Dirk, Christy and I agreed- if we didn’t see a sleeping bag for a few weeks, we’d be just fine. I say that because when you consider the different camps on the mountain, and their varying levels of comfort (or lack thereof), well, it’s just great to be home. Having a toilet is nice, too.
Basecamp ~15,000 ft.
Pros- Flat, grassy and dry with direct sun from 7:30am to 5:30pm. Heated group tent equipped with solar lighting for playing cards, chess, meals three times daily and general hanging out. Peets coffee, loads of snacks, clean water, tea, beer, wine and whiskey are all available thanks to Lachu, Lhakpa and Purri. Pit toilets are close by, satellite phone is available, as is a basic shower. Occasional movies with popcorn are shown on Adrian’s DVD player. Everyone has their own tent. ‘Bed tea’ is delivered every morning at 7:30am.
Cons- In hindsight none, because when compared to the camps up high, it’s Shangri-La.
Camp 1 ~19,000 ft.
Pros- Early sun arrives at 6:30am. Awesome views and the feeling as though you are really on the mountain.
Cons- Camp is set at an angle, on scree and rocks which protrude into your back and side as you sleep. You’ll be crammed in with two other people. Cold comes early when the sun sets behind the ridge around 2:30pm. Lachu is miles away so you have to take care of yourself when it comes to food and water. Due to popularity, trash and human waste are present. You may struggle to find snow to melt that is clean. Acclimatizing trips here may involve trouble sleeping, headaches, loss of appetite and low energy. In sum, it’s just not like basecamp.
Camp 2 ~20,000 ft.
Pros- Camp is set on an amazing perch. That’s about it.
Cons- Start with all the cons listed for Camp 1. With limited real estate, enough for four to six tents, expeditions battle for space. Cliffed out on all sides, there’s very little room to move and even fewer options for relieving oneself. Resulting cesspool-like odor is so strong, Christy actually started dry heaving here at one point. Fixed rope runs straight through camp so there is little privacy. Stolen gear and tent poachers have been reported. It’s definitely not like Basecamp.
(we didn’t stay here, thankfully, opting to use camps 1 & 3 (2.7) only)
Camp 2.7 ~21,000 ft.
(Some background- the collapse of the Dablam spread a large amount of debris on Camp 3, rendering it unsafe in the event there was more to come. The sherpa grabbed a small, but choice, snowy ledge, dubbed ‘2.7,’ just below Camp 3 and right off the “Mushroom Ridge.”)
Pros- Like Camp 2, there’s only room for a small group (4 tents). Claiming this spot put us at the highest camp on the route, which always helps your odds of success. As the first ones there, finding clean snow for water was easy and the foulness of Camp 2 wasn’t an issue. A good part of our vestibule hung over the abyss and we could dump dirty dishwater or the contents of a pee bottle right off the mountain and not spoil the site.
Cons- Like I said, a good part of our vestibule hung over the abyss. It was an unsettling reminder to where we were. Christy’s side of the tent was just about hanging off the edge. You could fall off the mountain while performing a simple task like collecting snow, peeing or taking a picture. Once again, it’s just not like basecamp.
Final opinion: there’s no place like basecamp.