SOUTHEAST RIDGE
 
The ascent via the southeast ridge begins with a trek to Base Camp at 5,380 m on the south side of Everest in Nepal. Expeditions usually fly into Lukla (2,860m) from Kathmandu and then hike to Base Camp, which usually takes six to eight days, allowing for proper altitude acclimatization in order to prevent altitude sickness. Climbing equipment and supplies are carried by yaks, dzopkyos and porters to Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier. When Hillary and Tenzing climbed Everest in 1953, they started from Jiri which, nowadays, takes five to eight days to reach Lukla.
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Base Camp Camp 1 (5-7 hrs)
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2-3 hrs after aclimatization
Climbers will spend a couple of weeks in base camp, acclimatizing to the altitude. During that time, Sherpas and some expedition climbers will set up ropes and ladders in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. Seracs, crevasses and shifting blocks of ice makes the icefall one of the most dangerous sections of the route. Many climbers and Sherpas have been killed in this section.

To reduce the hazard, climbers will usually begin their ascent well before dawn. Once sunlight reaches the icefall, the danger increases substantially. Above the icefall is Camp I or Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 6,065 m.

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Camp 1 Camp 2 (2-4 hrs)
From Camp I, climbers make their way up the Western Cwm to the base of the Lhotse face, where Camp II is established at 6,500 m. The Western Cwm is a relatively flat, gently rising glacial valley, marked by huge lateral crevasses in the centre which prevent direct access to the upper reaches of the Cwm. Climbers are forced to cross on the far right near the base of Nuptse to a small passageway known as the "Nuptse corner". The Western Cwm is also called the "Valley of Silence" as the topography of the area generally cuts off wind from the climbing route. The high altitude and a clear, windless day can make the Western Cwm unbearably hot for climbers.
 
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Camp 2 Camp 3 (4-6 hrs)




From Camp 2, climbers ascend the Lhotse face on fixed ropes up to a small ledge at 7,470 m. From there, it is another 500 metres to Camp 4 on the South Col at 7,920 m. From Camp 3 to Camp 4, climbers are faced with two additional challenges: The Geneva Spur and The Yellow Band. The Geneva Spur is an anvil shaped rib of black rock named by a 1952 Swiss expedition. Fixed ropes assist climbers in scrambling over this snow covered rock band. The Yellow Band is a section of sedimentary sandstone which also requires about 100 metres of rope for traversing it.
 
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Camp 4 - Geneva Spur and Yellow Band (3-5 hrs)

On the South Col, climbers enter the death zone. Climbers typically only have a maximum of two or three days they can endure at this altitude for making summit bids. Clear weather and low winds are critical factors in deciding whether to make a summit attempt. If weather does not cooperate within these short few days, climbers are forced to descend, many all the way back down to Base Camp. From Camp 4, climbers will begin their summit push around midnight with hopes of reaching the summit (still another 1,000 metres above) within 10 to 12 hours. Climbers will first reach "The Balcony" at 8,400 m, a small platform where they can rest and gaze at peaks to the south and east in the early dawn light. Continuing up the ridge, climbers are then faced with a series of imposing rock steps which usually forces them to the east into waist deep snow, a serious avalanche hazard. At 8,750 m, a small table sized dome of ice and snow marks the South Summit.

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Camp 4 - Balkony (4-6 hrs)
From the South Summit, climbers follow the knife edge south east ridge along what is known as the "Cornice traverse" where snow clings to intermittent rock. This is the most exposed section of the climb as a misstep to the left would send one 2,400 m down the southwest face while to the immediate right is the 3,050 m Kangshung face. At the end of this traverse is an imposing 12 m rock wall called the "Hillary Step" at 8,760 m. Hillary and Tenzing were the first climbers to ascend this step and they did it with primitive ice climbing equipment and without fixed ropes. Nowadays, climbers will ascend this step using fixed ropes previously set up by Sherpas. Once above the step, it is a comparatively easy plod to the top on moderately angled snow slopes. Climbers will typically spend less than a half-hour on "top of the world" as they realize the need to descend to Camp 4 before darkness sets in or afternoon weather becomes a serious problem.
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