Western Cwm

Western Cmw

Western Cmw

“How cold was it?” is the logical question to ask a climber of Mt. Everest. However the correct question may just as often be “how hot was it?” That is certainly the case for climbers in the Western Cwm.

The Western Cwm runs from the top of the Khumbu Icefall at 20,000 ft to the bottom of the Lhotse Face at 22,300 ft. Cwm is a Welsh term for a bowl shaped valley. The Western Cwm can be thought of as a lazy river of ice and snow that is marked by huge lateral crevasses that guard entrance to the upper sections of Everest and Lhotse. Camp 1 is basically located at the bottom of the Western Cwm and Camp 2 near the top. The Western Cwm was named by George Mallory in 1921.

Lateral Crevasse in the Western Cwm

Lateral Crevasse in the Western Cwm

The Western Cwm is also know as the Valley of Silence because it is windless and therefore extremely quiet.  Despite its relatively gentle slope, it can be one of the most difficult sections on the route.

Refractory Stove

Refractory Stove

The best way to understand why the Western Cwm can be so punishing is to reference the water boiling systems that are ubiquitous in the Khumbu Valley. Look carefully in the image above and you will see a tea pot set inside a solar refractory. On a bright day it doesn’t take long for the reflected solar energy to boil water. If you imagine the Western Cwm as a solar refractory with reflective glaciers all around, then the climber is a tea pot. It can be brutal.

Technical Climbing in the Western Cwm

Technical Climbing in the Western Cwm

I was in the Western Cwm for four days on the first rotation and fortunately the weather was such that I didn’t become a tea pot. Instead, I enjoyed some fun technical climbing without all of the drama of the Khumbu Icefall. There was vertical ice climbing, ladder crossings and rappelling, all in a casual and unhurried pace as we worked up and down the Western Cwm acclimatizing to the higher altitudes and then ultimately in our move to Camp 2.

Jim on Ladder Crossing

Jim on Ladder Crossing

Equally enjoyable was the opportunity to so clearly see the climbing route to the summit of Mt. Everest. It was the first opportunity to feel like I was building a relationship with the mountain and studying the route in a way that wasn’t hypothetical.

It’s not often that I will wish for cloudy and cold weather, but it will certainly be the case for my return visits to the Western Cwm.

Thanks for following along.


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  9 comments for “Western Cwm

  1. Mark Osmond
    April 29, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Team Lumberg

    After discussing your effort…A friend of mine sent me this fabulous link from the Discovery channel that provides an interesting visualization of the challenge Jim is facing on this climb…Touching on the avalanche/accident in ’14…
    Not exactly sure how this film was made…because the air is so thin at the top…helicopters cannot reach the summit. Drones?

    Jim…Savor every minute of the climb!…we are all enjoying vicariously

    Continued good luck …Onward and Upward!


    (if it does not link …simply copy and paste in a browser)


    • Miriam Dani
      May 2, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Wow!! That was so cool to watch! Thank you!

  2. David bialecki
    April 28, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Hi james after reading numerous books on everest and watching clips on utube it’s hard to understand about everest in general but your photos and the way you explain things really has opened my eyes and feel as though it’s learnt me a lot about the place and a nice feeling to share your journey …… loving the posts and keep safe and strong

    • james.lumberg@me.com
      April 29, 2016 at 6:09 am

      Thank you, David!

    • Miriam Dani
      May 2, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      This is incredible and your eloquence is as well. I’m on a flight sharing your courage and many mornings I share your writing with my friends!
      Stay strong, we are all cheering you on!!

  3. Staci Colovos
    April 28, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Utterly unexpected post today. This mountain has such a wacky, playful, and creatively defensive personality. What will she throw at you next?

    • james.lumberg@me.com
      April 29, 2016 at 6:11 am

      Staci, what a wonderful way to describe the mountain dynamics. It is always something it seems. Thanks for your note! Jim

  4. Art Muir
    April 28, 2016 at 10:47 am


    These updates are interesting, informative and entertaining. We continue to await each new one with anticipation.

    Thanks for bringing us along on each step of your special journey.


    • james.lumberg@me.com
      April 29, 2016 at 6:11 am

      Thank you, Art!

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