Training in the Deadly Icefall

One of the most important expedition rituals on Everest is to spend a couple of days training in the Ice Fall – the chaotic cascade of glacial ice that tumbles down from camp one. 
 
The objective is twofold: get the team used to the special equipment they will have to use on the steep and fractured ice. And also learn how to navigate the many ladders which are used to cross crevasses. 
 
It’s a lot of fun to be out on the ice practising but everyone in the team is aware of the serious side to the training: the ice fall has been the scene of many tragic deaths from avalanche and serac (ice block) collapse over the years and the more quickly we can move in this lethal zone the safer we will be. 
 
Our leader, David, watches us closely through the ice training. He gives us friendly advice when necessary ..! 
 
At the end of the first training day, our feet are aching from kicking into the rock hard ice. But the team know they are one step closer to a safe ascent.
 
Questions for class discussion:
 
1. Can you name ten special pieces of climbing equipment that are needed for an Everest ascent?
2. The first attempted Everest ascents were in the 1920s. In what way do you think equipment has improved since then? 
3. How many oxygen bottles would a climber need on summit day? 
   

The team set out to train in the ice fall. © Matt Dickinson

Moving on steep and awkward terrain is an important part of the training process. © Matt Dickinson

Matt joins other members of the Everest team out on the ice. © Matt Dickinson

This photograph shows how variable the ice fall surface can be. It is always unpredictable and must be treated with great respect. © Matt Dickinson

The team practice using crampons and ice axes on steep terrain. © Matt Dickinson

A team member ascends a ladder in a training exercise. Many dozens of ladders are used in the real ice fall ascent. © Matt Dickinson

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