The climbers are still holding at Camp 2 on the South and some are returning to base camp as the winds continue to pound Everest. Understandably individual climbers are not posting too much because 1) there is not a lot to report and 2) many are at Camp 2 without access to their communications gear.
But the situation is improving! A new route on Lhotse and perhaps an improving weather forecast.
Eric Simonson of IMG has posted an update that is very encouraging about the route up the Lhotse Face including a map showing a potential new route. You need to go to their site to see it:
Greg and Jangbu report from Everest BC today that the Jetstream is still right over Mt. Everest, and the heavy winds up high are still kicking off rocks that roll down the Lhotse Face, threatening the climbers and sherpas. Today we had IMG guides Justin Merle, Max Bunce, along with several AAI guides, and Chad Kellogg, checking an alternate route to Camp 3, to the climbers’ right of the usual route. They rejoined the route near lower Camp 3 and said the snow ramps were good climbing, and there was less rockfall. However, there is still reported rockfall up in the Camp 3 area, so we are staying off the Face until the winds die down.
Once again Dave Hahn provides a solid update noting their retreat to base camp waiting for improved conditions. He continues to comment on the dry condition high on Everest. This implies the climbing may be a bit more difficult as it will require crampons against rock, not snow, which is measurably more difficult.
Consensus is that conditions are pretty dry and dangerous on the Lhotse face. So many teams were not having their members or Sherpa go up on the standard route, but others were. Our intention now, not being able to safely climb at the moment without some new snow or some change, is to head down to Base Camp in the morning. So that is what we are looking to do – up early and heading down.
The New Route
The normal route up the Lhotse Face starts after a 1.5 – 2 hour easy (at 21,000′!!) walk from Camp 2. The terrain is somewhat smooth with a few crevasses but marked with wands. They usually cross in the dark early morning hours using headlamps.
Once at the base of the Face, it takes on an entirely new personalty starting with a steep short climb, clipped into the fixed ropes, to a short flat section and then takes off – until you reach Camp 3. The first section is unforgivingly steep and gains altitude fast as a result. I believe this is the section currently subject to the rock fall. There are several rock bands crossing the Lhotse Face just above this section that may shedding rocks during the extreme winds and dry conditions.
After this first section, the route continues basically straight up with a couple of flatish section where you take breaks safely – but still clipped in until you reach the lowest of several Camp 3 spots.
So, as I understand it from the IMG picture, the alternate route goes the far right of the current route and follows a few ramps to gain the altitude. It is unclear to me how you gain access to the new route because that lower area at the base is heavily crevassed; but I am sure you can pick your way through. This new route may be a bit longer but could be faster since that first section really takes it out of most people early.
NatGeo West Ridge team down 1 Climber
An update on NatGeo’s Cory Richards. He was helicoptered out last week suffering from breathing problems. According to his first person post from Kathmandu:
All is well in Kathmandu as the last of the tests have finished up. The great news is that my body is as healthy as it has ever been. All the doctors have cleared me on all accounts and have repeatedly insisted that whatever the cause of the brief episode I experienced, it was not related to altitude. Likewise, there is no evidence of a pulmonary embolism. Wonderful news…though frustrating that we can’t find an explanation.
This is great news but he has chosen to leave the expedition. No word on what his partner Conrad Anker will do given it was a 2 person team climbing the dangerous West Ridge.
North Side on the Move
The Altitude Junkies team is ready to start moving based on an improving forecast, posted Phil Crampton today:
Our weather forecast shows the jet stream moving away from the mountain for several days starting late this afternoon. With this in mind we plan to walk to advanced base camp tomorrow followed by a rest day at the 6,400 meter camp. The following day we plan to make our second rotation to the North Col and if the team feels strong enough we will continue to the 7,300-7,500 meter mark for an acclimatization tag before returning to advanced base camp and the lower elevation of 6,400 meter for a better nights sleep.
Memories are Everything