Welcome to my kick-off for Everest 2014 coverage! This will be my 12th season of Everest: 8 times providing coverage and another 4 seasons of actually climbing on Everest.
I did similar coverage for the 2004, advice 2005, here 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons. I summited Everest on May 21, 2011 and have climbed Everest four times – 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2011.
If you are one of my 1 million readers, hello again, if you are new, welcome!
My goal is to provide insight and analysis of what is going on up there with no favorites or agendas. I use sources directly from the mountain, public information and my own experiences to develop my posts.
Usually I post once a day as the season gets started in early April and ramp up to almost hourly coverage during the intense summit pushes in mid to late May. I spend several hours a day to create these updates. You can sign up for (and cancel) notifications on the lower right sidebar or check the site frequently.
Why do I do this? Well, one word : Alzheimer’s. I hope that you enjoy my coverage and make a donation to any of my selected non-profit partners as a tangible thank you. I never benefit financially from your donations. Just click on this button that is always on the top right sidebar.
2013 was a somewhat normal year on Everest with over 600 summits from both sides, 9 deaths, and reasonable weather. The big story was the fight between the professional climbers and the Sherpa rope fixing team. By now, it has been throughly analyzed including a few documentaries looking at both sides including this from Reel Rock. I spoke with Sherpas directly involved while climbing Manaslu last September and for me the conclusion remains the same as as the one I reached almost day one. It was a conflict of extreme personalities and not an indictment of either the Sherpa or Western climbing culture. That said, I do think there will be some good come out of it with everyone thinking carefully when a potential conflict develops.
You can read my 2013 recap for details on last year’s Everest season. Also if you get a chance, see the documentary High and Hallowed: Everest 1963 by Dave Morton, Jake Norton and Jim Aikman for an outstanding look at the legendary climb of Everest’s West Ridge in 1963 and the attempt to repeat it in 2012.
The Grand Dame of all Everest statistics, Ms. Elizabeth Hawley reports on the Himalayan Database the total number of people who have summited Mt. Everest as of February 2014 to be around 6,866 by 4,513 different climbers, meaning that 2,353 climbers, mostly Sherpas, have multiple summits. The south side (Nepal) remains more popular with 4,416 summits while the north (Tibet) has 2,450 summits.
Overall 248 people (161 westerners and 87 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to 2013, 140 on the Nepal side and 108 from Tibet. Since 1990, the deaths as a percentage of summits have dropped to 3.6% due to better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial operations. Annapurna is a much more deadly mountain than Everest with a summit to death ratio of 2:1 deaths for every summit (109:55).
So what does 2014 look like? I am predicting a record year for climbers and summits. The ‘fight’ in 2013 captured the world’s imagination, and scorn, about Everest prompting more interest than ever. As strange as it seems, the more bad publicity Everest receives, the more people are attracted to it. Each year when there were record deaths, the following year had record summits. Go figure.
Weather is always a wild card when climbing and Cyclone Phailin in October 2013 dumped huge amounts of snow in the Khumbu. It will be interesting to see the remaining impact on Everest proper come April. Hopefully it will create more stable conditions and climbers will not experience the rock fall down the Lhotse Face as seen in recent years.
For 2014, costs have increased pushing the prices higher on both sides, especially for the low cost operators. On the Nepal side, there were changes in requirements for insuring Sherpas and other base charges that have pushed costs up. Those at the high-end have held their prices steady absorbing the increases. The average price of the companies I surveyed looks to be about $48,000 on the south and $37,000 on the north.
On the North look for more expeditions than the 10 last year. This is in spite of the fact that some traditional north side teams have shifted to the south due to member demand plus the feeling that the north has become more dangerous in recent years. As we know, the north is colder, windier and often has less snow making the climbing more challenging with crampons on rock at extreme altitude.
2014 looks to be another year of film crews on Everest similar to the Discovery film series in 2006/7 and 9. There are several high profile teams that will have cameras following their every step this year and for many climbers this is a distraction and takes away from the experience but for others it is their 15 minutes of fame.
Rumor has it that Google will be there with their mapping cameras doing a “street view” of Everest from Base Camp to Summit. There looks to be several stunts again. Look for a winged suit flight from the summit, perhaps a snow border or two and then there is the widely publicized effort sponsored by Under Armor’s Nick Cienski to climb all the 8000m mountains in under a year with six in 2014 starting with Everest and Lhotse and the rest in 2015.
Also look for more a record number of climbs on Lhotse. Many traditional operators are offering it as an “add-on” to Everest for $20,000. AAI’s Michael Horst did this first double in under 24 hours a few years ago and now it has taken off. In addition, many Everest summiters want to return to the Khumbu to tick the world’s 4th highest peak off their list.
I have begun to create my annual team location table and tracking climber’s blogs (see sidebar). If you have a team not listed, please let me know and I will add them if I can track them. If you prefer not to be mentioned, please contact me.
I will post a few background articles and interviews between now and early April when the teams arrive at the base camps. If you would like to see anything special this year, post a comment or drop me an email.
Here’s to a safe season for everyone on the Big Hill.
Memories are Everything