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May 182012
 
Everest from Pumori

Everest from Pumori

Everest 2012 continues to surprise and meet expectations of many climbers. We have the first summits of 2012 on the South. The ropes are now fixed to the summit on the South and North side as the weather window holds.

First 2012 Non-Sherpa Summit – Paraveneh Kazemi – Updated Feb, 2013

Iranian female climber, Paraveneh Kazemi and Sherpa Nima Gyalzen, summited just behind the rope fixers but ahead of Chili team. They went on to summit Lhotse make her the first woman to summit Everest and Lhotse in the same season. She was on a permit with an International team of Prestige Adventure company. You can see her summit video on YouTube and on her website.

Summits – Chile – Updated

A very strong and experienced team from Chile summited before noon on May 18th, the first of the season. It took them 6 hours to reach the Balcony where fixed lines had already been set and about another 6 to summit. It appears they climbed from the Balcony to the summit without the benefit of fixed ropes given the reports that the Sherpa team setting the line reached the summit at 1:30PM. They did comment the winds picked up on the summit, not unusual,  but have descended safely. They posted:

At 13:50 hrs local Chilean expedition successfully achieved the goal of his journey: to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The group of 10 Chileans and 10 Sherpas, led by Rodrigo Jordan, arrived in good condition at the place, thus becoming the first expedicionen this season that accomplishes this feat.

Courtesy of expeditionweather.info

Courtesy of expeditionweather.info

Update: As more information comes out it seems the Chilean team and the Sherpas fixing the rope basically summited together as shown by this audio post on the Chilean team site:

The Sherpas who rigged rodrigojordan route give me the top …. sample of his infinite generosity and humility

Apparently speed climber, Ueli Steck also summited without using supplemental oxygen. Well deserved congratulations to all.

The weather looks good for their summits with somewhat high winds but under most team’s limits of 30 mph. Gusts could be uncomfortable.

South Col Start

Many teams are preparing to leave the South Col between 8 Pm and midnight Friday night, May 18, looking for summit early Saturday morning. Several audio dispatches commented on the long lines of climbers and Sherpas moving from Camp 3 to the South Col, some said 200 climbers, others  100 to 150.

A post from Adventure Consultants reveals the impact of the crowds with part of their team delayed by 2.5 hours due to crowds traversing the Yellow Band and Geneva Spur.

Our first summit team for the 2012 Everest season are poised and resting on the South Col before their summit bid begins tonight. Mike, Ang Dorjee and the main team left Camp 3 close to 6.00am and made good time getting to the South Col by 11.00am, despite crowded conditions. Dean and Iza left an hour later and hit a few traffic jams, arriving at the South Col at 1.30pm. This was still great time and means that everyone has time for a descent rest.

The Yellow Band, a strip of limestone that crosses Everest is notorious for bottlenecks. The route crosses a thin crack where the ropes are now attached using bolts, not age old pitons. This allows climbers to move faster but there are several awkward moves required. But more importantly, this is really the first time many are climbing in full high altitude gear: crampons, heavy boots, down suit, oxygen bottle(s), oxygen mask, and goggles/sunglasses. It is like no other feeling and takes time to get used to and slows many, many people to a crawl. Oh and the altitude. Supplemental oxygen only makes a difference of 3000′ so their bodies feel like they are at 23,000 without supplemental  oxygen.

2012 Climbers between C3 and Yellow Band

2012 Climbers between C3 and Yellow Band

Ian Ridley has posted a picture on his blog of the climbers above Camp 3 heading towards the Yellow Band. He also commented on their schedule which may include returning to base camp. I encourage you to read his post. By the way, the Jagged Globe Sherpa who was injured by ice fall on the Lhotse Face is back in Kathmandu and expected to fully recover.

The final climb to  the South Col is another semi-difficult section where climbers feel the angle is almost vertical but really more like 45 degrees, still steep at 26000′ or almost 8000 meters. There are two ropes but it is very common for lines to develop.

Again, don’t get too concerned about this because it is quite common every year. Yes, not the best climbing situation but teams work through it. It really becomes becomes an issue if someone is not 100% or did not plan for enough oxygen. However, it can impact overall performance if the climber arrives extremely tired and not able to rest before their departure i around 12 hours later. At this point the climb really shifts to mental toughness and not letting things get to you.

Strategy

An interesting strategy is that of Alpine Ascents (AAI) where they take enough oxygen, food and fuel to spend a full 24 hours on the South Col. This approach allows them to move very slowly up from Camp 3 arriving late in the day, take a full rest day and leave for the summit the next night. They arrived on Friday and plan to summit on Sunday morning.

Almost every other team moves quickly from C3 to the Col and gets 12 hours of rest, also on oxygen, before leaveing for the summit that night. They minimize their time (and costs) at the severe altitude to avoid the debilitating effects of the altitude. I interviewed Todd Burleson about this strategy in March and he said:

Spending a rest day on the South Col has proved to be a great benefit for our climbers. In the12 years since we implemented the rest day on the S. Col almost every climber has succeeded in reaching the top on summit day. We have never had a member become ill at the S. Col and most climbers say they sleep better at the S. Col on oxygen than they do at BC.

If you think about it you have just put in two hard days moving from Camp 2 to Camp 3 and Camp 3 to the S. Col. On the second day most climbers do not reach the S. Col until 3 or 4 PM. They are tired and don’t get settled in and resting until 5 or 6 PM.  Then with out a rest day they have to wake up 4 hours later and prepare for one of the biggest summit days of their life. Our climbers sleep through the night and rest on oxygen all day. The tents are warm from the sun and everyone has the chance to rest well, eat and rehydrate before leaving that evening for the summit. The draw back is it cost more money to have food, fuel, oxygen and Sherpa staff an extra day at the S. Col but it is worth it in terms of summit success.

North Update

Phil Crampton, Altitude Junkies team including Grant Rawlinson, continues to keep us professionally informed. They plan on leaving Camp 3 at 10 or 11 PM Friday May 18. Western teams use Nepal time on the North side. It is reported the winds have picked up on the North side:

All the climbers and Sherpas, all 14 of us, are now at the highest campsite in the world at 8300 meters today. As we climbed, we watched the Tibetans fix the ropes to the summit. We are going to try and coordinate staggering our departure time as there must be 50-60 climbers present although 70% are Sherpas or Tibetans. Our weather forecast shows a slight increase in winds but as I sit here inside the tent at 8300 meters, there is no wind whatsoever. Hopefully tomorrow, if the weather holds, we are able to reach the summit.

Waiting

There are many more climbers positioned for their opportunity. Some are at Camp 3 on the South or ABC on the North and many are still are their respective base camps waiting for the second window of May 25th. This window looks better each day. They will be anxious to hear of the conditions near the summit. This current window is expected to close i.e. winds pick back up, by Sunday so we will go back to a quiet time early next week.

Perspective

For those following closely, please remember that information during this phase is sometimes incomplete, vague and often 1000% incorrect. Rumors are quite common on the mountain and often exaggerated. A small snow slide will be reported as an avalanche, a line of 20 people with a 10 minute wait will be translated into huge crowds and intolerable delays – not that anyone is doing anything wrong but the pressure of the environment and moment can be difficult to describe until you get back home.

There will be long lines, especially this first push. And it there will be 20 or more people lined up on the fixed ropes moving at a snails pace and climbers will be very frustrated. Some will turn back – the most difficult decision. But at that moment it will be the right things to do, for them. They will need the same support as those who summit.

Privacy or Cover-Up

As we go into the most dangerous time of Everest 2012, accidents will happen so I want to offer some thoughts. Operators struggle with deaths. Observers often don’t understand the reality of death in the mountains and families struggle to cope with the devastation; desperately seeing answers.

After reporting on climbing for over a decade, I struggle with each report of a death. My first thoughts are to the family, then the teammates and finally the public. I use a protocol to report deaths. My policy is not to comment until I have a first hand witness report and preferably more than one report that confirms the story then not to report names until it is clear the family has had an opportunity to be notified.

With everyone on modern climbs having sat phones or Internet access, news travels fast – too fast. And on the mountain, it travels even faster; well at least rumors do. This instant information creates an environment where some people try to break the news first for whatever reason, others pass on unconfirmed rumors. While often done in the spirit of trying to be helpful; it often does the opposite.

The first priority is to notify the family. What is often not known is that the family may ask an operator not to make a public announcement. They may chose to manage their loss in private. The operator has an obligation to honor this request even if gives the appearance of a coverup.

The press wants to play the blame game, even if it is on the climber themselves. And of course we live in a litigious society thus saying nothing is almost always better than saying something.

So confusion ensues.

I believe a simple statement acknowledging the event is always in order and helpful for all involved. It allows teammates to move on, operators to maintain transparency and families to receive support.

So as we go into the summit period, when you hear about a death or accident, I will do my best to report on it in the same manner I always have – with respect and accuracy. But please remember that many accidents are the result of bad luck, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I will post a new update later today with an update on Everest 2012 Summits Wave 2.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

Alzheimer's Fact: One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's disease. (source: Alzheimer Association)
Alzheimer's disease is the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed

  30 Responses to “Everest 2012: 1st Summits, More on the Way”

  1. Thanks for your attention to my climbing.

  2. Great post Alan ,just fantastic mate. Also read Greg Paul’s blogs , once again fantastic adventure , but sadly don’t think that the reality has sunk in yet, would love to know how he feels when he’s back home . Nik

  3. Any news of WMS location? Wife, kids and mom are standing vigilance in prayer.

    • Sorry Betty, no word on their site and unless they post, I have no way of knowing. I assume they are heading up based on their last posts. Weather is good and route is in good condition according to early reports.

  4. Another great update Alan. It must be an odd feeling to think you were there a year ago, but your first hand expereince over all your Everest trips really comes through in the way you share information and provide your insight – thanks!

  5. Just a brilliant round up with good advice . Thanks again Alan, your job is tough at the moment Cheers Kate

  6. Hi Alan,

    To your best knowledge, is Alpine Ascent the only team to allow climbers rest 24hrs in the south col? Does any other commercial operator (like IMG, RMI or Asian based) provide that service?

    Thanks!

    • Quazi, I guess you always arrange it for extra money but most operators don’t feel the risk being at 8000m outweighs the benefits. Also, you have to have extra oxygen, food, fuel, melt snow, stay fed and hope the weather holds for a longer period of time so it is a lot of work.

  7. Thank you for touching on the point of “cover ups”. When I received a solicitous newsletter type email from IMG shortly after the tragedy last year I let them know that I didn’t think they should be contacting me only to sell me a trip. Why no mention of a lost of an “unnamed climber”. A member of the IMG family. Maybe a suggested charity in memory of….?? This was a missed opportunity for IMG to really step up. My email stating my displeasure of receiving a newsletter as if nothing was wrong instantly went all the way up the chain of command at IMG and despite my 2010 IMG Everest Hybrid Summit achievement, I was dressed down as if I was a silly ignorant child….
    To be fair, other then this large “bump in the road” I had, IMG is a fantastic guide service. Some of the best guides both sherpa and western out there. I will climb with them again. With my eyes wide open knowing in the end that largely this is a business first.

  8. Alan fantastic wrap up of events up to this morning …. I am sitting in my home in Amman, Jordan and cant wait till tomorrow arrives to find if Atte and Bander from the IMG Hybrid team have summited or not … They are sitting now together in Camp 4 sharing the same tent and I wish both of them best of luck ….

    P.S Bander mentioned in his Audio dispatch and Atte as well that there was a minor Snow Avalanche at Camp 3.

  9. Hi Alan!
    Thank you for your superb reporting.
    If the Chileans summited at 13:50 and the fixed lines were up at 13:30 doesn’t that imply that they probably waited for ropes to be fixed before summiting?

    • Magnus, I believe the 13:50 time quoted was local Chile time and they actually summited around 11:30AM and the rope team summited at 1:30PM. But all of this could be wrong. We will have to wait for the Chilean team to confirm if they used ropes from the Balcony to summit or not.

      Update: As more information comes out it seems the Chilean team and the Sherpas fixing the rope basically summited together as shown by this audio post on the Chilean team site: The Sherpas who rigged rodrigojordan route give me the top …. sample of his infinite generosity and humility

  10. Your a star bring all this amazing news to us (me) Congrats to the Chilean’s, A M Azing….I am praying for all those on the mouton with dreams in tact!

  11. I am in no way applying that Russel made the wrong decision. His experience is amazing from what I have read and watched on TV. Heck, the highest peak I have summitted has been Hump Back Rock in the Shenandoah National Forest (3100ft!) and I damn well needed all the bottled oxygen and my two sherpa friends for that!

    However, from a business perspective, I am interested to know how this decision will effect future business for his clientele.

    That being said, the summits are only just starting and there are still two weeks left in May. My prayers are for everyone to have a safe climb and for great weather!

    • Bob H,
      It remains to be seen what impact Russel’s decision will have on his business.

      Talking to my son Cian about his first attempt to summit Everest with the current Jagged Globe expedition, I quoted Ed Viesturs observation that “Summiting is optional. Getting back down safely is mandatory”.

      One does not “do” Everest or many other peaks in all continents, the way one might “bag” a peat-covered rounded summit here in Ireland. For all the work of the Sherpas (eg. guiding, load carrying, rope fixing, “doctoring” the Icefall”), modern clothing/equipment, oxygen, expedition management by experienced people) – these peaks remain very serious physical and mental challenges.

      I commend Russel Brice for taking what must have been a very tough decision. I just hope that he and others in his position maintains their professionalism, lest the 1996 tragedy be repeated. My reading of that tragedy leads me to surmise that some may have taken “a risk too many” precisely to avoid disappointing clients who had not summitted in previous attempts with the same expedition organisers.

  12. Everest News!!! A big Avalanche was in Camp 3 and Camp 4 area last morning. Two rope fixing Sherpa are critically njured, one still missing. More then 20 tents & many Oxygen Cylinders are washed out.NO NEWS COMING Frim indian teams…

    • Ishani, I don’t believe this is accurate and an example of how rumors spread on Everest. There are no reports of missing Sherpas or huge avalanches. What they may have heard was a small slip at lower Camp 3 where one Sherpa from Jagged Globe was injured and flown back to Kathmandu. He is OK with a broken leg. Also a few tents were damaged but nothing extremely serious like the previous Camp 1 avalanche off Nuptse.

  13. I am a jealous HIMEX expedition member following Alan’s site while sitting on a plane going back to Utah. As people were “living” the Everest experience through my blog now I am doing the same through the blogs of those remaining on the mountain. Good luck and I wish I was there with you!

  14. FANTASTIC site Alan. FANTASTIC Ueli and FANTASTIC Chilian guys…..makes my life so easy…;)

  15. Good luck to all of the climbers on their summit drive, a great post and very exciting to know that while I am here in my office working there are other adventurers struggling to the top of the world; thinking about their struggle and knowing what they are up against allows me to vicariously live their adventure, I feel a connection to those on the mountain through these updates and posts.

    Bill

  16. “Privacy or Cover-up”… Thank you for that piece Alan. You are doing a stupendous job of taking us all along on the expedition and you have great integrity and sensitivity as well as knowledge, wisdom and most of all, personal experience “up there”. I have learned so much from you about so many things regarding Everest and climbing in general….With you all the way……Ginny

  17. So how about the people who went home early with the Himex expedition? I know the summits are only beginning but I bet there are a few people that are jealous as heck with the summits that are going on…

    At least up to now there has been no serious issues with falling rocks or accidents from the warm conditions.

    May the good fortune continue and please update whenever you can! I am glued to this blog all day at work and at home.

  18. Congratulations to the The Chilean group for their First Summit f the season. Congratulations to Ueli Stuck for his climb through South. Finally congratulations to Arnette fir publishing this important news in Your blog for the first time.

  19. Hi again Alan! Great work as always.

    Just to add my two cents regarding the reporting here. As you know, my wife Gineth climbed with the same IMG team as you last year. As a family member sitting back home, and looking at their reports with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I am extremely cynical of any reporting the actual companies posts. Reading IMG’s blogs is like watching Fox News. I do understand their reasoning for not reporting deaths, sensitivity to the families etc. But many of their reports of conditions and events were just wildly incomplete and in the end inaccurate.

    That’s why the blogs from the more unfiltered climbers (which your website indexes splendidly, btw) are so much more interesting, informative and entertaining, in my opinion.

    Climb on.

  20. Thanks Alan! Rodrigo and the other friends were celebrating their first ascent thru the Kangshung Face 20 years ago.

  21. Thanks again for an outstanding and timely report. We all will be thinking of the people on the mountain.
    Take care.