Update 3: Season summary – 8 Confirmed deaths, 1 Missing:
40 year-old Karsang Namgyal Sherpa climbing with Prestige Adventures related to alcohol at base camp; Peak Freaks’ Namgyal Tshering Sherpa fell from a ladder into a crevasse near C1; Dawa Tenzing with Himex from stroke and died in Kathmandu; 33 year-old Indian, Ramesh Gulve, climbing with the Pune team suffered a stroke around Camp2 and died back in India. Dr Ebehard Schaaf with Asian Trekking of HACE near South Summit, Shriya Shah-Klorfine, 33, a Nepali-born Canadian, Song Won Bin from South Korea died at the Balcony from AMS and then a fall. Chinese climber, Ha Wenyi. A Nepali Sherpa guide has been missing since May 19.
Update 2: 4 Deaths
This report from the Nepal Ministry:
According to Tilak Ram Pandey, Liaison Officer, Department of Mountaineering at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Shriya Shah, a Canadian Non-Resident Nepali and Dr Schaff Erich, a climber from Germany, lost their lives while descending from the top of the Mount Everest.
“Shah died near Everest summit, while Schaff breathed his last at the South Cole,” Pandey told THT over phone from Everest Base Camp. Shriya, who was born in Kathmandu in 1979 and grew up in Mumbai, was the owner and president of SOS Splash of Style Inc, a company recognised as the exclusive importer of Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s ‘Khazana’ products in Canada.
Meanwhile, Song Won Bin from South Korea, a Chinese climber and a Nepali Sherpa guide have been missing since Saturday. “Fellow climbers are searching for them,” Pandey said.
More information on Song Won Bin.
Update 1: 4 Deaths
I can confirm that there were 3 deaths, probably 4, on the May 19th summit push. Western guides reports 3 bodies on the South Col route near the South Summit and 1 person apparently suffering from severe HACE. Their names, countries or teams are unknown but the deaths have been confirmed.
As I previously reported, Asian Trekking chairman, Ang Tshering Sherpa, reported that Dr. Eberhard Schaaf of Germany, climbing with AT died from high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) at the south summit.
If I have a summit number on the location table, those teams have not published any reports of death or injuries from their respective summits teams. Obviously, I don’t track every team or climber if they don’t publish public information. So if their team is not on the list, I have no way of knowing anything about them.
I know this is horrible news and those who have not heard from climbers they were following are quite upset. All I can suggest is to contact the company they arranged their climb with if you have not heard from them directly. Please do not contact me as I have no further information or means to find out more details at this point. However, I will post confirmed information as I receive it on this site.
The normal fatality process is that the Nepal Government Liaison Officer assigned to each team files a report with the Nepal Ministry of Tourism who then issues a press release. The families are usually notified immediately by the expedition organizer.
Last night, the weather was very difficult with high winds and low temperatures. There were many summits but also many teams turned backed. Note, it appears these deaths were not related to the earlier Lhotse Face rockfall or Kumbu Icefall dangers.
Normally I wait to post such information until there are more details but news of these deaths are all over the climber’s blogs and creating massive anxiety, thus I felt I would share what I could 100% confirm.
My sincere condolences to all the families, teammates, and friends.
If there was one word that described this week it has to be “whiplash”.
The excitement, uncertainty and drama of Everest 2012 continued to captivate climbers and non climbers alike. This week we saw a bit of everything from summits to turn-arounds to false starts to full out res. And sadly one death that was reported.
I estimate there have been over 300 summits this week alone.
The week started perfectly with the teams on the South side working together to contribute the Sherpa power needed to fix the lines to the summit.
It was a classic “brotherhood of the rope” moment with Sherpas from IMG, Jagged Globe, Patagonia Bros, Rimo, AAI, Chilean, North Face, Peak Freaks, Adventure Consultants, 7 Summits, and Asian Trekking all working together to attach over 1000 meters or 3300 feet of rope to the icy flanks of Everest all the way to the summit.
However, once complete, the flood gates opened and teams were already positioned at the South Col in anticipation.
At this point in any Everest season, the weather dominates everything. Two weather windows had been identified. The first was around May 18th and the second, May 25th. With the warm conditions, low snow in April and early May, combined with rock fall and avalanches, almost every climber and Sherpa wanted to get up and off Everest ASAP.
This sense of urgency translated into one of the largest crowds the South side has ever experienced. Over 200 climbers snaked their way up the Lhotse Face this week, jugging the lines towards Camp 3 and then to the South Col with laser like focus on summing on the morning of May 19th.
A large concern was this window was viewed as narrow with high winds picking back up towards the end of the period. That combined with the crowds caused many teams on the South to make the safe bet to wait for the second window.
The same movie was being shown on the North but, in already almost constant windy conditions, they knew if they wanted to summit this year, it was going to be in high winds, no matter what the forecast said.
In the midst of all this, Conrad Anker pulled the plug on the National Geographic sponsored climb of the West Ridge due to dangerous icy conditions on the ridge proper. He said he would join their South Col team in the second window. The Eddie Bauer effort remained coy but I fully expect the same decision.
Not content to wait for the Sherpa rope fixers, a very strong and experienced Chilean team climbed along with them and had the honor of claiming the first summit of 2012. Led by Chilean Rodrigo Jordan, a legend in Chile with summits of Everest’s Kanshung Face in 1992, a 1996 K2 ascent, and many more impressive climbs; his team of 10 plus 10 Sherpas set the standard for 2012.
In a moment of pure honor, the Sherpas stepped aside as Rodrigo claimed the summit on May 18th. Oh and Über speed climber Ueli Steck with Nepalese climber Tenzing (last name or village not mentioned) summited along with this group without using supplemental oxygen
Then the flood gates opened with over 150 climbers making their way up the dark Triangular Face towards the Balcony, onto the Southeast Ridge only to personally experience the dreaded bottleneck at the Hillary Step early on May 19th. But they worked through it and over 100 summited.
It was an impressive performance from many small, independent teams but also the large commercial outfits including:
- International Mountain Guides (IMG): 22
- Adventure Consultants: 16
- Pune: 8
- Peak Freaks: 7
- S2/Windhorse: 4
The winds started to pick up as they returned to the South Col. Most will consider themselves fortunate to have made the round trip this crowded day. Sadly, I will not be surprised as we learn some of the dark secrets of that night.
The last of the teams for this first window got ready to leave after dark on Saturday night, May 19.
Peak Freaks pulled their second team based at Camp 3 back to base camp not wanting to climb in the high winds, preferring to wait for the next window.
Adventure Consultants was all dressed up and ready to go but pulled the plug at 10PM not liking the poor visability, snow and high wind gusts. It appeared other teams would follow suit. But it was quiet. No news was good news? Then Alpine Ascents said they were above the Balcony climbing slow and steady in tough conditions. A small European team turned around in the harsh conditions.
I soon learned of a small American effort that was above the Hillary Step; it seemed that we were seeing an amazing demonstration of determination. AAI put almost their entire team on the summit, 14 in all. There were more but not all have posted their results.
However, tragedy did strike. Asian Trekking chairman, Ang Tshering Sherpa, reported that Dr. Eberhard Schaaf of Germany, climbing with AT died from high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) at the south summit. My sincere condolences to his family.
Just like in a large family, everyone is special but a few stood out this week on the South:
- Bangladeshi Nishat Majumder and M A Muhit
- UK Youth: Becky Bellworthy (20), Mollie Hughes (21), Matthew Dieumegard-Thornton (21),
- UK’s young Female ever: Leanna Shuttleworth (18). She is hoping to grab Lhotse as well but no updates as of this post. UPDATE: She will not be attempting Lhotse due to the high winds.
With smaller crowds but similar weather, the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) team of rope fixers finally got that side completed just as the large Chinese national team pushed up the cold and windy Northeast Ridge on May 18th.
There was quite a line behind them with summits for all including Altitude Junkies (11) and the 7 Summits Club (16) plus others on the morning of May 19th.
A notable summit belonged to a legend of Everest, 73 year old Japanese Tamae Watanabe who broke her own record for the oldest female summit. Also a tip of the ice axe to Russian: Fyodor Konyukhov at age 60 who topped out with the 7 Summits Club.
The night of the 19th was extreme on the north, just like the South and some made it, others not. 7 Summits Club put 13 on the ceiling. SummitClimb, apparently not having weather information of their own, abandoned their summit bid when a large team next to aborted their push even though they were already to Camp 2. The extreme winds of May 20 forced them back to base camp to plan for the next window. However, one of their team continued, summiting with two Sherpas.
70 year-old American Bill Burke, who holds the record for oldest American to Summit and return, was climbing was a team from Asian Trekking turned back at the Second Step early Sunday May 20th morning, citing “weather was horrible, wind blowing, snowing, miserable.” This was quite the disappointment for Bill who was attempting a double summit. He left the South side without an attempt a few weeks ago as the conditions remained difficult.
Again, there were many more summits on the North that will be reported as they return to base camp or home.
One More time
Not to be left out, even formidable Lhotse Peak saw summits as the fixed line made it the summit led by Damian Benegas, Ben Jones from AAI joined him.
We will see a lull for a few days as the Jetstream reminds the climbers that it owns Everest and they are visitors. Hopefully the second window will open as advertised and we will see another set of safe summits late in the week.
Climbers are leaving base camp today to get in position. Kenton Cool, attempting to fulfill an 88 year old pledge made at the closing ceremony of the 1924 Olympics to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, is already at Camp 2 carrying the Olympic Gold Medal won by Great Britain for Alpinisme.
Congratulations to all, regardless of your result for staying with this difficult season.
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.
Memories are Everything