Climbing Everest involves a long acclimatization process. We make several ascents on the mountain before the final climb to the summit. Every time we go up, we climb higher and higher. Some people call each of these cycles “rotations”. I arrived at Everest Base Camp at 5,300m to begin my rotations on April 19, after attempting to climb Mount Pachermo, and climbing to the summit of Lobuje East.
Pachermo is a non-technical peak around 6,200 meters high that this last winter received almost no snow and therefore had many sections covered in blue ice. I was climbing with Phurba Sherpa from Thamo and we decided the conditions were too risky for the little acclimatization benefit the peak had for me. I later climbed Lobuje alone on a beautiful Himalayan morning with no wind. I was very proud to carry The Live Love Laugh Foundation’s banner to the summit. One of my goals for this Everest expedition is to raise awareness about depression and mental health issues, making the climb much more meaningful.
Base camp this year seems as big as the last two times I’ve been here in spite of the disasters from the last two years. It’s still a crowded tent city that sprouts at the beginning of April and it’s almost completely gone during the first days of June. We had our blessing ceremony on April 21st, and the multicolored prayer flags rose over our tents. Just two days later, at 3:00am, I started moving up the Khumbu Icefall and straight to Camp 2.
The icefall is one of the most unstable sections of the route we’re climbing. In 2014 over a dozen Sherpa lost their lives when an avalanche fell over the icefall and just last year the earthquake swept the rout and we had to be evacuated via helicopter from above Camp 1. It’s covered with huge crevasses we cross with aluminum ladders tied together over them. The route through the icefall changes every time we move up and down. It’s difficult to be objective with this kind of analysis but I believe this year the icefall is in one of the worst conditions I’ve seen. Usually snow covers parts of the seracs, making it more stable and passage is faster. Now, after a very dry winter, it’s almost made of chunks of ice, big and small, that obviously came from multiple collapses.
I arrived at Camp 1 after dawn but before the sun hit the glacier. Then came the frustrating climb along the Western Cwm. From the amphitheater made from Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, snow accumulates and forms the Khumbu glacier. It is not very steep or technically challenging but between the extreme heat and the long distance, it wears out any climber and the hike seems endless. Seven hours after leaving base camp, I reached Camp 2 at nearly 6,500m.
Camp 2 is considered an Advanced Base Camp since it’s “safe” location allows us to have a small kitchen and dining tent, making our stay relatively comfortable. I remained at camp 2 for four nights. The first two were extremely windy but the weather improved later on. Sleeping was hard at the beginning and on the first night, as exhausted as I was, I spent most of it lying awake and listening to music on my iPod. During the days, I tried to move around as much as possible and climbed to the base of the Lhotse face. By the end of those four nights I was feeling the benefits of acclimatization, having no more headaches, moving faster and sleeping better. But it was time to head down to thicker air. I started my descent at 5:30am at the time I considered it was safer to go through the icefall. A few hours later I was having breakfast at base camp. That was the end of my first rotation.
Tomorrow at 2:30am I’m heading back up to Camp 2 and I will be gone for 6 days while I climb up to the South Col at 8,000m where Camp 4 is located. That will be my final rotation before the summit push.
Please take a moment to visit The Live Love Laugh Foundation’s website. You will find very useful information if you or somebody close to you is going through depression or any other mental health issues: www.thelivelovelaughfoundation.l