Base amp Is Melting

Base Camp is melting. Last night was very cold but the days are getting longer and warmer and camp is melting away. It is often easy to forget that this layers of filthy rock dust is just that – a layer of dust on top of ice. There are some butt bruises around here to attest to that. The footing is pretty treacherous but especially early at night and in the morning when things are changing the most. I am guessing that “Highway One” which runs through the middle of our tent town has dropped three or four feet. I now scramble uphill to get to my tent. Fortunately it has not required any major renovations yet as some of the tents have. I have a pretty good dip in the middle of mine but so far it is manageable.

Weather now dictates our lives. Every day people wait for the daily weather forecast to arrive from our expedition meteorologist in Seattle, Washington. Will the winds allow someone to go up to C1 or C2? How bad are the winds at C3 and above? Right now that is a real problem that is causing a lot of consternation. Today Summit winds were close to 100MPH and only dropped to about 70MPH at C3. The result being that none of the supplies or fixed lines are moving up.

This has all been compounded by the fact that the teams setting the Lhotse face fixed lines to C3 decided to place the route much further to the left than in the past. The mountain is especially dry this year and there is not a lot of snow too hold the loose rock in place. So far there have been 4 rock fall injuries among climbers trying to go up the new route. Two of the injuries involved broken arms. So the decision has been made to tear down the route and move it to its original location. See climbers aren’t all dumb – it only took four going home early to figure out that having stuff fall on you isn’t conducive to a long climbing career. The Air Evac helicopters are loving it though – banner year for them.

With it now being to windy to attempt that feat time is slipping. We have much better weather coming the 7th, 8th and 9th with Summit winds under 25MPH. Unfortunately I do not believe it is possible to get the fixed lines to C3 replaced, new lines put to C4 and and from there toward the summit before the 9th. At that point the weather appears to be returning to higher winds. Most teams will not stage until the lines are in and fixed. In my case I intend to move to C2 on the 8th just in case the window stays open a day or two longer. That means my first shot could come on the night of the 9th or the 10th. Of course, there are a million potential changes to that program. I am not saying much about my plan because I don’t want a bunch of company. That is the other factor in choosing a summit night – not getting caught in a traffic jam. With these mistakes shortening the climbing window for everyone that increases the likelihood that a bunch of people show up at the Hillary Step 30 minutes below the summit and stand freezing watching their limited supply of O2 and dreams drain away while only one person at a time can get up this 40 foot section of rock. Almost every year there are people who end their climb right in sight of the summit. If I have to leave so early that my summit pictures are in the dark that may be the price. Better in the dark than not all… Yak happens.