Traffic Patterns and Lonely, Rural Routes
It’s the time of year on Everest when the big rush to the summit begins. At 3:00 AM today, the Khumbu Icefall looked like Boston’s I-95: a long line of headlamps creating a traffic jam in the “Popcorn”, a jumbled section of the Icefall, as some 100 people made their way from Basecamp to Camp 2.
The weather is predicted to be calm and relatively clear from the 17th to the 19th, and many teams are understandably hoping to maximize that weather window. We are hoping to do the same in general: we’ll head tomorrow to Camp 2, and then onward to Camp 3W on the West Shoulder. But, from Camp 2 onward, we’ll have no traffic jams to contend with – just snow, ice, and the challenges and vagaries of a rarely traveled route.
Unfortunately, the spate of good weather won’t guarantee anything for us. As just four climbers, with no Sherpa support above Camp 2, and tough conditions on the mountain this year, we’ll need more than just clear weather to help us. Once on the Shoulder, we’ll look upward along the West Ridge toward Camp 4W, the Diagonal Ditch, the Hornbein Couloir, and the whole upper mountain. We’ve seen aerial photos from friends showing that the upper mountain appears barren and icy, the dry conditions we’ve seen on the South side apparently very much intact on the North.
But, we need to see for ourselves. This trip, this climb, like any, is motivated by the lure of the summit, but not predicated on standing on the tippy top. All four of us still have high hopes of moving in Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld’s footsteps and climbing the West Ridge, but we won’t feel we failed should that not be possible, safe, or reasonable. For us all, it’s about the journey, it’s, as I’ve said before, about embracing the opportunity to fail, and knowing the true barometer of success on any climb is coming back safe, happy, and with friendships intact.
So, tomorrow we’ll head to Camp 2. We’ll be alongside many others headed up toward Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse, and we wish all our friends well on their journeys. Our routes and experiences will be vastly different, but no better or worse – it’s all about the journey…and for me, that journey is the journey of Challenge21.
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