Here we go, folks. It's about to get serious on Mt. Everest. Peak Freaks is gearing up for their first trek through the treacherous Khumbu Ice Fall. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NliMLaT56aM
Straight out of Base Camp (17,500 ft), climbers will encounter this beast of an obstacle. A near 3000 ft. vertical climb through massive ice blocks the size of apartment buildings, unimaginably deep crevices (that widen as the season progresses), and the constant threat of thunderous avalanches. The Sherpa Ice Doctors are assigned one job throughout the whole season, and that is to make sure the fixed ropes through the Ice Fall are safe and fluid. They wind thousands of feet of rope and dozens of ladders all through this maze of ice and cracks so that climbers can make it through as safely as possible to Camp 1, in the Western Cym.
I know I don't make it sound very hospitable, but it really isn't a place you want to linger in for more than you have to. It's often talked about the most dangerous part of the mountain on the South side (which is a bit counter-intuitive since there are still plenty of dangers higher up on the mountain). Because of the Ice Fall's danger, some teams at Base Camp even avoid climbing through it for the first few weeks and train on nearby peaks instead. Peak Freaks does this to an extent. They push their climbers to sleep and acclimatize on the summit of Kala Pattar, a trekkers peak one hour outside of Base Camp that nearly reaches the height of Camp 1 (19,900 ft). Other teams will use Lobuche East, another peak further down the valley (20,100 ft).
As I understand, the Ice Fall this year is looking great. I remember last year people saying it was the best it had ever been. It took Sherpas between 2.5 and 3 hours to get through it, the fittest climbers 3-4 hours, the slower climbers at most 5-6 hours. I'll be interested to see the times for this year. I've heard horror stories from past seasons of it taking people as long as 10 hours to get through....
Teams will often wake up very early to start climbing through the Ice Fall (3-4am), that way the ice and snow is solid and firm and there's no sun to make things melt and shift. Peak Freaks make their push tomorrow morning and will spend the night at C1 to acclimatize. Boil-in-a-bag meals and melted snow for everyone! Always a good time. If any of them can read my blog (I doubt they can), a few words of advice: avoid the Punjabi Vegatables at all cost, it's like vomit in a bag. The Madras Lentils and Bombay Potatoes are winners, and if you can score the Macaroni, you're golden :)
Other teams, like Russel Brice's Himex and Eric Simonson's IMG are still working on their Lobuche East acclimatization rotations. Alpine Ascents, among many others, are still in Base Camp, but preparing to start climbing up to C1 very soon. If you want the full list of team positions, check out Alan Arnette's very detailed blog posts!