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Left: Tina 8000+. Right: Bird at Camp 1.

Everest is our highest mountain. It is technically difficult enough to have killed many people in horrible falls and deep crevasses. The altitude is not to be played with.

Text: Tina Sjögren, Photo: Thomas and Tina Sjögren

Click here to see Everest map.

The deathzone above camp 4 has taken many strong and skilled climbers' lives. This means that Everest requires intensive training. You might be lucky and the climb might go well even if you didnīt do your homework. But you will certainly notice that Everest lives up to itīs fearful reputation when the conditions turn against you. By then though, it may simply be too late if you are not well prepared.

But most of all, Everest is an extremely beautiful mountain. And just as we will continue to launch ourselves into space even though missions sometimes turn into tragedy, mountaineers will continue to try themselves against Everest and experience itīs vast grandness, beauty and solitude.

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Base Camp, 5400 m
Base camp, is like a rally car depot. Satellite phones buzz from the different tents and languages from all of the world mix together. Journalists, families and climbers exchange latest reports all over the world on how the current situation is developing...

You handle the latest technological gear, but you still wash your clothes in frozen lakes, where you crush the ice and work quickly before it all freezes on you again. The clothes will then freeze into strange ice formations whilst drying at night. The same with your hair. And your toothpaste. You will have to finish your meal quickly since it immediately gets cold on your plate. You will eat buffalo meat. Itīs fresh until it starts to smell. Then you wait. After some time it stops smelling. Then you will be served it again by your BC sherpa-cook…

Here, we listen to the frequent avalanches coming down Nuptse, Lho la and Pumori. We glance silently toward the icefall and listen as it now and then collapses with a horrendous crash. Base Camp is a place of hopes, frustrations, conflicts and friendships. Some of us will have our dream fulfilled, some of us will have to turn back with an unfinished task. Only destiny knows which fate shall be yours.

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Thomas, C1.

Icefall, 5400 m - 6100 m
This place is like a huge horror-chamber at an amusement-park. Only this one is for real. There are countless things that can happen here. A crevasse might open under you. An ice-pinnacle might fall over you. The whole area can collapse. Itīs simply not a place for a picnic and most of us just concentrate on getting the hell out of there as quick as we can. In other words, with the nerve wrecking speed of a pregnant turtle (due to the altitude!).

Camp 1, Valley of Silence, 6100 m - 6400 m
This is a vast, flat area of endless snow, deep crevasses and mountainsides that is frequently washed by avalanches. Here we put up camp 1. At night we then listen to the deep, murmuring cracks of sounds under our tents. It is the crevasses opening and closing…You just hope that it wonīt happen under your tent. At least not just now, while you are in it. Pounding headaches torture you. But it is here that for the first time, just a few steps around a corner, we gain first close sight of Everest.

Camp 2, 6400 m
After endless, slow marching through the valley, you finally reach a stone patch, just beneath the icy Lhotse wall, that marks camp 2. This place is absolutely beautiful. Clouds come up rolling over the lower ranges of the Himalayas from down the valley and up to the camp. While acclimatizing , we spend time looking for neat, old climbing gear, left here by all of Everest's climbing history. This is also the last chance to get a decent, cooked meal. We eat all we can find because from now on weīll be surviving on powder.

Camp 3, Lhotse wall, 6800 m -8000 m.
Imagine a fun, icy slide on a nice winters day. Only this one is 1200 meters high. This is not a place for fun. The dangerous part is hanging on ropes of dubious strength - and even more - changing carabiners between the ropes. You might not feel all that clear in your head - especially coming down - but itīs crucial to concentrate. One slip and you are gone, far higher up than you actually intended.
The camp here is a true eagle's nest, hanging right out from the wall. Going to toilet at night means a tedious task of dressing and securing yourself. Also, just to find a spot for it on this narrow platform is tricky enough. But the view is grand and by now you are well on your way to the top.

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Camp 3.

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Camp 4.

Camp 4, the turtle and the yellow band, 8000 m.
Climbing to camp 4 puts you under serious avalanche risk. Here, huge avalanches sometimes let go from the Lhotse range, crashing with immense power down the Lhotse wall. You try to be quick. But again, that means a painstakingly slow rush at this altitude. The climb is steep and you definitely should not look down.

Finally, you reach camp 4 on a plateau looking like a moonscape. You are at the edge of the atmosphere which means that the sky has a strange, dark blue color.
It is surely the closest you can get to space on earth.

Only a small climb above camp you pass 8000 meters and witness the wonderful sight of the Tibetan plateau with it's vast planes, glaciers and the other alpine peaks - Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu and others in the distance. It's all magic and almost unreal. Yet, this is also the place were the journalist, fame and fun of BC definitely are gone. Only fear remains on everyone's face. People donīt talk a lot. Laying down in your tent, feeling already weak, you try to get some sleep as night falls outside. In a couple of hours you will start putting on your gear for the final part of the adventure - the summit push. The wall is steep and dark, you are in the death zone and you canīt help thinking about that within the next 48 hours, there is a very real risk that you might not live.

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Lhotse wall.

The summit, 8848 m.
Finally, the hour is come. At about 11 pm we put on the gear and step out in the night. There, in the distance, we can see a worm of light slowly moving up a dark wall. Itīs the climbers head torches shining in the dark. Itīs completely silent. Nobody talks. If you do, you whisper. It is absolutely terrifying and you climb and climb, waiting for the first rays of morning light. Itīs desperately cold. It's steep and at parts very icy. The ice-axe and the crampons cut skin deep into the ice. You need to pee. Forget it. Someone turns around. "Canīt go on".

The white moon rises from below but you donīt even look up to the wonderfully glittering stars above. The adrenaline keeps your body moving. And thus, suddenly, after hours and hours of despair, you see a thin blue beam of light. Dawn... If you are lucky, now is the time for the taled mountain ghost. The mountain projects itself in the morning fog. It rises in front of you like a huge shadow. Beneath you is the world in all itīs glory under the rising sun. You feel the warmth returning. You kick your feet to beat out the beginning frostbite and renew your hopes. Just above you, not far at all, is the south summit. You begin to enjoy the view, and the possibly near success. Finally, you step up onto the south summit, and there - around the corner - it is - the Everest summit…You have watched it so many times from the distance, and suddenly it is so strangely close. Just right there, just 95 meters away from you. You can almost touch the white tail of snow.

Well, folks, thatīs as far as we got last year. Here therefore, our report must end. But, hopefully, we will be able to finish the story for you this year…


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