Part of the allure of attempting an first ascent is the unknown. There isn't a tested and documented route for the Madison Mountaineering team to follow to the summit, it is up to us to determine the best and safest route. Unfortunately our Sherpa team encountered miles of broken and tenuous ice on the way from base camp to advanced camp. Here's a Google Earth shot:
Navigating an icefall isn't impossible, it's done on Everest every year. The trick is climbing through it safely, and the team didn't feel that we confident that we could safely climb through the miles of teetering ice. So, we chose to fly to ABC instead.
Here's what the icefall looked like from the air:
Before I left base camp, I took a minute to reflect on the challenge ahead of me, and to ask for a safe climb by throwing rice into the air three times and walking clockwise around our stone alter. When there are climbers on the mountain, the team remaining at base camp will continuously burn juniper at the stone alter, after several trips to the Himalaya, the smell of juniper smoke is comforting to me.
Time to start climbing!