Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

Jump to helpful navigation →

Testing the Route

Everest 2015  •  April 24

Our planned day of rest dawned clear and cold.  Well, “active rest,” as we call it up here.  After breakfast at a reasonable hour, we roped up and took an acclimatization hike halfway to Camp 2.

C2 sits at the far end of the cwm, perhaps 1.5 miles horizontally, and about 1,800 feet higher.  From C1 we could see the upper end of the cwm quite clearly, with Lhotse towering like a sentinel at above.  But, C2 itself was too low on the horizon, hidden behind wave after wave of crevasse and hummock that rose up in front of us.  The prior day while we rested at C1, we had watched other parties make the trek to and from C2, like a string of tiny ants walking in a huge milk jug lying on its side.  The route was simple, although a huge dogleg to the right looked painful.  I predicted that we would reach the halfway point, where the route flattened out and away from view at  C1, in an hour at most.

C1 and the cwm beyond. (Photo: Blake Penson)
C1 and the cwm beyond. (Photo: Blake Penson)

But, everything is deceiving up there.  The trip which would have taken us perhaps 30 minutes back home was closer to 90 minutes (at nice leisurely pace, with a little traffic).  Huge, gaping crevasses slashed across the cwm, especially near the west shoulder (hence the dogleg to the right).  Hummocks 20-35 feet high blocked our way.  Scaling these was a big effort for me, as it had been on the icefall below.  I got short of breath twice, especially with the effort of using my arms to ensure balance on the steep track.  Everything is fine, just take your time.  No rush here, I thought.   Again, I was humbled by Everest.

These active rest days are excellent in every way, not only for our bodies, but also for our spirits.  Getting to the vantage point above C1 was awe-inspiring.  The sun rose from behind Everest, warming us nicely.  We had a great view of the summit, and of the cwm below.  In the distance we could see C2… or, at least, the rock formation where we knew it was; the distance was too great to allow us to see the tents with the naked eye.  But, it looked relatively flat and mostly crevasse-free, certainly not daunting.  In fact, there were piles of helmets and crampons at the break site, where Sherpa ahead of us had cached them because the route beyond was so straightforward.  We planned to keep our gear on, but it was nice to see this.

The turnaround point for today, marked by gear cache, lots of footprints... and a telltale urine stain on the right.
The turnaround point for today, marked by gear cache, lots of footprints… and a telltale urine stain on the left.
Looking up the cwm towards C2 from our turnaround spot for the day. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Looking up the cwm towards C2 from our turnaround spot for the day. (Photo: Kim Hess)
The route to C2 past our turnaround point. C2 occupies the small rise on the left side of the photo... tents just barely visible here in full-def photo.
The route to C2 past our turnaround point. C2 occupies the small rise on the left side of the photo… tents just barely visible here in full-def photo.
Much of Nuptse is bare, but that summit ridge is gnarly.
Much of Nuptse is bare, but that summit ridge is gnarly.
Almost feels like we can touch the top from here...
Almost feels like we can touch the top from here…
Blake snaps my portrait looking down the cwm from our turnaround spot.
Blake snaps my portrait looking down the cwm from our turnaround spot.
Blake with summit sitting on his shoulder.
Blake with summit sitting on his shoulder.
Blake and his great Sherpa Guide. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Blake and his great Sherpa Guide. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Fatima nails it.
Fatima nails it.
Andy: Extreme guide.
Andy: Extreme guide.
Kim Rocks. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Kim Rocks. Again. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Kim and her wonderful Sherpa guide. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Kim and her wonderful Sherpa guide. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Me and Pasang Kami at the day's turnaround spot.
Me and Pasang Kami at the day’s turnaround spot.
Our amazing, trusted Sherpas. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Our amazing Sherpas. Best on the mountain, bar none.  We trust them completely, and we could not do this without them!  (Photo: Kim Hess)
IMG Team Hybrid. Yep, we are ready to go for it!
IMG Team Hybrid. Yep, we are ready to go for it!
Summit of Mt. Everest. Geneva Spur and South Col on the right.
Summit of Mt. Everest. Geneva Spur and South Col on the right.
Summit in telephoto. Hillary Step is the small divot against the skyline on the right, just above the cornice traverse.
Summit in telephoto. Hillary Step is the small divot against the skyline on the right, just above the cornice traverse.  Yellow band lies below the final summit pyramid.

The descent was snappy and happy, breathing was fine, and my mood was good.  You’ve got this.

Gear cached here by Sherpa from other teams: Apparently they felt that helmets and crampons were not helpful above this point while hauling gear to C2.
Gear cached here by Sherpa from other teams: Apparently they felt that crampons were not helpful above this point while hauling gear to C2.
Kim gets her game face on.
Kim gets her game face on for the return trip.
Heading back to C1 after the break.
Heading back to C1 after the break.
Down we go...
Down we go…
Winding our way around the crevasses.
Winding our way around the crevasses.
Some of these were real monsters.
Some of these were real monsters.
The trail undulates a bit, and I really felt the uphill sections.
The trail undulates a bit, and I really felt the uphill sections.
West Shoulder frames Andy, Fatima, Blake, and their Sherpas.
West Shoulder frames Andy, Fatima, Blake, and their Sherpas.
Kim captures the view below.
Kim captures the view below.
C1 comes back into view below the turnaround point.
C1 comes back into view below the turnaround point.
Ours is the cluster of 8 yellow tents on the upper left, with an orange cook tent in the center. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Ours is the cluster of 8 yellow tents on the upper left, with an orange cook tent in the center. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Andy leads Team Hybrid down to C1.
Andy leads Team Hybrid down to C1.
Another team heads up while we descend a hummock on the route. Andy is chatting with Dave Hahn here. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Another team heads up while we descend a hummock on the route. Andy is chatting with Dave Hahn here. (Photo: Kim Hess)

After we got back to camp, we spent more time sunbathing in front of the tents.  One of our favorite pastimes was to watch other teams on the route.  We were aghast to watch a whole team rappel the tallest hummock, which led to a big traffic jam above them.  I had gone down this one with my usual technique, clasping the rope with leather palms and a straight rear arm, in just a few moments.  These folks took about 5 minutes per person to descend using traditional rappel technique.  Maybe they were doing it for practice… but it looked painful.  Oh lordy, I hope we don’t get caught behind those guys higher up the route.

View of C1 and the cwm beyond, shot from our latrine.
View of C1 and the cwm beyond, shot from our latrine.
Drying out gear apres-climb. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Drying out gear apres-climb. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Sherpa know how to stick together. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Sherpa know how to stick together. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Blake and I snooze in the heat of midday. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Blake and I snooze in the heat of midday. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Catching rays at C1.
Catching rays at C1.
Rays and Ramen at C1.
Rays and Ramen at C1.
View of C1 and the cwm beyond, shot from our latrine.
View of C1 and the cwm beyond, shot from our latrine.

Happy day: our team was made whole again with the arrival of Siva, Phinjo, LC, and Justin.  Although the rest of us were scheduled to leave the next day for C2, it was fun to have the gang back together for a day.

Happy day! Justin and LC pull into C1!
Happy day! Justin and LC pull into C1!
Siva and Phinjo arrive, and Team Hybrid is whole again.
Siva and Phinjo arrive, and Team Hybrid is whole again.

The team arriving that afternoon bore a friendly message: We were invited by another expedition to join them for dinner—so long as we provided women and alcohol.  This was a nice joke.  First of all, there’s no booze above EBC (that I ever saw).  Second of all, although team IMG did have the most beautiful women on the mountain, they were also the smartest, toughest, most talented climbers up there, and they were certainly capable of making up their own damn minds.

We ate in our own camp, as a team.

2 thoughts on “Testing the Route

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *