Tuesday, July 24, 2012


What is that something called "fear"?

Before getting into more serious climbing activities up on the mountain, which is I would say to climb the steep Lhotse face, several fatal accidents already occurred.  

The first one is the person, the member of an Indian team, who got cerebral edema while climbing on the icefall section, the elevation of which is "only" below 6,000m.  The Indian was rescued by other members and Sherpas to B.C., treated appropriately as to my standard (additional oxygen treatment and medicine), and carried to the better hospital in his own country.  Finally, however, we heard the sad news he was dead with a brain shock.

One day another news hit the B.C.  One competent Sherpa, coming back to B.C. after carrying luggage to C2, slipped down to a crevasse that led him to death.  A team of Sherpa took the body up from the horrible hole, and a helicopter carried the body down.  All the people crossing over the crevasse may notice the mark of the blood.  It is simply fearful, most people cannot help but shiver on the shaking feeble bridge.

Again, a huge avalanche clashed from around the top of Nuptse, one side of Western Cwm, overspread the narrow breadth of the snowfield.  Avalanche in such a high mountain means, not just "snow", but a crash, a collapse of a part of mountain, as the hard and immense ice towers falling from far above.  Hundreds of tents in C1 were blown off.  Several climbers, too.  Fortunately, nobody died but serious injuries.  

I was at that time in C2, just hoping Jeong-Hwan, one member of my expedition, who left the camp one hour ago, was not in the scary cloud of the avalanche.  There was NOTHING that I and he could do.  Nobody was able to foresight such a disaster.  

If there was some ways that I could choose in order to avoid the disaster, the feeling I would have had in the situation might be called "fear."  Indeed, there I did something: I turned my head to see the avalanche, and found myself OUT of the avalanche.  I was safe.  Thus, I could feel fear.  

The first few days after arriving at the B.C. were the period to become friendly to the "sound of the hell," which is not the sound of avalanche, but which is, coming from below the tent in which you already be asleep into the comfort you feel the same in your own home.  Always glaciers are moving, speaking the sound of splitting.  You, demanding ease for your exhausted mind and body as well, cannot help but to listen the sound, through your humbly opened ears.  There is NO way you may not listen the sound.  You may tell about your feeling of hearing the sound to your friends, but you should listen anyway.  Therefore, you cannot feel fear to the sound.  

If you find that your journey to the higher place is a kind of Russian Roulette, you do not have fear in front of the adverse conditions you should struggle through.  It is rather your destiny.  The way of life you already have no choice but to live.  

Climbing Camp 2

Climbing Mt. Everest would take a series of strategical progression of camps and mountaineers.  While there are more than fourteen routes leading to the top so far, the easiest route(s) is called "normal route," one in the southern (Nepal) side and the other in the northern (Tibetan) side.  The southern side was opened up firstly with the historic 1953 British expedition, in which Sir. Edmund Hillary got to the top with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa.  

Nowadays, four camps would be pit up: 1st on 6,100m right above the "icefall" area, 2nd on 6,500m on the upper "Western Cwm" area, 3rd on 7,200-7,400m in the midway of the Lhotse face, and 4th on 8,000m on the South col.  Simply, climbers repeatedly carry tents, food and equipment to each camp and come down to B.C. as they can acclimatize their bodies to the higher places.

Climbers' lamps on the icefall section in the early morning.

The icefall section between B.C. and C1 is somewhat dangerous.  Climbers have to cross over shaking bridges over crevasses, below insecure ice towers, or with unknown possibility of avalanches.  During daytime when the sunlight lit on the ice more ice would be broken; thus climbers would start so early as to avoid casualty.

The immense southwest face of Mt. Everest seen from the Western Cwm.

Once being above the C1 you would find yourself struggling on the flat see of snow field--Western Cwm, G. L. Mallory called it in 1923 meaning valley in Wales term.

Camp 2

Camp 2 in 6,500m is ordinarily used as the Advanced Base Camp (ABC).  On the upper field of Western Cwm there is large moraine area in which more flat and more fixable tent platforms would be provided.  Also, the altitude is regarded as the highest on which people can recover physically their bodies by simply doing nothing--the higher if you go, you may not recover but be exhausted from the lower amount of oxygen in the air.  Thus, people pit up tents including kitchen and dining where one may take better relax.

Checking oxygen mask and regulator in Camp 2

Kitchen tents and hired cooks in Camp 2

Crossing over a crevasse with an aluminium ladder on the Western Cwm.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Finally arrived at the basecamp of Mt. Everest at 12th April.

"Puja," the Sherpa rite for worshiping the mountain god in order to pray the climbers' safe during climbing on it. 

"Clients," the name the Sherpa agency call their foreign mountaineers, would delightfully join the Sherpa ritual.  However, as Sherry Ortner accuses in her article (1999), the meanings of which embedded by Sherpa and clients respectively cannot help but to be different.  Simply, Sherpa would hope to be coming back from the mountain alive as they participating the job to make money.  Mountaineers, on the other hand, hope to be getting to the summit and come down alive as it is their dream.

Mt. Everest Basecamp.  

The basecamp of Mt. Everest resembles a huge international village, in which several hundreds of colorful tents filled with some six hundreds of mountaineers.  They are set up on the Khumbu glacier and the moraine, and so the configuration of the ground is changing everyday as it is melting with days go.

The leaders' meeting at the Himex' camp at the basecamp.  The famous New Zealander, the leader of the group, Russel Brice is in the blue jacket on the left of the photo.

One day there was the leaders' meeting at the Himex' camp, in order to discuss the ways climbers get to the top of the mountain and Mt. Lhotse.  Around forty representatives including cliental leaders and Sherpa leaders (called "Sirdar").  They have discussed about the issues of 1) route making up to the top, 2) double rope fixing on the occasional bottleneck areas, particularly right below the top of the South Summit (8750m) and the Hillary Step (8800m), 3) avoid to use such a poor "Korean rope" (referring the white PP rope which ordinarily used in Himalayan mountaineering as for fixing rope and which only produced in Korea), and rather use the thicker regular climbing rope 4) use beacon in order not to fall rescuers into another danger, and so on.

During the gathering I should have translated some key words into Korean for Mr. Park, the leader of another Korean expedition, for he did not understand spoken English.  Of course, I could not translate all the languages and all the significance of the words.  Unfortunately, there was no consideration for the people who would be deaf to the international language.  It may not be accidental that I have been hurt from some of the languages used in the meeting and the overall procedure, although, for example, the representative of the volunteers to operate the hospital at the basecamp area cheerfully admired the cooperative atmosphere among the mountaineers coming from all over the world.

Party together with the members and local staffs. 

In any way, I pursued a brotherhood relationship, more than friendship I would say, with the members and the local staffs including Sherpa climbers and the two cook.  Koreans, as Sherpas and Nepali would do, make relationship among them in accordance with their age.  We all are in a similar age group between 20-40.  I was the second, the cook Dhurba Rai the first, and many are around 28-30.  Mr. Yoo, 21, was called Kancha, The Nepali word referring the youngest.

Checking the gears

The final preparation was due at the initial few days of stay in the basecamp.  Checking the climbing gears, re-packing luggage to be transported to the upper camps, and, of course, acclimatizing their bodies to climb higher.  Mentally they are also to be prepared.

Being Closer to Mountain

Trekking up to the base of the mountain is not just to acclimatize to the high-altitude place.  It is also to join with the life on the mountain.  Sherpa, the people reside in Khumbu area, are known as the host of Himalaya to the outer world, although they occupy only a bit of the entire mountainous peoples.

It seems natural to connect the Sherpa particular ethnic characters with their environments.  They would be regarded as more religious, more natural, closer to the land and mountains ("Himal" in Nepali) as well, and in particular the sacred animal yaks.

Yaks in the field. Dingboche (4420m)

One day I followed a yakman Nurbu.  He had been reigning seven yaks for carrying our loads to the basecamp.  

"..., ...!" 

His shouts to the animals were somethings that I've never heard before, and thought them like spells to control the sacred animals.  

"Do they have names?"

"Ya, this one khare, that one langba."

"What do they mean?"

"Yellow, black. Khare! Langba!"

I also tried, "Khare, Langba!"

Then, they turned out, from the sacred, such ordinary cows that easily be seen in the field in my own country.

Stepping into High Mountain

Climbing Himalayan mountain like Mt. Everest would start with trekking to the basecamp of the mountain.  The basecamp is ordinarily set up at the foot of each mountain, and the elevation of which may not too much high for the people can take an appropriate level of refreshment from climbing.  The elevation of Mt. Everest basecamp is 5,400m (Nepal side). 

Trekking up to the camp may take seven to ten days.  The journey also have been regarded as a good way to acclimatize the climbers' body for staying in such a high place.

Tenjing-Hillary Airport. 

People would say the airport is among the scariest in the world.  Indeed at least three accidents have occurred during landing or taking off from this airport since 2000.  

It has been built 1964 by sir. Edmund Hillary, who reached the top of the highest mountain in 1953 firstly with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa.  Then, it was initially planned to be built inside of the valley.  However, the anthropologist James Fisher, the volunteer for building the airport, found to build on the hillside safer than otherwise.  

 Lukla Airport in 1964 (From J. Fisher 1990, Sherpa: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal)

Sherpa people hardening the runway in 1964 (From J. Fisher 1990, Sherpa: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal)

Nowadays it elongated to 460m long.