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May 012012
 
2012 Lhotse Face and Camp 2 courtesy of Cian O'Brolchain

2012 Lhotse Face and Camp 2 courtesy of Cian O'Brolchain

High winds have everyone in lock down on both sides. When the winds are above 30 mph, most teams will simply wait it out. Gusts of over 60mph are being reported from C2. A break is still forecasted starting tomorrow per most reports. However the route up the Lhoste Face has issues, more in a moment.

The biggest problem facing the climbers now is with weather and route delays, there are a lot of people queued at Camp 2 waiting for their run to Camp 3 and the required overnight. A glance at the location table shows more teams at C3 than at EBC right now, but clearly that can change daily. This implies a long line up the fixed ropes and perhaps some long wait times. If it continues to be cold and windy, it will be uncomfortable and test everyone’s patience.

Winds and more Winds

Dave Hahn, with more Everest summits than any Westerner at 13, commented from his location at Camp 2:

Another windy day up here at the head of the Western Cwm.  Apparently the jet stream winds are still on the mountain and it’s sure sounding like it.  All day long big roaring noise as the air was hitting the south west face of Mt. Everest and the north face of Lotse. And just ripping over the tops of the mountains.  Didn’t make sense to do any hard climbing in those conditions, for us.  That wouldn’t have worked for us anyway today we were into light exercise activities and trying to gain acclimatization.  We all had a good night last night and we are try build on that.

Eric Simonson of IMG reports that the rope fixing has stopped on the South side:

Ang Jangbu reports that Mingma Tenzing, Tshering and rest of the fixing team got on top of Yellow Band and had to turn around due to high wind.

More troubling than the wind is that there have been rumors that the route up the Lhotse Face is not safe due to rock fall – very unusual until you get higher up, even above the South Col. But apparently has become so bad on the lower Face that wise teams are refusing to climb until the line is rerouted. This report from Ian Ridly sums it up:

The current position is that the main Teams have decided that the current route is too dangerous. Apparently one Sherpa has 10 stitches in his head after a rock completely smashed his helmet and a Russian has a broken arm. A team of Western guides are going to recee the face and try and find a safer alternative to the right of the normal route tomorrow. It is currently thought that the existing position of Camp Three is as safe/unsafe as previous years depending upon your perspective. Once found, ropes will need to be fixed again which will take another day or so.

Rescue Video

The NatGeo team, with all their cameras filming for their 1963 West Ridge film next year, was able to capture the drama of Cory Richard’s breathing problems and subsequent helicopter evacuation from base camp. It was available for embedding but NatGeo canceled that permission for external sites.

Tempers and Patience

It is getting crowded on the South side with all the delays, tempers are starting to get short. Chad Kellogg made a long post on his carry to Camp 3 and had these observations on the problems in the Icefall:

On the way down I ran into a traffic jamb on the fixed ropes. There were three to five people at every fixed anchor on the down lines. After waiting for ten minutes for my turn to rappel I began to get passed by Shepras using the lines as a hand line on the icy face. I met up with a North Face member named Phil. Phil was super calm and he and I rappelled the lines together. When another group of six Sherpas tried to pass us while I was on rappel I began to lose my temper. What they were doing was unsafe and was putting other people at risk below them as well. I yelled at a few of them as they passed, but they only cared about their well being and nothing else. Then I watched as three of them fell down and slid crampons first into the people waiting at the next anchor. Hmmm.

I mentioned to Phil that these guys ignorance of fixed line protocol was making me angry. His reply was that anger might make me do something I might regret. His words of concise wisdom calmed me down and refocused my attention to getting down safely.

Rockfall

So not sure what is going on this year with all the rock fall and Icefall movement. As I have said, much of this is normal for any year but there are too many reports to dismiss this as “normal” It could have been the warm winter, lack of snowfall (upper Everest is reported to be very dry), or perhaps the recent earthquakes in the area created more instability than usual. In any event, post after post are commenting on the dangers and need to stay alert.

In an email I received from Cian O’Brolchain climbing with Jagged Globe, he mentioned:

Our 3rd day at camp 2, we went for an acclimitisation walk up to the Bergschaund. This is at a height of 6,800m and is at the bottom of the Lhotse face. There was a sherpa team on the Lhotse face fixing rope. Two of our sherpa team Pasang and Pemchirri were on the Lhotse face putting the rope in. As we were taking a break at the bottom of the face, a few rocks were falling down near us. The sherpas were shouting down and we could see them clearly. We had plenty of time to get out of the way if one came near us. We were fortunate enough, as the rocks fell to the sides and came to a halt before they got to us.

Spa Treatment

Wrapping up on a good note, I enjoyed a post by Mike Moniz, climbing with IMG, from his home team on how they are treating the Khumbu cough. I can personally confirm this works :) Take a look at the post for a great picture.

The Sherpas like the Khumbu Spa treatment: hot water, Tiger Balm Oil and a towel. During the first thirty seconds you’re fairly certain your eyes are melting but after the 10 minute session it does really help!

OK, I know today’s report has a lot of “danger” stuff in it. Without a doubt, climbing Everest, or any 8000m mountain, is dangerous. But there are many long time operators with more time on Everest than anyone on the planet. The fact that they are calling a timeout and reevaluating the ropes shows their commitment to safety. For the rest of us, take a moment and send a few good thoughts to the men and women who are walking where airplanes fly.

Climb On!
Alan
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  8 Responses to “Everest 2012: Drama Captured on Everest Plus More Wind”

  1. I am Facebook friends with Mike Moniz, and have been interested in, and much enjoying, his posts on this venture you are on.

    He made reference to your posts in one of his and I ‘came over’ to see what you wrote. I hope you don’t mind if I continue to follow your posts.

    I have to say, I appreciate all of this first hand information! Thank you for taking the time to put it out here! My thoughts and prayers are with you all as you continue with this challenge you have undertaken.

    Safe journey…

    Lisa Gould

  2. Hey Alan,

    Another great Post.

    Thanks,

    Zach Zaitzeff

  3. Lots of problems let’s hope they stay small. As Ann Manion says “rope rage” !
    It must be very frustrating up there.It will become grim if they have build ups and folk hanging about especially associated with the wind and rock falls. What did you tell me about never been a season wipe out, could this be the first !!! Today has not been a good one for armchair followers, the spirits in the teams are a little low and many have not felt inclined to blog. Thank goodness for you to keep us happy even if the news is frustrating for one and all. Many thanks for your efforts. Cheers Kate

  4. Today’s update includes an account of ‘rope rage’ (instead of road rage as one might experience on crowded highways). Conditions this year may be ripe for an all-time high number of climbers caught waiting at the Hilary Step. Is it possible that the team leaders have figured out a way to have an ‘up’ rope and a ‘down’ rope at the Step?
    Thanks you for your diligent coverage of an epic year on the mountain!

    • Ann, hopefully by the time the summit push comes in mid to late May, the crowds will thin out on each summit day. The leaders work hard to make that happen. But yes there can be up and down ropes on the Hillary Step but in reality it is too narrow to be that useful unlike the very wide Lhotse Face.

  5. Thanks Alan for the update. I’ve been following your blog for years and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share these daily updates with folks like myself that love to follow the Everest climbing season.

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed this update. Cant wait to see how it all plays out.

  7. Sounds like a tough year so far.