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Monday, April 10, 2017

Himalaya Spring 2017: Teams Arriving in Base Camp on Everest

For the past couple of weeks I've been posting a number of pre-season updates from the Himalaya, essentially setting the stage for the next couple of months of climbing in Nepal and Tibet. But now, its time to get down to business with most mountaineers now having arrived in Kathmandu and are either preparing to head to their respective mountains or are already en route. Some, are even now arriving in Base Camp, particularly on Everest.

The most prominent squad to reach EBC at this point is International Mountain Guides (aka IMG). The company's first team reached Base Camp last Friday and are now settling in, while they await the arrival of two other IMG teams that are still further down the Khumbu Valley and trekking up to that location. The climbers who are already there have been spending the past few days getting settled and resting up, while also working on their skills in a special obstacle course that was set up to prepare them for what they'll face on the mountain, especially as they cross through the dreaded Khumbu Icefall.

The first team has also gone through its Puja ceremony, which involves a Buddhist lama and several monks asking the local mountain gods to protect the climbers as they prepare to head up the mountain. During the ceremony, the mountaineers all receive blessings, as does their gear. They also ask for safe passage up and down the mountain as well.

While the Puja may sound like a superstitious ritual, it is also tradition on Everest and other Himalayan peaks. The Sherpas in particular are reluctant to step food on any mountain without first getting the blessings from the lama, and over the course of the next few weeks, every team will have their own ceremony in anticipation of the start of the climb.


Now that the IMG team has gotten settled, their next step will be to head back down the Khumbu Valley today to trek to Lobuche Peak. This 6118 meter (20,075 ft) mountain will serve as a warm-up climb and acclimatization trek before they start on Everest. Over the past few years many teams have chosen to acclimate on other mountains as a way to avoid passing through the icefall too many times, and it has proven to be a safe and effective way to get accustomed to the altitude before heading up to Camp 1 or 2.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other teams that are still making their way up the Khumbu to BC and are now at various points along the valley. For instance, the Adventure Consultants are on their way to Kongma La after climbing Chukkung Ri as part of their acclimatization efforts. They expect to be in BC by Thursday of this week. RMI has several trekking teams in the area as well, as does Mountain Professionals, who last checked in from Lobuche, which means they should probably reach Base Camp today.

In other news, Ueli Steck should now be in Nepal after departing from Europe this past weekend. He'll spend a bit of time in Kathmandu before heading out to the Khumbu, where he'll undergo his own acclimatization training. From there, it'll be on to EBC before the start of his much-anticipated Everest-Lhotse traverse. There are some rumblings that if all goes well, he may extend that traverse to include Nuptse too. We'll have to wait to see, as it is already a very ambitious project.

On the other side of Everest in the north, the Tibetan border has now reportedly opened and the first teams are driving to EBC in that country. While the mountain is much easier to reach on the North Side, climbers still have to take their time and allow their bodies to become accustomed to the altitude. Most make several stops along the way to try to slowly adjust, but they don't have the same kind of acclimatization trek as the teams on the South Side do. Still, we should see the first climbers trickling into camp on that side of the mountain over the next few days too.

That's it for now. More new from the Himalaya soon.

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