Trek-In to Base Camp
[Photos] [Route Map]
(Arrival: March 26; Trek: April 2-15, 1997)
The trip begins on March 26, 1997 with a flight from the US to Kathmandu, Nepal. A few days will be spent in Kathmandu checking gear, meeting the Sherpa and preparing for the Twin Otter flight to Lukla (9,300ft). The first leg of the trek is 12 miles to Namche (11,300') at the base of the Khumbu which is the last place to stock up on supplies; it is known for the Saturday Bazaar that attracts locals from miles around to trade produce, merchandise, and farm animals. From here, the trek will take approximately 10 days and travels from the Dudh Kosi valley up through the Imja Khola to the Khumbu Khola and finally onto the Khumbu glacier.
The next stop after Namche is Thyangboche (12,700') also 12 miles away. The Thyangboche Monastary is a historic and mythical place that is woven into the lore of Everest. Built on a hill of rhododendron forests and offering a stunning view of Ama Dablam and Everest peaking over the massive Nuptse Ridge, it has been called the most beautiful place on earth and is an invariable stop for expeditions approaching Everest from the south. When the 1975 British expedition made their visit enroute to what would be the first ascent of the Southwest Face, they received a blessing from the Head Lama: "If you work together and do not argue amongst yourselves, you have a chance of climbing the mountain," wrote Chris Bonington in "Everest the Hard Way."
From here the route becomes difficult with dramatic elevation gains on the way to the villages of Pheriche (14,000') and Lobuche (16,200'), the highest altitude at which people live. This year, the team will pass through Gorak Shep and climb Kala Pattar (18,500') which offers world-famous views of Everest and neighboring peaks. The entire route is fascinating and speckled with richly cultured villages which provide spectacular views of the Himalayas. For acclimatization purposes, the trek is not rushed and offers a chance to explore the Khumbu region, visit local monasteries and meet the Nepali locals.
[See the Photos]
(Around April 15, 1997)
For two or three months, Base Camp is home to the small, international community of climbers attempting Everest from the south or west side that season. This year, an extraordinary group of world-famous climbers will be in camp, and we hope to bring you interviews and updates on their progress as well as that of Todd Burleson's Alpine Ascents International team.
[Photos] [Route Map]
(April 15 -- May 5, 1997)
Everest requires such a long time to climb it because of the extreme altitude. A person taken from sea-level and dropped on its summit at 29,028', where decreased atmospheric pressure limits the amount of oxygen available to the lungs, would die in a matter of minutes. With a slow acclimatization period though, the human body adapts by increasing the respiratory rate, making more red blood cells to carry more oxygen, and other complex physiological adjustments that make survival at high-altitude possible for an extended -- though still limited -- duration.
All climbers have their own system for acclimatization, and Todd Burleson's consists of a series of climbs and descents involving longer stays at higher altitudes each time. The climbing leaders and Sherpas will go ahead to fix ropes on the lower part of the mountain (the Khumbu Ice Fall) after which four camps will be established.
The climbing team will begin moving progressively higher and coming back down. First the ascend through the Ice Fall and establish Camp I at 19,500' on the edge of the Western Cwm. This camp functions as an intermediate camp until Camp II (advanced base camp) is established at 21,000' higher on the Western Cwm. Camp II will consist of large tents for cooking and dining and several smaller tents for sleeping and is the base for placing Camp III at 23,500' on the Lhotse Face, Camp IV at 26,300' on the South Col and making Summit Bids.
For the next month, the climbing team will repeatedly climb to Camp II and descend, spending more days there each time, eventually ascending to Camp III. Burleson feels that once climbers can spend the night at Camp III without Oxygen, they are sufficiently acclimatized to attempt the summit. He says it is not a guarantee that altitude illness won't be a problem higher on the mountain, but that it's less likely to be a desperate one.
Camp III, which stands at the head of the cirque on the Lhotse face will consist of three and four man tents. This camp serves as an intermediate camp which climbers will use to reach Camp IV (high camp) on the South Col. Most of the Sherpa are able to carry directly from Camp II to Camp IV and prefer not to stay on the steep and exposed Lhotse Face, so large amounts of gear are not needed at Camp III to establish Camp IV. Oxygen will be used above Camp III to help aid climbers in reaching high camp before attempting the summit. From Camp IV, they travel along the Southeast Ridge to its crest at The Balcony and on to the South Summit. From here they have a 40-foot, steep rock climb called the Hillary Step after which the true summit is about 20 minutes away.
[Photos] [Route Map]
(Around May 5-15, 1997)
After Camps III and IV are established and all supplies are in place, the team returns to Base Camp for a rest. There they organize the summit teams and prepare for summit attempts. Once ready, they return to Advanced Base at Camp II. If good weather prevails, they move the first summit team to Camp III. On day 2, the first summit team moves up to Camp IV while the second summit team moves to Camp III. Day 3 will be summit day for the first team. They will start very early that morning (usually around midnight) and attempt to reach the summit before mid-day. After the summit, they retreat back to the South Col and on to Camp III. While the first summit team is attempting the summit, the second team moves up to Camp IV for their attempt the next day.
As always, weather plays a major part in all actual summit bids. As many summit attempts as safely possible will be made with the goal of putting the maximum number of people on the summit. Guides and Sherpa will accompany all summit attempts and oxygen will be used.
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