Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp was the turn-around point for the first half of our trek in the Khumbu. This is the end point for most trekkers - typically after more than a week of walking - but it's only the starting line for climbers. Mid-May is the traditional summit season and so there were many teams at BC and many climbers were on the mountain, including some who had just summited. Sadly, and inevitably, there were also deaths, including 2 Koreans killed attempting a new route. We watched a helicopter take their bodies away.

Base Camp is nothing more than a temporary village of tents setup on the Khumbu Glacier at the foot of Everest. We hadn't expected a warm reception since climbing expeditions don't generally welcome trekkers, who can bring germs into camp and scupper the most elaborate and expensive of summit attempts. However this year a *bakery* had opened and we snaked on delicious apple pie and almond shortbread and had the chance to talk to camp inhabitants as they dropped by for a bite.

Mary enjoys apple pie at the Everest Base Camp bakery.

The view approaching Base Camp. The Khumbu Glacier covers the valley floor. The Base Camp tents are the small collection of coloured dots at the far left in the middle of the picture. The climbing route and flank of Everest begin on the right as the glacier makes a turn and ascends the mountain as the Khumbu Ice Fall.

The Khumbu Ice Fall from Base Camp. This is the first obstacle climbers must traverse on the way to the summit. There are 4 camps above the Ice Fall and a typical acclimatization plan means spending several days at each before an attempt on the summit. This means many dangerous trips through the Ice Fall between Base Camp and the high camps before a summit attempt. The safest time to move through the Ice Fall is early in the day when the seracs of ice, some as big as houses, are cold and less likely to move or fall. The glacier is in constant motion and makes groaning, cracking and splitting sounds all the time.

An old Russian-built helicopter lands at Base Camp. We learned this pilot was not popular since he flew too close to the tents and made too many circles - ruffling many tent flaps and risking avalanches.

Everest from BC to summit. The Khumbu Glacier stretches along the valley floor and Base Camp is the small collection of dots at the outside of the right hand turn the glacier makes onto the flank of Everest. The Khumbu Ice Fall can be seen as the glacier climbs the mountain from left to right. The summit is extreme top right, shrouded in cloud.

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