The Khumbu Ice fall

The Khumbu Ice fall is located just above Base Camp at approximately 18,000 feet on the south side of Mount Everest in Nepal. The ice fall is regarded as one of the most dangerous stages of the South Col route that takes you to the summit of Mount Everest.

The Khumbu Ice Fall

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The best time to travel through the Ice fall is very early in the morning while it is still dark, once the sun is up it can become extremely hot and very dehydrating for the climber, also making it an even more dangerous place to be. The whole glacier is extremely unstable and it is a place that you do not want to hang around in. It will take the average climber between 4 and 6 hours to ascend the 2,000 foot to the top and into the Western Cwm, which is where Camp 1 is placed.

Climbing through the ice fall can be an extremely dangerous adventure. The ice fall is continually moving, sometimes as much as two to three feet in an hour, and it open ups many crevasses without any warning, some that are exposed to the climber while others are hidden. Other dangers are from the huge blocks of ice that can range from the size of a car to a large house, when these start to move, large pieces can break off and tumble down through the ice fall creating a maze of smaller pieces for the climber to navigate through.

Ladders in the Khumbu Ice Fall

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The entire route through the Khumbu Ice fall requires the climber to attach themselves to a fixed line for safety and also to stop the climber from wondering off from the route that has been marked out. There are many deep dark crevasses that will need crossing by the means of aluminium ladders. Sometimes, there are two or even three ladders lashed together which makes it very shaky to cross. Ladders are also used to climb up and over large ice boulders that cannot be walked around.

Climbers have to endure the nightmare of going through the ice fall on many occasions to help with the aid of their acclimatization.

Accidents do happen in the ice fall and very often result in death, usually by falling into a crevasses or being hit by falling towers of ice. More lives have been lost here in the ice fall than any other part of the South East Ridge route to the summit. If the body is out of reach for rescuing then it will stay where it lies.

On the 18th April 2014 an unstable block of ice broke off from the Western Shoulder of Mount Everest, in the area known as “the Golden Gate” or “Popcorn Field” just above the Ice fall, this triggered off an avalanche that hit twenty five Sherpas, who were preparing the route, sixteen died.

The Khumbu Ice Fall

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During the climbing season on Mount Everest the Ice fall is kept open by the Ice Doctors. The ice doctors are a team of highly skilled Sherpas who are employed to find, fix and maintain a route through the jumbled mass of blocks of ice. They are there all season doing the same job day by day. Without the skill and dedication from these ice doctors hardly anyone would venture into the ice fall and reach their goal by standing on the summit of the highest mountain in the world.

The Khumbu Ice fall is both a very frightening yet beautiful place.

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