The Sagarmāthā South Col Route was taken by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay and is still the route used most frequently. It goes through the Khumbu Icefall and Western Cwm, up the Lhotse Face and past the South Col and Hillary Step to the summit of Mt. Everest. In 2015, Dr. Sarah Jane Pell trekked from Lukla to Everest Base Camp. Surviving the Nepal earthquakes, she will return to summit in 2016.
1. Khumbu Glacier 2. Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp 3. Everest Base Camp. Photo by Sarah Jane Pell, 2015.
4. Main Routes of Mount Everest - Aerial view, Google Earth 5. ExpeditionEverest.org - Route Map 6. GlacierWorks - Trek to Everest Base Camp. Interactive http://explore.glacierworks.org/en/#trek and Video http://cdn-media.glacierworks.org/videos/Flythrough_Final3.mp4
The Passage to the Summit
To begin ascending from the south, we make use of five different camps to adjust to high altitude. From Base Camp at 5364 m, we must pass through the Khumbu Icefall with the aid of ropes and ladders. We must navigate the area multiple times to acclimate to the elevation.
The trek from Camp I to Camp II at 6492 m takes us through the glacial valley known as the Western Cwm. The valley's structure means there is little wind and the intense sunlight at such a high altitude can make it uncomfortably hot. The next challenge is climbing Lhotse Face using fixed ropes to get across a sheer wall of ice and ascend to Camp III at 7470 m. We must also use ropes to get across the Geneva Spur to reach Camp IV. Camp IV, also known as the South Col is the last major camp before our summit attempt. Located at 7925 m it is the first night that we will spend in the Death Zone.
From Camp IV, we hike to The Balcony, at 8440 m. The Balcony provides a platform where we can breifly rest. From there we proceed to The Cornice Traverse, a horizontal face of snow and rock that must be climbed, and finally onto The Hillary Step which is climbed with fixed ropes, only one climber at a time. At this point, the lack of oxygen and cold will significantly dull our reflexes and judgment, making the Hillary Step one of the most challenging elements of the climb.
From the Hillary Step, we trek the final feet to reach the summit. We will pass survey and scientific equipment, prayer flags, discarded oxygen bottles, and a few other small items and mementoes left by climbers. From the summit, we will see across the Tibetan Plateau, towards the other Himalayan peaks of Cho Oyu, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. We will typically spend about an hour at the top of the world to take some pictures and enjoy the 360 degree view before heading down again. Getting down safely, will be the highest priority.