My experience climbing Everest (3/3): The Western Cwm, Camp 2 and the way back

[Comes from previous post] Around 9am, and after a minimal breakfast, the other climber, the remaining sherpa and I set out to Camp 2. I couldn’t fathom the idea of another long day, so I started at a decent pace, and soon found myself well ahead of them. I was on the Western Cwm, a massive ice valley, with possibly the most spectacular views in the world: Everest on the left, the Lhotse face in the middle, Nuptse very close to your right, and a whole range of beautiful mountains behind you, among other, Pumori and Cho Oyu.

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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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My experience climbing Everest (1/3): Base Camp

Let’s get the #1 question out of the way: no, I did not summit Everest. I did, however, hike to Base Camp, spend a fair amount of time there, climb up to Camp 1 and Camp 2, and share the whole experience with true mountaineers and aficionados alike… in one of the deadliest seasons in Everest history. The experience, in fact, left me so raw, it’s taking me over a month to sit down and write this post.

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Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory

It had barely been 24 hours since we had summited Kala Patthar, the climax of our Nepal adventure, and our mood couldn’t have been better. We felt stronger than ever, and had already descended past Lobuche and all the way to Dingboche in a long afternoon (~4 hours). We were on our way to Namche the next morning, on the switchbacks right after Tengboche, when the 3rd earthquake hit. The whole mountain started moving, it felt like a fairground ride…

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Reaching our goal: Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar

It was our 9th day on the trek, and we woke up in Lobuche, hyper-motivated by what laid ahead. The day was perfectly sunny, and despite the steep, rugged terrain, we made it to Gorak Shep in less than 2 hours. We got a room at the Buddha Lodge, ate a garlic soup (supposedly the best for altitude) and rested until ~10am. Then, it was finally time to go to the Everest Base Camp.

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En route to Everest

After a full week in Kathmandu, we’re finally making our way to the Everest Base Camp! The last days of April were full of positive signs. Little by little, life in the city started to get back to normal; streets got busy with people, cars and bikes, and shops and restaurants began to re-open. We celebrated each one of those changes as an achievement: “look, that store wasn’t open yesterday”, “wow, a taxi driver just solicited me”… Professional teams are already working on clearing debris and reconstructing Durbar Square and other historic sites. Unfortunately, most Nepalis won’t get that much support. But at least there is a path forward, and tourism will play a major role in it. So please don’t stop coming to Nepal, this country and its people are wonderful.

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Day zero in Nepal

Things don’t seem to be getting better here in Kathmandu. As the death count rises toward 10,000 and the number of affected people to 8 million, new challenges appear. Aftershocks are more or less over, but power outages are the norm, communications are non-existent (cellular data are long gone, this post was published a day after being written in the only hotel that offers internet access a few hours a day), and sanitary conditions are the emerging risk. Local people remain crammed in improvised camps with no sewage systems, while trash piles up everywhere. Some people have started wearing masks. The pre-monsoon storm that hit yesterday, despite making everyone wet and cold, might have been helpful. Food doesn’t seem to be an issue for now, as most people abandoned their homes carrying goods, and there are several posts distributing help, but that won’t last long. Most of the effort is still concentrated on rescue missions. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to help. The lines at the gas stations are becoming longer and longer, and most other businesses remain closed.

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