Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

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To Camp 1

Everest 2016  •  April 19

Our goal: Rotate to Camp 1 for two nights, then Camp 2 for two nights, then return to EBC.

Early wake-up.  Early breakfast.  Early departure.  We are getting good at these pre-dawn starts. The rationale for leaving in the dark is to reduce the amount of time we must spend in the sunshine up high—not to reduce avvy risk (I am not convinced that sunshine has a short-term impact on icefall stability), but rather to shield us from the searing heat.  At that elevation, with so much snow and ice underfoot and all around, you can burn skin or corneas in minutes without diligent precautions.  And, it’s exhausting to labor under such heat.

Cold and dark at Crampon Point.
Cold and dark at Crampon Point.

The lower portion of the icefall was very similar to our last foray, except that the ladder leading out of the Pit of Despair had been moved a bit to climber’s right, which may be more direct and reliable.  Lack of a rap line makes this a continued choke-point on the route.

Climbing out of the Toilet Bowl by headlamp.
Climbing out of the Toilet Bowl by headlamp.
Steven Hess at the traverse just below the Pit of Despair.
Steven Hess at the traverse just below the Pit of Despair.
It was windy up high that morning, as you can see from the spindrift off the peaks above... for us, lower down, winds were fine.
It was windy up high that morning, as you can see from the spindrift off the peaks above… for us, lower down, winds were fine.
Making progress in the icefall (Photo: Justin Merle)
Making progress in the icefall (Photo: Justin Merle)
Siva and Lahkpa Nuru on ice. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Siva and Lahkpa Nuru on ice. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Siva loves it up here. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Siva loves it up here. (Photo: Justin Merle)
The 5-ladder has been moved to the right... better. But, this time, no rap line. Progress.
The 5-ladder has been moved to the right… better. But, this time, no rap line. Progress.
A view of the bottom of the Pit. Still a wreck of unstable debris.
A view of the bottom of the Pit. Still a wreck of unstable debris.
Lahkpa Yeti (Emily Johnston) loves it here.
Lahkpa Yeti (Emily Johnston) loves it here.

Much more relaxed and efficient reaching the Football Field.  Above was unknown territory.  Huge seracs, shattered popcorn, deep crevasses… this section has it all.  Super beautiful in an eerie, creepy way.

The snow has been crushed by its own weight over time into solid "glare" ice.
The snow has been crushed by its own weight over time into solid “glare” ice.
Moving up beyond the Football Field.
Moving up beyond the Football Field.
Most of the traffic on the route today is from ourselves... which makes it just fine. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Most of the traffic on the route today is from ourselves… which makes it just fine. (Photo: Justin Merle)
The Tragic Ice face, which calved off and killed many Sherpa mountaineers in 2014. We are well to the right of this zone.
The Tragic Ice face, which calved off and killed many Sherpa mountaineers in 2014. We are well to the right of this zone.
Pumori in blazing sunshine... our route in deep, frigid shadow. Colorful tents of EBC visible below Pumori.
Pumori in blazing sunshine… our route in deep, frigid shadow. Colorful tents of EBC visible below Pumori.
Emily Johnston and Pasang Kami.
Emily Johnston and Pasang Kami.

Gaining the cwm requires one final, spectacular climb up a crown face at the top of the icefall.  This is like countless other structures up high: Basically, as the glacier falls down the mountain, it splits into seracs of snow and ice.  Each storm’s snowfall is revealed as a distinct layer—or striation—in cross-section.  This top slab was beautiful, and towered over a shattered section below that is in effect a high, chaotic bergschrund.  As it happened, sunshine hit us for this final steep climb, making it beautiful pitch.

First glimpse of the top roller, the last barrier between us the the cwm. (Photo: Justin Merle)
First glimpse of the top roller, the last barrier between us the the cwm. (Photo: Justin Merle)
A climber from another team makes progress up the final crown face.
A climber from another team makes progress up the final crown face.
Steven and Pemba Gyelsen prepare to tackle the final obstacle.
Steven and Pemba Gyelsen prepare to tackle the final obstacle.
Ice debris below the final gateway face before the cwm. In effect, this is a giant, giant top bergschrund.
Ice debris below the final gateway face before the cwm. In effect, this is a giant, giant top bergschrund.
Pasang Kami always has my back.
Pasang Kami always has my back.
The Horseshoe Glacier near the entrance to the cwm. Tragic ice face at the upper left.
View to our left: The Horseshoe Glacier near the entrance to the cwm. Tragic ice face at the upper left.
Looking down into the shattered zone below the top roller. Sun is finally here, and for the moment welcome after the morning's deep freeze. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Looking down into the shattered zone below the top roller. Sun is finally here, and for the moment welcome after the morning’s deep freeze. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Here goes Steven....
Here goes Steven….
Me topping out on the roller, entering the cwm. You can see that the spindrift off the distant peaks (Changtse and Lingtren) has disappeared, meaning it is less windy now. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Me topping out on the roller, entering the cwm. You can see that the spindrift off the distant peaks (Changtse and Lingtren) has disappeared, meaning it is less windy now. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Totally puffed and breathless... but happy to be in the cwm. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Totally puffed and breathless… but happy to be in the cwm. (Photo: Justin Merle)

After gaining the cwm we still had to walk for about an hour between crevasses and over “rollers,” more giant snow features evocative of swells at sea.  Hot, exhausting, and beautiful if I took a moment to take it all in.

From the top of the final face, another view of the Horseshoe Glacier on the left, and Lhotse on the right in the distance at the end of the cwm.
From the top of the final face, another view of the Horseshoe Glacier on the left, and Lhotse on the right in the distance at the end of the cwm.
The cwm begins to open to us... Everest west shoulder on the left, Nuptse on the right, Lhotse at center.
The cwm begins to open to us… Everest west shoulder on the left, Nuptse on the right, Lhotse at center.
The cwm is huge... these climbers lend a sense of scale and perspective. (Photo: Justin Merle)
The cwm is huge… these climbers lend a sense of scale and perspective. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Rubble field as a runout from a couloir on the West Shoulder of Everest. We like to stay well away from these. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Rubble field as a runout from a couloir on the West Shoulder of Everest. We like to stay well away from these. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Lakhpa Nuru and Siva cruising over the rollers. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Lakhpa Nuru and Siva cruising over the rollers. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Nuptse above a "roller" at the bottom of the cwm.
Nuptse above a “roller” at the bottom of the cwm.
Wreckage from last year near Camp 1. Usually nothing is left behind... because of the earthquake last year, some debris was left during the evacuation. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Wreckage from last year near Camp 1. Usually nothing is left behind… because of the earthquake last year, some debris was left during the evacuation. (Photo: Justin Merle)

Camp 1 is situated near the bottom of the cwm, surrounded by Nuptse, Everest, and Lhotse.  Dramatic, gorgeous, and so evocative of last year.

Camp 1! We made it! Yes. My sleeping bag is on top of the tent I share with Siva to shield it from the searing UV radiation.
Camp 1! We made it! Yes. My sleeping bag is on top of the tent I share with Siva to shield it from the searing UV radiation.

Concept of the day: Good to be back.

4 thoughts on “To Camp 1

  1. Fantastic pictures! Can’t take my eyes off the beautiful, dangerous, amazing surroundings. Keep ’em coming and stay safe…

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