Mex-y-Can low down on Everest south side route
14:55 p.m. EST Apr 14, 2004
Check out this great shot of an avalanche off of BC. Don't worry though; this is a common sight. "About 20 to 30 avalanches occur everyday on the mountains surrounding Base Camps. The first thing that attracts the attention is a loud sound like the that of a passing train. Next we can see the snow starting to come down from a serac or from an overhanging snow accumulation".
The Mexican/Canadian team is furthest up the mountain and are really dishing out some great posts; here is the latest dispatch from Martin, Tom and Richard.
Climbing through the ice fall
“We leave base camp shortly after 5 a.m., beginning with a trudge across the broken and unstable moraine by headlamps. By the time we have our crampons on, and start up the Khumbu icefall, the peaks to the west (Pumo Ri & Cho Oyu) are catching the first rays of the morning sun.
The route zig zags up the east side of the ice fall, hopefully just out of reach of massive and fairly frequent ice falls from the NW col and the W ridge of Everest.
We cross crevasses, the smaller ones with a leap, and the larger ones with a ladder. Many are quite deep, 30-50 or more meters. The ladders are laid horizontally across the crevasses. And, yes, you do have to look straight down to ensure that your feet are accurately placed on each rung.
For those with larger feet, the front crampons can be placed on the rung ahead while the back crampons rest with a somewhat secure feeling on the rung behind. For those with smaller feet and the Sherpas (who feel they can go faster without crampons), you step so that the rung is on the instep of the boot.
For the larger crevasses, several (up to 5, each ~3 m long) ladders are tied end-to-end to span the crevasse with a rather wobbly and insecure feeling bridge over the void. Sometimes a rope is secured to each side to provide some additional sense of (in)security.
Two of the largest crevasses are traversed by climbing down one side (with a combination of ladder/rappel/+or down climbing with an ice axe), traversing along and across the bottom, then up a long ladder (up to 6 tied together) to the other side.
Reaching Camp 1
After a few hours we reach camp I at approximately 6100 m, tents, sunlight and a rest. Three (Martin, Richard & Juan Pablo) will spend the night here while the others (Andres, Alejandro, Luis, Tom) continue through somewhat gentler terrain towards Camp II.
Towards Camp 2
So far it seems that only Sherpas have come to Camp II to stake out terrain for their groups, deposit tents and a bit of food. (We take food and stoves from Camp I.)
Camp II is located on a rocky moraine under the west ridge of Everest at ~6400m. We set up another tent, melt snow for water, cook a rudimentary supper, and enjoy the incredible beauty and solitude of having this part of the mountain to ourselves.
The next morning the sun rises even somewhat later as we are under the West Ridge of Everest. Our three climbers from Camp I and Sherpas from base camp arrive and we attempt to establish a more significant camp with an adjoined cook and mess tent, and tents for climbers.
This involves cutting out pieces of the glacier with ice axes and shovelling in rocks in a (sometimes futile) attempt to make a level surface.
The Lhotse wall
The next morning we head uphill towards the steeper terrain at the top of the Western Cwm. The going is a bit tedious as no one has been up this high this year, and the ice is criss-crossed with invisible crevasses.
Eventually we get to the beginning of the steep Lhotse face. It begins with a vast bergschrund across the entire width of the face. The right side is shorter and more feasible. Andres and Danima (our sirdar) spend 2-3 hours making and fixing a way up, across, and through a (thankfully short) vertical cornice. Our highest elevation is about 6700 m.
Then we all return (by a bit more direct route) to camp II. Many Sherpas have come to Camp II carrying loads. Fairly heavy snow (15-20 cm), wind, and then cold overnight.
Overnight there was also a rather large icefall close to camp I, scaring climbers there even thought there is a large gully separating the camp from the falling ice. The next morning many Sherpas did not want to climb up or down because of the snow covering the crevasses.
Andres, Alejandro, Luis and Tom head back to base camp while Martin, Luis, and Juan Pablo spend an extra day acclimatizing at Camp II before descending. Looks like a larger storm is descending on the area. We may get to rest a couple days in base camp before being able to go up again.
The Mexican-Canadian Everest team comprises of two Quebecois and four Mexicans, "bound together by friendship and respect,” Andres Delgado, Luis Espinoza , Alejandro Ochoa Reyes, Martin Boileau, Richard Cartierts. The climbers will attempt Everest without oxygen (a first for Canada if successful). After Everest, Delgado will travel to Pakistan for a K2 double header.
Everest avalanche, courtesy of the team.