Click for site home
The Blog on
Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
May 112013
Climbing the Hillary Step

Climbing the Hillary Step by Brad Jackson

With the route fixed from Base Camp to the Summit on both sides, climbers are shifting their attention to one thing: their turn. For those of you who love details, view you might like this post.

Another summit! David Liano, climbing with logistics from Asian Trekking, summited at 8:05AM Saturday morning, May 11 with Sherpa Samden ote. They left the South Col at 11:15PM Friday night and were the only climbers to summit today from the South. The conditions were noted as ‘windy’.

He is now heading down to fly back to Kathmandu. From there he will drive overland to Chinese Base Camp on the North to attempt another summit. If he is successful, he will be the first person to summit from both sides in the same season.

Don’t look for more summits right away. The winds are forecasted to pick up on Saturday afternoon and shut down summits for a few days. Many teams are looking at Wednesday, May 15/16th and again around May 21st. But it is the weather and anything goes.

First Summits

It was a big day Friday with the first summits of the season. Mark Tucker, RMI, summarized it this way:

And what a day it was and what a day here today – May 10th.  We now have a group of Sherpa on top of Mount Everest, so the floodgates are now open. The (Sherpa) team did a great job. Sounds like conditions were very favorable for an ascent as of now.  People are starting to rally, lots of teams are looking at the weather of course, as well as us.  Making some plans to the start the movement uphill.  The Lhotse and Nuptse Teams have gotten very far along in the progress of fixing the ropes. We are not quite sure on the status of those, but it won’t be long now for those mountains to see some summitters. 

It’s a crazy place here right now and we are enjoying some good weather.  It looks like there is some wind up high with the jet stream around. Hopefully some people will get started taking advantage of the opportunity to make their summit attempt and get on top this season. Our Sherpa team is resting well. And they are ready to give us the support that we’re going to need in the near future and Dave Hahn, he’s the in the business, so we will have a great attack coming up here pretty soon. So, we will keep you posted when we can.

 Nelson Dellis, climbing with Altitude Junkies, gave this update for the North Side:

Ok, so things are getting closer and closer, I can feel it—both here and on the South Side. The Chinese said they saw the Tibetan rope fixers near the summit and our head Sherpa Dorje confirmed that the ropes had indeed been roped all the way to the summit. BEAUTIFUL. I believe the South Side was also roped to the summit this morning as well, but the Tibetans beat them by a few hours! Woohoo!

Secondly, our Sherpas completed their loads to C3 at 8300 meters. All our tents, oxygen, and other stuff is all up there, ready for our summit bid. Can I just take a moment to say that some of the Sherpas double carried yesterday—they carried 33 kilos (that’s just over 70 lbs)—at high altitude, in really high winds. These guys are freaking superheroes. Wow.

Summit Odds

From the original estimated 415 Westerner climbers on both sides, there are now about 360 who are going to the summit, in my very, very rough estimate.

Using leaving Base Camp as the marker for a summit attempt, I estimate about 210 on the South along with the same number of Sherpa and around 150 total, Westerners and Tibetans/Sherpas on the North. So overall, around 570 total people attempting to summit Everest this month. Thus we can expect to see about 500 people, over half being Sherpas,  stand on top of the world, about normal for the past few years.

There is a natural attrition in climbers and some get sick, lose their motivation, have emergencies back home all leading them to abandoned their summit attempts. Then there are those who know they won’t summit and set a smaller goal to return to a high camp for example, perhaps in preparation for another try next year.

Every climber and team is different but International Mountain Guides has an interesting chart on their site that gives insight into the attrition on Everest. Himex has a similar chart but most companies do not provide this level of detail.

IMG Summit Stats

IMG Summit Stats. Courtesy of IMG.

This chart does not include Sherpas. The key take away from this is that, 86% of the IMG climbers reaching the South Col made the summit. Also, many people stop after reaching Camp 2 on the south. Overall, of those who reached Base Camp, 67% went on to summit. For Himex that same number is 60% from 1994 to 2011. Many companies promote higher statistics but rarely show details, break out Sherpas from guides and clients and over a long time period.

David Hamilton, Jagged Globe, details their Camp 4, South Col, preparation:

The Jagged Globe sherpa team are all back in Base Camp for a short rest before the summit push begins. Over the last 4 days the team of 11 people have carried all the expedition equipment from Camp Two at 6,400m to Camp Four (South Col) at 7,950m. 8 of the sherpas made this carry twice while 3 of the team made the trip three times. Oxygen bottles make up the bulk of the material carried, but tents, food, fuel, stoves etc are also heavy.

Now that this phase of the expedition is completed we have 22 bottles of oxygen at Camp Three 7,200m and 110 bottles at Camp Four 7,950m. There are 13 tents standing at Camp Two (plus dinning tent, kitchen tent & toilet), 7 tents standing at Camp Three, and 8 tents ready for pitching at Camp Four.


Of course the largest factor for making the summit is weather, specifically winds. This chart is from Meteotest and shows the wind forecast at 8500 meters over the next week. Note: this is not to be used for climbing decisions but only as an example. There are usually 8 to 12 days each May when the winds are low enough to summit so not every team or climber will target this window.

Everest wind forecast May 2013. Courtesy of Meteotest

Everest wind forecast May 2013. Courtesy of Meteotest

Usually teams will look for winds under 30mph/48kph on the summit before going for the top.

Adventure Consultants sums it up:

Sometimes, once the climber is acclimatized it is only a matter of a few days rest before they can go up the mountain and make a bid for the summit. This is where the daily weather forecast from Switzerland is essentially the keypin of the day… will the forecast show the winds abating up high, will the projected summit window move to an earlier (or hopefully not -)or a later day?

In spite of great forecasting, the models used can get it somewhat wrong. Where we might avoid a few days for reaching the summit because of the forecast saying high winds, it may turn out to be a relatively calm day and suitable for climbing. Bearing in mind it takes us a minimum of five days to get to the summit from Base Camp, all our calls must be made ahead of time.


2013 looks to be right on schedule. I created the following chart from data on showing the sweet spot for Everest summits is between May 13th and  May 22nd with 70% of the summits historically occurring during this period. This is due to low winds and light snowfall on the summit as the jet stream moves away from Everest for a short time.

 Everest Summits by Day In 2005 the first summits were the latest in 40 years occurring on May 21. But the following year, the Sherpas took the line to the summit on May 2. So with the lines set on May 10th, this year is mostly on schedule, perhaps a bit behind.

One of the reasons for all the crowds in 2012 was that many, many team leaders selected the first summit window not wiling to be and wait for the next one. Of course there is always a gamble but for last year, it resulted in an abnormal number of climbers stuffed into only a few days resulting in long waits between Camp 3 and the South Col, up the Southeast ridge and at the Hillary Step.

Look for the most experienced leaders to wait out this first window and go for a later one that almost always emerges.

Chris Klinke, guiding for Rolwaling, describes his teams feelings. He has two climbers that had intentions of going without supplemental oxygen so selecting a low wind day is paramount for them:

Sadly, there is no clear answer yet on a summit day. There are summit plans, summit logistics, but no summit day at the moment. In the meantime I continue to utter inane phrases that have no real meaning outside of Everest Base Camp. What we do have is people who are being , hoping that the day comes soon that we can utter the phrase, “We are on the Summit”, immediately followed by,  “We are safe in Base Camp and heading to Thailand.”

Who is up there?

Ang Tshering Sherpa, Chairman of Asian Trekking and former of the President of Nepal Mountaineering Association reported the breakdown of nationalities for the 2012 season. These are climbers who summited from the South side. Of the 401 South summits, 55% were from Nepal, overwhelming Sherpas.

Name of Country Number of Climbers Summited
Nepal 222
India 45
America 40
United Kingdom 19
Canada 10
Chili 10
Germany 5
Australia 4
Argentina 4
South Korea 3
Bangladesh 3
New Zealand 3
Mongolia 3
Iran 2
Ireland 2
Latvia 2
Spain 2
Norway 2
Ecuador 2
Switzerland 1
Georgia 1
Czech Republic 1
Bosnia-Herzgovina 1
Costa Rica 1
Mexico 1
Poland 1
Sweden 1
Tanzania 1
France 1
Cyprus 1
South Africa 1
Singapore 1
Finland 1
 Austria 1
Manoglia 1
Japan 1


2013 appears to have a similar breakdown. There is a large Ecuador team on the north. Chinese climbers dominate the north statistics.

Mirza Ali and Samina Baig, bother – sister team from Pakistan have a nice post as they prepare to leave Everest Base Camp on the South for their bid. They are climbing to raise awareness of gender equality: 

Today we got the good news that after long waiting in Base camp,finally the weather forcast arrived, the weather window for the summit push is starting 14th May, we will leave for Camp II on 15th of May,16th Rest at CII and 17th CIII and 18th CIV and 19th Inshallah will go For Summit Push, we request all our readers, visitors that please Pray for us for the Great success that ,Samina being first Pakistani women and I being first Young man without bottle oxygen could unflure pakistan Green flag on top of the world with our other Indian friends! Wish us luck!!! Will update shortly as we leave for CII. Thank you for sharing and for your support!

OK, this next week will be full of surprises I’m sure. Look for Lhotse summits plus a large push to summit Everest mid to late in the week. Safe climbing to everyone.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything



  20 Responses to “Everest 2013: Summit Chances”

  1. It was interesting to read the numbers from each country. Two questions: How many people are in base camp at its height and how many support people are necessary for a normal sized team to summit?
    Am really enjoying the vicarious trek and climb! Many thanks!

    • Joe there can be over 1,000 at the Nepal Base Camp. In 2013, I estimated 29 teams with 315 climbers, 500+ Sherpas/Staff. It is safe to assume at least 1 Sherpa per climber then at least 5 to 10 support staff (cooks, etc.) per team depending on the size of the team. Just gathering and keeping water boiled is a full time job! This does not include porters, yak drivers, etc who come and go throughout the season.

  2. I noticed there were no Chinese on the South in the 2012 statistics. Obviously it has to be easier/cheaper logistics for them to just do it from China, but are there any politics preventing a Chinese national from attempting the South? I assume there are Chinese climbers who would want that “notch in the belt” so to say. At least enough to see a few attempts on that side each year.

  3. hello Alan.
    Great! thanks for dateilas. I am reading and sending them for my friends in BC.

  4. Hey Alan, I see references to fixed lines on Nuptse. May I ask, which teams via which route is attempting the big umm ‘N’?

  5. Hey Alan,

    Seems I’m not on that list from 2012. Don’t forget one from Saudi Arabia!

    Thanks for the great coverage. Man do I miss being on that mountain!


  6. Thank you Alan, it is all getting exciting. I love all the interesting statistics that are being posted, I am learning something new each year.Interested to learn of David Liano’s intentions and wish him luck. It’s rather nice to read of brother and sister Mirza and Samina attempting to climb together. I’m just glad Im not their parents back home watching and waiting! They want to be the first young Pakistanis to climb without oxygen.I really, really wish them luck. It’s at this part of the season when I don’t feel happy just sitting in an armchair but I suppose I should thank my lucky stars for a guy named Alan. What happens next year when you go for the climb? Cheers Kate

  7. Glad everyone is enjoying the coverage. Thanks for the comments. Carlene and Tyler, the Chinese are not issuing traverse permits so climbers are not allowed to leave from one country and enter another via the summit. David Liano is in great shape and has summited Everest four times now. Most people stay on the summit anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour depending mostly on weather but also how they are feeling. The decent is often more dangerous than the climb up primarily due to fatigue. You can read my interview with David at this link:

  8. Thank you Alan captivating as always. The very best of luck to David Liano,WOW! That would be some achievement if he does it! And also the very best of luck to Mirza Ali and Samina Baig in their attempt. Yes Mirza we will surely pray for your and everyone’s success and safe return 🙂

  9. Great info. I will share.

  10. Hello Alan,
    Thanks for details. Seems like Everest is the latest fashion in India. I heard that around 100 Indians are attempting this year, as well!
    Not a big deal but just to be more precise, Pakistani siblings are ‘Mirza Ali’ and ‘Samina Baig’

  11. Thank you Alan – very very interesting reading – much appreciated! The more I read about the Sherpas, the more I’m amazed and I’m glad you include them in your writings. They deserve so much credit

  12. Alan, do you know of any documentaries being filmed this year like the discovery channel series a few years ago?

  13. Great! Thanks Alan – love all the stats and detail. Well done to the summiters and good luck to those still to attempt. Happy Climbing!

  14. I wonder why David Liano didn’t try the double traverse?

    • The Chinese won’t grant the permit for the Tibetan side. It seems they’re saving it for a Chinese national. The only way to do it would be illegally.

  15. A couple of questions Alan. David Liano, going to the other side to make a summit bid from there, how does one climb this mountain twice in such a short time period? I would think exhaustion would come into play? The other question is how long can a person stay at the very top? Long enough for photos and a pray or two? Gosh can only dream about the peace up there. Thank you for sharing this awesome place!