In what has become an annual sign of the return of spring, Everest Base Camp on the South Side of the mountain opened ahead of schedule last week, marking the start of a new climbing season on the world’s tallest peak. Over the next two months, EBC will become the epicenter of the climbing world as hundreds of mountaineers descend on the mountain, each with the dream of standing on top of the world.
This past weekend, the streets of Kathmandu began to swell with foreign visitors as hundreds of climbers began to arrive in Nepal. Many of them will be headed to the 29,029-foot Everest to attempt the biggest challenge of their life. Most will spend just a few days in the city as they collect their gear, connect with teammates and complete any last minute business before they begin the trek to Base Camp. That hike begins in the mountain town of Lukla and will take anywhere from 7-10 days to complete depending on their pace and route. That trek will be the first stage of the all important acclimatization process which will help prepare their bodies for the much higher altitudes to come.
Meanwhile, EBC is already alive with a number of familiar visitors. The lead Sherpa teams arrived last week and immediately went to work on establishing camp and erecting tents. They’ll spend the next week or so getting the living quarters ready for the arrival of their clients, who will be spending a lot of time in at the foot of the mountain over the next two months. Most will arrive by early April and stay there until mid-May or even longer.
Also arriving in Base Camp last week were the Sherpas who comprise the Sagarmartha Pollution Control Committee team – better known as the Ice Doctors. This group of highly trained Sherpas play the all important role of establishing a safe route through the Khumbu Icefall, a treacherous section of the mountain just above BC. All climbers must negotiate their way through this maze of crevasses and unstable ice pillars multiple times in the weeks ahead and without the efforts of the Ice Docs, most of them would never get a chance to actually climb the mountain. The plan is to have the route established and open before the first climbers arrive on the scene and begin making their way up the slopes.
Over the next two months, Everest will serve as the biggest stage in outdoor adventure. There will be incredible triumphs and soul-crushing failures. There will be amazing feats of human endurance and disappointing displays of poor judgement. As has become all to common in recent years, the mountain will be over crowded and yet some will find it surprisingly lonely at times. For fans of Everest, it is the greatest show on Earth and the drama is just about to begin.