Fergus White on Climbing Everest – Part 2
In 2009, putting his career in IT consultancy aside, Dubliner Fergus White travelled to the Himalayas to train as a mountaineer. 6 months later during spring 2010, Fergus returned to the Himalayas to climb the 8,848m of Everest, becoming only the 19th Irishman ever to do so.
Hot on the heels of Ascent Into Hell, a thrilling account of his time upon the world’s highest mountain, Fergus has teamed up with close friend Gavan Doherty, CEO of 247meeting, to produce a series of Everest podcasts.
In this second episode, Fergus talks us through the climb from Base Camp at 5,355m, all the way up to Camp 3 at 7,200m. Along the way, Fergus details the obstacles involved in this climb, including the infamous Khumbu Icefall, the Bergschrund, and the Lhotse Face. Littered with crevasse’s, the Icefall is one of the most dangerous aspects of climbing Everest. On the same day this episode was released, Gavan has his question answered about how secure the ladders over these crevasses are. Check that video out here!
This series of interviews coincide with the Everest climbing season. The challenges Fergus describes are currently being faced by those brave men and women attempting to scale the world’s highest peak during this brief window of opportunity.
If you missed Part 1 in the series, you can catch up by clicking here! For Part 3, click here or Part 4, click here. Tune in to the discussion and be sure to grab a copy of Fergus White’s Ascent Into Hell. Have your say or ask your questions by tweeting @247meeting!
Check the transcript
Gavan: I’m joined here today once more by Fergus White, summiteer of Everest and author of bestseller “Ascent Into Hell,” also well known to 247 meeting as a long-standing corporate customer.
Fergus: Thank you, good to be back again, good to see you.
Gavan: Good to talk. All good. I’m looking forward to catching up and finding out what’s going on with your friends and compadres in Everest. And if you care to take us through…I think today…from what I understand, you can show me the, kind of, the route, I’m [crosstalk 00:30:00]
Fergus: At the moment, I mean, today is May 9th, and the climbers are up at the Camp 3 stage. I thought today we’d have a look at the route from base camp up to Camp 3. Give everyone an idea of what’s involved in that, how easy or hard it is. First up there, there’s the route there in its totality, and if I just have the little spotlight here.
So this is the Himalayas. Mount Everest there at the top. Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world and Nuptse. Down here, this is all glacier down here, you can see where the mouse is. And this is base camp. So base camp is all the way along there. And in the climbing season, which is pretty much now, they’ll be in and around 1,000 people living there.
First climb up is through the ice-fall. We’ll have a look at that in a moment. It’s about 600 meters in altitude. That goes up through there. Camp 1 is just hidden in here, between Everest and Nuptse. We’ll be able to see some photos now in a little while of this up close. Continues up here. Camp 2 is based here, that’s at 6,400 meters.
Go along here, then up to the Lhotse face. Camp 3 is here, just on some ledges on the Lhotse face. That’s as far as we go today. But the route from there would go along here, goes over the Geneva Spur, up to the South Col here at Camp 4, and then up the Southeast Ridge, South Summit, Hillary Step, until the summit.
Gavan: Interesting, and from what you’re telling me, at the moment most of the climbers are round about here.
Fergus: A little bit higher. They’ve touched…
Gavan: Further up here.
Fergus: Yes. They’ve touched Camp 3. So they’re probably sleeping at Camp 2, but they’ve acclimatised up to Camp 3. Camp 3 isn’t the kind of place you’ll spend much time at. Camp 2 is a little bit more hospitable.
Gavan: And a question for you, I mean, is there a road up to this part of base camp?
Fergus: No, you’re walking. And the closest you can do is fly into Lukla, which is a small airstrip about 50 kilometres away. It’s 2,800 meters, so it’s about 3 kilometres below, and it’s a track all the way in. It’s like [inaudible 00:02:16] method, it’s just..people walk…so, everything there has to come in either on someone’s back or on a donkey, on a mule, on an ox, something like that.
Gavan: Okay. No roads, no quads, no rails.
Fergus: No roads. And it gets…is the higher up you get, the scrappier it gets, and, you know, everything just beneath Number 1, that’s all glacier there. It’s grey, but that’s the broken moraine and rock atop the glacier.
Gavan: It’s not tarmac.
Fergus. Yes. Everything there is moving at one meter a day towards the sea. So if you try to build something, it’s all gonna…
Gavan: All of this is all ice just flowing down from atop the mountain.
Fergus: All ice. Yeah, the ice constantly…very gradual, it’s always moving, and, you know, every now and then it will make a big move and take out rock with it.
Gavan: Okay. And what we’re looking at here, is this, say, from Base Camp up to Camp 1, is that, kind of, 5 kilometres, 10 kilometres to…
Fergus: No, let’s just go on to the next slide there. You’re probably only looking at about a mile and half or so, two kilometres. I mean, if it was flat, it was at the sea level, you know, it’d be a simple walk for anyone to do. Problem is though, it’s not flat, and it’s at some altitude.
So, looking in here, this is one of the last, this was on our base camp here a few years ago. Right on the edge of the icefall. These are the individual sleeping tents here. See these small square ones, this would be a toilet tent. A shower tent. These will be mess tents and storage tents here. And just after base camp, then you’re straight into the icefall proper.
The icefall is where the glacier comes down over a steep gradient. Because it’s steep and uneven, it’s constantly breaking and cracking. So you have lumps of ice, you know, the size of a house, the size of an apartment block coming down there. So every year, a new route has to be put in, and that route has to be maintained as well during the season because it’s always moving.
Gavan: And is that where an avalanche came down about three years ago, two years ago?
Fergus. It was, yeah. In 2014 there was an ice serac came off here off the West Shoulder. Unfortunately, it came down here and track left, and unfortunately, there was climbers and sherpas here, and the sherpas, unfortunately, were killed there. But as you can see, I mean, an ice serac can come down there, can be an avalanche that’s coming down here, and the glacier itself is always moving, so these individual blocks… I mean, what we’re looking at from here to here, that’s twice the height of the Empire State Building.
There’s always moving…the mountain is always in trouble. And just this little bit here, that’s actually Lhotse there. If I just go back up, you’re actually looking…that’s the fourth highest mountain in the world there. So what we’re mostly looking at is from here off to about there. Then there’s a big gap, and we’re seeing all the way up then to Lhotse.
So getting into the icefall on South. So this is what the icefall is. And from a distance, it just looks like popcorn. It looks like a big pile of, you know, white cotton wool. But actually, up close, you can see what it is we’re looking at. I mean, here’s a man here. I mean, this beside him is, I suppose it’s a meter tubed. You can see, compared to the man. So that’s a metric ton. All of these blocks have broken off something. You can see all the gaps here…
Gavan: They’ve all fallen there, yeah.
Fergus: It’s constant movement here. You can see the route through, I mean, there’s… Sorry, go ahead.
Gavan: Yeah. Question for you, I mean, is there a platform or a safety net at the bottom of this or…
Fergus: No, there’s nothing there, no. The ice…not the icefall, Khumbu glacier itself, at times has a depth of 200 meters. So this could well go down 100 meters. You can see…
Gavan: So in theory, that’s a drop of 300 feet. Imagine they’ll be gone forever.
Fergus: You can see the hard, blue ice there of the glacier, and then the fresher snow on top. And the different layers. And, of course, those layers, that’s the sort of thing that can lead to avalanches as well. You know, where hard layers are slipping across softer layers, there’s always trouble. So you can see there, a ladder has been put across that crevasse there, just there, and you can see then the route continues on up here.
Gavan: Okay. And I see this guy here, he’s got a rope.
Fergus: That’s the fixed rope there. He’s following it there. So the ice doctors who go up ahead, they’ll pick out what they deem to be the safest route. They’re looking for the least number of crevasses, the least number of ladders, you know, insofar as it’s possible putting yourself underneath as little danger as possible. You don’t want to be going straight under an overhang. You know, obviously, there’s always a degree of danger there.
Gavan: And how do they fix them in?
Fergus: It’s just either ice screws or just stakes, depending on whether it’s going into hard snow, or going into ice. So they have to maintain them because the icefall is moving, and of course, during the afternoon there are freeze thaws, and there’s melting as well. So they do have to maintain and watch them.
Gavan: Okay. Are they put in every year, or they last a few years?
Fergus: No, they’re put in the hold…so the ice doctors will go up in what’s…April, it’d be the start of April. They go up, takes them about a week to put the route through. It is, I mean, you’ll see, like we’ll definitely see sometimes, you know, on the edge of a ladder, you’ll see where a stake has come out. So pretty much on a daily basis, they have to be maintained. But by the time the end of May comes, it’s too hot, and they’re all melting out.
Gavan: So they don’t come with lifetime guarantees?
Fergus: No, I’m afraid not. So the ladders are taken out by the end of May, and even by then…sorry, April, May… So it’d be late June. Apologies.
Gavan: Okay. Very much after the season, after the climbing season.
Fergus: We’ve just got April, May. Early June I would say they’re taken out. And the ladders at that stage, I mean, they’re buckled, they’re bashed from the crampons. You can see here, now, here’s another one. I mean, it’s not all uniform in the icefall, you know. There are, sort of, different sections of it. So even though it’s always moving from year to year, there is a certain similarity.
Looking at these guys here, you mentioned the rope, I mean, you can see the route that goes through this. Here’s a climber here, a little bit of rope there. And you can see how this goes into the distance. If you compare the size of the climbers to the size of the ice flux, you get an idea of what you’re up against. There’s the route, there’s a climber there. There are two climbers here, climbing on their way up.
This is looking down, by the way, into the icefall. Another guy here is on the way down, the route goes down there, and here’s another climber. Another climber here, another climber here. Obviously then there’s a bit of distance going on here.
Gavan: Okay. They’re all climbers in the background.
Fergus: You can see some four guys there. [crosstalk 00:07:52]
Gavan: Like a kilometre away.
Fergus: Exactly. So when you’re in there, try not to be very claustrophobic, you know. You’re just often closed in, you cannot much see what’s above or behind you. You have to sort of take it on faith that this is the best route.
Gavan: And do people ever lose the ropes?
Fergus: Well, I mean, if there’s a big avalanche, of course, the rope would be pulled out, if there’s an icefall. Now and again, you know, I suppose we’re all guilty of you take a little shortcut, you don’t connect in. As well, a lot of times, we travel through at night, when it’s dark, you know. If you didn’t have the rope with you, you’d just go straight off.
Gavan: You’d be lost.
Fergus: You’d go straight off tracks, so it is critical either to be connected to the rope or at least have a loose hand on it, you’re following it. Because, as I said, it’s like going through a maze. I’m just gonna back up there again. You can see from here, I mean if you go off the wrong way here…
Gavan: You could be wandering for weeks.
Fergus: If you would be in here…wouldn’t quite be weeks, I think it’d go wrong before that. You would just like a little ant going through here, that’s all you would be.
Gavan: Hold onto that rope.
Fergus: Yeah. So here’s another view of the icefall here going through. So this is a more open section. So now you see you come to the open sections, now and again you’ll probably sit down in the shade, take a little break with your buddies. You can see the route just going up there.
Gavan: But it shows…I mean, inside this…this lump of ice looks like it could fall out, there’s a big crack there, look. Tons of snow could come off that.
Fergus: It’s true, yeah.
Gavan: I mean, compared to this guy, what’s that, maybe, you know, three or four story house.
Fergus: That would be a full house, I mean, compared to… If it wasn’t for the man, you’d have no idea what you’re looking at. But see, that’s the size of a house, just to the left of where you’re showing. I mean this obviously, this is going to cross here at some stage. I mean, everything here has broken. As you pointed out, all these cracks are here. And, you know, within the space of a month, this will be totally different. That won’t be there, this won’t be here, it’s all moving.
And everything here is getting pushed down.
Gavan: It’s part luck as to whether it falls on somebody, or whether it’s….
Fergus: Well, you know, I mean, you sort of take a look as you’re going, you try to travel during the day as little as possible, because, under the direct rays of the sun, there’s always more movement.
Gavan. That’s when it melts and moves.
Fergus: So people tend to kick off at, you know, 3 a.m. in the morning, and they try to get through the worst of it by maybe, you know, 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and then get out at the top. So you can see the route goes through there. And then you can see two little men here, I mean they’re tiny, but they’re all the way up to the top. And just take a look down at the…this is the top of the icefall now. This is the very last piece of it.
Which tends to be a little bit similar each year, because it’s where the gradient begins. All of this is a crevasse. The whole thing we’re looking at is a crevasse. If this camera were to zoom out, we’d see a…
Gavan: A giant hole.
Fergus: A giant hole, and within that hole, you’d have this…there’s a mini crevasse here with a ladder, another crevasse here. There’s a ladder across it there. You can see the hard glacier underneath there so…
Gavan: And are you clipped onto the ladders?
Fergus: No, we’d be clipped into a rope alongside the ladder, so if you fall off, you’d be clipped into that.
Gavan: I assume, like if you’re wearing crampons on your boots, which you are, [crosstalk 00:10:35] I assume crampons don’t grip the ladders all that well.
Fergus: Well, you’ll just sort of use the middle. You have the spikes in the front and the back, so you put your foot there in the middle, that’s… I mean, you’ll be hooked into the rope. I mean, you know, if you fall, depending exactly how you’re hooked in, you’ll…
Gavan: You’ll go a long way.
Fergus: You’ll still drop down to here, but you hope you’ll be okay. But the thing is, you’re not gonna disappear down here, and down into here, which is the problem. And these guys, when they’re going across these crevasses, there’s a side rope that they connect into again. So if they did come off all the way down, they just drop three or four feet. Just hit the side of the crevasse.
Gavan: And did you ever see anybody, or did that happen to you?
Fergus: No, it never happened to me, I never saw it happen to anyone. I know it’s happened, I’ve seen photographs, no, never saw anyone have any difficulty going across.
Gavan: And should every climber be able to pull their own weight if that happens, that they pull their own weight out of…
Fergus: I’ve seen guys go off on videos, and it’s difficult because when you go down, the chances are your leg might end up on top of you, you’ve got your bag, and your…you can see this weight here, I mean, this was me.
Gavan: That’s not empty. That’s not just jumpers.
Fergus: I could pretend I could be, sort of, self-rescuing myself, but if I fall off one of them upside down, my legs above me, maybe the leg that’s caught the rope, and maybe another rope goes in, you know, twisting through the ice, hacks the back of the bag. I think you’re gonna be relying on people, you’re gonna be struggling.
You know, if you’ve set yourself up right, your safety rope here, which you can see is running off here, will be shorter than the length of mine… What? Let me just go back there. It will be shorter than the length of my arm. So I should be able to reach up to the safety rope. There’s no point in having a safety rope that’s three meters long. You know, you’re not gonna be able to pull yourself up. So, you know, if it came to it, you might have to pull yourself out, but you’ll be hoping for assistance, depending on how you get twisted up.
So this is the very top of the icefall here, and this brings it out into the Khumbu Valley. So it’s been a very claustrophobic, kind of, climb up here, but, as soon as…I mean, you can see that guy’s head…as soon as you pop up, the view changes completely. And let’s just have a look there. So this is Camp 1. So this is a few hundred meters from the top of the icefall. So you can see suddenly the whole thing opens up. On the left…
Gavan: So you’ve arrived…in the previous photo, you’ve arrived from there.
Fergus: It’s several hundred meters back…
Gavan: Behind where you’ve taken the picture.
Fergus: You got to get well clear of the edge because, you know, the cracks can appear anywhere. But, over there on the left is Everest, you can see there is the summit. And this is Lhotse here…, so we have one team here, you know, another team here, another team here, another team here. But it’s similar all the way up…well, the first half of the Khumbu Valley, you can see all of those crevasses there. It’s not that, sort of, the icefall is the only place you get a crevasse.
Gavan: Okay. Lots of holes in the snow. Okay. And is orange the colour?
Fergus: It seems to be there. Yeah, yeah. I suppose it’s so that if something goes wrong, you can see people.
Gavan: So, a safety colour. Yeah.
Fergus: Seems to be the right [inaudible 00:13:22] round. I’ve always found that black stands out very well because it’s against so much white. It’s whatever one fancies themselves, but, obviously, at night, you know, an orange tent, you’ve got a light, and it’s gonna show up from a long distance away.
Gavan: Because it’s night time, and you’re looking for your tent.
Fergus: Yeah, exactly. So this is Camp 1 here, and the key is to find a route which, you know, goes around as much as possible the crevasses. So we often went over here on the right, we got around a few of them. But we definitely got a couple of ladders go across from there, there’s no other way. So ultimately we have to get from Camp 1, I think we said this week the climbers are up around Camp 3. Well, they’ve touched Camp 3, but they’re probably resting at Camp 2.
Camp 2 is over there, so once we go above Camp 1, there’s one of the crevasses. There’s a buddy of mine, Greg, actually he took the previous photo, he got some lovely photos. So there’s a crevasse there up close. There are two ladders joined together, straightforward aluminium ladders.
Gavan: Do the ropes ever break?
Fergus: Well, it’s not so the ropes won’t break, what can happen here is that these can pull out. I mean, I definitely saw a few of them that looked a little bit on the light side. You know…
Gavan: It melted, and there was snow or ice that melted and…
Fergus: Greg, whatever weight he is, he’s got a bag on his back. If he fell, there’d be momentum. Suddenly, you discover you’re not hooked in.
Gavan: That’s not well. Yeah.
Fergus: And I never saw a rope come out that someone was reliant on. While the reality is, you know, they’re screwed in, they’re hammered in. The sun is beating down on them…
Gavan: They come with no guarantees.
Fergus: Exactly. It’s not your typical, kind of, crevasse there.
Gavan: I just see from the kind of, darkness here, that that could be anything, 100 meters.
Fergus: That’s easily 100 meters. Wouldn’t necessarily be straight down, you’d be banged up, but if you go down, that’s probably it.
Gavan: It’s not good.
Fergus: No, that’s probably the end. So that moves up from Camp 1 up to Camp 2. Camp 1 is a kind of a temporary camp. It’s based on the glacier on the snow. Camp 2 has a bit more of a permanent feel. It feels a bit like your home away from home. It’s sort of like base camp. So here we have, you know, we’ve got the mess tents, the storage tents, possibly a toilet tent there. And then all the individual sleeping tents here with all the individual climbers.
There’s another mess tent of the team there. Probably a storage tent here, another mess tent there. So Camp 2 is kind of the main place once you get up the mountain.
Gavan: And is that because it looks like it’s all funny kind of ice or am I reading that wrong?
Fergus: Well, it’s on the side of the glacier, so it’s probably still glacier, but it’s close to the edge of the mountain itself. And you don’t get any crevasses there, you don’t get the same amount of movement. It’s definitely the same face.
Gavan: So it’s a bit flatter, hard. So it’s more permanent, flatter.
Fergus: Yes, these aren’t gonna move. I mean, down even at base camp, from when…in between our different rotations, you could see how your tent had moved a little bit, you could see how water had melted. You know, a tent that was on its own now maybe it had a little moat of water around it. Camp 2 up here is a bit more stable, for want of better word.
Just zooming in there, the little bit you can see, individual guys early in the morning. They’re all drying all their gear, because at night, you know, you’re zipped up, your tent is zipped up, your bag is zipped up. There’s no perspiration escaping. And so in the morning there, in the bright sunlight, got all their sleeping bags, gloves, hats, jackets, everything up here just drying. This is kind of a typical Camp 2 scene.
I’m not sure, they’re all staring at something with great interest. That’s the side of it. There might have been a rock fall or something, but everybody seems fixated on something over there, for some reason, I’m not sure why.
Gavan: Or looking up the route, the route protruding out.
Fergus: The route actually is behind them, as it turns out. So let me show you that. So I’m just going to go back to that, that very first screen again. Just to put everything into context.
Gavan: Just show us where Camp 2 is, yeah.
Fergus: So we start at the base camp, up through the icefall. Camp 1 was just hidden here, above the icefall. This is Camp 2 here. Those guys, they were just looking here for some reason, something must have caught their eye. But it’s behind them, and we’ll have a look at that now, this is the route up to Camp 3, up to Lhotse face.
Gavan: And to put it into perspective, so those 2 numbers there, 3, 4, that’s Camp 2, it’s Camp 3. What kind of, a), distance, and b), then, time?
Fergus: Time? First time, I’d…you’ll certainly get up there in one way in six hours on the first acclimatisation. That’s when you’re not quite used to it. But, you know, you could certainly do it in four hours as well, getting from three to four. And your altitude, this is 6,400 metres, this is 7,100 metres. So a gain of 600-700 metres, I think.
It’s a substantial gain for one day, but it’s not that difficult. I mean, the icefall is extremely difficult, it’s claustrophobic, you don’t know what’s going on, it’s hard to see progress.
Gavan: You can’t see where you are.
Fergus: One to 2 is fairly straightforward, it’s only a 400 meter gain, 3 to 4 you can always see the target, which makes it a lot easier. You can see where you’re going, you can see what’s behind you.
Gavan: Feel the progress.
Fergus: Exactly, so that was always…I always, don’t know if enjoyed is the word, but that was never a particularly difficult one, three up to four. Let’s just have a look at that now. I’m sorry, Camp 2 to Camp 3. So this is where we were, but behind those guys then, so this is looking out from Camp 2, this is the edge of Camp 2, and this is the start of the route to Camp 3. So you can see little pairs of climbers here.
Gavan: Quite a little trail. Yeah.
Fergus: You can see the route there. And it starts to get steep there as you get towards the Lhotse face proper. Now, this next photo, it’s taken from the exact same place, but it’s zoomed out. And those little four climbers, you can see them there.
Gavan: They’re the ones in the previous photo.
Fergus: Yeah, it’s little dots, so it gives you an idea. So this is the edge of Camp 2. This is one of the last tents on the edge. So the route went up there, there were those four climbers. The route took them through there. This is the birch [SP] front here.
Gavan: And what’s that?
Fergus: That’s…so you’ve got a glacier, so the glacier comes all down here.
Gavan: Tons of ice.
Fergus: And there’s a natural cliff, or a natural break, so the glacier just has a sudden drop, 10 to 15.
Gavan: And it’s always there.
Fergus: Always there. Now, it’s slightly different in form, because everything is moving, but it’s always there. There’s a natural, sort of because it’s almost vertical there, a little break and it’s called the birch. I think the birch is any style of break like that in a glacier. Then the route goes up to Camp 3. Camp 3, then, you know, not the safest of places. Camp 2, as you can see, is off here to the side, it’s on rocks. It’s, you know, relatively safe.
Fergus: Camp 3, you’re just looking at putting in a little ridge somewhere, and it’d be the climbers or, indeed, the sherpas as is often the case, they’ll, you know, flatten out a ridge with shovels or ice axes to fit in some tents. So we’d have them normally around here. Here is obviously too steep. There’d be ice, there’d be avalanches and rock falls coming down here. Over here is a little bit safer.
And so let’s just have a look at another angle at that. So this again, this is looking up the Lhotse face from Camp 2. So there is that birch, that I spoke about, 10 to 15 meters straight up. You can see a lad here maybe just having a little rest. Probably took him an hour to get there from Camp 2. He’s just stopping, sorting himself out. Climb up there, and you can see the route goes up there.
Gavan: All those ants climbing.
Fergus: Individual climbers. That’s what it is. So that’s…let me think…this was maybe 400 meters, 500 meters from here to the top. So there’s the…
Gavan: In terms of the altitude. Yeah. And I can see the tents there then.
Fergus: [inaudible 00:20:22] there. So different teams just pretty much find a ridge for your camp. There’s one team there, a second team there.
Gavan: So there’s no welcoming reception, there’s no campsite?
Fergus: First person to get up there, for sherpas it’s just a glacier.
Gavan: Find a place.
Fergus: And, you know, they use their experience. You know, there’s no point in being out here, you’re gonna get wiped out, you don’t wanna be on anything that’s too steep, because your tent will go. You wanna find a place with minimum effort. You can take out your shovel and dig something flat. Get yourself roped in, get everything tied down. And settle a few tents. I think this was us here. That’s where we had our camp. A few more over here. And indeed there will be more a little bit out of shot, there’d be more up here in the upper Camp 3. Up for about another 100 metres above, there’ll be other tents up there.
Gavan: So Camp 3 isn’t a kind of fixed point, it can be, you know, we’ll go on a couple hundred meters down, then that’ll be our Camp 3.
Fergus: Exactly. Yeah, it’s wherever. I mean, different teams, year to year, they kinda have a favourite spot. But as I said, it’s always moving, and it’s, you know, wherever you find preference.
Gavan: When you say fixed in. I mean, I have a very little experience of camping. I know you fix the tent to the ground, typically. And do you fix anything else in?
Fergus: You do. Well, yeah, because of the tents…I mean, if things move or there’s a high wind, the tents could go. So we’ll also possibly have a fixed rope running alongside it. I mean, the ridge is only just about the width of a, you know, kitchen table. It’s just wider than the tents, so with a fixed rope there, so that when people are walking in or out, if you got to go to the toilet at night, just clip yourself into that and edge along.
And indeed, you know, one of the tents might be linked, you know, linked in to… Oops, just jumped down there. There we go. You know, the tents, you know, depending on where they are, will be linked in. I know there was, I think there was…like it’s not unknown for a tent to just simply drop down, you know.
Gavan: Fall off the edge.
Fergus: Yeah. I mean, these things can happen.
Gavan: So it’s not glamping?
Fergus: No, not quite. So that’s the route up to Camp 3. So that’s where the climbers have touched in the last few days on Everest. They’re waiting there for a weather window to go further. This is that route up that we saw. So this is on the way up to Camp 3. You can see it’s fairly icy there.
Gavan: So, it looks shiny. I mean, if you’re wearing your rubber shoes, would you…
Fergus: Yeah, you know, you’re gonna be going for a slide on that. Even standing still, I remember, was quite tiring. And I remember even turning around, you take a little rest, turning around and sitting down. You really gotta dig in with your crampons to make a little platform for yourself just to sit there.
Gavan: Because if you sit down, you’re gone.
Fergus: Yeah, I mean, if you sat without crampons…I mean, when I say sit down, you’re obviously clipped into the rope in any case, but, you know, if you just sat down with your, kind of, your smooth down suit, you’d start to slide away. Then you gotta kick in a little bit, make a little platform, and dig in those crampons harder, then sit down.
You know, it’s a rest, and you take on a little water. But it’s far from relaxing because you’re slightly fighting gravity the whole time. As you can see, it’s…
Gavan: Looks steep.
Fergus: It’s a slippery surface. And so here are some of those tents up at Camp 3.
Gavan: As you described.
Fergus: So really it’s just a ledge, you know, it’s not entirely flat. You can kind of see the gradient, and it’s going left and to the right. See where the snow was gathered in, I mean, you know, between trips, you might have to dig your tent out. You know so that the snow can get up to there. You see the snow shovel left of here, sort of lashed.
Gavan: And that’s, I see, the fixed line here. Because somebody said, “Right, we’re gonna tie our tents in, and maybe also…”
Fergus: Yeah, exactly. So different teams and different ways. You can see there’s another rope kind of across here. So, you know, like, for instance, this could move. Or anything could move. So, you do your best to try and have a few ropes there that people can be connected into.
Gavan: I see all the ropes there.
Fergus: I remember on a training climb, even when we were in our sleeping bags, we had our harnesses on with a rope running out of…you know, from ourselves, from our sleeping bags out through the tent. And screwed into the place there.
Gavan: So that was the tent.
Fergus: I was saying, it goes to wind, or if, you know, lots underneath it goes, that’s the situation you will find. So that’s the tent 3, or the Camp 3 there. You wouldn’t spend more than, maybe, 2 or 3 nights were you at Camp 3, you know. Camp 2 is kind of your advanced base camp, your mini base camp.
Gavan: Okay. More permanent.
Fergus: Touch Camp 3 to acclimatise. Come back down, then on your summit push, you’ll spend one night there. So people might spend two, depending… Guys who are trying it without the oxygen tanks, you know, they might spend a bit more time here or at Camp 3. They’ll sleep there, you know, to give themselves that extra acclimatisation.
So this is Camp 3 looking back out. You can see the various tents here, the Lhotse face. And these guys are obviously on the summit push, you can see this guy has his oxygen tank on there, and he’s gonna stop. And his two compadres, they are certainly feeling it, I mean, might just be the moment in time, but he’s definitely feeling it, and this guy, he just seems to be some sort of rock star here.
Gavan: He knows there’s a photo being taken.
Fergus: Maybe this is the moment he’s always waited for.
Gavan: Hopefully not his last one.
Fergus: But he was just a guy on another team who was going by, and someone took out a camera, and I think it just looked good. So that’s the exit there from Camp 3.
Gavan: Okay. So that’s where everybody is at the moment.
Fergus: That’s right. That’s where we are, right.
Gavan. Up to by Camp 3. Okay. And what kind of other things are happening, you know, right about now at this point in the summiting window?
Fergus: So this is the…it’s the 9th? It is the 9th. I know there are 300 party permits issued on the Southside for climbers. You know, I mean, reading between the lines, about 20% of them have quit already. You know, injuries, tiredness, various different reasons, exhaustion, you name it.
All the teams, of course, have long arrived at base camp at this stage. The fixed rope and gear, that was dropped off by helicopter to Camp 2. And that saved the sherpas doing a lot of carries, it’s much safer for the sherpas, because it limits their time on the ice, of course.
Gavan: Is that a new thing this year or…
Fergus: I think it was tried last year for the first time. So it’s still slightly in…sort of a test mode, but as far as I know, that’s gonna stay. It makes sense, you know. If you can drop it off rather than the sherpas having to carry it.
Gavan: It costs human lives.
Fergus: Exactly. The Camp 2 has, obviously, have been built or, anyone who’s still continuing, has already slept at Camp 2, and almost all the climbers, have reached Camp 3.
Gavan: Which we what we see here in front of us. [crosstalk 00:16:18].
Fergus: Some of them indeed. Particularly if they’re trying it without oxygen tanks, they would have slept at Camp 3. The fixed line, the route that’s put in, that’s up as far now, as 8,000 metres, at Camp 4, and it’s stopped there because there’s a lot of wind at the moment this week. They say that wind is gonna be there for another day or two, but they reckon that the rope to the summit should be up by round about May 12th. And pretty much, as soon as that rope is in, the teams are gonna be right behind them, trying to summit. So maybe May 13th, May 14th, that kind of thing.
Gavan: Okay. Well, then hopefully we’ll check in with you next week, and see how progress has gone.
Fergus: Super. Yeah, I mean, as I said in a week’s time, I’d expect people to be summiting, maybe we might take a look at the route from Camp 4 up to the summit, [inaudible 00:26:59], maybe I’ll just have a few photos and just chat through them again like today. Yeah.
Gavan: Sounds perfect. Talk to you next week.
Fergus: Great stuff. Thanks a ton.
Gavan: Thank you.