Everest/First Ascents: Clues to Past Expeditions

While "resting" at Advanced Base Camp, Seth Waterfall and company discover artifacts from ancient expeditions

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Dave, Erica and I are enjoying a day of rest after spending the last four days acclimatizing at Camp 1 and Advance Base Camp. We had an excellent rotation and are feeling healthy. It’s nice to come down and get to actually rest our healthy bodies as opposed to needing to recover from an illness or injury picked up while climbing. I know I had the best night of sleep since Namche last night.

On our last day at ABC, Dave, Erica and I climbed to the base of the Lhotse Face for acclimatization purposes. We’d headed out early, made good time up and back, and were left with most of the day as free time. Well, mostly free. Dave and I spent a fair bit of time repositioning the solar panels that power the radio and LED lights at ABC, and I re-tethered our radio antenna. After those chores, we had some true free time. My tent was calling, but Kent, the cinematographer climbing with us, wanted to do some filming out on the glacier.

Somewhat reluctantly, I grabbed my crampons and met up with Dave and Kent. As soon as we’d walked a few hundred feet though, I was amazed at Dave pointing out two oxygen bottles partially buried in the ice. I’d just assumed that the camps had been so cleaned up and combed over that you’d never be able to find stuff like this anymore. Not so. As I began carefully chopping away at the ice around one bottle, Dave grabbed the other one, a leftover from an expedition from the early seventies. As we freed the second bottle, we were both impressed at what great shape both were in. In fact it appeared that both could still be holding oxygen. Good thing we didn’t just hack away around them with our ice axes!

The second bottle appeared to be from an American expedition and was stenciled with the phrase “AVIATORS ON OXYGEN” and was stamped with what looked like a date from 1970. I can’t wait to do more research on this once I get home. All in all, we found four bottles that afternoon dating from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. Not bad for an afternoon of “Goraking”. Check out today’s video feed, which was shot by Kent while Dave and I were scavenging the glacier like little kids.

Now we’re resting at Base Camp and the other part of the team is starting their second acclimatization rotation. Yesterday Ed and Peter moved up to ABC, bypassing Camp 1. Today they have climbed to Camp 3 at just over 23,000 ft. They are returning to ABC to spend the night. Melissa spent one extra day here at Base Camp. She left here early this morning and will meet up with the guys at ABC. All told, the team is doing great. For me, I can’t wait to start back up the mountain again, but I could probably use the rest and it does feel good to sleep in a little.

—Seth Waterfall