There are at least 10 teams on the Tibet side ranging from two people to the largest team, 7 Summits Club with 19 climbers. This also makes them the largest team on Everest for 2014.
Climbing on the North side is a bit different from the south in many ways. When you a permit it includes not only the right to climb the mountain but also transportation and lodging from either Lhasa or Zhangmu on the border with Nepal.
A driver takes responsibility for you hired by the China-Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) and looks after you until you get to Chinese Base Camp at the literal end of the road near the base of Everest. While this may seem nice and organized, it is all about control. The CTMA controls the climbing and Beijing controls the CTMA.
A curious development for 2014 is that the Chinese government out of Beijing suddenly began refusing Americans entry visas for climbing. This stopped several Everest climbers plus some on other Tibetan 8000m expeditions like Shishapangma. No clear reason was given. This also eliminated any possibility of Americans moving from the South to the North when the South side issues effectively closed the mountain.
The ropes on the North side are now set by a team of Tibetans who have been trained at the climbing school in Lhasa and are under the supervision of the CTMA. Most teams also use Tibetans to support their climb. There is a high price to bring Nepali Sherpa over to Tibet, as in several thousands of dollars on top of their individual salaries, food, gear, etc. thus financially encouraging teams to use Tibetans instead of Nepali Sherpa climbers.
All this said, there are still teams with Sherpas climbing today on the North side. Several of them had relatives and close friends killed on the April 18th serac release but have chosen to continue climbing.
The normal climb schedule on the North is similar to the South with a series of acclimatization rotations over a few weeks, then wait for the weather window and go for the summit. The schedule is somewhat paced by the progress of the rope fixing team.
The North is measurably colder, windier and dustier than on the South. Often there is less snow making the climbing more difficult with crampons on narrow and steep rock surfaces. There is no objective danger exactly like the Khumbu Icefall with the West Shoulder of Everest but in 1922, 7 Sherpa were killed at the North Col from an avalanche.
Historically it has been less expensive to climb from the North, but that is no longer the case as it is similar in price to the South. However, this has attracted budget climbers who did not want to use supplemental oxygen thus there have been a fair number of deaths of climbing in this style over the years on the North.
The south side (Nepal) remains more popular with 4416 summits while the north (Tibet) has 2455 summits. Overall 264 people (161 westerners and 103 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to 2013, 156 on the Nepal side and 108 from Tibet. Of course, Reinhold Messner used the North side for his 1980 true, and only true solo, unsupported, no supplemental oxygen ascent of Everest.
Currently, it appears almost everyone is at Advanced Base Camp looking to spend a night or take a day climb to the North Col. I will track and report on their progress through the end of the season.
Usually teams on the North have not updated blogs, used social media to the same extent as on the South so it has been hard to track them. But 72 year-old Bill Burke has returned and is doing a nice job of keeping us updated. He is with Asian Trekking. Also, 7 Summits Club always posts great pictures and keeps us informed as does SummitClimb. Another group is the first Everest climbers from Malta.
Robert Smith, Adventure Peaks made this post:
Yesterday the team climbed to the North Col of Everest at 7050 metres in good style. Despite trying weather conditions, with strong gusting winds and blowing spindrift, everyone made it to our objective for Rotation 1 on the mountain. Seb went a stage further carrying an overnight pack up the fixed lines, and spent the night on the North Col, as part of his acclimitisation to climb Everest without oxygen. He is currently on his way down and we will re-group here before descending further.
Today we are heading back down the trail to Base Camp, an easier day but still 6-8 hours walking. Everyone is looking forward to the relative comfort of Base Camp with a lower altitude. The North Col was a new high point for everyone in the group, at 7000m higher than any mountains on any other continent.
We are all looking forward to a rest period before our next rotation, and meeting the other Adventure Peaks team who are coming here to climb Lapka Ri.
It seems there are at least three teams still at the base camp on the south side: Chinese, Russian and an American science team attempting Lhotse. It is very unclear if the Icefall Doctors are still there even though the Ministry said they should stay and help anyone who wants to climb.
John All with the science team posted on Facebook:
For now, we wait. We are creating alliances between people who cannot afford to sacrifice the ten’s of thousands of dollars it took to get here – Soldiers for the Summit, a Russian team, a Chinese team – and perhaps as part of a consortium, the ACSP will be allowed to climb and gather the data that will help us better understand glacier dynamics and hopefully avert future tragedy. The dreadful loss on the mountain has become a tool for petty politics and so for now, all we can do is wait.
Many, many, many reports are emerging detailing the events since April 18th. They are all saying the same thing that the primary reason for the closure was threats of violence against the Icefall Doctors and Sherpas by a small faction of independent ‘sherpa’ support climbers looking to use the deaths of 16 Sherpa as a way to force improved pay from the Nepal Government.
This is a partial list of recent updates from guides or individuals with their own perspectives on what happened:
- Tim Mosedale
- Greg Paul (Himex)
- Irish 7 Summits
- Andy James
- Peak Freaks
- Mark Horrell (Altitude Junkies)
- Robert Kay
- Jemima Diki Sherpa
- Sumit Josi- Himalayan Ascents
The politics and cultures are very complicated as there are support climbers from different ethnic origins on Everest and not all sherpa people as we have come to refer to anyone supporting climbers on Everest.
Over the weekend, multiple teams banded together to hire helicopters to take Sherpa into the Western Cwm to either remove or store supplies previously carried there. This marked a major shift in Everest history as the Nepal Ministry had never allowed helicopters to be used in this way other than for rescues.
All the thousands of pounds of gear at Camp 2 – tents, stoves, fuel – has been locked down under mesh coverings at hoping it will be still be there a year from now after a winter of heavy snow and hurricane force winds. The Ministry has never allowed gear to be stored in the Cwm before.
This may be a hint of one of the impacts on Everest for 2015. Operators are already excited about using helicopters to stock the upper camps and eliminate rotations through the Icefall for their Sherpas.
However, this does not mean that climbers would be ferried above the Icefall, in fact, I’m hearing that the trend is to still require foreigners, members, westerns – whatever terminology you want to use – and the accompanying Sherpas to still climb from Everest Base Camp higher.
A counter-intuitive perspective is that all the efforts to make Everest safer through using aids like helicopters, or the current cry from the purists in climbing magazines and forums to go back to the 1920’s will result in hurting the Sherpa economy through less climbers, less work and less money for Nepal. I fully support making Everest less of a center-stage attraction and more of a climber’s mountain but there has to be a way where the Sherpa are not the losers.
I climbed with Lam Babu in 2008 and he had this to say about 2014:
But sherpas, who are often the sole breadwinners for their extended families, face a more desperate problem, with many left struggling to make ends meet. “All of us came here to climb and earn. To choose not to climb is a critical decision for us,” Lam Babu Sherpa told AFP as his expedition prepared to leave Everest base camp. “A cancelled season will be hardest on us.”
Best wishes for the North side climbers this year.
Memories are everything