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

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