Stage 2 – Acclimatization – EBC to C3
The base camp is at around 5365m and it took few days of rest and recuperation to get our bodies used to the rarefied air. Meanwhile the icefall doctors from SPCC team, who open the route and fix ropes and ladders from EBC to C2 were hard at work. I did some practice on ice seracs with my full climbing gear. The weather was more or less stable. Soon the route to C2 was declared open. And one fine morning we set off for our first acclimatization climb.
Khumbu Icefall is a veritable maze of massive crevasses, ice seracs and countless unknown dangers lurking at every corner. Satya declared it to be the most dangerous section of the climb. As we climbed into the icefall beyond the ‘crampon point’ I was totally aghast at what I witnessed. How on earth had the icefall doctors found a route through this labyrinth, I marveled. Soon the crevasses appeared and the infamous ladders. There were vertical and horizontal ladders galore. The route, marked by red flags and a white fixed rope, weaved in and out like a raging serpent, keeping us on our toes. We climbed slow on the first day and reached 5700m. From there we returned.
Few days later we climbed up to 6000m, almost till C1 and returned to rest.
Over the next week, our C2 was being set up by our Sherpa team. Tents, food, equipment, etc had to be ferried and set up. Once done, we headed up. By now I felt stronger and we climbed to C1, which is like a succession of ice waves with tents perched on each crest and trough. A brief rest and we continued to C2. The route from C1 to C2 is quite gradual with very few crevasses and ladders but it proved to be an endless slog over ice field. Dehydrated and parched we finally made it to C2. We planned to stay here for 3 nights.
On the second day we headed up towards Lhotse Face. C2 is located in the Western cwm, a flattish field of ice formations. Lhotse Face begins sharply where the field ended into a continuous bergschrund. This is also the point from where the fixed rope started that would go right till the summit of Everest. We crossed the bergshrund over a ladder and ascended using the fixed rope, crunching hard blue ice beneath our crampons. The wind buffeted us from side to side. Even with heavy parka I felt the beginning of a chill. Breathing was hard, every step an effort. We touched 7000m (bottom of C3) and I felt elated beyond dreams. This is the highest I had ever been. After a brief rest we returned to C2. Another night at C2 and the next morning we retraced our path through the icefall back to EBC. Thus we completed our acclimatization phase. Now all we had to do was wait for the summit rope to be fixed and then an optimum weather window for the summit push.