Everest Base Camp now stretches down from the Khumbu Icefall in a long curve of orange and yellow tents, like a crescent moon nestled under the bulk of Everest.
It is still early season and when we arrive it is a bevy of activity, rock walls being built for cook shelters, tent platforms being leveled and the floors in the shower tents being installed.
Every year the facilities are upped a bit – more expeditions with coffee machines, better sound systems, chairs to eat as well as lounge areas to relax in.
The shock of leaving Camp at 3 a.m. still hasn’t abated though, stepping into the dark with boots crunching ice and gear dangling from your harness as you try to weave your way through Camp and find the route into the Icefall is never anything less than very hard work.
Base Camp has now reached so far down the glacier that you actually arrive above some of the tents pitched out on an ice promontory, and proceed up the trail through the village. A cairn and flags has been erected early on so you know you have arrived.
Our group of 18, In Hillarys Footsteps, takes the mandatory fun photos and then we wander on up for a play in the ice before a detour over to the New Zealanders Adventure Consultants Camp. We are graciously hosted by Annette and Sarah with a welcome fresh brew and the ubiquitous Toffee Pops from NZ. An hour in the comfy chairs and it is soon hard to leave the hospitality behind.
Adventure Consultants climbing group led by good friend Mike Roberts is due to arrive in a few days. Jagged Globe’s group led by my Everest co-leader David Hamilton from way back in 2003, is also headed up the trail, who we shared an evening with in Dingboche on the way up the hill. Both are seemingly on the same travel plans as I, having recently returned from our Antarctic season on Vinson.
It is one of the only times I’ve visited Base Camp without the intention of climbing Everest, but in some ways it is an easier way to savour the experience, to feel the energy, without having the weight of Everest above me. The Icefall as ever looms ominously above, creaking and popping in the afternoon sun. It’s malevolent beauty is nice to admire from afar.
We have been blessed with a magnificent day, the sun shining brightly and the trail back to Gorak Shep and onto Lobuche is soon quiet, only Yaks and porters dot the trail and the sun sets through the clouds as we weave our back to the aptly named Oxygen Resort in Lobuche.
A bit of Base Camp joy, Alex Hillary and Phoebe Anderson celebrate their arrival.