After several delays due to weather, Camp 4, our highest camp on the mountain, is now ready, stocked and we're hoping for a weather window in the next couple of days for the sherpas to be able to fix ropes all the way to the summit.
This means that our summit push, which will take five-six days in total, will also begin in a few days, so I thought that I would give you guys an overview of what lies ahead of us:
We'll start our summit push from Everest Base Camp (EBC), at 5365m, by climbing through the notorious Khumbu Icefall straight to Camp 2 or Advanced Base Camp (ABC), at 6500m, which should take up about 6-7 hours.
The Khumbu Icefall becomes very unstable and avalanche-prone during the heat of the day, so we'll start our climb through it around 0200-0300 in the morning.
After reaching Camp 2, we'll rest there for a day, letting our bodies get used to the over 1100 meters we've gained, before continuing up the steep Lhotse Face using fixed ropes to Camp 3, located on a small ledge at 7500m.
The Lhotse Face is famously strenuous - another 6-7 hour day.
Lhotse Face is also where we start using supplemental oxygen - each of us will carry a 7.4kg bottle in our backpacks and breathing a mix of the supplemental oxygen and ambient air through a mask similar to those used by SCUBA divers.
We'll not only use the oxygen when climbing, but we'll also be sleeping with the masks on and breathing the supplemental oxygen.
From Camp 3, we continue to Camp 4, at 7900m, just below the notorious Death Zone, via the Yellow Band and The Geneva Spur.
There will be fixed ropes to assist us navigate the snow covered rocks to Camp 4, which should take us about 4-5 hours.
The final summit push to the top of Mount Everest, still another 1000 vertical meters away, starts well before midnight i.e. same day as we arrive in Camp 4 and we hope to reach the summit in 8-10 hours and complete the roundtrip in 14-16 hours.
We'll start off as a group, paired with our climbing sherpas, but as with every day, the pack will stretch significantly and we'll end up climbing either alone with our sherpas or in very small teams - all depending on the strength and speed of the climbers.
Our route will take us first to the South Col, where we enter the Death Zone, where temperatures dip so low that exposed skin freezes within minutes and the partial pressure of oxygen is around 30% compared to sea-level, making breathing extremely difficult.
It takes most climbers up to 10-12 hours to ascend the 1.72 kilometre distance from the South Col to the summit - just to emphasize, that's 143-172 meters an hour, which should give you an idea of the scale of the challenge ahead!
Further, the effort of the summit day alone will mean burning around 15000 calories, which equals six days’ worth of calorie intake for an average adult male!
From the South Col our route will take us to the Balcony, a small platform at 8400m, where we can rest for a few moments and gaze at the peaks to the south and east in the early dawn.
Continuing up the ridge, our next noteworthy milestone will be the South Summit, at 8750m.
From the South Summit, we'll follow the knife-edge southeast ridge along what is known as the "Cornice Traverse".
This is the most exposed section of the climb - a misstep to the left can send you 2400m down the southwest face. On the right is the 3050m Kangshung Face.
At the end of the traverse, at 8760m, is an imposing 12m rock wall called the "Hillary Step", named after Sir Edmund Hillary, which due to the increasing numbers of climbers is becoming a bit of a bottleneck, with climbers often forced to wait significant amounts of time for their turn on the fixed ropes.
Once above the step, it’s a relatively straight forward climb to the top, although the exposure to the elements on the ridge is extreme, so every climber hopes for low winds.
Once on the summit, climbers will typically spend less than 30 minutes there in order to allow sufficient time for the descent.
Ideally climbers descend all the way to Camp 2 at 6500m, although those very exhausted by the summit day, have the option to spend another night at Camp 4 at 7900m, before descending down.
To be successful on the summit day, we not only need to be healthy and strong, but we also need the weather to co-operate. Low winds are essential and we also hope for warm temperatures (in Everest terms) as cold has a tendency to suck the energy out of you.
So we're in waiting mode with our backpacks ready to go and hope to start our summit push in the next few days.
In light of this, the next column is likely to come after I'm back from the summit push, so keep your fingers crossed all goes well and if you have a chance, visit www.sevensummits.ae or www.facebook.com/AtteSevenSummits where you'll find some updates also during the summit push.
Wish me luck!
- Week 1 - in the beginnig
- Week 2 - Gearing up to go
- Week 3 - full steam ahead
- Week4 - Mt Everest in sight
- Week 5 - Postcard from base camp
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