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mountain scenic Through the Icefall
part 3 | back to part 2

The Icefall
Base Camp sits beneath the Khumbu Icefall, perhaps the most difficult part of the climb up Everest. It was this impassable barrier that stopped many of the early expeditions in the 1950s. Riddled with deep crevasses and huge ice blocks, the Icefall can only be traversed with the use of ladders and rope. Oddly enough, it is here at the beginning of the climb where more lives are lost than on any other part of the mountain.

ice climber Imagine trying to hopscotch uphill through a field of ice boulders the size of houses and weighing some 30 tons, each of which could shift at any moment without warning. Add to this the presence of blinding sunlight and you'll understand that one badly placed step is all it takes. It's like a jigsaw puzzle of giant blue ice puzzle pieces. Click here to hear Ed describe the Icefall and the rest of the route up Everest (RealAudio).

through the icefall With the puja behind them, the climbers are ready to venture into the Icefall and climb up to Camp 1, which sits at 19,900 feet in the Western Cwm, a large glacial valley of snow riddled with crevasses. At 4:30 a.m. the climbers meet to have a quick breakfast in the dining tent and then start to make their way up to the Icefall. Predawn is the best time to start as the sun quickly melts the ice and snowpack, making the route not only blinding and hot, but more susceptible to moving and fragmentation. The team hopes to make it to Camp 1 by 8:00 a.m. and then back down to Base by 11:00.

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Photos: (2) courtesy Araceli Segarra.

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