The highest peak on Earth can be found in the Himalayan mountain range, in the north of the Indian subcontinent. Expedition Everest North Col will follow the same tried and tested routine of flying to Katmandu, and then entering Tibet overland. This will enable us to arrive to base camp at the very start of the season and allow us to have the maximum possible length of time to make our ascent. It also enables a very gradual increase in altitude and allows team members to acclimatize at a controlled rate. All without imposing sudden abrupt changes in altitude on them.
Beyond the border post, the expedition will drive to Tibetan plateau, where the team will spend 2 nights acclimatizing at 3,800 meters. From here, the road climbs steadily eventually getting to the plateau proper. Then, a full two days rest is taken at Tingri. Now the road swings towards base camp, where we arrive after a day’s drive. On the way to BC we cross the Pang La, where we stop to get a view of Everest, with the North Crest also visible but just. This is one out of many mountains in a magnificent vista of the Himalaya, which spreads over the entire horizon. Also covering Cho-Oyu , among many other Himalayan Giants.
Once we arrive to base camp, the Sherpa’s set off to establish advance base camp (ABC, 6440m). Having gained more acclimatization, we follow after a few days and make a leisurely ascent using intermediary camp at 5800m. This is to ensure very gradual ascent to our camp at 6,440 meters, nestled below the North Col. From here, we start earnest climbing.
Above advance base camp, we will have 3 camps:
– Camp One – 7,060 m on the North Col, located on the snow.
– Camp Two – 7,700 m – on the rocky shelves.
– Camp Three – 8,300 m – Summit Launch Pad – on the rocky ground, but sometimes on the ledges cut into snow, depending on snowfall in the preceding season. The camp gives access to the North East Ridge, which leads to the top, via the Three Steps.
Having been in ABC for a few days, slowly allowing our bodies to adjust to the new atmosphere, we will make our way up relatively easy (but physically tough), to snow slopes to the North Col, at 7,060 m. This is a comfortable camp location, with great views across the North Face and back over the upper reaches of the East Rongbuk Glacier. However, it is not expansive, and our relatively early arrival to Tibet should ensure a good site for our camp. The plan is to spend one night on the Col. This is to allow sufficient exposure to the altitude in order to kick-start our bodies to prepare for the further extreme altitudes that are yet to come. For some, this might be enough. For others, a trip to 7,500 m might suit their acclimatization profile better.
There would be no point in climbing higher towards Everest at this stage – as body would deteriorate rather than strengthen. Therefore, by leaving Sherpa’s to fulfill the task of preparing and stocking the high altitude camps, with tents and oxygen for the climb. The main team will make its way slowly back to base camp, for a sustained period of resting and preparation. Finally, once all camps are established, and everyone is refreshed, acclimatized and well fed. We will move back up the East Rongbuk glacier to our home at advance base camp.
Outbound flight Departure
Arrive to Kathmandu
We are met at the airport and taken to the hotel. This is an excellent hotel positioned well away from the bustle of the city center. Its friendly people do their best to make us feel at home. For those joining the expedition in Kathmandu, all team members should aim to meet at the hotel on this day.
At leisure in Kathmandu
While the leader attends a formal briefing in the Ministry of Tourism, you will be able to explore this fascinating city. As those who have been there before will know, it is a wonderful mixture of crowded bazaars, temples and shrines, in a blend of ancient, colonial and modern architecture. Today, the expedition leader will also check everyone’s equipment, as Kathmandu is the last opportunity to buy anything missing.
Drive to Tibetan border
A six-hour journey on a private bus takes us through Nepal’s central valleys before turning north to the Tibetan border.
An expedition’s entry into Tibet can be a long process. Therefore, we must leave early in order to arrive at the border customs post before lunch when it closes for a day. As the customs officials work-time is in tune with central Beijing time, this can be a tall order! All loads need to be moved off our Nepalese transport, carried across the border and then re-loaded on to the Chinese transport, waiting on the other side. Fortunately, this is a well-practiced routine for our Sherpa’s, who will handle this transition seamlessly.
Initial acclimatisation period
The road cuts through the Himalaya and we witness the incredible transition from lush green foothills to arid mountain desert. Just beyond the main town, we enter a picturesque valley, which is home to several small farming villages and hamlets. We have accommodation in a small hotel (actually lodge). From our accommodation, we walk to the nearby hills, which provide enjoyable outings to help us acclimatize.
Drive to Tingri
The journey now continues and we take another step to higher altitudes. We travel as far as Tingri where we stay in a local lodge. The views on the way are impressive, especially as we move onto the open expanse on the Tibetan plateau. From here views of Everest and Shishapangma stimulate the imagination for what lies ahead.
Using our lodge as a base, we rest in Tingri for 2 days and 2 more nights, whilst exploring the local surroundings. We will use the vehicles for forays further a field in order to get as high as possible, whilst returning to the lodge each evening to allow the altitude to soak in.
Drive to Everest Base Camp (5,200m)
Today we leave the main highway that travels towards Lassa, and head south towards Everest. We drive over the Pang La, which will hopefully give us our first good views of Everest, some 40 miles away. Then we descend to a village in the valley floor, and continue up the valley to base camp. The road becomes rougher and rougher, but the scenery becomes more spectacular as we pass each corner. Finally there is the awesome North Face of Everest, at the head of the valley before us. From base camp, it does seem very close, but it is still 12 miles away.
Acclimatisation and local exploration
We spend 4 days at base camp to allow our bodies to adapt to the altitude. This gives us plenty of time to enjoy the views, and photograph Everest. For those who are feeling up to it, there are plenty of hillsides to scramble up, and we can walk down the valley to Rongbuk Monastery, 5 miles / 8 km away. Another worthwhile objective would be to reach Tillman’s Camp, an idyllic spot beside the majestic Central Rongbuk Glacier, which offers staggering views of the north side of Everest. It is important not to overdo it during this period – there will be plenty of opportunity for exertion later! We must exercise during resting, while drinking plenty of fluids and enjoying the base camp food.
Trek to Intermediary Camp (5,800m)
At last, with yaks carrying our supplies, we set off on foot towards Everest. The trek starts easily enough, crossing the pebble floodplain of the Rongbuk River, then weaving along a good path between the glacier and the valley side. After about 2 hours we reach a good viewpoint, then turn steeply up to the left, leaving the main central Rongbuk valley. This takes us up into what seems to be a fairly small subsidiary valley, but it soon opens up to reveal the amazing pinnacles of the East Rongbuk Glacier. It was the discovery of this approach in 1922 that provided the key to climbing this side of Everest. We camp in a very pleasant spot, with plenty of space, no more than 2 hours after having turned into the East Rongbuk Valley. The camp is located on the right bank, overlooking the river below, and is short of the moraines and the toe of the glacier that lie ahead.
Trek to Advance Base Camp (6,440m)
Today, we take a relatively short, a few hours walk to ABC.
The re-appearance of Everest is a pleasant distraction during the final climb and, as you round the corner towards advance base camp, you can see the whole of the North East Crest, from the Raphu La to the summit.
At a distance of 4 kilometers, 2 kilometers higher altitude, the shimmering triangle of snow, that highlights the summit over and will issue its siren’s call, until your footsteps cross it!
Climb Mt. Everest
It is not possible to be prescriptive about how the mountain will be climbed from this point on, as it will be matter for the leader and the team to judge. For those that have been to extreme altitude before, we would aim to be as flexible as possible to allow for people’s preferred acclimatization routine. For some, this may mean climbing as high as camp 2 on the North Crest, as soon as possible, before diving back to base camp for a long rest. Others might want to remain longer in ABC, taking several trips to the North Col and sleeping there overnight but not going any higher.
Whatever routine is adopted for acclimatization, as soon as everyone is happy that they have achieved an optimum state of readiness, the team will return to base camp for a long period of resting and eating.
From Camp 1 on the North Col, the route turns to follow a long snow ramp, the north crest proper, that rests like a gigantic flying buttress supporting the upper reaches of the mountain. Although never steep, this section is prone to wind, sweeping icily across the mountain.
From here, the route moves on to broken rocky ground of shattered shale, as the north crest cast off its layers of snow. However, the route remains relatively easy angled, although the gradient increases gently, until the next camp is reached. This is located where the mass of the north crest rams home hard against the bulk of the mountain, on rocky shelves. The day is crowned by stupendous views over the glaciers below.
The top camp will give you an even greater sense of the world below your feet. The ascent remains on broken ledges, but these are easy with shale and scree interlacing between them until snow runnels give out onto the north face proper. Once clear of the rocks and on more open slopes, you turn directly upwards, to arrive at the final camp at about 8,300-metres.
Summit day begins before mid-night! Leaving the tents in the still of the night, your headlamps shine up to pierce the darkness and illuminate a faint gully that leads to the crest above. This line through the rocks is steeper than the traverse one the day before, but the fixed ropes help lift you continue towards the skyline. Some scrambling, accompanied by a disproportionate amount of panting, will land you on the crest at over 8,500m. The only thing now between you and the top, is about 400 meters of ascent, 3 rock steps and over a kilometer of crest – the ultimate tightrope! As dawn breaks, you will see the awesome Kwangtung Face falling off to your left – a mind-boggling drop in to Tibet. For the main part, you remain on the right flank and traverse easily in places, but the route is punctuated by the First, Second and Third Steps. The hardest of these is the Second, which has a ladder and fixed rope to allow an ascent, which would be virtually impossible otherwise. Additionally, you can expect an airy traverse route to conquer the summit. Finally, the mountain yields, and the final summit snowfield, that you had seen from miles below will come under your feet and herald your arrival to the Top of the World.
Team members walk to base camp
Packing personal equipment at base camp
Depart base camp and drive to Tingri
Drive Tingri to Tibetan border
Drive Tibetan border to Kathmandu
Once back to Kathmandu, Extreme summit team will host an evening barbecue to celebrate the expedition and as a farewell party to thank the Sherpa’s for their support and friendship.
At leisure in Kathmandu
Homebound flight departures