April 13: Everest Base Camp

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From the Pumori base camp, it was a short scramble back to the trail to Everest base camp, so at various times in our four-day stay at Pumori base, groups of us would wander over to gawk at the scene.

And quite the scene it was. I did a rough estimate of three hundred tents at Everest base, occupied by people of all nationalities.

The camp is nestled at the elbow of the Khumbu glacier where it turns south after tumbling through the icefall. It’s on a rock-strewn moraine area, so people rearrange the rubble to create a home base for the months that they will be on the mountain. The place seems pretty clean considering it has the potential to turn into a trash heap with that many people. There are tight regulations these days about dealing with trash and human waste that have greatly improved the orderliness and cleanliness of the camp.

There is the remains of a crashed helicopter on the way into camp. I never did hear the story of how it got there.

The scene was a huge contrast from the peace and isolation of our camp at Pumori. A constant stream of tourists, climbers, porters and yaks flows in and out of Everest base. Climbing teams all seem to have matching outfits covered with patches from their sponsors. And — most appalling to me — there is a place outside of camp where climbing clients are taught how to use crampons and travel on fixed lines — skills that they certainly should already know if they are climbing something this serious. These days, it just takes money and stamina, not climbing skill, to climb Everest. The real climbing is done by the Sherpas who put in all the fixed lines on the route.

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