During the 1921 British Reconnaissance Expedition on Mount Everest George Mallory explored the upper sections of the mountain while searching for possible routes to the summit for future expeditions. He saw a bowl shaped glacier which was at the bottom of the Lhotse Face, George named this location as the Western Cwm.
Today, it is still known as the Western Cwm, where ‘Cwm’ is pronounced as ‘coom’, which is Welsh for a bowl shaped valley. Sometimes it is also called the Valley of Silence, this is because of it being eerie and very quite.
The Western Cwm is located on the Nepal side of Mount Everest on the South East Ridge route to the summit at around 20,000 feet/6,000 meters. It is approximately 2.5 miles in length. To reach it you will need to ascend up through the Khumbu Icefall.
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The Valley of Silence is surrounded by three mountains, you have Mount Everest at 8,848 meters on the left, Nuptse at 7,861 meters to the right and Lhotse standing at a height of 8,516 meters located in front of you at the end of the valley.
The Western Cwm can be a very dangerous place, it is covered in crevasses which would need careful negativing around or over. Ladders are often used over any large crevasse but the more dangerous ones are those that are covered by a snow bridge and not seen by the climber. Climbers passing this area are usually roped together for safety. Camp 1 is generally placed out of harms way not far from the top of the Khumbu Icefall and well away from possible avalanches that can come roaring down from the slopes of the Lhotse Face or Nuptse.
The trek from Camp 1 to Camp 2 which is located at the far end of the Western Cwm below the west-face of Everest is very slightly up hill and due to the heat and altitude it can be a real struggle.
The Western Cwm is usually covered in snow and ice which reflects and amplifys the warmth from the sun making it like a sauna. With little cloud and wind it can at times become an unbearable please to be. Climbers have been known to strip right down to a minimum of clothing due to the heat which in the past has reached temperatures up to 35 °C (95 °F). On a rest day applying sun cream to your face, lips, nose and ears is essential if staying outside your tent for any length of time. But like other locations on Mount Everest, as soon as the sun goes down it can become freezing cold making you retreat into your tent.
Standing in the Western Cwm can give you excellent views of the slopes that are higher up on the mountains that are around you. If it is a clear day you can view the pyramid summit of Mount Everest high up and in the distinct, something that is not visible from Base Camp lower down the mountain.