Newsletter 420 April 2001
Advanced Base Camp has been established
The last of the climbing team arrived at Advanced Base Camp (ABC) on April 19th. The Sherpas arrived on the 16th, and with the help of Kharsang, who had arrived a few days earlier, scraped a fantastic campsite from the rock covered glacier. Hiking to ABC was a challenge for each of us. It took two days to hike the 22km (13 mile) trail, gaining over 1300 m. (4000 ft), on a rock covered glacier.
The only trail markers were the ever present clods of yak dung. Getting lost, no matter how mind numbed the altitude was making you, was nearly impossible. Just follow your nose.
The trail is exquisitely beautiful, with towers of ice stretching 20 m (65 ft.) into the air. These castle-like formations have been wind sculpted for hundreds of years and no where in the world are they as tall as here. Everest stood above us, and on the 19th the wind barely blew from its summit, making it appear so gentle in comparison to the wind swept days we had been witnessing. (I hope you like the juxtaposition of yak poop and high alpine beauty.)
ABC is a wild place, a strip of moriane, about 100ft (30 m.) wide and 2000 ft. (650 m.) long. Just a few feet or inches beneath this layer of rock, is the glacier At this point, the East Rongbuk glacier is a few hundred feet thick. Crevasses criss cross the moraine, a few even radiate through our site. One false step out of the toilet tent and ......well, we have the gear for a rescue.
A number of teams have been active on the hill already. Fixed ropes now stretch almost to 8200 meters. This is much earlier than previous years. Last year only a handful of us fixed any rope. The rope we did fix was super strong, 11 mm static line, that survived the harsh summer, fall and winter weather. Our friends from the IGO8000 (International Guides and Operators on the 8000 meter peaks) company- International Mountain Guides- arrived a few weeks before us. They were able to string new rope up to the North Col and then along the north ridge to 7500 meters, where they intersected our old ropes.
With all of this rope in place, and the winds blowing up high, our Sherpas have been able to stock Camp 1 at the North Col, with most of the gear needed for the 4 high camps. In the next few days, our members will begin to climb up to Camp 1. Each person will carry a light load, perhaps just a sleeping bag. Our first objective is to allow everyone to acclimatize to 7000 meters, while refining their climbing skills. Oddly enough, except on the highest peaks, most mountaineers will never use fixed ropes. That aspect of climbing is new to a few of our team members.
I'm crossing my fingers as I write this part: ABC is warmer this year than last. There is a stream running across the top of the glacier, giving us easy access to drinking water. Last year we were chopping and melting ice until late May. Last night, my first at ABC, seemed quite warm. I even stayed up until 10:30 pm, and the Spanish team, camped below us, stayed up even later, watching a DVD. Last year, you needed to be deeply buried in your sleeping bag by 7:30 pm.
The morale of the team is very high. We have a wonderful stone deck in front of our dining tent and it has been fun to sit down upon it, sip coffee and listen to Russell tell stories about the NNE Ridge or Rudy's Coulior, or to listen to Evelyne tell stories of long-line, helicopter rescues on the North Face of the Eiger.
With a group like this, it is easy to be entertained (especially watching Robert's reaction to Jello, a dessert he had never wiggled before).