Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back at the Beach aka Base Camp

After a fairly taxing four and a half days above base camp, the team arrived back down in the (now seemingly) thick air of base camp yesterday morning.  Thus ended our first (out of three) rotation above base camp.  The goal of the rotation was to gain some elevation for a few days and allow our bodies to acclimatize.  It also allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the terrain above base camp (particularly with the Khumbu Icefall) so that we can be quicker and more efficient over these sections during the summit push.


On the first day, we woke up EARLY to have breakfast at 2 am and leave by 3 am.  It was very cold as we set out, but thankfully not as bad as we expected.  We passed by the Puja Altar on our way out to give an offering of rice, breathe a bit of the juniper smoke, and ask for safe passage on the rotation as is traditional in the Sherpa culture.  Afterwards, we set out into the Icefall.


We made pretty good time through the lower portion, reaching the high point that we had gotten on the day hike above 20 minutes faster than the previous day.  That’s when things started to get interesting and much more challenging.  The next section of the Icefall is called the ‘popcorn’ section because the ice moves like popcorn and every time through is different.  The major hope is that the ice doesn’t move too drastically while you’re in the section since many of these chunks are as big as refrigerators and even houses.  Although the movement of the ice is somewhat random, we move through in the middle of the night when the temperature is colder and thus the ice is less likely to move.  The push through the ‘popcorn’ consisted of a lot of scrambling up, down, and around big chunks of ice in the steepest part of the Icefall.  It wasn’t exactly comforting to see a few sections where the rope was covered by a giant block of ice, but we all made it through safely.  The push lasted about an hour and 45 minutes, and left us all feeling pretty winded. 


Next came the most dangerous section of the Icefall, where ice falling from the glaciers on the West Shoulder of Everest was a risk.  Here we really needed to hurry, and were constantly encouraged to move as quickly as possible.  The ground throughout the whole section was littered with chunks of ice that had fallen from the West Shoulder, but I didn’t stop to take any pictures.  I just tried to follow Lhakpa Rita as quickly as possible and in about an hour we made it through.  Afterwards, it was fairly easy walking to camp 1, where we spent the rest of the day and the next day resting. 


After the rest day, we set out to move to camp 2 at 21,300’.  The walk took us through the Western Cwm (pronounced “coom”) which is the valley formed by Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse.  Based on the size of the mountains forming the valley, I expected the valley itself to be a bit bigger, but still the views were amazing.  The panorama shot shows the view looking down valley over camp 1, and the other picture shows Everest on the left, Lhotse in the middle, and part of Nuptse sticking up on the right.  As you can see, we were starting to get pretty close, but there was still a lot of uphill left to cover.  The climb throughout the day was fairly gradual uphill, with a few pretty big crevasses to cross.  In total, it took close to 6 hours to make it to camp 2, but it wasn’t nearly as stressful as the climb through the Icefall.  


We took a rest day at camp 2, during which we hiked briefly up a rock moraine towards the West Shoulder where we got some very nice views of the valley and the Lhotse face (the next section of the climb above camp 2) which looked very steep and imposing from that perspective (and I imagine any other).  The next day we woke up early and left at 5:00 am to descend to base camp.  We moved very quickly downhill and reached camp 1 in an hour and 15 minutes.  We took a short rest, and cached a few items at camp 1 and then descended through the Icefall.  In order to maximize our own safety, we practically ran through the entire Icefall, and reached base camp around 9:20 am.  I included a few photos that I took on the way down to give you a sense of the climbing through the Khumbu Icefall.  One shows a section where two ladders bridged some crevasses and it got a bit congested by traffic, and the other shows my dad descending through a portion of the ‘popcorn’ section.  When we got down, we all enjoyed a nice shower and changed clothes.  All in all, it was a successful first rotation, and we will all enjoy a few days of rest at base camp before heading up again for the second rotation.


Also, for anyone interested in e-mailing myself or my dad during our time at base camp, feel free to send an e-mail to  Make sure to include the appropriate name (Rob Sobecki or Chris Sobecki) in the subject line so that the e-mail gets sorted appropriately.  I hope everyone is enjoying the blog so far and we will continue to keep you updated as the climb progresses.


-Rob + Chris

Friday, April 20, 2012

First Ventures into the Khumbu Icefall

The last few days we have spent acclimatizing at base camp, and practicing for the Khumbu Icefall.  Today we took our first foray into the Icefall itself, walking about two hours up to the first ladder crossing over a crevasse.  Everyone did well on the hike, so it was a big confidence boost.  It was also nice to get a sense of the Icefall since the other times we head up through will be in the dark (and cold) in order to limit the exposure to objective hazards such as avalanches and shifting ice.  The two pictures are from our high point on the climb today.  One shows the view from where we took a break, including a big chunk of the Khumbu glacier, base camp (on the rocks in the middle ground), and a nice view of Pumori in the background.  It’s hard to tell at the resolution that I can send, but from that point we could see how huge base camp is covering most of the rocky section in view in the photo.  To give a frame of reference, it takes almost an hour to walk from one side of base camp (near where our camp is) to the far other side of camp (where Russell Bryce’s camp is). 


Tomorrow we start our first rotation above base camp, which will last around 5 days.  Our plan is to wake up around 1:15 am, and have breakfast at 2 am.  Then we will leave to head up into the Icefall at 3 am.  The climb should take around 8 hours to reach camp 1.  The next day we will take a rest day, and then the following day we will move up in the Western Cwm (the massive valley formed by Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse) to camp 2.  We will spend a day or two at Camp 2, and then head back down to base camp.  I will make sure to take lots of photos and will post an update once we get back to base camp!






Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Welcome to Everest Base Camp

On Friday, we completed the final leg of the trek from Lobuche to Everest Base Camp.  It was pretty amazing to finally see the mountain up close.  Although you can’t see the summit pyramid from our site because it is blocked by the west shoulder, we get our fair share of up close and personal views of the Khumbu Icefall.  We had lunch and then said goodbye to most of the trekkers and Island Peak climbers, except for the family and friends of Everest climbers (including my sister Nicki) who stayed one night at base camp. 

After lunch we got situated in our tents (we each get a tent to ourselves at base camp which is nice), and explored base camp.  Himalayan climbs are definitely unlike any other climbs we have done with regards to how elaborate the base camp set-up is, but then again I am sure that we will appreciate that given how much time we will be spending here.  To give you an idea, we have a dining tent which comfortably seats 12 with a projection screen for showing movies, a communications tent for sending emails and charging electronics, a leisure tent for hanging out in, 2 cook tents, 3 toilet tents, a shower tent, a storage tent, and a Buddhist altar.  It isn’t exactly home (the frequent sound of avalanches and shifting ice remind us of that), but I can’t say we’re roughing it either.  The luxuries will definitely get more limited as we progress up the mountain.

The next morning we said goodbye to our family and friends who trekked along with us.  It was great to have them along, and sad to see them leave, but it was also nice to start the more serious segment of the expedition.   Then we had a team meeting to go over the plan for the next six weeks, and then spent the rest of the day resting and acclimatizing.  The next day we went over a more thorough gear check for the climbing equipment and made sure everyone was rigged up properly, and then we started some basic practice with ladder crossings (which we will see a lot of in the Icefall and the Western Cwm).  We were all fairly intimidated by the ladder crossing, but once we got started it turned out to be pretty fun. 

Yesterday was our Puja Ceremony, which is a Sherpa tradition to mark the beginning of the expedition and provide for the safety of all of the expedition members throughout the climb.  It lasted over three hours, and consisted of everything from chanting Buddhist prayers, to drinking Sherpa milk tea and rice wine, to raising the prayer flags, to dancing and shots of Johnnie Walker Red Label.  None of us really seemed to master the Sherpa dances, but we did our best.  After the Puja we had lunch and then rested for the rest of the day until dinner.  After dinner we finished the two movies we had started the previous nights (Hot Tub Time Machine and Fargo), and watched another movie (Snatch).  So far Hot Tub Time Machine is losing the popularity contest, but I thought it was better than I expected. 

Today we started some more serious practicing for the Icefall, which involved setting up a course through parts of the lower glacier and taking laps around it.  The course involved some ladder crossings, vertical ice climbing, rappelling, and travel over other tricky terrain.  I can definitely still feel we are at altitude when I do any sort of heavy exertion, but it seems like so far I am acclimatizing well.  Our plan is to keep practicing over the next few days and make our first trip to camp 1 on April 21.  Until then we will keep enjoying the comfortable environment of base camp.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Within Sight of Base Camp

Yesterday we trekked from Dingboche to Lobuche, one of the last small towns before base camp.  We started off on a high traverse across until we finally reached the town of Thukla which was at the base of a large hill.  We stopped in Thukla for a quick tea and soup, and then headed up the hill.  At the top of the hill we reached an area filled with stone memorials to the climbers who have died climbing Everest and the surrounding peaks.  It was a very peaceful place, but also a sobering reminder of the inherent danger of climbing 8000m peaks. 

Afterwards, we climbed another two hours to Lobuche where we had a great lunch (chicken cordon bleu) and dinner (yak steak).  We had a fair amount of free time in the afternoon, so I managed to finish two books I had been reading.  The first was Annapurna by Maurice Herzog, which chronicles the 1950 ascent of Annapurna which was the first time an 8000m peak was summited.  The second book was the Steve Jobs biography, which was very interesting regardless of how you feel about Apple.  We spent most of the evening playing cards before finally heading to bed.

Today we are on a rest day.  This morning we had a relaxing start.  Also overnighting in Lobuche was Jim Whittaker, a member of the first American team that summited Everest in 1963.  This morning he was being interviewed for a National Geographical documentary which is following another American team that will be attempting to follow the same West Ridge route Whittaker and the team followed.

We left around 10:00 am for an acclimatization hike.  We first hiked to the “Crystal Pyramid” which is a joint Italian-Nepali High Altitude Research Center which resembles the entrance to the Louvre.  Afterwards, we climbed up onto the nearby ridge to get great views of Nuptse, Pumori, the beginning of the Khumbu Icefall and Everest Base Camp (see picture below).  Our high point was around 17,060’ which felt pretty good to all of us so it seems as though we are acclimatizing well so far.  Interestingly enough, from the ridge it appeared as though we were looking down on Everest BC despite it being another 600’ above us! We were able to see an avalanche well above basecamp which was quite impressive.   Now we’re sitting in the tea house resting until lunch, and enjoying our last indoor day in a while since we are heading to base camp tomorrow.  We will continue to keep you all updated as internet allows!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Photo of Lama Geshe and Lhakpa Rita

Photo of Everest and Lhotse

Trekking from Khumjung to Dingboche

Hi Everyone,

Since our last post, we have been keeping pretty busy. We woke up the
morning in Khumjung to fantastic views of Ama Dablam, Lhotse, and the
upper flanks of Everest. You can see Everest and Lhotse in the photo
below; Lhotse is the peak on the right, and in the middle of the photo
you can see the summit ridge on Everest leading from the South Summit
to the true summit (with the cloud blowing off of the top). It was
impressive how fast the clouds were moving off of the peaks, it must
have been incredibly windy up top that day.

After that, we trekked to Tenboche and visited the famous monastery
there. We also made some time to check out the local bakery, which
had fantastic chocolate cake and apple pie. I also got some much
needed indulgence in the form of a cappuccino! Afterwards, we just
had a short walk down to Deboche where we spent the night. Even
though we were still a few days hike away from base camp, we found out
that before the summit push we will be coming down to rest in Deboche
(of course it will be faster hiking once we are better acclimatized).
I am sure that we will all appreciate the bakery even more by that

The next day we woke up early to leave Deboche and head to Pangboche.
Here we received a traditional blessing by Lama Geshe for safe travels
in the mountains and good luck on our summit attempt. In the photo
you can see Lama Geshe blessing Lhakpa Rita.

After Pangboche, we headed to Dingboche to spend the night. As we
have trekked along the rooms have started to get increasingly simple,
and Dingboche continued this trend, but it is still great to be able
to spend these nights outside of a tent.

Today we had a rest day, but we spent the morning on an
acclimatization hike in which we reached our high point for the trek
so far around 15,200'. Up there we all started to feel the altitude a
bit more, but everyone did well so it was a nice confidence booster as
we get closer to base camp. From the high point, you can normally see
great views of 4 8000m peaks—unfortunately we were completely socked
in by clouds all day today.

We spent most of the afternoon playing cards, but I am planning on
making a trip to the Dingboche bakery later (it's good to be able to
consume as many calories as you possibly can and still lose weight).
I feel like between the group we will be able to write a thorough
guide to the bakeries of the Khumbu by the time we reach base camp.

Tomorrow we head to Lobuche, which is our last stop before base camp.
Although the trek has been a ton of fun, it will be nice to finally
arrive and start preparing for the climb ahead. We will keep you all
posted as internet access allows!

-Rob + Chris

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trekking from Namche Bazaar to Thame

Dear Supporters,


We spent 2 nights in Namche Bazzar (11,300 ft)  which is the largest town in the Khumbu.  The tea house was quite luxurious in comparison to what we stayed in before (or I am told after) as we had electric blankets and a hot shower.  We awoke on the second morning to see we had overnight snow which made the town look even more magical.  See the picture below:

Yesterday we trekked to Thame (12,300 ft) which happens to be the home of our lead Sherpa, Lhakpa Rita Sherpa.  We had the opportunity this morning to visit and have tea at his parent’s house which gave us a good sense of how Sherpa’s live.  The picture below I took this morning before we left Thame:

Today we trekked about 4.5 hours and will spend the night in Khumjund.  We did get a very quick peak at Everest the other day before clouds covered it over but had a much better view of Lhotse (4th highest in the world) and Ama Dablam, which is a very impressive peak.  As of now we expect to arrive at Everest Base Camp on April 13. 



Chris + Rob


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Photo from trek to Namche Bazaar

I’m currently sitting in an internet café in Namche Bazaar, which with around a thousand residents is the largest town we will encounter on our trek to Everest Base Camp.  Two days ago, we woke up at 3:30 am, and left the hotel at 4:30 to catch an early flight to Lukla.  When we got to the airport, there was already a line, but thankfully we were able to get on a plane fairly quickly and fly to our jumping off point for the trek. 

The plane ride to Lukla was interesting.  Unfortunately, it was very cloudy so we did not get much of a view, but fortunately the pilots were able to find the tiny runway through the clouds and get us down on the ground safely.  From Lukla, it was only a few hours of hiking to the town of Phakding, but our progress was slowed by heavy rain and even some pretty big hail!  Luckily there were plenty of tea houses along the way to duck into and have a hot drink to relax and stay (somewhat) dry. 

The next day was a tougher as we gained significant elevation on our hike from Phakding to Namche.  This involved crossing several bridges across the river, which can be pretty scary and beautiful at the same time.  The last couple of hours of the day took us up a steep hill to our final destination around 11,500’ above sea level.  We were all pretty wiped out from the day, so we had a quick dinner of potatoes, noodles and yak meat before bed. 

Today we had a rest day in Namche, but in the morning we took an acclimatization hike up to the Everest View Hotel.  True to the name, we got our first views of Everest today as the peak was showing up through the clouds just as we were approaching our destination.  Unfortunately, it clouded in after a few minutes but it was great nonetheless.  We also managed to take in some breathtaking views of Ama Dablam. 

Tomorrow we will be heading to Thame, a small town a bit off the beaten path, where Lhakpa Rita Sherpa (one of our lead guides) was born and raised.  We will keep you posted as our journey progresses!