It’s 2:30 in the morning and a sky so full of stars as to be almost alien
shines through the frigid 17,600-foot air. Our Sherpa cook staff have been up
for a good hour already making preparations, and it is only guilt in this
knowledge which rouses me from my warm cocoon of a sleeping bag as hot bed tea
is served to us. Nervousness, excitement, fear, anticipation; emotions run the
full gamut on this the morning of the first trip up through the Khumbu Icefall
for the team. Well, most of the team. I will remain down as I am not yet
healthy enough yet to challenge the altitudes of Camp 1 and the Western Cwm.
And so, I have the luxury of observing the rest of the team and their
preparations without the underlying tension which always precedes a trip
through the Icefall.
The Khumbu Icefall. It is one of Earth’s most beautiful and otherworldly
landscapes; also potentially one of the deadliest. It’s a love/hate
relationship for all of us. Even for the Sherpas, this is never to be taken
lightly. They are up with us to start a small fire of juniper here at base
camp. This is considered to be an offering to the gods in supplication for
safe passage through this awesome chaos of shattered ice blocks and crevasses.
The sharp cracks, pops, and rumbles emanating from the living, moving Icefall,
along with the occasional roar of ice avalanches (also termed “icefall”); are
never more evident or foremost in our consciousness than the night before
heading through this passage into the reaches of the upper mountain.
Now, as I write this, the first full round trip is complete, and all are
veterans. Yesterday a very tired team returned to base camp from Camps 1 and
2. The harsh reality of eating, drinking, and breathing; of simply living at
21,500 feet has made its impression on all. Today, after a good and long
night’s sleep in the “thick air” of Base Camp, and several good BC meals, all
members are smiling, invigorated, and energized. This evening after dinner was
filled with chess and hearts games, relaxing and listening to good music, and
general good cheer. And thus begins the rest and recovery period in
preparation for the second trip up mountain.
Sorry for the bit of delay in this dispatch. We’ll be sending more photos and
Vern Tejas, Willi Prittie, Dave
Morton, Jose Luis Peralvo, and Lakpa Rita Sherpa will lead the Alpine Ascent
team on Everest this Spring. They will attempt the standard South East ridge
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