Tom and Nawang called down to base camp on the radio today to let us know they had reached Camp II and had slept there comfortably. This shows steady progress in their acclimatization and aerobic fitness regime.
Camp II is sometimes called advanced base camp, and is located at the upper part of the warm and sunny Western Cwm at around 21,300ft., and is situated on rock. This makes it warmer than Camp I, which is on snow, or Camp III, which is on ice. In fact, on really warm days the Western Cwm functions as a giant solar oven. So climbers must be careful to protect their eyes and skin from getting burned from the reflected glare of the sun on the snow, and stay adequately hydrated. Camp II's relatively comfortable setting makes it a better choice for stockpiling extra food and equipment and for staying at altitude than either of the colder Camps I or III.
Whereas Camp II is comfortably at the base of famous Lhotse Face, Camp III is carved out of the icy slopes midway up the Lhotse face. Because of this, Camp III is used mainly as a way station where climbers briefly stop en route to Camp IV, higher up on the South Col.
Sherpas are usually strong and fast enough to do a carry from Camp II directly to Camp IV, and just pass through Camp III for a short time. Many people prefer not to stay on the steep and exposed Lhotse Face, where some have slipped to their death. Because Camp III is relatively small, it's not used to store large amounts of gear.
For Tom and Nawang, sleeping at least once at Camp III will be an important indicator of whether they are sufficiently strong and acclimatized to make it to the summit. So unlike the climbing Sherpas on the team, they will most likely make a point of staying at least one night on that desolate, icy part of Lhotse. From there the summit will still be three days away.
© McMillan Associates 2004-6. All rights reserved.
Pushing to Camp II (21,325ft.)
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