It is hard to believe the Everest spring season is half over. At this point the climbers are in the middle of their acclimatization rotations with successful climbs of trekking peaks, perhaps to the North Col or a few nights at Camp 2 at the base of the Lhotse Face. A few have returned home early to process the experience and consider the future.
Many climbers have updated their personal blogs making for some great reading. I suggest clicking on the links on the location table or to the right to visit your favorite and see their pictures including: Leanna Shuttleworth (AAI), Bud Allen with Bill Burke (AT), Ian Ridley (JG), Phil Purdy (JG), Chris Klinke (PH), WMS great pictures
A fight (with the wind) on the North
Grant Rawlinson continues to document his return to Everest’s North side with an amazingly detailed post on his first trip to the North Col. His writing is clear, emotional and compelling. Note the comments about teamwork, bonding, mental toughness, physical demands. One of the best I’ve read. Grab a coffee and read the entire post, the Blog of the Day:
Milk tea the beautiful, hot sweet liquid that soothes my raging thirst in the freezing cold. At least I dont need to vomit I tell myself. After two cups of milk tea I make my excuse’s and stumble down into my tent. I am still insanely thirsty however I can feel the construction workers inside my brain starting to increase their activity. An altitude headache is the king of headaches. The feeling of the middle part of your brain being squeezed in a vice. Without medication a bad altitude headache has me on my knees holding my head in my hands rocking back and forth.
Of note, 73 year old Japanese Tamae Watanabe with Asian Trekking is back at BC after tagging the North Col. She will set the record for women if she summits this year.
Acute Mountain Sickness
On Saturday, the National Geographic West Ridge team took a blow when Cory Richards climbing with Conrad Anker was airlifted out of EBC complaining of altitude sickness. Cory walked down from Camp 2 under his own power so this is probably more of a precaution. It is reported he wants to return. In related health news, a 33 year-old Indian, Ramesh Gulve, climbing with the Pune team was also helicopter out of EBC last week and eventually returned to India where he died from a stroke.
These incidents show the dangers of being at high altitude and the totally random nature of acute mountain sickness or how latent health problems can be brought to the surface by the stress of Everest. Even someone with years of professional experience, or the novice can be hit without warning.
I understand there have been 30 climbers helicoptered out already this year. It causes me to wonder if leaving early has become too easy. And I wonder, with all respect for those in serious condition.
Best wishes for Cory to return and my condolences to the family of Mr. Gulve.
Update: The Adventure Journal is reporting that Cory Richards is believed to be suffering from a pulmonary embolism, blockage in his lungs, likely from a blood clot. If this is the case, it is unlikely he will return, sadly.
This past week we saw a bit of everything from perfect weather to harsh winds that stalled progress. We also saw avalanches, rescues and learned that death on Everest sometimes has nothing to do with climbing.
The press loves to publish stores with headlines that have words like death or avalanches or evacuations – all factual but not the whole story. Each year Everest has these events so in many ways, this has been a normal season thus far.
The Sherpas who died, one was a preventable accident, falling from a ladder and not being clipped into the safety line; and the other was a lost battle with alcohol that ended at base camp.
The avalanches are part of every season. Thankfully the one this week from Nutpse regrettably only resulted in broken ribs for one Sherpa, not three deaths like in 2009. And there will be more. Plus more shifting of the route throughout the Icefall – all part of the grand bargain Everest climbers make every season.
Halftime on Everest
As we approach May 1, the days are getting warmer, longer and the ice is actually starting to melt. The Sherpas at EBC have already had to reposition a few tents or rebuild tent platforms as the warm days plus the occupant’s body heat reformed their flat(ish) site.
But more important is this is the week when teams are going to pay their dues and get their ticket to attempt the summit in mid May.
Reading the blogs and from my own experience, this is a time of horribly conflicted emotions. You are happy to be going back up to the North Col and tag 7500m or to spend that infamous night at Camp 3. You have read about climbing the Lhotse Face but are not prepared for how physical it really is. The mental side of climbing Everest comes into full focus.
Yes, it is crowded with climbers and Sherpas going up and down the Hill. Yes, there is a lot of commercialism with sponsors and causes. And yes, it is easy to get distracted, become preoccupied with what everyone else is doing. But now is the time to concentrate on the task at hand – climb the mountain.
This next week will be critical
As has been my custom, I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I am just one guy who loves climbing. With 30 serious climbing expeditions including four Everest trips under my belt and a summit last year, this site tries to share those experiences, demystify Everest each year and bring awareness to Alzheimer’s Disease. My mom died from this disease a few years ago as did two of my aunts. It was a heartbreaking experience that I never want anyone to go through thus my ask for donations to non-profits where 100% goes to them, and nothing to me.
I share my own climbing experiences, including my 2011 climbs of the 7 Summits in 322 days, through public speaking. Visit this link to learn more and consider hosting a fundraising event for Alzheimer’s.
Memories are Everything