South Col Route
The Mount Everest South Col Route is the most used route on the mountain.
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Base Camp: 17,400ft — Camp 1: 19,600ft — Camp 2: 20,700ft — Camp 3: 23,000ft — Camp 4: 26,100ft
All heights are approx
Base Camp to Camp 1
Base Camp is situated on the edge of the Khumbu Glacier, which slowly moves and groans. Leaving this camp you have to make your way through the Khumbu Icefall. This is probably the most dangerous section on this whole route. The Icefall is made up of huge chunks of moving ice, some the size of a house. There are also many crevasses which are bridged by one or more sections of ladder. You do not want to hang around in here. The best time to travel through the Icefall is very early in the morning, before the sun makes it an even more dangerous place to be. At the top of the Icefall is the Western Cwm, which is where Camp 1 is placed.
Camp 1 to Camp 2
Camp 1 is situated on a flat area of snow surrounded by deep crevasses. On leaving this camp you have to navigate the ladder crossings over the many crevasses. With the sun reflecting off the walls of Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse, this part of the route is usually very hot.
Camp 2 to Camp 3
Camp 2 is placed at the foot of the Lhotse Face. The way to Camp 3 is up the fixed ropes on a moderate slope on the Lhotse Face. This is a long climb on hard ice. With the altitude and heat from the sun this section can be very hard and tiring.
Camp 3 to Camp 4
Camp 3 is situated about half way up the Lhotse Face on a very narrow ledge. From Camp 3 the slope becomes steeper on the hard ice. Again, you have the support of fixed ropes to help you along . After a while you come to the Yellow Band. This is where you come across the lose down slopping limestone. Once passed the Yellow Band you head along the gentle slope that leads you to the Geneva Spur. This huge rock formation must be passed around the South side of it before reaching the South Col.
Camp 4 to Summit
Camp 4 is quite a large and flat area on the South Col. Teams heading for the summit leave here at night, usually between 10 pm and midnight. Leaving the South Col you climb up towards the South East Ridge. This is a icy slope, a mixture of hard ice changing to snow and rock the higher you ascend. Reaching its top takes you out onto the South East Ridge. Here at the Balcony is usually your first chance of a rest and to change over your oxygen bottle. Next is the climb along the ridge, which is fairly straight forward, although it does get steeper just before reaching the South Summit. The South Summit is another chance to rest and change to another oxygen bottle for the task a head. At this point you are just a couple of hours away from the top. The next section is to climb along the very exposed ridge to the famous Hillary Step. A slip here will send you all the way down into either Tibet or Nepal. The Hillary Step is roughly a 40 feet high, and the last obstacle before the summit. Depending on the weather conditions, this Step can be covered in deep snow or exposed rock with little snow. There is fixed rope here as it can feel very exposed climbing it. After this Step it is a moderate angled slope to climb to the summit.