Dispatch—Day 18: April 13, 2009
Carry High, Sleep Low—Everest Ascent Strategy
Photo: Peter Whittaker on the Khumbu Icefall
By Dave Hahn
Photograph by Jake Norton
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Everest Base Camp—17,530 feet (5,343 meters)
N 28º 00.336' E 086º 51.504'

We looked like a totally different crew at breakfast this morning. Part of that was because it was still slightly dark when we had breakfast today... we were up early for Icefall training. But when the light happened to hit a face here and there, it showed freshly shaved mugs and clean, fluffy hair. We neatened up yesterday afternoon, testing the shower.

When I first began coming to Everest, in 1991, we wouldn’t have dreamed of such an extravagance. Or perhaps back then, we simply thought 70 days of grubbiness was required to properly test a summit wannabe. We all wanted to be Everest “hardmen” in the classic mold. Or maybe with some classic mold. Nowadays, of course, it is clear that we can’t possibly measure up to the legends of the Everest game by accumulating filth. Cleanliness is in. And besides, it just doesn’t seem all that difficult anymore to set aside one propane tank for an on-demand heater connected to a barrelful of water attached to a tiny electric pump, which all results in a hot stream of water coming out of a showerhead near the top of a tent built for such a purpose.

Our clean team walked out of camp this morning at 6 a.m. Ten minutes later, we’d stepped into crampons and were trudging up and over ice rolls and ridges, bound for the start of the climbing route. Our Sherpa team had beaten us to it, having rolled out of camp at 4:30 a.m. Seven of them fired up the newly established Icefall route to establish our Camp I at around 19,900 feet [6,066 meters]. Two more, Tschering and Mingma, went to CI but then continued on all the way up the Western Cwm, claiming some prime real estate up there at 21,300 feet [6,492 meters] for our Advanced Base Camp (aka ABC, aka CII, aka “Tschering and Mingma kicked butt”).

The rest of us contented ourselves with a good stretch of the legs, climbing 90 minutes out of camp to reach the first ladders and fixed ropes, which we practiced on for a bit before returning. It was a good reminder for all that we are new to these altitudes and that it is cold out on the glacier before the sun hits. But nearly everybody came down jazzed and excited to get after the rest of the Khumbu Icefall in the coming days. The Icefall is an intimidating place, but it is also quite beautiful in the early morning light.

Resting up this afternoon, we watched as a number of teams pulled into Base Camp. Within a few days, the gang will all be here, but for today we were happy to see the Alpine Ascents team pull in with a bunch of guides we’ve all worked alongside of for years. IMG got here before us, and they are just a stone’s throw away with a bunch more of our friends. Russell Brice came through camp yesterday and reported that his big HimEx team is doing well in their slightly separate Base Camp 20 minutes down the trail. There have been a few sightings of the Benegas brothers, Willie and Damian, and it will be fun to connect up with them again for some milk tea. Henry Todd is rumored to be on the approach. The season is on and all the usual suspects are gathering.

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