My experience climbing Everest (2/3): The Khumbu Icefall and Camp 1

[Comes from previous post] So after another uneventful rest day, and a short night dominated by nerves, we got up at 5am, gobbled some breakfast and grabbed all our gear. It was dark and extremely cold when we set foot on the icefall, and I struggled to get my stride. My hands were freezing, and one of the two sherpas that were accompanying us had to help me put my crampons on, and even clip and un-clip to the fixed rope a couple of times. When the sun finally hit us, I felt much better and picked up the pace. And I also allowed myself to enjoy the moment for the first time. Wow, after so many books and movies, I was on the mystical Khumbu Icefall, and what a sight it was.

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For the next few hours, we kept going up relentlessly, navigating the gigantic blocks of ice, pulling ourselves up and down the rope and crossing bottom-less crevasses. Longer crevasses would have ladders laid down to help you cross, which was super stressful because keeping your balance when the ladder is only tied to melting ice, the ropes are lose and your shoes have spikes is even harder than it sounds. Even worse, some shorter crevasses would not have a ladder, and you were left having to take a leap of faith with your heavy boots and backpack. I didn’t take a single picture in the hardest parts of the icefall, which I totally regret, but at the time I thought I had enough with staying alive and keeping moving.

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In fact, you are supposed to minimize your time on the icefall, because as the sun melts it every day, it becomes increasingly unstable. We got a reminder when an avalanche started and we simply froze, hoping it wouldn’t come our way. The whole situation felt unreal, the end of the icefall always within arm’s reach but never getting closer, the little yellow dots of Base Camp getting farther and farther, the terrain repetitive and at the same time always different. It’s really hard to express how long this day felt, I vividly remember negotiating with myself “20 more steps and I’ll stop to catch my breath”, “10 more minutes and I’ll sit down and eat some candy”. Oh, and this might be TMI, but I kind of want to remember as many details as possible: because you are clipped to a fixed rope, going to the bathroom becomes impossible for a woman (without special gear), so I stopped drinking. I was really lucky to not have any problems with altitude.

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After 7 or 8 hours, I emerged from the Icefall. By then, I was ahead of the two other climbers in my group and our two sherpas had stayed with them. Part of me was enjoying figuring out the next steps on my own, but part of me just really wanted an answer on how much longer I had. The next stretch was a bit easier, but by then I was exhausted, so my pace became even slower. A few times, the idea of abandoning had crossed my mind, but I realized how stupid that was, since I had to be much closer to Camp 1 than to Base Camp at that point. Eventually, I spotted the tents in the distance and that gave me a final boost of energy. As if the day had not been challenging enough, the Summit Climb tents were the absolute last ones in the camp, meaning even after I entered the camp, I still had to walk an extra 40 minutes, up and down crevasses.

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It had been nearly 10 hours when I finally made it, dropped my backpack, and after an emergency visit to the toilet crevasse, collapsed into my tent. One of my expedition mates arrived right after, and the last one an hour later. The sherpas boiled some water for us, and fed us noodle soup and immediately after, I passed out. The night was rough; my sleeping bag was keeping me relatively warm, but the wind had picked up so much that several times, I woke up thinking an avalanche was engulfing my tent. The next morning, one of the other climbers decided to go down, because he had had a panic attack, and I wasn’t surprised. [Continues in next post]

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2 thoughts on “My experience climbing Everest (2/3): The Khumbu Icefall and Camp 1

  1. Pingback: My experience climbing Everest (1/3): Base Camp – Bona Travels

  2. Pingback: My experience climbing Everest (3/3): The Western Cwm, Camp 2 and the way back – Bona Travels

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