Sunday, November 3, 2013

What does a typical Everest expedition look like? Post 7: The Climbing Begins - to ABC

The Climbing Begins!  To Advanced Basecamp.

Total distance:  12 miles (22 km)
Approximate Time for Route:  2 days 1st time; 1 day once acclimatized

By the point, the expedition is probably about two weeks old (11-12 days is probably more realistic).  We have yet to start climbing.  The majority of our time was spent walking about and taking buses to our current location.  Today, however, the climbing begins in earnest.  We leave the confines of Chinese basecamp for Advanced basecamp (ABC) with one stop en route.  Here is the typical journey from Chinese basecamp to ABC listed by days.
  1. Walk to interim camp (5,800 m / 19,000 feet).  The walk is a 2,000 foot (600 m) ascent that lies halfway between Chinese basecamp and ABC.  Interim camp leads us to the penitents or "ice pilgrims" as depicted in this photo:
    and this video:
  2. Camp at interim camp and explore the area.  As I mentioned previously while at Chinese basecamp, the reason we stop is to acclimatize gradually.  Each step requires some rest but also some activity.  Sitting in a tent the entire time makes for a stale and lazy climber.  We need to get out, help with simple chores, explore the area and stay relatively active.  
  3. Rest and acclimatize more at interim camp.  Again, can't get enough acclimatization.  If we run up the mountain then bad things can happen - most notably HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) and/or HACE (high altitude cerebral edema).  More on those two outcomes later.  For now, we take our time at interim camp and adapt to the hypoxic environment.  
  4. Walk to ABC (6,400 m / 21,000 feet).  The 2,000 foot (600 m) ascent takes us up to the staging area for our climb.  Advanced basecamp is where we complete extensive training as a group to ensure all members are ready to climb.  We also organize our supplies for this camp as well as higher camps.  Everyone lends a hand and we all make this time as productive and hassle-free for the group to maximize our chances higher up.  Not only do we train, organize, and acclimatize, we also rest.  Not much rest but enough to make sure we are not knackered for the next few weeks.  We stay at ABC for at least 3 days without ascending - provided all goes well.  At this point, the stage is set for our climb. Here is a great video by John Kazanas who posted his ABC video just prior to his summit push:
Next post - the start of the climb.  We are now about 18 days into the full trip.  Yep, time flies when you are enjoying the scenery.

    Climbing Everest

    As I mentioned in the previous post, we spent almost 3 weeks getting to the point where we might be ready to start climbing.  The first two weeks were bus rides and waiting around after short day hikes.  Most of us will be itching to start the climb but starting the climb before being fully acclimatized is a dumb move.  Provided we are ready, we press on at about 18 days for our first functional day hike to Camp 1 on the North Col (7,000 m / 23,000 feet).  Camp 1 is higher than any peak in North America.  In fact, ABC is higher than Denali (20,322 feet or 6,194 m) so before today's hike, I would have been higher at ABC than I have ever been before.  The day hike to the North Col, Camp 1 takes us 

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