Camp 1 is positioned among enormous crevasses and can be subject to hazards from the west shoulder of Everest on one side and Nuptse on the other. It is not the ideal location for a camp, but for many climbers emerging for the first time from the Khumbu Ice Fall it just doesn’t matter: they can go no further.
Climbers cannot immediately see Camp 1 as they exit the Ice Fall; there’s only a promise of its existence just beyond the line of sight. For me, I knew Camp 1 was nearby, but I still couldn’t resist reconfirming the fact a couple of times with my climbing partner, Pemba Sherpa. I was exhausted.
Then with some additional progress familiar orange and white tents finally could be seen in the distance, but in the day’s last test, reaching the tents required climbing through several crevasses, up and down, like enormous waves. I was literally taking four or five steps and then stopping to regain my breath before pushing forward another four or five steps, and I was not alone. The 2,000 feet of altitude gain through the Khumbu Ice Fall was taking its toll. Despite all of that, I could clearly see the true summit of Everest and I had just climbed through the notorious Khumbu Ice Fall, both facts gave me a tremendous measure of progress and sense of accomplishment, even if the tents weren’t appearing to get any closer.
Camp 1 is simply a row of tents located between two crevasses. The Sherpa establish a safe zone that provides assurance that there is nothing below that might swallow you. The area is about the size of three city buses and all bets are off for anything outside of the perimeter. However, it doesn’t really matter because most climbers are happy to be in the tents recovering from a big day.
On our second rotation we will skip past Camp 1 and move directly to Camp 2 from Base Camp. It will be the ultimate proof of our acclimatization program working successfully. There was little chance of skipping past Camp 1 a few days ago, however, that’s for sure.