Friday, May 10, 2013

Stalking a summit date

May 10, 2013
Rest Day.

These days are simple. If I can come up with one task that gives purpose to my life I then free myself to nap and eat chocolate bars with impunity. Today that task will be the leveling of my tent platform. It is sometimes easy to forget we are living on a glacier. All about EBC one sees rocks and boulders that seem to have arrived at their final destinations. Upon closer examination one notes these stones to be perched atop ice that is slowly melting. In a similar fashion my body heat melts deeper trenches beneath my tent nightly until there remains no sleepable contortion. 

MIngma has returned from Phortse. He is pleased with the inflatable palm tree I left outside his tent and eager to get on with the tasks of day to day living at EBC. I mention my tent platform and he pledges to return with a shovel to help me. I take an advance on this and eat a chocolate bar. BTW, all this chocolate bar consumption is not just about loving Hershey’s with Almonds. It is also an effort to stabilize my weight, which is now down 20 pounds from where I started the expedition.  

As the sun touches EBC the temperature rises from the mid 20’s to about 75 degrees. I kill time waiting for Mingma by building stone sculptures. 

May 11, 2013
Rest Day. Trek to Gorak Shep.

Morning coffee in the Cook Tent

The weather forecast for two days of lite wind at the summit proved correct. The rope fixing teams pounced on the opportunity, placing anchors and lines all the way from the South Col to the summit. The fix is in. Everest is now climbable. 

This year will also see the introduction of an element that could potentially save many lives up high on Everest. The Hilary Step, a notorious bottleneck at almost 29,000 feet, has been the site of life and death drama for as long as climbers have come to test themselves on Everest. One of the reasons for this is the steep narrow corridor, only wide enough for one climber to pass at a time. Other climbers waiting to ascend or descend the Hilary Step must wait in line, exposed to the elements and burning precious oxygen. Last year saw wait times of over an hour, and four deaths which could arguably be attributed to that wait on some level. Matters are that much worse when an exhausted climber becomes entangled in the lines, thus shutting down all traffic flow until he is freed. For the last three years IMG has lobbied hard with the other major guide companies to put in an alternate descending route. This would be an ambitious project, requiring the drilling of anchor holes into the rock and the fixing of lines that would allow climbers to rappel off the side of Everest just above the Hilary Step, dangling there above Tibet while they traverse below the line of climbers waiting to ascend the Step. The combined manpower and resources of several teams would be required to pull this off, and for various reasons it simply did not work out in years past. But this year, and from this point forward, will be different. The alternate route was secured yesterday and will no doubt be tested in the coming days. 

The next weather window is expected on May 15. As large crowds are expected, we are sending up only a fraction of our team. They leave EBC at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow.  The next weather window looks to be on May 20, when very low winds are forecast above camp 4. Most of our remaining team members, including myself and Ty, will make our summit bids on this day, given no change in the forecast. This will see us leaving EBC on May 16 at 3:30 a.m. and climbing straight to camp 2. We will stay that night and rest the day of May 17. We will leave Camp 2 at 4:00 a.m. on May 18, climbing to camp 3 high up on the Lohtse face, then traversing the following morning to camp 4 (The South Col).  We should arrive at camp 4 on May 19 in the late morning hours. After resting in our tents through the day, we will then leave for the summit around 10:00 p.m. If all goes according to plan, I should reach the summit of Everest around 6:00 a.m. on May 20. Nepal is about 13 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, so make that adjustment if you care to follow along in local time. While the actual dates of the above may change owing to shifting weather, the basic order of events should remain the same.