, and you can follow her expedition blog here. Gulnur is an experienced mountaineer who has been dreaming of Everest for years, and now she’s getting her chance to climb. She arrived in Kathmandu a few days ago, and should be on her way to Lukla today or tomorrow. I’ll be watching her progress intently in the weeks ahead, and will share updates often as well I’m sure.

The IMG squad let for he Khumbu yesterday, taking a helicopter instead of the traditional Twin Otters aircraft. They report that conditions were good for their flight, and that everything is proceeding on schedule so far. The Altitude Junkies will join them tomorrow, having just wrapped up the formalities in Kathmandu. The Himex team, led by Russell Brice, will come along at a later date, as the large team always approaches the climb a bit differently. Brice will be playing host to not just one, but two camera crews this year, which begs the question as to what projects the two teams are working on. Also returning to Everest once again this spring is Melissa Arnot, the accomplished young climber who already has five summits to her credit. The record for a female climber is six, which Melissa will be looking to tie this year. We’ll no doubt be following her progress closely as well.

This is just a taste of some of the expeditions I’ll be keeping a close eye on as the season progresses. There are always lots of stories to tell, and I’m eager for things to get started. There will be a another week or so before the climbers start to reach Base Camp. Hopefully by then the route through the Khumbu Ice Fall will be complete, and the teams can go to work. There will definitely be a lot to report in just a few days. Sit tight, and check back regularly.

Kraig Becker