The last wave of climbers are positioned at Camp 2 on the South and ABC on the North. The last weather window of the 2012 Spring season is taking shape with May 25/26th being the sweet spot.
I spoke with Everest weather expert, Michael Fagin who said the monsoons were forming off India:
Numerical forecast models are now starting to indicate an increase in upper level moisture in Southern India by May 25 and beyond. Models are also starting to show a shift in the upper winds by May 25 in Southern India and beyond to a more easterly direction. Both of these weather patterns are indicators that the monsoon should be starting soon. In fact this concurs with the meteorological department from India stated that the 2012 monsoon will start on time and hit the Kerala coast by June 1.
Translation: it is now or the Fall for Everest 2012.
The Icefall Doctors always remove the ladders on May 31 putting an end to the season. Over on the North, there is no such hard stop and summits can continue until the heavy snows began. There have been summits into mid June on some rare years but probably not 2012.
By many accounts, this past weekend, especially Saturday night was difficult. Friday it was the crowds, Saturday it was the winds. Several teams are now safely back in base camp and climbers are updating their blogs. This account from Jon Kedrowski ‘s home team. Jon turned back with his SummitClimb team on the South:
What happened? The jet stream all of sudden backed itself over the summit. A 2-hour wait at one of the chokepoints near the summit left climbers caught in these 80mph winds. Jon was ascending while other climbers from the previous day who had summited were descending through the chokepoint after 18-hours or more on the mountain. Cut-off times were ignored and oxygen had run out. Jon tried to save four seperate climbers. ”
Jon is from Colorado and was interviewed by phone for the local Fox affiliate. Full disclosure, I am also interviewed for this:
Planning for Success
Climbers descending through the Lhotse Icefall are reporting it is in good shape, which was a huge concern earlier this season. It appears that low temps plus the fresh snow throughout May have somewhat stabilized the fragile environment.
Dave Hahn‘s RMI team is at Camp 2 and posted this update:
The climbing route is actually in pretty good condition. The ice fall is scary as ever but the Ice Fall Doctors have been doing a good job and we got through in pretty quick time. It was a beautiful morning nice and clear and calm. The mountain is quieting down a little bit. There were a lot of Sherpas carrying loads down today for expeditions that were finished. So the mountain is quieting down and we think that is a hopeful sign for us. The forecast is coming together and there are still a few teams still around that are on the same time frame as us. We have been comparing notes. Things are going pretty well. Our Sherpa team is going to come up tomorrow to ABC. We are going to rest tomorrow and get ready for the Lhotse Face and moving to Camp 3 the following day. We are pretty optimistic.
Dealing with the Deaths
The multiple deaths of this past weekend have rippled through the remaining climbers and is now hitting the trade press. This is often difficult but an overriding mantra for many climbers is “that if it was me, I would want my teammates to go on.”
There have been multiple attempts to tie the weekend deaths with Himex’s decision to pull out. I believe this is a stretch. The climbers who lost their lives, mostly died from altitude related issues, not route conditions that concerned the Himex Sherpas the most. Also knowing Himex, they would have waited out this window thus avoiding those crowds entirely.
But it is easy to oversimplify the situations searching for answers that may lie within the climbers themselves. Some of the climbers were still ascending very late in the day when most climbers had already returned the South Col. This plus the winds and fatigue was a recipe for disaster.
Memories are Everything