Today was another day of technical practice in the lower Khumbu Ice Fall. The climbing was a lot of fun—vertical ice ascending, rappelling, and ladder crossings—all made possible by fixed lines. Fixed lines are what allow city dwellers like me to climb big mountains.
A fixed line is literally a line of rope that starts at the bottom of the mountain and goes to the summit. The line is attached to the mountain every 30 ft or so by an ice screw.
Climbers attach themselves to the fixed line using a mechanical ascender device. The ascender is designed to travel in only one direction; once the ascender is pushed up the rope the climber can put their full weight on the rope to climb the route—even vertically.
One of the unbreakable rules of fixed line travel is that the climber always remain connected to the line. So at anchor points (illustrated above by a rock), the climber will connect a carabiner above the anchor point before removing the ascender from below the anchor and reconnecting it above the anchor. Moving across anchor points quickly and safely is one of the most important techniques that we have mastered over the past several days in our training.
The fixed line and ascender allows us to climb more safely and efficiently across even the most technically challenging features.
At ladder crossings there are fixed lines on either side of the climber.
Ascending Mt. Everest would not be possible for most climbers without the fixed lines. I have deep gratitude to the Sherpa climbers who go before me to fix the lines that make this adventure possible.
Footnote: The ascender that I am climbing with this year was a 50th birthday present from my daughters. It is one of my most prized possessions. It will also be a constant reminder of my promise to always stay connected to the fixed line, no matter what.
We are getting close to our move to the higher camps.
Thanks for following along.