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  IMG Everest Expedition 2011: April 6 Update

 
Classic Climbers Reach Pheriche
The Classic Team had a great couple of nights in Deboche. On the rest day we walked back up the hill to visit the Tengboche Monastery, and while we were there, made a point to drop into the local Bakery. This group's favorite was the chocolate cake and Crazy Wacky Cake. Today, we left Deboche early and headed for Pangboche monastery, where we stopped in to see Lama Geshe and get his blessing for our upcoming climbs. An added bonus to the visit was running into ten more of our IMG Sherpas, doing the same!
 
After a fun visit in Pangboche, we continued up the valley towards Pheriche, eventually crossing the small pass and dropping down to cross the river, dodging a few yaks along the way. We are now entering the upper valley, and as we head into Pheriche, we can look up and see one of our first mountain objectives, Lobuche. It was a pretty sweet view of the route, and it fired up the climbers.
Further up the valley to the west was Cho Oyu, but it was partially hidden in the clouds today. In the Himalayan Hotel, we bump into the Hybrid team again; it is always nice to see some welcome faces and teammates. We are all traveling well, and most important, we are all healthy!

Tomorrow for the Hybrid group is to move up to the village of Lobuche. For the Classic team, a short hike up the ridge for a view of Island Peak, Dingboche and Lhotse and maybe a visit to the HRA clinic in Pheriche to see our friends at Himalayan Rescue Association. The word from some people walking down valley from Base Camp is that there has been some snow and wind up there. Translation for the IMG Team: take our time. All is well, and everyone wants to say hello to everyone back home!

—Greg Vernovage, Expedition Leader

IMG Teams on the Move
Everyone is where they should be right now, which is good news. Yesterday we had IMG guide Eben Reckord with Martin and Stuart fly to Lukla, and they are heading to Namche today. The Dominican Team made it to Deboche yesterday, and the Hybrid team is up in Pheriche, both on schedule, and both teams are doing well. Greg reports from Deboche that his Classic team of climbers and trekkers are all looking good and ready to move to Pheriche today. He says there was fresh snow overnight and this morning it is clear as a bell, so it is going to be an absolutely spectacular day as they walk below Ama Dablam. Today we have the first members of the April 7 team of trekkers, Lobuche, C2/C3, and Lhotse climbers arriving to Kathmandu. I will be working with them and IMG guide Adam Angel over the next couple days to make sure everyone is all set before they fly to Lukla on the 9th. So far so good!—Eric Simonson, IMG Partner

Earlier:

Another Great Day in the Khumbu

We woke up and had not a cloud in the sky. For our team acclimatization hike today we headed up to Shyangboche (the small airport above town), then continued up to the Everest View Hotel for a great view of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. After taking in the sights, we looped back down to Khumjung and walked through the Hillary school grounds. Back in Namche in time for lunch and a few showers.
—Greg Vernovage, Expedition Leader
 

Classic Climbers Reach Namche (11,300')

Smooth sailing so far. We landed with all of our bags in Lukla and hit the trail. Perfect trekking weather, cool with a few afternoon clouds to keep the sun off of us. Pulled into Phakding yesterday and relaxed outside. We got a big treat when we noticed a Langur monkey sitting up in the tree and looking as interested in us as we were of him. Neither Justin or I had ever seen or heard of these animals and we were fired up to get a few photos.
 

Friday we were up early and on the trail. Good cloud cover and a cool day gave up a great opportunity to move up Namche hill. The hill is still there, and the team handled it perfectly: slow and steady. We pulled into Namche and the Khumbu Lodge, where we ran into our friends with the Hybrid group and congratulated each other on the trek so far. We are all having a great time and laughing like crazy.

 

This morning we got some breakfast and then climbed up to the top of Namche to Sherwi Khangba Lodge where Phil's old friend Lhakpa Sonam runs the Sherpa Museum. Lhakpa says hello to all the IMG friends and especially Phil and Sue Ershler. A little further up we got our first glimpse of just the very top of Everest as it poked out of the clouds. We also got a glimpse of a team favorite, Ama Dablam.

On the walk down to the Saturday market, a few of our Phortse sherpas walked up. Danuru 2, Karma Rita, and Dawa gave us a quick hello as they were headed home with the weekly shopping. We will see them again once we get to Base Camp. The market was great and now we have an afternoon of rest at the lodge. All is well and everyone is doing very well.
—Greg Vernovage, Expedition Leader
 

Earlier:

IMG guides Greg Vernovage and Justin Merle, along with the Classic Climbers and Trekkers, got up early this morning. After a quick breakfast they loaded the bus at 5am for the trip to the airport. The flights went on schedule, and by 8am the whole team and all their luggage was successfully in Lukla.

After hitting the bakery in Lukla for some tasty treats, the team is on the trail, headed for Phakding today.

Expedition Sirdar Ang Pasang reports from Base Camp that most of the tent platforms are now done and he will be coming down to Namche tomorrow to meet Mike and Greg do the team's registration with the SPCC (for the Icefall permit fees and counting the number of oxygen bottles and fuel cartridges for the garbage deposit). The weather is good and everything is going smoothly, so we are all psyched that the trip is off to a great start.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Partner

Earlier:

IMG guides Greg Vernovage and Justin Merle did the briefing at the Ministry today, and received our official Everest permits. The 2011 IMG Everest Expedition has now officially begun. The team members will be arriving in Kathmandu over the next couple days, and we will have our team welcome dinner on the evening of the 29th. So far so good!

—Eric Simonson, IMG Partner
 

Earlier:

We had our final guide meeting yesterday, and Merle, Hamill, and Vernovage are heading out the door to Kathmandu tomorrow, with the rest of us following over the next couple days. Next stop, Kathmandu!

Up at Everest Base Camp, Chewang Lendu (4-time Lhotse summiter) called to report that the weather has been clear and windy, and that the Sherpa team has been making good progress building the camp. So far, they have managed to built the platforms and erect the Sherpa kitchen and dining tents, the member kitchen tent, one of our two big Eureka MGPTS US Army tents (eurekamilitarytents.com), and one big storage tent. Now they are working on building the sites for the big, member dining tents and communication tent. After that, they will start on all the platforms for the sleeping tents. Chewang reports that the SPCC (Icefall doctors) and a handful of other teams are now at BC also working on their camps.
—Eric Simonson, IMG Partner
 

Earlier:

Led by Eric Simonson, Greg Vernovage, Justin Merle, Mike Hamill, Ang Jangbu Sherpa, Eben Reckord, Adam Angel, and Max Bunce

Our third shipment of food and gear has now reached Kathmandu, and everything is moving forward on schedule. With the conclusion of the Losar Festival (Tibetan New Year), ten more IMG sherpas and two cooks are heading to Base Camp today to continue work on the tent platforms.

Every year we have to literally carve the camp out of the rocks and ice of glacier, which is constantly moving and changing. The sherpas will be making spaces for a number of very large kitchen, dining, and socializing tents, dozens of sleeping tents, several shower tents, toilet tents, storage tents, and our communications nerve center. It takes lots of chopping ice and prying, pushing, lifting, and rolling the heavy stones to build a spectacular Base Camp!

Eric Simonson, IMG Partner

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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