A view of Everest base camp with the Khumbu Icefall to the left. In the center are the remains of a helicopter that crashed in 2003.                                                    Photo by  Nuno Nogueira (  Nmnogueira  )

A view of Everest base camp with the Khumbu Icefall to the left. In the center are the remains of a helicopter that crashed in 2003.                                                    Photo by Nuno Nogueira (Nmnogueira)

The Ascent Begins  May 10, 2019                             Khumbu Ice Falls

The red line shows our route in this fine animation of Mt. Everest by DLR/3D Reality Maps/DigitalGlobe.

 Khumbu Icefall is clearly visible above the Everest Base Camp.  To get a sense of scale, search this photo by McKay Savage of London, UK to spot climbers descending the ice field.

Khumbu Icefall is clearly visible above the Everest Base Camp.  To get a sense of scale, search this photo by McKay Savage of London, UK to spot climbers descending the ice field.

Khumbu Icefall

Not far above base camp, our route will cross the treacherous Khumbu Icefall.  It is one of the most dangerous stages of the South Col route we have chosen.   The icefall is located at the head of the Khumbu Glacier, which is the foot of the Western Cwm (pronounced ‘coom’) an amphitheater-like valley formed by glacial erosion.  As you can see in the animation, the Khumbu Icefall is the lower edge of the cwm, which leads to the summit.  The Khumbu glacier is actively moving down the mountain as much as a meter a day.

Such movement means that large crevasses can open with little warning, or seracs (large towers of ice) can suddenly collapse.  Blocks of ice as large as houses tumble down the glacier as movement breaks them free.

We’ve heard stories of climbers being dusted by a cloud of ice when one of these giant blocks topple nearby.  We hope to avoid that kind of excitement.  

 Ladders are necessary to cross the ice field to climb blocks and cross crevasses, as seen in this photograph by Olaf Rieck

Ladders are necessary to cross the ice field to climb blocks and cross crevasses, as seen in this photograph by Olaf Rieck

 Pem Dorjee Sherpa uses a ladder to cross one of the many crevices at Khumbu Ice Falls.  Ladders and crampons will make for a difficult combination for all of us.  They will be particularly challenging for Hari on his stubbies.

Pem Dorjee Sherpa uses a ladder to cross one of the many crevices at Khumbu Ice Falls.  Ladders and crampons will make for a difficult combination for all of us.  They will be particularly challenging for Hari on his stubbies.

We will cross the icefall in the dark of night when lower temperatures have stabilized the terrain.  It will take us a few hours to cross the ice fields.  Less prepared climbers can spend as much as 12 hours crossing.

Many climbers and Sherpas have been lost here.   We’ll be exhausted, though we’ve only climbed two and a half kilometers.  Just above the icefall is Camp 1.