Home Features Ice fall doctors’ crucial role for spring season
March 23, 2023

Ice fall doctors’ crucial role for spring season

The Icefall doctors have begun constructing the route to the top of the world for the upcoming spring climbing season. On February 26, 2023, a team of Icefall doctors departed for Everest Base Camp, where they fix and maintain the Khumbu Icefall Route for climbers attempting to climb Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, and Mt. Nuptse. Prior to route construction, they received on-site training from instructors of the Khumbu Climbing Center at Everest Base Camp from March 2 to March 6.

According to Sagarmatha Pollutions Control Committee the team includes Tshering Tenzing Sherpa (Base Camp Manager), eight icefall doctors (Ang Sarki Sherpa, Chhewang Nuru Sherpa, Dawa Jangbu Sherpa, Dawa Nuru Sherpa, Mingma Temba Sherpa, Pemba Tshering Sherpa, Sonam Tshering Sherpa, and Tenzing Dorjee Sherpa), two kitchen staff (Nawang Thaten Sherpa and Wangdi Gelbu Sherpa), and one garbage management staff (Sanjiv Tamang).

Crucial role for climbing

Icefall doctors are a specialized team of mountaineers responsible for fixing the route through the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest. This treacherous section of the mountain has a rapidly moving glacier that causes crevasses and ice seracs to shift and collapse.

The icefall doctors are crucial for any expedition attempting to climb Mount Everest via the South Col route. Their job is to fix ropes, ladders, and other necessary equipment to traverse the icefall safely. They identify the most stable sections of the icefall and create a route that minimizes the risk of falling ice and crevasse crossings.

The icefall doctors begin their work in early spring when the icefall is most stable. They make multiple trips through the icefall, carrying heavy loads of equipment and supplies to prepare the route. Once the route is established, other members of the expedition can begin their ascent, relying on the fixed ropes and ladders to navigate the treacherous terrain.

The work of icefall doctors is physically and mentally demanding, requiring a high level of technical skill and experience. Despite the risks involved, they play a critical role in ensuring the safety of climbers attempting to summit Mount Everest.

Hillary coined the term

The term “Icefall doctors” was coined by Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealand mountaineer who, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. He used the term during the 1960s when he led expeditions to find new routes through the Khumbu Icefall. The term has since become widely used in the mountaineering community.

The Khumbu Icefall

The Khumbu Icefall is a highly treacherous section of the South Col route to the summit of Mount Everest. Located between Base Camp and Camp I at an altitude of around 5,486 meters (18,000 feet), the icefall is a constantly shifting and collapsing glacier that is filled with crevasses and towering ice seracs. The Khumbu Icefall poses a significant risk to climbers attempting to summit Mount Everest and is one of the most dangerous sections of the climb. Icefall doctors are responsible for fixing the route through the icefall, making it as safe as possible for climbers to pass through.

According to mountaineers, it is considered one of the most dangerous sections of the South Col route to the summit of Mount Everest due to a number of factors. One of the main reasons is that it is located at the head of the Khumbu Glacier, where the ice is constantly moving and shifting, creating deep crevasses and towering ice seracs that can collapse without warning. In addition, the icefall is extremely steep, with an average slope of around 40 degrees, and climbers must navigate a maze of unstable ice blocks, making it very difficult and dangerous to traverse. The Khumbu Icefall is also exposed to high winds and extreme cold, and climbers are at risk of avalanches, rockfall, and falling ice, all of which can be deadly. Overall, the combination of steep terrain, shifting ice, and unpredictable weather conditions make the Khumbu Icefall one of the deadliest and most challenging sections of the climb.

All Pictures: Sagarmatha Pollutions Control Committee


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