Weekend Warm-Up: Everest Camps From a Drone

Expedition photographer and drone operator Sandro Gromen-Hayes has been a regular professional presence on many recent Himalayan expeditions. He photographed Anna Pfaff on her comeback to the Himalaya after serious frostbite. He worked with Kristin Harila on her first attempt to break the 14×8,000m speed record in 2022. Some days ago, he filmed Afghan woman Freshta Ibrahimi on Lobuche East.

Last spring, Gromen-Hayes was on Everest and Lhotse, filming for Ukrainian Tonya Samoilova. From that expedition, he compiled the video below. It is short but well worth a look.


Everest camps

The three-minute clip gives an exceptional perspective of the South Col route and especially of the four camps along it.

Note that, unlike previous years, spring 2023 featured a Camp 1, located right at the top of the Icefall. Since the tragic accident of 2014, when a serac collapse killed 16 sherpas at the top of the Khumbu Icefall, expeditions have gone all the way through the Icefall to Camp 2 at 6,400m.

While Camp 1 still serves as an emergency shelter or as a stopover for rope fixers, Camp 2, in the middle of the Western Cwm, is kind of an “upper Base Camp.” It has mess tents, cooks, supplies, and loads of oxygen bottles.

Learning to fly high

“This was the culmination of seven years filming and flying at altitude,” Sandro Gromen-Hayes told ExplorersWeb. He explained:

I first got a Phantom 3 drone to 7,000m on Dhaulagiri in 2016 and a Mavic 1 to 7,400m on Mt Noshaq in 2017.

Then I tried to fly a Mavic 2 on the summit of Manaslu in 2019 but I put the controller on my backpack while warming the drone battery, and it completely died. I ended up with some frostnip as well.

In 2021 I flew [a drone] on Everest at 7,900m but the summit was too windy to even consider taking off. Got an Air2S to fly over the summit of K2 in 2022, and then got the big one this spring.

Here’s a short video with the K2 footage as well.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.