We've just had a great 4 night foray on the hill and everyone is in fine spirits.
The Khumbu Icefall is on pretty good condition this year. Other than the recce we had on the 22nd Apr this was the first time the team had been all the way through it and, thanks to the 3 week trekking and acclimatisation schedule, everyone made it through to Camp 1 in great time, even though they were carrying reasonable loads.
We arrived between 9 and 10, having departed at 5a.m. and chilled for the rest of the day. When I say 'chilled' I mean rested in our tents with the doors open trying to get any breeze there may be and with sleeping bags over the tops of the tents to try and create some shade. It's absolutely baking at C1 … until the sun goes down.
The next day saw most of us go for a mooch along the trail towards C2 to gain a little height and then back to C1 again. Thankfully the second day at C1 was a little cooler with a smidgen of a breeze so was a little more tolerable.
As we were setting off to C2 on the 3rd morning a tent next to ours went up in flames. I went over to assist as much as I could and doused the burning gas canister in snow. Thankfully no one was hurt but the three occupants (one of whom was still inside the tent (and still in her sleeping bag!)) were clearly very shaken by the episode. A very close call.
Anyway we then mozzied on to Camp 2 which is situated at around 6,400m and the journey was over and done with in around an hour and a half to two hours. It's a gradual incline with a few ladders to cross but in the great scheme of things it's an easy(ish) day - as long as you start early or you get frazzled as the temperature quickly goes from -20 to +30 when the sun comes up.
At Camp 2 we have a cook crew, a kitchen tent and a dining tent. So most of the rest of the day was spent playing cards and chilling.
Everyone had a great night and them we had an early start to go for a walk towards The Lhotse Face. Again everyone was in fine fettle and we quickly gained altitude and stopped for a rest at 6,700m. We could see the Climbing Sherpas fixing ropes on the face but didn't venture up as we'd only get in the way.
We were quickly back down to C2 where lunch followed by an all afternoon cardathon took us through to dinner time.
Another headache free night for everyone, an early breakfast and we hit the trail. The trick about coming down to EBC is not to start in The Khumbu Icefall to early or we'll be in the way of the Sherpas who are coming up from Base Camp, but equally not to be too late or it just gets too hot. So we descended to C1 by about 08.15 and then after we collected a few bits and bobs we'd left there we started down in to TKI and had the first third of it pretty much to ourselves.
Having said that I did see two clients being short roped up towards C1 by heavily loaded Climbing Sherpas. Surely, if you can't make it to C1 without being dragged there, you shouldn't be on the mountain? Perhaps this would account for the helicopter we've just seen fly in to The Western Cwm?
Later on we came across quite a big group making very, very slow progress upwards at around 9. They were clearly suffering as by now it was boiling hot and they should have started earlier. Not quite sure who'd made the decision to start late but it was clear that they had compromised themselves. Ideally you want to be arriving C1 between 9 and 10 and clearly this group weren't going to be there until well after 12 (and some even as late as 2 or 3 by the looks of it).
All in all the passage through TKI is good going bit there is one area in particular where it's definitely not a good idea to stop and take a picnic. Most of the ladders are well placed and stable - with a couple of exceptions.
One section of the climb consists of a ladder leaning against a wall at about 50 degrees to the left on top of which two further ladders have been tied that kink back towards the vertical. It feels most precarious and off balance but at least it's sturdy.
Another couple of ladder sections are more of the horizontal type crossings and over some quite deep crevasses. One in particular consists of two ladders tied together on a 20 to 30 degree incline but the ladders aren't quite sitting level so there's a 15 degree tilt to cope with as well. And to top it all ... it's a little bit springy and moves around a little. Most disconcerting going up on the way to C1 but even worse coming down it on the return to Base Camp.
So we dropped down this morning from C2 & we're now back at Base Camp for a rest. Not sure when the next rotation is going to be but it will be soon enough for sure.
The only thing to add is that, as you may have heard elsewhere, there has been a hoo haa on the hill (not involving our group or Sherpas) and there's a lot of rumours and accusations being banded around and some associated negative press. For our part we are very well informed about what happened as one of our group knows one of the guys involved very well. However, despite that we are issuing a 'no comment' press release - it's not for us to quote or comment or to get misrepresented. Sorry and all that but the politics are complicated enough without us issuing a comment and by inference appear to be taking sides. Suffice to say it is a sad situation that appears to have blown out of all proportion. A mountain out of a molehill appropriately springs to mind.
I'll keep you posted. Tim & Co