The following is a list of the camps and waypoints along with pictures and descriptions from Base Camp through the Summit of Mount Everest.
Base Camp – Base camp is reached by flying from Kathmandu Nepal to Lukla. From Lukla, it climbers trek approximately ten days through the Solu Khumbu valley to Everest Base Camp travelling through villages and staying at tea houses. Climbers gear is carried to Base camp via Sherpa Porters and Yaks. Everest Base Camp sits on the Khumbu Glacier at an altitude of 17,500 ft.
Khumbu Icefall – After reaching base camp climbers begin the climb to Camp 1 going through the Khumbu Icefall. The Khumbu Icefall is a result of the glacier in the Western CWM pushing down the valley where it reachs both a turn and a steeper drop in terrain. The turn steeper terrain below cause the glacier to break up into larger blocks. These blocks are constantly moving due to the pressure of the ice pushing down the mountain and due to the constant heating and cooling caused by the strong day sun and evening cold. The blocks are as large as cars, trucks, and sometimes the size of a house. The constant changing terrain and moving blocks of the Khumba Icefall along with the crevasses make it one of the most dangerous portions of the climb. Climbers use ladders to cross the wide crevasses. Climbers typically leave Base Camp at 3 am so that they can climb through the Icefall before sunrise when the sun hits the Icefall and begins to melt the ice increasing the danger of the icefall.
Camp 1 – Camp 1 is located at 19,898 ft on the Western CWM just above the Khumbu Icefall
Western CWM – The Western CWM is the valley between Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse. The Western CWM is a large glacier with a very gradual pitch from Camp 1 to Camp 2. The Glacier in the Western CWM is formed from the snow and ice that over time comes off the Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse faces and compacts in the valley. The climb from Camp 1 to Camp 2 is a relatively easy climb with two factors making it difficult – altitude and heat. Climbers are climbing from 19,898 ft at Camp 1 to 21,325 ft at Camp 2 – Camp 2 is higher than all of the mountains on 5 continents – Europe, North America, Africa, Antarctica, and Australia and South America only have a handful of mountains over 21,000 feet. The high altitude and lower oxygen levels make even a gradual climb like the Western CWM challenging. The second major challenge of the Western CWM is the heat due to the sun reflecting off the Lhotse, Everest, Nuptse faces and the floor of the Western CWM. In my tent one day at Camp 1 the Thermo registered 117 degrees.
Camp 2 – Camp 2 is located at the top of the Western CWM just below the Lhotse face and off the West face of Everest. Camp 2 is located at 21,325 ft.
Bergschrund – A bergschrund is a crevasse that forms where the moving glacier ice separates from the ice above on the mountain. On Everest, the Bergschrund is at the base of the Lhotse face, and it is a challenge for climbers because they must cross over an opening in the ice. Climbers climb over the opening then up the near-vertical face of ice to get onto the Lhotse Face when climbing from Camp 2 to Camp 3.
Lhotse Face – The Lhotse face is a step pitch of ice that climbers climb up from Camp 2 to Camp 3.
Camp 3 – Camp 3 is located at 24,500 ft on the Lhotse face. Camp 3 is the least comfortable of the camps on Everest because it sits on a very steep pitch of ice. Climbers are confined to their tents for the majority time when they are at Camp 3 because it is dangerous to get out of the tent and move around without being roped up. If a climber were to slip and fall while walking around at Camp 3 they could start to slide down the Lhotse face which would be a 2000+ footfall down to the Western CWM.
Yellow Band – After spending a night at Camp 3 climbers continue up the Lhotse face towards Camp 4. Shortly after leaving Camp 3 climbers to encounter the Yellow Band. The Yellow Band is a band of Limestone cutting across the mountain that was formed millions of years ago from sedimentary deposits in the ocean before the Asian and Indian subcontinent collided to force up the land to form the present-day Himalayan Mountain Range. The Yellow Band would not be extremely difficult to climb at sea level but at approximately 25,000 ft with far less oxygen and wearing metal crampons that slide on the rock make the Yellow Band a formidable challenge for Everest climbers.
Geneva Spur – the Geneva Spur is the last major obstacle for climbers when they climb from Camp 3 to Camp 4. After climbing the Yellow Band climbers continue up the Lhotse face then turn towards the large spur of rock that forms the Geneva Spur. Climbing the Geneva Spur comprises climbing up a steeper pitch for a couple of hundred yards. Depending on the year the Geneva Spur is a mix of rock, snow, and ice making the use of mixed tool climbing/cramponing necessary as it is ascended.
Camp 4 – South Col – Camp 4 is located in the South Col in between Lhotse and Everest. The South Col is a very large open area with plenty of room for expedition teams to pitch tents for the summit assault. Climbers typically arrive in Camp 4 midday at which time they rehydrate, eat and then go to sleep for 5-6 hours before getting up at 9 am and begin their attempt on the summit. Climbers do not stay at Camp 4 any longer than required because at ~26,000 ft which is considered the death zone. At that altitude climbers, bodies are just degrading and weakening. Any unnecessary time spent at Camp 4 will only weaken the climber, hurt their summit chances, and takes on an increased risk of Altitude Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
South Summit – After leaving Camp 4 climbers to climb up to the Balcony where they switch Oxygen bottles. After the Balcony climbers climb up towards the South Summit. Depending on the year and how the ropes are fixed climbers either climb up a steep pitch of ice on the climbers right or they climb over a few bands of rock to the climbers left. The ropes were fixed on the left side when I climbed making it very challenging climbing over rock wearing crampons at about 27,000 to 28,000 ft, for me, this portion of the climb was harder than the Hillary Step because it was a far longer pitch and the rock was inconsistent. After getting past the rock bands on the South Summit the climber sees what appears to be the top of Everest since it looks like there is no higher to climb, however, this is the South Summit and not the true summit. This picture was taken on the descent from the true summit. The people lined up are waiting to climb the Hillary Step and the peak right behind them is the South Summit.
Hillary Step – After making it to the South Summit the climber has a spectacular view towards the true summit of Everest. The climber looks across the Cornice Traverse and Hillary Step. This portion of the climb is extremely exposed with over 6000 ft drop to Camp 2 on one side and a few thousand-foot drop into Tibet on the other side. The Hillary Step is a rock pitch that is about 20-30 feet tall. For a rock climber at sea level the Hillary step would be a relatively easy pitch to climb but at 28,740 ft, wearing a backpack weighing 30+ lbs, a puffy down suit, and a pair of crampons on your feet makes climbing the Hillary step a challenge. One of the biggest dangers of the Hillary Step is the bottleneck that is causing for climbers. On busy day lines form above and below the Hillary step as climbers ascending and descending converge.
Summit – The Top of the World with the most spectacular views I have ever seen on a mountain. We had perfect summit conditions with views of the Himalayan mountains as far as the eye could see notably – Lhotse, Nuptse, Cho Oyu, Makalu, and Kangchenjunga.
The only way I can describe the view is – Imagine flying over the Himalayas at 30,000 ft while sitting on the wing of an airplane with nothing obstructing your view. Check out the link to my photo album at the bottom of this page for more summit shots.