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May 072013
 
Courtesy of expeditionweather.info

Courtesy of expeditionweather.info

UPDATE: There are reports of a Sherpa with Seven Summits Treks falling down Lhotse Face between C3 and C2.  This would be the 3rd Sherpa 2013 death. IMG reports “wind was really ripping up high on the mountain, with the “freight train” on the South Col audible all the way down at Camp 2″

Early May means summit windows – or not! It looks like the Sherpas will fixed the final section from the South Col to the Summit on May 9th and 10th. A longer but still small window is forecasted for May 11/12. Expect to see the start of annual rush then. But all this can change!

Historically, Everest provides 8 to 12 weather windows where the winds are under 30 mph with little to no snow making an attempt relatively safe. With all these windows, crowds have not been a huge issue. In 2012, poor weather reduced the available windows to only four and compressed all the climbers into these windows thus magnifying the crowd issue. It remains to be seen how 2013 will develop.

David Liano, using logistics from Asian Trekking, has made his plans and they are aggressive. Remember that David is trying to summit from both the south and north sides during this season – this has never been done before. He needs to get the south side completed so he can move to the north.

He has already spent a night at C3 and now is planning on threading the needle of this weekend’s tiny summit window hoping to summit early morning on May 11:

Since a few days ago saw a reduction in the wind for 9 and May 10. Yesterday there was a meeting at which it was decided to take advantage of this brief window to attach ropes to the top of those two days. The problem is that the 11th seemed that the wind speeds increased again extreme and I’m not willing to go along with the Sherpas and interrupt their work (see the incident of Simone Moro). Last night I first noticed that the models showed that the window would be extended a few hours until the morning of May 11 and today I confirmed all that day the winds will remain low. Everything was to try to climb to the top that day. I spoke with the head of our Sherpas, Nanga Dawa Dorjee and Steven and they confirmed he was ready to make this attempt along with Sonam Sherpa.

Climbing the Hillary Step

Climbing the Hillary Step by Brad Jackson

Bottlenecks

Eric Simonson, IMG, walks us through the thinking for one of the notorious bottlenecks located on the Hillary Step. This section, while short, only 40 feet or so, is a narrow crack in the rock. Usually there is only one rope used by climbers going up and down. If the Step was at 10,000 feet most Everest climbers would scurry up but at 29,000 feet combined with obstructed vision of goggles and oxygen mask; climbers have more difficulty.

Eric says:

Today at Base Camp the various expedition leaders had a big rope fixing meeting to discuss the strategies for above the Col. If the winds up high diminish as predicted, the tentative plan is to start on the 9th with 14 fixing sherpas heading to Camp 4. From there, half the group will continue on to fix up to the Balcony that afternoon, while the other half of the team sets up the Camp 4 and starts melting water, etc. They will spend the night at the Col, and then on the 10th, they will head up to fix the upper part of the route to the summit and then return back to Camp 2.

This year we are using 10mm rope all the way to the summit which are stronger but heavier to carry. The goal will be to get double ropes on the Hillary Step and summit ridge to avoid the traffic jams that occurred last year. A number of the senior sherpas including Phunuru (IMG), Lhakpa Rita (AAI), Phurba Tashi (Himex), and others are working together to identify the best places for anchoring the additional ropes. Sounds like they will try to add a descent rope to the climbers’ left of the Hillary Step, so descending climbers can rappel down the rock without having to wait for ascending climbers.

Weather Watch

Leaders are playing the cat and mouse game but also have some serious decisions to make as to whether to stay in BC hoping to take advantage of a weather opportunity or to relax and rest up hoping for something better later. One part of the game is sharing weather forecasts. Teams pay a significant sum to professional services and will guard the information for those who are trying to save money and not pay for forecasts. This goes on every year but there are few secrets on Everest.

Tim Mosedale explains:

For me this is a difficult period because folk often feel that sitting at Base Camp is wasted time. The weather doesn’t look to be bad enough for long enough to warrant dropping down the valley for a rest at lower elevations – it would be a shame to go down to be called straight back up again when the weather was looking to improve. That would amount to quite a lot of effort being expended in the name of having a rest!

Tim goes on to say why he is not talking!

For the time being I’ll not even divulge any thoughts about dates and potential weather windows because I would hate for folk to start getting all in tizz and excited about nothing. The other reason is that there are some expeditions watching what we and other teams are doing. Not only are they watching at Base Camp but they are tracking our blog, tweets and updates. If I mentioned potential dates, only to find that I was unable to update a change of plan because of lack of reception on the hill, then this could have far reaching consequences for teams who are not so well equipped with weather updates. The other thing is that we are obviously keen to keep our cards close to our chest to try and make the best use of the information that we have.

The Alpine Ascents team took a helicopter down to Namche for their R&R. Usually climbers will walk down to Periche or lower.

Today our Team Everest began the first day of our “drop back” rest period. 8 members flew from Everest base camp to Namche via helicopter to spend 5 nights. The other members will drop down valley to Debuche for a few nights. Being at a lower elevation for a few days will help us rest and recover from our last “rotation” up to Camp 3.

North

 Robert Kay says the weather has changed on the North:

The weather at BC has improved over the last 48 hours.  The winds that were pounding us for days on end have eased tremendously and in fact at night it is now mostly dead calm.  I walked around camp yesterday in only a t-shirt for much of the afternoon.  This is a huge improvement as I was wearing two down jackets and insulated pants consistently. Yesterday I went to a cave above the BC area with Ole and today we are all just hanging out, enjoying the weather and charging batteries.

Once again, Phil Crampton, Altitude Junkies, provides insight on his plans saying the ever-present high winds are relenting a bit:

The weather conditions now seem to be heading in the right direction although maybe not as quick as some of us would like.

The group collectively decided not to make a second tag of the North Col with the high winds we have been experiencing for the past several days at advanced base camp and above. Some of the group had picked up nasty coughs and we wanted to play it safe and keep them down at base camp with the warmer conditions and better food. I am happy to say that all the aches, pains and coughs have now disappeared and the team is a very healthy one indeed.

Our Sherpa crew are now in position at advanced base camp and will make two carries to 8,300-meters over the next few days when the winds are supposed to drop to a manageable level. All the Sherpas are using oxygen above 7,000-meters for load carrying so we are confident they will complete the task even if there are still some winds present.

Bob Kerr, with Adventure Peaks, does a nice job of describing his rotations to the North Col. They are at CBC waiting for the summit weather window. Bob also describes seeing the fatality on the north side and what is like on the lower glacier towards the North Col:

The first section of the fixed ropes was up steep blue ice so good use of the crampon front points was required. After this first wall of ice the angle eased for a bit as height was gained. I had to keep my balance as I crossed a few ladders that straddled crevasses then continued up steep snow slopes to a small plateau next to a large crevasse. Here there were two ladders tied together lying at a 45-50 degree angle which I ascended before making my way up the steep snow slopes above and finally traversed over to the North Col camp. I felt much better and stronger during this ascent than previously and I think that I reached the North Col camp from ABC in 5 hours or less which ties in with guideline times for the second time to this height.

The Everest climbing season has moved from planning and dreaming to doing. Stay tuned!

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything


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  7 Responses to “Everest 2013: Summit Talk – Update”

  1. Alan, what are your views on Tim Mosedale’s suggestions that it is better to keep their plans and weather info to themselves. Is that irresponsible and short-sighted? Shouldn’t all of the teams be sharing weather info and co-ordinating timetables to ensure bottlenecks are minimised to the fullest extent possible? Or do the likes of Himex, AAI, IMG, JG, AC, Peak Freaks etc simply not care what a small expeditiion like Mosedale’s do? There appears to be a lot of co-operation between those big teams. The safety of the Sherpas and the clients should be the most important thing. Did you find that teams co-operated and helped eachothers out? Or at the end of the day, as Tim seems to be doing, do they look after themselves?

    • Jann, in my experience and observations, there is a lot of conversation among the expedition leaders and especially the Sherpa Sidars. They coordinate radio frequencies, high camp locations, fixing the ropes, summit schedules and rescues.

      Russell Brice made comment in his last newsletter (dispatch) that he was sharing his weather info with other expeditions. Most likely with others who also have paid for them.

      But to your point, the small teams with only a few climbers can be swift and want to avoid a huge team of 20 or 40 climbers going up the same day. And there is no central go/no go thus a team can go when ever they want.

  2. Alan,
    Your updates as always are the most informative of all the blogs. Thank you.
    I read David Tait’s blog and notice that he is with Hemex but is often climbing alone apparently with no Sherpa. Why is he able to do that? If he generally goes solo why does he sign on with a commercial group?

    • Thanks Karen,
      Tait is quite the exception as a commercial client with 4 summits thus Brice gives him a lot of flexibility. Often he climbs in the general area of the Himex Sherpas if not along with them. Technically he is never ‘solo’. He checks in via radio frequently with Brice. Going with Himex, he receives food, camp support, access to Sherpas, weather, medical, etc

  3. Alan thank you for the links via twitter to the articles by Mike Hamill(IMG) and Pete Athans. Now you know from my previous comments as to how supportive I have been of the Sherpas vs Moro & Steck but I feel Mike’s article to be a commercial gloss and Pete’s article to be more balanced. Thank you once again for the links Alan. I Salute you as always

    • I expect we will see multiple opinion pieces from guides, climbers and operators as the smoke clears, most likely aligning as we are already seeing. Mike’s opinion piece adds his thoughts on reputations and history that has not been mentioned in other articles. Personally I think it will be virtually impossible to know what really happened on the Face; at C2, yes.

  4. Once again my condolences to the family of the Sherpa who died,may he RIP. I think it’s a fab idea to fix another rope at the Hillary Step to help ease the congestion. I know everyone should live their dream,but I am still absolutely amazed at how unprepared some climbers are! It is akin to “driving without due care and attention” cos not only are they putting their lives at risk but also other people’s lives. But as long as there are outfits that will accept them,then this will continue. Wishing all climbers a safe return