Everest – Day 21: Foray into the Icefall

April 19 (Friday)

Today we ventured out to the Khumbu Icefall to prepare ourselves for the first rotation up the mountain.  We only went about 1/4 up the Icefall.  We began going up and down small but very steep hills until we encountered first fixed lines and actual crevasses.

A few words about the Khumbu Icefall before I go on further.  The Icefall is naturally a glacier, and it sits on approximately 2,000 vertical feet of a pretty steep slope.  As any glacier, the part closest to the ground moves at different speed than the portion furthest up from the ground.  As a result, the glacier cracks and forms huge gaps, or crevasses.  In addition, huge ice towers and seracs are formed, as well as interesting formations resembling ice cream cones or mushrooms.  Khumbu Icefall moves anywhere from 3 to 5 feet a day which makes it especially treacherous since an ice tower can fall and crumble everything in its sight at any time.  Most vulnerable period for the movement of the Icefall is during a day, when it’s exposed and warmed up in sunlight (after 9 o’clock or so).   However, avalanches and other movements can happen during a night, or pretty much at any time.  Khumbu Icefall is one of, if not THE most dangerous part of the whole climb.

In order to safely (if that is such a thing) cross the Icefall, there is a group of 5 to 6 Sherpas chosen from different teams on the mountain, called the Icefall Doctors.  The Sherpas go out to the Icefall everyday to inspect the route and install and repair ladders to cross the crevasses, or to ascend the huge ice walls.

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the black specks in the left lower corner are people!

Moving on.  We clipped in to the fixed lines and kept moving up around and up the ice towers.  We crossed a few ladders which surprisingly were not too bad.  I was slow but it didn’t really bother me that much.  I actually really enjoyed the Icefall.  I was mesmerized by the huge seracs and ice formations the nature conjured up.  It felt like an ice castle all around me!  I tried not to think about how dangerous it can be though…

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resting at our destination for the day. Notice the huge slab of ice on the Western shoulder in the left upper corner; it’s the one that caused the deadly avalanche in 2014

 

I liked the Icefall, but when I got back to camp I felt somewhat nauseated.  We were supposed to go on a first rotation tomorrow and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be up to it.  If I’m sick, then how can I do well??  I felt much better after dinner though and went to bed full of anticipation for tomorrow, our first rotation!

First Rotation

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