We’re down and – Wow! Does it feel good to be all the way down (and safe!) in Base Camp!
Here’s a quick summary of the last few days.
We began our summit push on the 21st, leaving Base Camp for Camp 2. We had perfect weather for that move up through the Khumbu Icefall.
We spent a couple nights at Camp 2 to adjust to the altitude at that elevation and took the opportunity to re-check weather. We receive multiple forecasts, and they all looked good for the 25th, so on the 23rd we moved up to a very tiny, exposed camp at 24,000 ft, which was our Camp 3. This is the elevation at which we started using oxygen.
We spent a spectacular night at Camp 3 and awoke for another very early start up to the South Col at 26,000 ft. Leaving Camp 3 at 5am, we made very good time and stayed in front of a very long line of climbers moving up to Camp 4. Again, we were treated to good weather at the South Col, with just a steady 15 knot wind.
After arriving at the South Col, we again reevaluated our plan. Lots of teams were looking to go up on the night of the 24th/day of the 25th, and after a quick tally, it looked like over 100 people would be leaving that night for the summit. Also, earlier that morning, the forecast had changed and now called for higher winds that night, with a much better outlook for the following day.
Most teams do not have the option to wait a day at the South Col because of the additional oxygen it takes to spend more time up high. We have plenty of oxygen on our trips, and we had spent an extra day at the South Col last year, with great results, so we made a decision to wait and try to summit on the 26th when the forecast called for lighter winds and it looked like far less people would make their attempts. So, as people left for the summit at 7-8pm that night of the 24th, we rested.
The winds were very high throughout the night of the 24th. Lots of teams had problems in the serious cold and incredible wind chill. We slept in and spent the day on oxygen, rehydrating ourselves and resting for our turn. Later that day, the winds began to fade. We had several options for when to leave as there still were 50 or so people that were planning to go up. We choose to go a bit later than the crowds, and that turned into the perfect choice.
Starting around 11pm on a clear night with zero wind we moved fairly quickly all the way up past the “Balcony” and up towards the South Summit. Just below the South Summit we watched a spectacular sunrise over Tibet and the Himalaya. That was a very powerful experience near the top of the world! 7.5 hours after leaving Camp 4, we arrived at the summit of Mt. Everest!
The last couple days have been focused on getting down safely. After the summit, we descended to the South Col, spent the night there, then continued down the Lhotse Face to Camp 2, where we spent a second night (last night). We awoke early this morning to help minimize the risks of traveling through the Icefall and we made it to Base Camp this morning for breakfast.
I found it really amazing how many teams, including some guided groups, actually choose to go through the Icefall later in the day, which dramatically increased risk, especially this late in the season. Sure, it is tough to wake up early and get going, but this is one of the only ways to reduce risk in that dangerous section of the route, as everything starts moving around when the sun hits, and the possibility of avalanches increase as it warms up throughout the day. We cruised through the risky section early and now are very much enjoying just being down in the thicker air of 18,000 ft.!
Update on The Mountain Trip Lhotse Expedition
Success for Ania Lichota! She moved together with us to Camp 3, then, when we moved up to the South Col, she and Tarke moved to Lhotse Camp 4 at just below 8000 meters. The next morning they left Lhotse Camp and summitted on the 25th, making it back to Camp 3 that night. You go Ania! She descended a day before we did and is now on her way out to Lukla.
Now we are packing up our things, and will be having a celebration here in Base Camp to round out a really g good afternoon.
Our plan is looking like Tim, Albert and Joerg will begin trekking out to the village of Namche tomorrow morning. They hope to arrive in Kathmandu on the 31st. Jacob and I will follow the next day after packing, and sorting the mountain of gear we have here at Base Camp. The day after tomorrow we are expecting close to 50 yaks to arrive and help carry the several tons of gear back down the Khumbu Valley.
Check back for lots more photos and videos from the summit!
–Scott Woolums reporting from Everest Base Camp, 18,000 ft.