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May 152016
 
Hillary Step 2016

Once again the Everest 2016 teams are getting summits from the Nepal side but they are having to work for it dealing with high winds and deep snow.

Russell Brice told me by email “When they [Himex Sherpas] made the route to the summit the snow was thigh deep between South Summit and top of Hillary Step.” When I climbed the same route in 2011 to the summit, I found the snow between the South Summit and Hillary Step not a factor at all.

Meanwhile teams on both sides of Everest are moving into position for the next wave of summit attempts.

Wave 3

In Wave 3, the Adventure Global team summited at at 6.45 am on 15 May. They included Kevin Farebrother, Jason Snell, James Roth, Furi Sherpa, Lhakpa Sherpa, Tendi Sherpa.  Their base camp team posted that they stayed at the South Col last night due to fatigue.

Everyone is doing well, but they are exhausted and as a result a little concerned about descending the steep terrain to Camp 2 feeling weary, so they have decided to sleep at the South Col tonight, leave early morning and descend all the way to Base Camp.

Seven Summits Treks noted that Mr. Jingchaun Jhang and  Mingma Tinduk Sherpa summited at 7:10am. I’m sure there were other summits but am not aware of them at this posting.

Summit Challenges

For a revealing look at exactly what this year’s Nepal summiters are dealing with, Jagged Globe‘s David Hamilton, a very experienced Everest guide, posted this excellent recap of their summit on 13 May. This paragraph captures it all:

At approximately 07.15 we reached the South Summit just as the winds rose to 30 knots plus. This was accompanied by blowing snow and visibility of less than 50m. I was strongly of the view that continuing to climb upwards in these conditions was unacceptably dangerous and aimed to cancel the ascent. I consulted with the two most experienced Sherpa guides with the team (Pem Chhiri and Nima Gyalzen) and they suggested resting in a small hollow just below the South Summit for a short while to see if conditions would improve. I was skeptical of this, as I feared that the wind strength would increase.

Low Winds?

With a forecast of more moderate winds, multiple teams are moving up both sides of Everest looking for summits on May 18th, 19th and 20th.  A computer generated weather forecast, not curated by humans, show low winds for the next several days. As always the  expeditions professional weather forecasts from experienced sources.

May 2016 Everest Weather

courtesy of Mountain-Forecast.com

Who is Left?

Many teams are on the move but not all are reporting their position or plans. We started the season with 289 Everest Nepal permits. Many members have left due to illness and other reasons, perhaps as many as 50. We have already had 20 members summits thus leaving about 200 left and not all of those will go for the summit.

Everest ER suggests over 150 people – not clear who this includes. My own estimate is closer to 300 including members and Sherpas on the Nepal side and close to 150 on the Tibet side.

The large Chinese team (25) hosted by Seven Summits Treks already had 1 member summit and the collective military expeditions totaling 60 (UAE, Indian, etc) are difficult to track. In any event, these teams are reported to be moving up now:

NEPAL

  • Adventure Consultants
  • Alpine Ascents
  • Altitude Junkies
  • Asian Trekking
  • Furtenbach Adventures
  • High Adventure Expeditions
  • IMG Hybrid
  • IMG Classic 1
  • IMG Classic 2
  • Madison Mountaineering
  • Summit Climb
  • Tim Mosedale
  • 360 Expeditions

TIBET

On the North, teams have made excellent progress in spending acclimatization nights at the North Col and higher. There are multiple individuals climbing without using supplemental oxygen – the Tibet side seems to attract them more than the Nepal side – and have almost touched 8000 meters on their rotations.

Similar to some teams on the south about a week ago, there is some degree of frustration that the lines are not fixed to the summit. Dutch climber Peter Boogaard noted on his blog:

The skies are bright, no clouds, no wind but…. no fixed ropes beyond 8300 m. For whatever obscure reasons the CMA (Chinese Mountaineering Association), which is responsible for fixing the ropes doesn’t proceed. On the Nepalese side everything is ready and the first summit attempts are underway. There are all kind of rumours why the Chinese delay but basically nobody knows.

Teams headed up from Tibet include:

  • Asian Trekking
  • Alpenglow members
  • Alpenglow No Os
  • Adventure Peaks
  • Summit Climb
  • 7 Summits Climb

see my estimate of where every team is now on the mountain at the location table.

Hillary Step Collapse?

David Liaño who summited on 13 May made some news with a Facebook post that the 2015 earthquake caused the rocks that define the Hillary Step to have collapsed. He noted that the Step has been reduced to a benign snow slope and posted this picture:

Hillary Step 2016

Hillary Step 2016 in 2016 (left) and 2013 (right)
courtsey of David Liano

This was David’s fifth summit of Everest from the Nepal side and sixth overall and I fully respect his opinion.

I consulted with multiple operators and Sherpas who have collectively over 100 Everest summits and had been on the Hillary Step after David. They felt the rocks had not collapsed and it appeared dramatically different due to an unusual amount of snow.

This will be another great story for the press that will live for decades. We will probably not know for sure if there was any movement until the snow melts or blows away enough for the rocks to re-emerge. I assume some of the commercial guides will take a closer look this next week.

In any event, getting up and down the Step will be much easier in 2016 and should not result in any delays.

Lhotse Ropes

Ah, my nemesis seems to have been lost in the Everest shuffle. There are a number of Everest climbers that want to add a Lhotse summit on their way back from the South Col. And there are a handful of climbers who want to summit the old fashion way, from base camp.

One report said the ropes had been fixed through the Lhotse Couloir to the summit but an avalanche had taken them out thus they need to be reset. In any event, I understand Lhotse may not see summits until 20 May.

More Normal?

My continuing theme for 2016 is that of a normal season. Thankfully it appears to be evolving that way. With the weather looking like a normal second half of May, the remaining pushes on both sides might have some of the  conditions in years with relatively mild (for almost 9000 meters!!) temperatures and reasonable winds.

With the climbers thinning out, crowds should not be a major issue, at least on the south.

Climb On!

Alan

Memories are Everything

 

  One Response to “Everest/Lhotse 2016: Wave #3 Summits and Major Push On”

  1.  

    Hello Alan, thanks a lot for your blog, I’m a fan !
    regarding Hillary Step, I tried to analyse several pictures (to have another point of view, and to try to view the rocks wich are on the pictures from David), for example, this one : http://www.everest.fi/Images/Downloads/Huippuharjanne.jpg
    and I must say that :
    1/ the COLOR of the rocks in the picture of David (in the upper side of the “hillary step”) are YELLOW, not grey. they are like “new” rocks. or clean rocks.
    2/ you can see the old ropes in the pictures of David. It seams to be the fix point of the bottom of the “hillary step”. and above this fixing point, there are no rock like in all the other pictures of the Hillary step. (I mean the form of the rocks are different)
    conclusion : 2 solutions :
    1/ the Hillary Step has collapsed
    2/ David’s picture is not showing the hillary step.

    hope it helps…
    Hugues