Establishing Camp 1 at 17,800 feet takes a week of acclimatizing and load ferrying. The route from Base Camp requires a grueling 2200 feet of elevation gain. The path winds around Sam Tso Taring crossing a hundred-yard wide stream garnished with mini icebergs. At 16,000 feet, the trail passes a hut occupied year-round by a hermit. Next comes the lower Thong Wuk Glacier - a rolling sheet of ice punctuated by the occasional bottomless sinkhole. The last section is a horrendous hump straight up a boulder-strewn slope for 1300 grueling feet.
The reward - Camp 1 - a nondescript site on a spiny moraine ridge. The camp, nothing more than a flat spot, is the same location occupied by the British in 1998. Above Camp 1, the mountain begins.
"Clouds moved back in over the night. The only glimpse we've had of Sepu was the day we arrived. It's a secretive, illusive, veiled summit. And every day that goes by without a glimpse of it drives my hopes of summitting that much more."
- Mark Newcomb, 18 September 2002
"Mark went up to Camp 1 with four porters. He's got way too much energy. I just got my period. I wonder why it's called period? It should be called inconvenience or bummer or something. Cause it sure seems to show up at worst possible time. Like the day before you're going up in the mountains."
- Carina Ostberg, 19 September 2002
"Sounds like the local Tibetans are making prayers for us down in the valley. They are praying for good weather, which is great for us. Tomorrow we will see if we can't find a way to Camp 2 and get everybody up as high as possible. People feel fully acclimatized. Tomorrow afternoon maybe we can get everyone up to Camp 2 and maybe back down to Base Camp that evening."
Carlos Buhler, 21 September 2002