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 International Mountain Guides Everest 2009 : Lhotse Team in BC; Progress on Everest


 

IMG guide Greg Vernovage and the Lhotse team of climbers and trekkers arrived in Everest Base Camp today. Everyone is doing well and were happy to finally be here. They are all looking forward to the good food, hot showers from our propane water heater, washing some clothes, and all the other creature comforts of Base Camp.

Up on the mountain, there was a route collapse in the Icefall at 5:30am this morning that gave us a scare, and blocked the way for the Sherpas, but they found a new way through and were able to complete their carries to camps 1 and 2. Chris went up to Camp 2 today. Hamill's team and the Singapore team remain at Camp 2. We are now working on getting all the rope moved up to Camp 2 to begin the route fixing on the Lhotse Face. So far Ang Jangbu has secured about 8700 meters of rope from the various teams, along with screws, pickets, caribiners, and oxygen (for the fixing above the Col). The fixing is scheduled to start on the 23rd.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Expedition Leader

Earlier: Today was a beautiful day, but a bit windy. We heard from Tucker and Merle on the radio periodically throughout the morning, as they ascended Lobuche Peak, reaching the summit about 11 am. Congrats to the Lobuche climbers!! They have now all successfully descended back to Lobuche base camp.

At Everest, the Icefall sherpas made good progress today and are now only a day or two from Camp 1. This photo shows the route, currently up past the football field. IMG team members continued their acclimatization program with several climbers and sherpas ascending to the Popcorn area of the icefall while others IMG climbers went hiking today, reaching Pumori Camp 1, which is over 19,000 feet and gives a great view of the base camp area.

We spoke on the radio this morning to Greg Vernovage and the Lhotse team, as they left Namche — they are in Tengboche tonight and all is going well with them.

Tomorrow is Easter for us, and we are looking forward to a special brunch for the team. We send best wishes to all our friends and family.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Expedition Leader

Earlier: After a couple snowy days the weather improved and many team members are washing clothes and taking showers today.

IMG guides Mark Tucker and Justin Merle called on the radio this afternoon from high camp on Lobuche Peak. The team has made it into position to attempt the summit tomorrow. The weather is looking good and everyone is doing well.

At Everest, the Icefall Doctors today extended the route to almost the top of the icefall, so we are hoping that within the next couple days the route to C1 will be finished. Most team members have now managed to go partway up the Icefall to practice their ladder crossing techniques.

IMG Guide Greg Vernovage reports from Namche that the Lhotse team (the members were originally planning to go to Cho Oyu before the Chinese closed Tibet) are all doing well. The are planning to move to Tengboche tomorrow and will be joining us at Everest Base Camp next week.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Expedition Leader

Earlier: Today saw several IMG team members making initial forays into the Icefall. Ed Wardell and Jamie Berry of the Discovery film team went up with the Icefall doctors to shoot the installation of some of the ladders. The Icefall route is now established through the "popcorn" section and up to the "football field". It will take another couple days of work to build the route up the final steep pitches of the Icefall.

In the meantime, other IMG members and some of our new sherpas are continuing to work on the ropes course that Panuru set up near the bottom of the Icefall. This, along with the ladder practice area we have set up, is a good chance for everyone to get dialed on the icefall techniques.

Tomorrow we have a number of the team heading up partway for practice and acclimatization runs. This afternoon we were joined at BC by the JF Carrey trek group from eastern Canada (JF summited with IMG on Everest a couple years ago, the youngest Canadian to climb the mountain). They had hiked in via the Gokyo Valley route and will be here another day before heading down. With them is our final Everest team member, Rejean Audet. Now we are all here and everyone is doing well.

Tomorrow morning Mark Tucker, Justin Merle and the Lobuche Peak team head down the valley to climb this attractive 20K footer near Mt. Everest. They will be back to Base Camp in four days. So far so good!

—Eric Simonson, IMG Expedition Leader

Earlier: The IMG Everest team went to bed last night to a snowy scene, as a storm moved up the valley late in the afternoon and dumped about six inches of snow by bedtime. This morning is was clear and blue, but again this afternoon more snow came, though not as heavy as yesterday. This trend of clear mornings and snowy afternoons is not unusual, and we are glad to see some accumulation on the mountain. The Khumbu has had a very dry winter with very little snowfall, and the upper part of Everest is quite black, so some snow will improve the climbing conditions for our team.

We are still organizing the 20,000 pounds of food, fuel, and gear that was shipped to Base Camp, so we have a few more days of work here before everything is well organized. Today Mark Tucker led the Lobuche climbers for a climbing school on the glacier near the Icefall, and Justin Merle led some of our climbers up into the Icefall for some climbing practice. Tomorrow we plan to set up a ropes course to further practice the skills that will be necessary for the Icefall and Lobuche Peak.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Expedition Leader

The IMG Everest team reached Everest base camp today and had the Puja (blessing ceremony) with our sherpas. We were joined by the lama from Pangboche monastary who led the ceremony. The weather was excellent and everyone had a great time celebrating the official beginning of the climb. The Icefall Doctors (icefall route sherpas hired by SPCC) have now placed nine ladders and have reached the "popcorn" section of the icefall. They are hoping to finish the route up the icefall in the next few days if all goes well.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Expedition Leader

Earlier: Expedition Leader, Eric Simonson, reports that yesterday the team trekked from Dingboche (14,450') to Lobuche (16,000') and will stay there for another rest day and good night's sleep. The team is doing well and enjoying the big views from day hikes around Lobuche.

Eric is excited that the Icefall doctors have started their work on the Khumbu Icefall. Ang Jangbu in Everest Base Camp says the Icefall Doctors had their Puja (blessing ceremony) yesterday and began working in the icefall today. The Icefall Doctors are a few Sherpas, paid for by all the climbing expeditions, whose job it is to set the best possible route through the icefall and maintain it throughout the climbing season as the glacier moves and inevitable destroys parts of the route which have to be reset. We expect that the icefall route will be set in a week or so. The team plans to make it to Everest Base camp on Monday, March 6th, and everything is moving forward as planned!

Ang Jangbu in BC reports that the Singapore women's group did summit Lobuche Peak yesterday at around 11am and returned to Lobuche base camp safely. They are taking a rest day there today and plan to come all the way to Everest Base Camp tomorrow. While John Golden's group is in Dingboche and everyone is doing well.

Earlier: Tengboche, Pangboche, Pheriche: IMG expedition leader Eric Simonson called in to say that yesterday the team hiked from Namche to Tengboche Monastery at 12,700', and then went a little further to spend the night in Pangboche.

Today the team will be moving up to Pheriche at around 14,000' where they'll spend the night and have a rest day, acclimating and doing some short hikes. In Pheriche they'll also meet with the HRA (Himalayan Rescue Association) who have established a clinic in Pheriche and treat anyone who needs their help for a nominal fee. They meet with climbing and trekking expeditions to better prepare them for altitude issues and other potential mountaineering health issues.

All is well, and everybody is doing fine. Typical for the Khumbu Valley in the Spring, the weather is cold and clear in the mornings with some light (but melting away) snow in the afternoons.

Earlier: Over the next few weeks people from all over the world will converge on Kathmandu, Nepal to join in one of the world's classic human-powered challenges. For some the goal will be the summit, for others it will be Base Camp. Each year at Mt. Everest there is a different mix of teams and countries represented, but we all share personal goals, a love of the mountains, and an adventurous spirit.

In Kathmandu, preparing for our arrival, IMG leader Ang Jangbu and his team have already received our big oxygen shipment, as well as 50 new tents, 2500 meters of 8 and 9mm fixed rope, and additional food and supplies that were shipped ahead of our departure. They have repackaged everything into yak loads, and we have now had several big MI 17 helicopter flights to Shyangboche (above Namche), with over 3000 kg of food, fuel, and gear on each flight. These flights were met on arrival by our sirdar, Ang Pasang, and his crew, and sent toward Base Camp by yaks. Currently we have some of the Sherpa team at Base Camp, constructing the tent platforms. Since the camp is on a moraine, underlain by ice which moves and melts, these need to be reconstructed each year (and sometimes even during the expedition!) IMG leaders Mark Tucker, Justin Merle, Mike Hamill, and I are all on our way to Nepal and will be there in the next few days. Next stop, Kathmandu!

We have a great team for 2009 and I am personally looking forward to meeting everyone soon.

This Everest expedition is truly a team effort. On behalf of everyone on the IMG team, from Ashford to Kathmandu, thanks for following along with us. We'll look forward to sharing our 2009 Everest adventure with you!

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

Earlier: In 2009 IMG will return to with a few more members! IMG Himalayan Director Eric Simonson, and a film team featuring IMG on Discovery Channel’s popular Everest TV series, will join the great group of climbers and trekkers already on board for IMG’s 2009 Everest expedition.  Since 1991 IMG has successfully supported 179 people from 14 countries to the summit of Everest, and we are looking forward to another great season on Everest.The planning and preparations are already well under way. Ang Jangbu reports from Kathmandu that the first 3000kg of gear was sent last week by helicopter to Shyangboche.  The loads are now moving by yak toward Base Camp, where the Sherpa team has already started building our camp. Stay tuned for more!

Everest from the South Side in Nepal

Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350 meters)

This is a picture of the popular South Col Route up Mt. Everest.  Base camp is located at 17,500 feet.   This is where climbers begin their true trip up the mountain.  This is also where support staff often remain to monitor the expeditions and provide medical assistance when necessary.  Many organizations offer hiking trips which just go to base camp as the trip is not technically challenging (though you must be very fit). 

From base camp, climbers typically train and acclimate (permitting the body to adjust to the decreased oxygen in the air) by traveling and bringing supplies back and forth through the often treacherous Khumbu Icefall.    This training and recuperation continues throughout the climb, with the final summit push often being the only time to climbers do not go back and forth between camps to train, bring supplies, and recuperate for the next push. 

The Icefall is in constant motion.  It contains enormous ice seracs, often larger than houses, which dangle precariously over the climbers heads, threatening to fall at any moment without warning, as the climbers cross endless crevasses and listen to continuous ice creaking below.  This often acts as a testing ground to judge if less experienced climbers will be capable of continuing.   The Icefall is located between 17,500 and 19,500 feet.

Camp I - 5900 meters

After the Icefall, the climbers arrive at Camp I, which is located at 19,500 feet.  Depending on the type of expedition, Camp I will either be stocked by the climbers as they ascend and descend the Icefall, or by Sherpas in advance.

The area between Camp I and Camp II is known as the Western Cwm.  As the climbers reach Camp II at 21,000 feet, they may be temporarily out of sight of their support at Base camp.  Nonetheless, modern communication devises permit the parties to stay in contact.

Camp II - 6500 meters

As the climbers leave Camp II, they travel towards the Lhotse face (Lhotse is a 27,920 foot mountain bordering Everest).  The Lhotse face is a steep, shiny icy wall.  Though not technically extremely difficult, one misstep or slip could mean a climber's life.  Indeed, many climbers have lost their lives through such mishaps. 

Camp III - 23,700 feet (7200 meters)

To reach Camp III, climbers must negotiate the Lhotse Face. Climbing a sheer wall of ice demands skill, strength and stamina. It is so steep and treacherous that many  Sherpas move directly from Camp II to Camp IV on the South Col, refusing to stay on the Lhotse Face.

Camp IV - 26,300 feet (8000 meters)

As you’re leaving C4…it’s a little bit of a down slope, with the uphill side to the left. There are typically snow on the ledges to walk down on, interspersed with rock, along with some fixed rope. The problem with the rope is that the anchors are bad, and there’s not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately it’s not too steep, but there is a ton of exposure and people are usually tired when walking down from camp. The rock is a little down sloping to the right as well, and with crampons on, it can be bit tricky with any kind of wind. There’s a little short slope on reliable snow which leads to the top of the Geneva Spur, and the wind pressure gradient across the spur can increase there as you’re getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can create some footing issues during the rappel, because it’s impossible to see over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to leave Camp 4 without gas, as it’s easier to keep moving down the Spur when it’s important to see all the small rock steps and where the old feet are going. Navigating down through all of the spaghetti of fixed ropes is a bit of a challenge, especially with mush for brains at that point. One lands on some lower ledges which aren’t so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid. At this point, it’s just a matter of staying upright, and usually, the wind has died significantly after dropping off the Spur. The route turns hard to the left onto the snowfield that leads to the top of the Yellow Bands.

Camp IV, which is at 26,300 on the Lhotse face, is typically the climbers' first overnight stay in the Death Zone.  The Death Zone is above 26,000 feet.  Though there is nothing magical about that altitude, it is at this altitude that most human bodies lose all ability to acclimate. Accordingly, the body slowly begins to deteriorate and die - thus, the name "Death Zone."  The longer a climber stays at this altitude, the more likely illness (HACE - high altitude cerebral edema - or HAPE - high altitude pulmonary edema) or death will occur.  Most climbers will use oxygen to climb and sleep at this altitude and above.  Generally, Sherpas refuse to sleep on the Lhotse face and will travel to either Camp II or Camp IV.

Camp IV is located at 26,300 feet. This is the final major camp for the summit push.  It is at this point that the climbers make their final preparations.  It is also a haven for worn-out climbers on their exhausting descent from summit attempts (both successful and not).  Sherpas or other climbers will often wait here with supplies and hot tea for returning climbers.

From Camp IV, climbers will push through the Balcony, at 27,500 feet, to the Hillary Step at 28,800 feet.  The Hillary Step, an over 70 foot rock step, is named after Sir. Edmond Hillary, who in 1953, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to summit Everest.  The Hillary Step, which is climbed with fixed ropes, often becomes a bottleneck as only one climber can climb at a time.  Though the Hillary Step would not be difficult at sea level for experienced climbers, at Everest's altitude, it is considered the most technically challenging aspect of the climb.

Summit - 29,028 feet (8848 meters)

Once the climbers ascend the Hillary Step, they slowly and laboriously proceed to the summit at 29,028 feet.  The summit sits at the top of the world.  Though not the closest place to the sun due to the earth's curve, it is the highest peak on earth.  Due to the decreased air pressure, the summit contains less than one third the oxygen as at sea level.  If dropped off on the summit directly from sea level (impossible in reality), a person would die within minutes.  Typically, climbers achieving the great summit will take pictures, gain their composure, briefly enjoy the view, then return to Camp IV as quickly as possible.   The risk of staying at the summit and the exhaustion from achieving the summit is too great to permit climbers to fully enjoy the great accomplishment at that moment.  

As most readers of this page know, the return trip can be even more dangerous than the climb to the summit.

 

 
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