While I was away in Southern California over the past few days, the spring climbing season in the Himalaya continued to ramp up. Some of the first teams to set out from Kathmandu are now arriving in Everest Base Camp, completing the first stage of their expedition. But the tough part is yet to come and things are only now just getting started in what promises to be an interesting season on the world’s highest peak.
On the South Side in Nepal the tent city that is EBC is starting to show signs of life. While the support staff for most of the teams have been in place for awhile now, the population there is about to grow considerably. That’s because the foreign climbers, their guides, and Sherpa teams are now starting to filter into camp following a long 8-10 day trek up the Khumbu Valley. That trek is not only utterly spectacular to walk, it also marks the start of the acclimation process, as by the time they reach Base Camp the climbers will have hiked up to 17,500 feet (5335 meters).
Once in BC, the teams will then spend a couple of days getting settled. The climbers will be assigned a tent and tent mate, and they’ll begin to make their little shelter a bit more personal and homey. After all, they’ll be spending the next five to six weeks there. The climbers will also sort out their gear and prepare it for the climb ahead, while occasionally taking short hikes to continue acclimatizing. They’ll also spend time working on their rope skills and learning to move at altitude, prior to heading up to Camp 1.
Before heading up the mountain they’ll also have to complete their puja ceremony as well. This is an important part of the climb, during which a lama from one of the local monasteries blesses all of the climbers and their gear, while simultaneously asking the mountain for permission for them to climb. This is a tradition that everyone must go through before setting foot on Everest or any other major Himalayan peak, and it is of particular significance to the Sherpas.
On the North Side of Everest in Tibet, a similar process is starting to take place. The first teams will begin arriving in Base Camp on that side of the mountain later this week. The difference is, while those climbing in Nepal have to spend more than a week trekking to BC, those on the Chinese side can drive there instead. That process still stakes a couple of days, which helps to give the climbers some time to acclimatize, but access is far faster and easier. As a result, the mountaineers probably aren’t quite as ready for the altitude when they reach BC, but they are perhaps a bit more rested.
Over the next few days, more and more teams are expected to reach Base Camp on both side of Everest. From there, the climbing season will truly start to get underway. It won’t be long before we begin reporting on acclimation rotations to higher camps and start looking for weather windows. But summit bids are still at least a month off and there is a lot to do before anyone can even begin to think about that happening. Of course, we’ll be keeping a close eye on those schedules as the 2019 season continues to unfold.
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