Camp 1   The Valley of Silence                                  6,065 metres (19,900 ft.)

Nuptse Corner photo by giripremi ebc 

Nuptse Corner photo by giripremi ebc 

Crevice crosses the snow field of the Western Cwm.                                             Photo by giripremi ebc 

Crevice crosses the snow field of the Western Cwm.                                             Photo by giripremi ebc 

Above the Khumbu Icefall...

...we’ll still be on the glacier, but it shows as a flat, endless snow field.  The area is marked by huge crevasses, running laterally across the basin, too deep and numerous to cross.  We’ll be forced to move east across the snowfield to the base of Mt. Nuptse and a small passageway known as "Nuptse Corner".

The bowl shape of the Western Cwm protects the carved out valley from wind.  The sides reflect sun off the snow, amplifying solar radiation which is already acute at this altitude.  The result can be temperatures as high as 35˚ C (95˚F).  Because of the bowl shape and the rising and falling temperatures, the walls of the cwm are avalanche prone.  

Trekking across 4 kilometers of snow in such temperatures will be a challenge.  Hot, windless and quiet.  Climbers call this solar oven the Valley of Silence.  I’m not sure why, as at night, you hear ghostly sounds as the ice moves and cracks deep in the glacier beneath.  Once the sun has gone down, the temperatures quickly drop below freezing.  We’re told to avoid small cracks that appear in the hardened snow as they hint at large crevasses below.  

Western Cwm crevices photo by Rupert Pupkin.jpg
Crevices on the Western Cwm photo by  Rupert Pupkin.jpg

Altitude Acclimation and Camp One

We’ve planned our ascent for May so the snow will be fresh and crisp.  In another month, it will be soft and the dangers increase.

That night, at over 6,000 meters (19,900 feet), we’ll know if we have been successful with our acclimation.  If not, we’ll be suffering headaches and nausea that could prevent one or more of us from continuing.  It will have nothing to do with whether we are physically prepared for the climb.  It has only to do with our body’s respiration at these elevations.  The rest of the ascent continues to be weather dependent.  We could face white out conditions on the snowfields here at  Camp 1.

The good news is that at Camp One, we’ll have our first clear view of the upper slopes of Mt. Everest since leaving Base Camp.  Moving out, we’ll be roped together to protect each other from the deep, hidden crevasses, continuing up the Western Cwm to Camp II, at the base of Lhotse Face.

This video shows how precarious it is to cross a crevice on a ladder while wearing crampons.  The ladder consists of two  unsteady segments tied together.  You can hear the labored breathing, not from the effort, but from the altitude.  Now imagine doing this with two prosthetic legs.  Hari knows it won't be easy.  Note the blood stains on the ice below from a fatal accident that occurred 2 days prior.  The video is by koolmaran.

Now watch Hari as he begins to practice crossing a ladder wearing crampons on his stubbies.