Newsletter 1316 April 2010
Trips to Lobuje East and through the Khumbu Icefall
The Himex Base Camp has been very active over the past few days and I have barely had the chance to catch up with all the goings-on in our little village at an altitude of about 5,300m. Most members of the team have now moved down to our Lobuje camp to tackle Lobuje East over the next few days. The team has been split into two groups and the first group is just about to climb up to the high camp.
The second group, plus the Lobuje East climbing team consisting of Steffi, Phil and Duncan, is just on their way to Lobuje Base Camp to spend the night there and ascend to high camp, also known as ‘Moraine Camp’, tomorrow.
Part of the reason why the Himex team acclimatises on Lobuje Peak is the fact that it minimises the number of trips through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall and that it is actually more fun to climb a peak and enjoy the magnificent views from the top – rather than sitting at Camp 2 on Mount Everest with a very sparse view of the surrounding mountains. The teams will actually climb Lobuje East twice: on their first trip they will spend a night at high camp, then summit and then come down to base camp and rest there for a couple of days. The second time they will go straight to the summit and spend one or two nights on the top, which, at 6,129m, is almost as high as Camp 2 on Mount Everest and as I said before, offers magnificent views of the surrounding giants.
As I am writing this, the second group is just about to leave and the otherwise busy Himex camp is slowly turning into a quiet place. But not for long as Russell is expecting a couple of journalists from a German magazine to arrive this afternoon.
The Ultimate Via Ferratta
While the first group walked down to Lobuje on Saturday, three of our guides (Adrian, Hiro and Johnny) and about 15 Sherpas were crossing the Khumbu Icefall early in the morning to check out the route and carry loads to Camp 2. The team left base camp at 3am and Sherpas as well as guides took about three hours from crampon point (the place where you have to put your crampons on) to Camp 1, which is amazingly quick. Adrian, who summited Everest with Himex last year, said that despite some potential danger the icefall seemed pretty safe this year. “It is actually the ultimate Via Ferrata,” Adrian told me. “Compared to last year the ladders are shorter, however, the terrain seems more broken.” For Johnny, who is working for Himex in the Himalaya for the first time this year, the icefall was a complete new experience. “In a way, the objective hazard of moving underneath huge ice cliffs is rather familiar to me as a Kiwi mountaineer,” he said. “The only place I was a bit worried was the ‘popcorn area’ – a place where huge ice blocks are teetering around you.” On the whole, the guides seemed to be quite confident about the icefall as with lots of the huge seracs having broken off during the winter, the avalanche danger seemed to have decreased this year. “I think about the risk before I go through, but when I am in the icefall, I actually quite enjoy it,” Adrian said.
After having touched Camp 1 the three guides and five of the Sherpas descended back to base camp, whereas seven Sherpas, who had already been carrying gear to Camp 1, added some luggage to their existing loads and carried on to Camp 2. “It is amazing how much these guys can carry. The only reason we could keep up with them through the icefall was that they were carrying loads, and we were not,” Adrian said.
But for now, the camp is quiet. I am sitting in the warmth of the ‘White Pod’ with only the sound of the generator disturbing my trail of thoughts and my writing. The Sherpas have come back from Camp 2 and will rest here for a couple days until they will tackle the icefall again to carry up more material to Camp 2 and eventually Camp 3. But before they will be able do that, the ropes need to be fixed along the route to Camp 3 and eventually to Camp 4. But this is a different story, which I will tell you about in my next Newsletter. Until then, I hope you have enjoyed catching up with the Himex’s team progress on Lobuje East and Mount Everest.