We're just back from 3 nights on the hill. The journey to Camp 1 (around 6,000m) was totally stupendous. Having only ventured a third of the way in to The Khumbu Icefall the day before we suddenly found ourselves covering a lot of new terrain. In particular - LADDERS. Ladders over small gaps, ladders with broken rungs, wobbly ladders, bent ladders, ladders against walls and ladders over huge yawning crevasses. Top tip? DON'T LOOK DOWN! But you have to look down to see where you are going to put your feet. And depending on the size of your boots and crampons, and depending on the make of ladder, depends on whether your crampons fit nicely across two rungs or whether they don't quite reach and you have to balance and slide around on the instep. Most of the ladders have ropes on either side and, with a bit of help from people behind pulling the ropes taught, you can maintain some kind of balance whilst gingerly stepping from rung to rung. But occasionally the angles are all wrong and you find yourself being pulled sideways and off balance. Or there are other times when you get to a ladder on your own and so you have to lean forward, taking up the strain from the anchors behind you, and you end up looking down even more! Of course after a sweat inducing 2 or 3 minutes you are safely on the other side only to witness some Climbing Sherpas dance across in a couple of steps and continue, virtually running, uphill along the trail.
Anyway we arrived at C1 and got ourselves moved in for one night. Unfortunately it was pretty windy and snowy and as a result the trail was blown over. We were a little concerned that we may find ourselves heading to C2 and end up in a white out, in crevasse territory and with no way of knowing where the safe route went, so we opted for a second night at C1. This was a good and a not so good move. It was good in that when we arrived at C2 the next day we were all very well acclimatised from the benefit of 2 nights at C1. But it was bad news because when you have to spend 36 hours in a tent you go slightly stir crazy and when the sun comes up it is like being in a furnace. Solution?Open the tent doors. Unfortunately this wasn't quite as easy as hoped because the tent just started to fill with very fine spindrift being blown in - a bit like being inside a snow globe. Close the doors and it was overheating time again.
Anyway we survived the ordeal and made our way to C2 and everyone got there in around 3 hours or less - which is a brilliant time for the first foray. Not that we were racing. Just gently gently catchy monkey and suddenly we're all at 6,450m. C1 is a sort of temporary stop gap and now that we've used it once we probably won't need it again. Whereas C2 is permanently manned with a cook tent and a dining tent so being tent bound isn't as much of a problem.
So we heard that there may well be some snow coming in and opted to come on down after 3 nights on the hill. A fourth night would have been good but in the end we preferred to be at Base Camp if it snowed, than to be at C2. And guess what - it snowed. Having said that it was only a slight flurry but we are all feeling so much better for the drop in altitude and having had a shower and a great sleep.
The journey down was reasonably straight forward and everyone was down in 4 to 5 hours. Not quite sure how long we'll be down for but we envisage having a couple of rest days and then heading straight back to C2 for a 3 or 4 night foray with a visit to C3 (7,100m). We'll be chilling for the rest of today and we'll have movie and some snacks this afternoon.
Tomorrow we'll be doing drugs. I don't mean that we'll be sitting around smoking pot - but practicing drawing up and giving injections as well as swotting up on the high altitude drugs that we'll be carrrying (but hopefully not needing). Everyone will have their own supply - just in case. We'll also be having a session using the oxygen sets and masks so that we are getting tuned in and ready for the summit push - whenever that may be.