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Everest Base Camp (5350m/17,500ft)

It looks so simple on a map, Friday's climb from Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp, with an altitude gain of a mere 180 metres. But net gain conceals a multitude of undulations - too gentle a word for the stark rocky ups and downs. There was a slow section where we were supposed to keep 10 metres apart because of rockfall danger, but the real reason it took a full four hours was the superb clear weather combined with stunning scenery: you had to stop, stare and take loads of photos. We were walking first alongside, then on top of, the Khumbu Glacier, with brilliant views of Nuptse, Everest and Pumori. Coming into Base Camp, although you can no longer see Everest's summit, the views of the Khumbu icefall were closer and more breath-taking than expected.

Physically it wasn't that tough because we went so slowly, and for once I found myself more comfortable near the front of the group (mostly I've been hanging near the back, but altitude is a great equaliser:). Yesterday's exercise bike ramp test showed a further decline in my maximum power output and heart rate (only 120 watts at 150 bpm now, compared with 170 w/181bpm at Kathmandu) but that's expected. We also did smell and taste tests, had retinal photos, spirometry (breathing tests) and neuropsych (block design, dexterity, memory of 15-word lists, coding and speed reading) so this took most of the day.

The food is definitely more varied than before, with fresh fruit as well as vegetables, and they are working hard to entertain us here. Last evening's illustrated talks were on how your mitochondria handle oxygen (more challenging viewing than Eastenders), and also a photo-history of attempts on Everest. Despite the deep chill inside the communal mess tent, we stayed alert and took in most of this. Back inside my tent it was another very cold night (about -15 or -20°C) and your breath quickly turned into clouds of icicles. Sleep was punctuated by the loud (and surprisingly close) sounds of avalanches from the Icefall. We have just heard that the summit team have postponed their departure as a result: seems wise! This morning I shall explore the Icefall, but with great caution and cowardice as it does seem to be on the move.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 22, 2007 12:49 PM.

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