Everest 2019: Rotations

Expedition: Everest via the North Col

Rolfe Oostra

If you were to be whisked up to the summit of Everest from where you are standing then you would certainly not last very long to enjoy the view. Even a quick journey to Everest north base camp at 5100 meters will almost certainly make you feel sick, bring about severe headaches and have you gasping for breath.

Climbing the world’s highest mountain requires a slowly slowly approach and repeated journeys to ever higher camps allowing your body to adjust to the thin air. Our team has already completed the first week long rotation. The first will always be the toughest as you climb into the unfamiliar thin air and discover new terrain. The upside is that the terrain you walk through is incredibly beautiful, making the effort all the more worthwhile.

The first rotation objective is to touch the north col at 7100 meters. And this is done by climbing over two days from 5100 meters (BC) to a middle camp along the East Rongbuk glacier at 5700 meters where you spend one night.

The East Rongbuk glacier is simply a spectacular river of ice featuring hundreds of 50 to 60 meter high ice fins and towers, there are not many places like this on earth. From middle camp you climb, over 8 hours to advanced basecamp (ABC) at 6400 meters. Step by step you traverse the towers and step by step the summit of Everest becomes clearer and clearer.

Once at ABC you will remain there for 2 days to recover from your climb to this altitude and let your body adjust. Then it is up to the north col. For our team this first rotation stopped at 6850m due to the rope not being fixed higher up due to then then unstable snow conditions on the upper slopes of the col. So this is the altitude we reached gaining our first taste of climbing fixed line.

It is usual to descend back to ABC for another night to recoup and then go back to BC. Bodies acclimatise best at night and over the 4 nights we spent at ABC everyone slept and ate well. No headaches and no one was ill. All very good signs!!

We are now back at BC and on the 4th we plan to go up again to begin the second rotation. This time we aim to sleep on the north col for 2 nights and to touch camp 2 at 7500 meters. Once this is complete we should be fully acclimatised to the thin air and will descend to BC to wait for a weather window to attempt the summit! Fingers crossed!

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