September 19 - 100 meters from Camp 1
It’s just before 6 pm on the evening of September 19. And it’s quite cold here this evening at Everest Base Camp. We seem to be experiencing the shift in weather we’ve been anticipating, when it begins to dry out and the mountain, at the same time, will begin to get colder.
First thing I should report is that I talked early this morning to Grant and Maegan and they saw a very different scene. It was clear down there from High Camp at Lobuche this morning. But, with a good look at their route, they had assessed that it was way too loaded and the avalanche danger was definitely high. And they’ve elected to return to Base Camp instead of climbing that route at this time. We’ll see how that works later in the season. We’ll still probably get back to Lobuche.
Meanwhile, back up in this end of the valley into the glacier, there was a lot of hard work that went on in the Icefall today. I’m sending back separately from this voice dispatch quite a few observations about the weather and the season and the advancement of the Icefall route (see below). And Nima Tashi and I were on the radio all day as he and the Sherpas pushed the route forward. It was hot up there and I could tell those guys were really trying to get to Camp I. As it turned out, they didn’t quite make it and now, here in the evening, I’ve just spoken with Ang Nima, the Icefall Doctor, and he says 100 meters more of rope and he’s very confident they’ll finish up the route all the way to Camp 1 through the Icefall tomorrow.
So it’s a chilly evening here. We’re getting ready to settle down for dinner. Ang Temba, David, Garry, Brad and myself will be having dinner inside the dining tent soon. Maegan and Grant will return to Base Camp tomorrow. Things are looking great. We’re counting on the monsoon ending and the window that will allow us to climb Everest before the winter wind chill-up to develop for us really soon here. Then we’ll be under way.
Weather and Route Observations: The day the monsoon broke
Today appeared to be the day the monsoon finally "broke". We have been watching for some change in weather patterns (it’s been moist, warm, and cloudy at all elevations) for some time. The Sherpas had said first that Sept. 16th would be the day the weather would get dry and began to change according to the "Lama Calendar" or "Tibetan Calendar". When the weather did not change on the 16th, Nima Tashi returned from a visit to Lama Gesu at the Pangboche assuring us that the Lama had said Sept 17 would be the day. As it turned, out that did not happen and in fact morning of Sept 18 dawned cloudy and stayed that way throughout the day.
The "Old Lama's Almanac" is always consulted on expeditions, and like the forecasts we get from Western Meteorologists, it is sometimes right. Actually, the Meteorologists and the Lamas are always right if you consider that they are watching for changing trends that will no doubt occur.
Today, I awoke and sensed immediately that the temperature was colder than it had been on previous mornings. My guess that the sky would be clear when I looked outside proved correct and there was no high cirrus as we are used to seeing even in the early morning.
In the Icefall, a lot of work has been going on, and now, at 2:30 PM, I expect to learn that the Icefall Doctors, along with five of our climbing Sherpas, are going to make it all the way to Camp 1 today. We saw them disappear over the crest of the highest visible serac mid morning, and soon after that, Nima Tashi reported via radio that they had one large crevasse to cross and, if they could retrieve 100 meters of additional rope from a cache lower in the Icefall, they might make it all the way to Camp I. Ang Temba and I cautioned them that the temperatures were getting warmer with the consistent sun today and that they should consider coming back and returning tomorrow, but it was clear that the guys were "smelling the Camp I barn" and eager to get the job done.
Travel in the Icefall this season has been hard work for the Sherpas because they must break trail in knee-deep new snow. But, as Ang Nima has noted, the snow is very wet and once you walk on it a very firm trail is made.
Update at 2:45 PM: Nima Tashi and A Rita just walked into camp, crampons in hand, looking tired, but satisfied. They report that they came down from "very near Camp I" and that they left the Icefall Doctors and other Sherpa still hoping to finish the route into One today. They clearly had been doing hot work in the sun up amongst the seracs all day, although now in mid afternoon a few scattered clouds have begun to cool things down a bit.
The winds and the clouds are still coming from the SW, but there is a less persistent nature to the cloud cover and moisture than we have seen to this date on the expedition.