Camp 2 [Advanced Base Camp]—21,200 feet (6,460 meters)
N 27º 58.811' E 086º 54.160'
Advanced Base Camp [ABC] sits along a rocky moraine overlaying dense glacial ice. The rock comes from Everest’s immense and steep Southwest Face and a few million avalanches. Once at the base of the Face it is plowed into a neat ridge by the motion of the Khumbu Glacier. I suppose though, that the ridge is only neat in geological terms. Yesterday as we walked the 30 minutes from the tent at its lower end, to our tents near the moraine’s upper end, we were treated to views of old sneakers, pots, pans, shredded tents and crushed stoves mixed in with the rock and ice. Fifty seven years worth of Advanced Basecamps in the same slow moving place have made this spot one of the worst on the mountain in terms of ecological damage. A number of those decades of mountaineering were before any ethics existed governing which items should and shouldn’t be left in the hills.
Our camp was already up and running and deluxe by Camp 1 standards. There we were cooking in our tents—here we have Maila, the Camp 2 Chef, in a comfortable dome dining tent with chairs. We rested through much of yesterday afternoon when it was hot enough to fry eggs on the tents. When the sun ducked behind Nuptse, we each came out in our down suits to watch the light fade on Lhotse and Everest.
It would be normal, after a first night spent at this altitude to do some damage control. Somebody would, quite reasonably, have had a terrible night of headaches and insomnia and would be packing their gear at first light for a fast escape. Not so with our gang. In the cold 6 a.m. shadows this morning, Seth, Kent, and Erica emerged looking well rested and comfortable. Along with Ang Kaji, we ate a quick breakfast and then got out for a hike to the foot of the Lhotse Face. I wanted the team to wear their down suits, since that is what we’ll wear on the next rotation when we actually tackle the Lhotse Face. We could see several dozen climbers on the new ropes on the Face, and way up high—between Camp 3 and the Yellow Band at 25,000 feet [7,600 meters]—we could see dots representing today’s fixing team. One of those dots was our own Nga Tenji, pitching in to further the route. Nga Tenji made it all the way to the South Col, at 26,000 feet [7,900 meters], staking out a site for our High Camp before heading back to ABC.
My small team climbed perhaps a 1,000 feet [300 meters] above ABC, to 22,000 feet [6,700 meters], and were treated to new views of Cho Oyu—the world's 6th highest mountain—20 miles [32 kilometers] distant. Nobody felt like doing cartwheels or jumping jacks at the new altitude, but such tricks weren’t required. We were perfecting our one and only most important trick: walking higher when walking lower is easier. And we did fine with it. We didn’t concern ourselves too much with the next big hurdle—we‘ll get on the Face next time, after a Base Camp rest.
For today the morning hike was enough. We spent the afternoon tinkering with the solar charging and radio systems at ABC, while drinking liter after liter of water, always trying to counteract the dehydrating effects of high dry air. Tomorrow it will be back to the comforts of Base Camp, provided we watch every single important and awkward step down through the Khumbu Icefall.