Today, Thursday, May 11, is a rest day for me. Originally I had planned to hop on a helicopter and rest for a few days in Namche, elevation 11,286 feet vs. here in Base Camp at 17,600 feet. That is a fairly common practice between rotations. It allows the body to be free from the stress of low oxygen and high altitude pressures on the body. There is an offsetting risk to go lower though. At lower elevations with warmer air, more people and less control over your food supply there is a higher likelihood of picking up a bug. I decided to stay in Base Camp as I am currently healthy and felt like continued exposure to the altitude would only help me continue to acclimate. The guide and other climber who had been with me the past week or so opted to go down as they were both struggling with terrible coughs, bad colds, etc. I would have done the same if I were in their position. A side benefit of staying higher is that I could finally get to know some of the main climbing team as we've only crossed paths going up or down.
There is a fairly typical weather pattern since I've been here. Most every morning is crystal clear with visibility seemingly forever. As the sun hits the tents within minutes they become unbearably hot and you own frozen breath starts dripping on you from the top of the tent. Really the whole climb is a game of adjusting to the extreme temperature changes. This is especially true while climbing. If the sun is out and you are climbing in a concave bowl surrounded by mountains, which is very common, temperatures easily exceed 100 degrees. But if clouds come over, within seconds temperatures plummet. The best defense is layers of clothing you can easily take on and off. Sometimes just switching hats or gloves or unzipping can make a huge difference.
Here is a shot of camp this morning and another from roughly the same spot after lunch.
Here is another shot looking away from Everest of some other camps, the lower ice fall and some mountains beyond. It was a beautiful morning.
After breakfast we had a camp work day. This meant we basically shored up the personal and group tents as we are camped on a mound of frozen rock and dirt that is constantly melting out and causing holes or small small streams under tents. Our body heat also creates sinking below where we sleep. So the fix is basically to throw more dirt and rock where the melt-outs occur. My tent needed a good bit of help as the back side was slowly sinking into a small stream. The constantly changing landscape is just part of the norm. We usually see 2-3 avalanches or significant rock falls in the distance each day. I am going to try and catch one on camera if I can. You hear them before you see them.
But the big speculation and drama at the moment is when the fixed lines will be set at the top of the mountain. All but the last half of the summit day route is fixed, but that is a technical and exposed area. Weather, in the form of high winds which create extreme cold, has hampered the efforts the past few days. This year, one team took the lead to coordinate fixing the ropes. Sounded like a good concept to me. This included having other teams split the costs and coordinating the Sherpa from various teams. Unfortunately it does not seem to be working well. In addition, there is a belief that one climb window has already been missed due to poor organization. I don't want to go into detail as any blog could end up in the press. But suffice it to say a Plan B is being formed to fix the ropes as I type this. There are also contradictory weather forecasts about the upcoming week or so. Some of the folks who were ahead of me on the traditional plan have already had a number of rest days and are getting understandably impatient. For me, a couple more rest days would be fine but we start to run a risk the longer this goes on before the monsoon season comes and its game over. No one summits. I am comfortable knowing there are things in my control and many things that are not. So I am really not stressed at all. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Just have to roll with it. 🙂