The headline tells it all “MAY 14th – It’s time…”. Grant Rawlinson climbing on the north with Altitude Junkies posted today that he was moving to the high camps looking to attempt his Everest summit later this week.
Project Himalaya climber Tom Kowpak provided a clear description of the north side situation and targeting Saturday, May 19th for his summit. By the way, he noted a second potential summit window on May 25th.
We know there is a descent window on the 17th 18th and 19th. However the ropes aren’t fixed yet, so we believe the fixers will use the 17th to get up there and the 18th to finish fixing. These rope fixers are a mix of Tibetian and Chinese. The 2 largest teams on the north side are the Chinese and the Indians. We believe the Chinese will be following the fixers up to the summit and the Indians won’t be too far behind them. That will be around 75 clients finished with. But they will take up the 18th for anyone else to summit that day. Which leaves the 19th…
On the South, it is already having a scrum feel. One post today mentioned the team from Chile is going to move up and attempt the summit without the fixed line being set. While not unprecedented, it not common in modern times and takes extremely experienced climbers. Their decision would imply they would not fix any ropes for the other teams.
This brings up one of the challenges leaders face on Everest of who sets the line to the summit. It is hard work demanding skill, knowledge and strength. Only a few Sherpas are really qualified to do this and usually work for the most experienced companies like IMG or Alpine Ascent – those with 15+ Everest summits and have fixed the line in many previous years. So the scenario develops where many teams climb to the South Col assuming someone else will fix the rope and then tag behind. As you might imagine, this can cause some friction.
But overall, there now appears to be two summit windows under discussion, this upcoming weekend around May 18-19 and again around May 25. So the decision becomes to either go first and endure tremendous crowds or risk the second window which may or may not develop plus the increasingly warm conditions. This is when the leaders earn their fee.
Adventure Consultants also announced their plan to target this first weather window:
The staff then continued this conversation long into the afternoon, pouring over weather charts, comparing various models and guesstimating the number of other teams heading for each weather window. Our main considerations include not only wind speeds and temperature, but also the likelihood of bottlenecks at key places on the route, whether ropes will be successfully fixed to the summit in the next few days and the potential for another window later in the month. Mid-afternoon we put the members out of their misery and let everyone know that we will begin our summit push tonight.
A Look Inside
As we will read on many blogs, the climbers are becoming very introspective. Again from Grant Rawlinson:
I am also afraid of failing to reach the summit this year. Failure hurts. Not because of what I think I look like in front of other people, but internally within myself. Getting up every morning and looking in the mirror as I brush my teeth I get reminded of who I am. Sitting in a crowded bar, in the office, on a plane my mind frequently drifts away to the North East Ridge of Everest. 6 months ago when I announced I was returning to Everest a friend asked me – what happens if you fail again? I told him truthfully that if I fail it will be very hard. But my desire to climb the ridge is stronger than my fear of failing to climb it. I cannot live my life failing to attempt.
IMG climber, Kumaran Rasappan, brought his blog up to date with an excellent description of his time thus far. It is the Blog of the Day. One section caught my attention, I read it over several times:
Most people think that climbing Everest is solely a physical venture. From 1st hand experience, I can say that being physically fit is only half the challenge. Most the time, what makes or breaks people is the psychological and emotional stress on the mountain. Staying away from the comforts of family, friends and the familiarity and warmth (both literal and metaphorical) of home surely takes a toll on every individual. The simplest of things can break you after a period of sustained stress. I was walking in the ice fall about to reach C1 during my 2nd rotation when I heard from the radio that a fellow climber from IMG was calling it quits after he experienced an small avalanche while he was walking in the ice fall just a few moments before I passed by the exact spot. Immediately I got emotional knowing a fellow climber who had gone through the same lengthy ordeal as me was suddenly pulling out due to the dangers involved when I was still choosing to carry on climbing. Listening to his story when I met him in C1 about the avalanche and how he didn’t want to compromise being with his girlfriend back at home, set me back even more. Finding the strong compulsion to carry on after hearing and experiencing these kinds of incidents is always difficult. You keep asking yourself why you’re putting yourself through this ordeal and risking it all when family back at home is worrying as much as you are on your safe return.
Memories are everything