Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Route Profile: Everest


29,029' (8848 m)

Mount Everest is still the ultimate mountaineering adventure. As one of the Seven Summits and also the highest mountain in the world, Everest has immense appeal to mountaineers and fascination for non-climbers. There is additional allure because of its position in Nepal's Khumbu, one of the world's most beautiful mountain regions, and because of its remarkable climbing history. An ascent of Everest provides immense personal challenge, a rewarding cultural experiences, and a personal connection with a rich history of exploration.

An attempt on Everest is also a major undertaking which requires significant climbing experience, solid alpine skills, good mountain judgment, excellent physical conditioning, and a huge amount of dedication and determination. If you see Everest as a definite or even possible climbing goal for yourself, we can help you through all the stages of your preparation, from technical skills development to training in cold weather survival skills and gaining high altitude climbing experience.

Which route? North or South?

The South Col route from Nepal offers the best chance of success for most climbers. High royalty fees by the Nepalese government have created a large disparity between the costs of Everest expeditions from Nepal and Tibet. 

It is well worth your time to research details about both sides of the mountain. People will argue the virtues of either approach. However, we maintain that the ‘entire package’ of the Nepal side makes it the preferred option: the delightful approach through the Sherpa homelands via the Khumbu valley, enjoying Sherpa hospitality in modern lodges with good food, and all the while being impressed by the spectacular scenery of the incredible peaks of the lower Khumbu.

Navigating a section of the Khumbu
Icefall. Guy Cotter.
The Khumbu icefall has a fearsome reputation and is indeed a phenomenal route to climb. Yet it is an integral characteristic of the south side that it is a ‘climbers route’, which means it requires a mountaineer to be well skilled in the use of crampons and ice axe. By the time you first arrive at Base Camp at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall, a route will already be established with ropes and ladders through to Camp 1. Sherpa teams will be busily involved in ferrying loads of equipment up the mountain. After a few days acclimatization at Base Camp, you will climb through the Icefall to Camp 1 and rest for a day. The following day you will continue up the more gentle slopes of the Western Cwm to Camp 2 to rest and acclimatize for several more days. A day-climb up the Lhotse Face towards Camp 3 will complete this first foray before returning to Base Camp. During this time the guides and Sherpa climbers will be establishing the higher camps and stocking these with bottled oxygen for the summit climb.

The Western Cwm is renowned for the phenomenal views of Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori and Cho Oyu and our Camp 2 is situated directly beneath the imposing black hulk of the notorious Southwest face. As one climbs higher up the route to South Col, the views become even more outstanding with incredible vistas along the Himalayan mountain range and out towards the lowlands of Nepal. We ascend 900m from the South Col on summit day via moderate snow slopes with the occasional rock step to climb over. Approaching the South Summit as dawn breaks reveals astounding views from Kanchenjunga in the east to Shishapangma off to the west with all the peaks of the Khumbu well below us. The traverse along the summit ridge is exposed and exciting. When we make our way up the Hillary step you can look 2,400m straight down onto our Camp 2 in the Western CWM and 3000m down the opposite side of the ridge into Tibet! The summit itself provides ample space for the obligatory summit photo and is a time to reflect on the journey thus far. For many it is one of the most memorable moments of a lifetime.

Big smiles on the summit of Everest!

Everest guide Dean Staples on his 9th summit of
Everest in 2013.
After the summit we descend via the same route, losing height quickly and generally arrive back at the South Col about 3-4 hours after leaving the summit. On the north side climbers must do a long traverse and it is this feature where climbers cannot lose elevation quickly that can cause the demise of tired climbers, especially those who have run out of oxygen.

Climbs on Everest are during the spring season because the weather becomes progressively warmer and the days longer. Winter winds have already scoured away much of the snow, which significantly reduces the snow avalanche hazard as well. Contrast this with the fall where as the expedition goes on, the days get shorter and colder with more snowfall. Consequently very few expeditions are undertaken in the fall and those that do have a low chance of success.

What it takes to climb Mount Everest

The South Col route on Mount Everest is not an especially technically difficult climb - nor is it the "Yak Route" as some non-Everest climbers have termed it. However, it is imperative that expedition members are well versed in the latest techniques and have experience in the high mountain environment.

Climbers high on the slopes of Everest.
Mark Sedon.
What most photographs do not show are the difficulties of operating at the extreme high altitudes. It is a physically demanding ascent, requiring enormous determination and stamina. An expedition to Everest is not a place for those who will give up when the going gets uncomfortable or strenuous. Days can be up to 15 hours long and although you will have lightened the loads you personally carry by having enough Sherpa support to carry your equipment, the days are still arduous and taxing, especially over the 7-9 weeks of the expedition.

The outcome of the expedition will be determined by three broad groups of factors. The first is environmental (weather and snow conditions, etc). The second is the logistical approach taken by the expedition leaders and the strategies employed to embark on a summit bid. The third is your own preparation in the years prior to the expedition and how you perform while the expedition is under way. We can help design a training program that will both physically and mentally prepare you for the climb, but you need to commit the time and energy to ensure you attain the correct conditioning.

Our Everest expeditions run every year from April 1 to June 2. Whether you're just starting out with a Seven Summits goal or you're in the decision process of committing to an Everest climb, feel free to contact us for more information and advice on how to make your dreams come true!

Dylan Cembalski
Alaska and 7 Summits Program Coordinator
Mountain Guide 

No comments: