Base Camp lies at about 5,400 metres, high enough for it to be a serious challenge for trekkers. The terrain is rugged and unforgiving, and the air is so thin that every step can feel like a big effort. Most trekkers come for just an hour or so, take some photos at the ceremonial cairn and then turn around for their trek back to Kathmandu.
Many leave their names on the rocks, hoping to have created a more permanent souvenir!
For the climbers that remain, Base Camp is now their home. They set up tents, dig toilets, build little ice caves to store meat and other perishables. Satellite communications are installed. Internet links set up. Dining tents are erected. Stores arrive by porter and by yak every single day.
In total, Everest climbers may spend up to six weeks in this place so they might as well make themselves comfortable!
Effectively Base Camp functions like a small town. Teams share information about the mountain and there is a well-equipped medical centre run by the Himalayan Rescue Association. Climbers returning with frostbite or altitude sickness are quickly seen. The worst cases result in helicopter evacuations. There are dozens of helicopters coming in each week.
Base Camp has a fantastic sense of energy. Sherpa high-altitude guides are busy taking gear through the ice fall. Western team members are training on the ice pinnacles that lie near the camps. There is the clatter of pans from the cooking tents. The buzz of walkie-talkies as leaders try to find out how their support teams are doing.
Gradually the high camps are erected on Everest and Base Camp begins to hum with a new and serious buzz ... the summit attempts are about to kick off! Soon the real drama will begin!
QUESTIONS FOR CLASS DISCUSSION:
1. Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier was the launching off point for the first successful ascent of Mt Everest. What year was that? Who were the first climbers to reach the top?
2. Last year (2015) an earthquake shook the mountains around Base Camp and a deadly avalanche was caused. Can you find out more about this by researching online? Did the 2015 climbing season continue?
3. Do some research into the costs of climbing Mt Everest. How much does a climbing permit cost? And how much do expedition companies charge for their services? In total how much will a climber spend, including his personal equipment?