Climbers have been putting in the hard work that will be needed next week when almost certainly we will see the first Everest summits in the Spring 2017 season.
The winds have been fierce for the past week stopping efforts to get the ropes to the summit on either side. The forecast, however, calls for a calm period ahead. If it materializes, look for a Walmart style Black Friday rush to the summit! (sorry to my international readers for the US analogy 🙂 )
This was a busy week and I covered a lot of ground with a post each day (listed at the bottom of this post). As the activity picks up I will post each day, update and perhaps make several depending what is newsworthy.
I will not be reporting on the “delicious food by our XXX Chef” that seems to qualify as “news” from Everest these days! 😆
The helicopter companies were once again very busy this past week ferrying people off the mountain and base camp for treatment in Kathmandu. EverestER reported seeing 365 patients so far – already more than the entire 2016 season. Over half have been Nepali. Many patients had complaints of high altitude cough and other upper respiratory complaints. There seems to be a flu bug in the Khumbu that they say is contributing to the URIs.
Al Hancock, attempting Lhotse noted the illness:
For the last several days different illnesses has swept through our team sending some climbers hiking to lower altitude settlements for recovery and many others in worse condition taken out by helicopter. Others like myself are staying put. We are lighting incense and sending out positive energy to our teammates that they have a speedy recovery and can make it back for a summit attempt.
Climbing from Tibet – High Camps, High Winds
Adventure Peaks is all set when the weather is right:
We’ve had an update in from Sean and the team, they are back down at base camp after their latest rotation on Everest. This time the team have been up to tag nearly 7500m, everyone is feeling strong, but are glad to be back down for a rest, and to recover for the next time up! This time up the team have went to the highest they will go before their summit attempt. They have spent 2 nights now sleeping at the North Col and will have seen quite clearly now the task that lies ahead of them. A few reports of weird dreams at altitude, (mainly steak and wine) that will intermittently distract them from their dreams of standing on the summit. Not long now, as the team will rest at base camp, and the luxuries it provides and they will wait for the winds to lift, that will allow a summit attempt.
Summit Climb‘s David O’brien said Sherpas will set the lines to the summit around 10 May.
we walked the long ABC to base camp rocky trek yesterday and we’re all looking forword to some well earned rest. Our acclimatisation is now complete and the next time we head up will be on our summit push. There was a big meeting this morning to decide who will fix the section of rope above 8300m. One team with extra Sherpas has agreed to provide the fixing service with input from other teams to get ropes etc to the high camp. The rope fixing is expected to be completed by the 10th May earlier than usual for the North side.
Transcend Adventures, an Indian based company with 23 members and 23+ Sherpas has taken on the rope fixing role from the CMA. A curious shift since the Tibetan rope fixers have set the route since 2008 when Russell Brice left the north aside for the south side. Brice’s Sherpas had total responsibility for years.
Pool Table Included
Before you feel too sorry for those climbing on the north side with it’s cold winds, and steep rock Steps, take a look at these pictures from 7 Summits Club.
Alex Abramov prides himself in having the best base camp complete with big screen TV, espresso maker, ping pong table and, wait for it, yes a pool table! Ah, the benefits of being able to drive to base camp.
Click to see more decadent luxuries or as some of my friends would say “glamping”. Oh, Alex charges from $59,900 to $74,900 depending on level of support – pool table included.
Alex posted (I had a Russian native speaker translate and I’m still confused!) 😛
Final second day of rest at the Base Camp. Since we recommended everyone not to wash or scratch, everyone was crowding at the base camp. Cards, table tennis, pool, TV, internet, beer, coffee and all kinds of chatting. So, the day has passed and to … (hell) with it. Tomorrow we leave for Advanced Base Camp (6400m) and then off to North saddle. We won’t have reception again. For 4 nights. Hold out without me.
Ready for the summit
Lucas Furtenbach uses altitude tents to “pre-acclimatize” and seems quite pleased with the results. I met Lucas last year on Everest and was impressed with his operation. I hope to interview him after the season and explore his philosophy on climbing 8000 meter mountains where he believes Everest can be done in a month or less. He will provide clients with 16 bottles of supplemental oxygen and charge $95,000.
He posted from base camp that their team is ready for the summit when it comes and comments on the wind thus far:
Pre-acclimatization with the hypoxia casts proves itself. The nights were partly very windy and some tents were again torn by other teams at the Nordsattel. With us all remained well. Rock solid Marmot Mountain Europe
you can only say! Very soothing in such situations …The wind is so far the main theme this year at Everest. It intensifies the feeling of cold extreme and thus increases the risk of frostbite. In addition, it also mutes mentally, if one moves for several hours in the strong wind. But every year the winds have subsided, so we are confident that this will be the case this year.
The route is set up to Camp3 on 8300m and will be assured in the coming days to the summit. Our sherpas are currently in the process of setting up C2 and C3 and the oxygen depots. They are just performing unbelievable work. Thanks to our Sherpa team!
Our team will go to the last place in front of the Basecamp to recover in deep, oxygen-rich conditions. So we are ready for anything that will happen in the next 2-3 weeks! Because slowly it becomes serious …
And just to make the point, another post about wind. This one from Tony Mills with Adventure Peaks on the north:
Just returned from our 2nd rotation from Everest North Col / camp 1. We were supposed to tag camp 2 at 7800m but had to turn around before then due to high winds. Back at bc now recovering for a few days rest period while we wait for the jet stream winds to finally drop to safe levels so that we can finally start our final rotation and attempt a summit push. Hopefully a few days at lower levels will help me recover some of those lost energy levels!!
Climbing from Nepal – Cold and Windy
My climbing partner here in Colorado, Jim Davidson, spent the night at an extremely windy Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face this week.
This is interesting in that it has become out of fashion to actually spend the night this high on the south side, with many teams feeling it is adequate to simply “tag” it or even just climb up the Lhotse Face a bit and calling it good. A consideration is how much supplemental oxygen is available to the clients. Some guides are putting clients on O’s starting at Camp 2 instead of the traditional C3 or even South Col.
Jim is climbing with IMG and posted this picture climbing up a windy Lhotse Face. See his Facebook for the video:
Sherpa Falls Down Lhotse Face – OK
Ben Jones, Alpine Ascents, noted a dangerous situation on Saturday when they were climbing towards Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. This story is a good reminder of why it is critical to stay clipped into the fixed ropes on steep icy sections:
We started off great this morning heading towards the Lhotse face in some gusty wind. Today is a day to wrestle with our down suits and face systems to get comfortable in climbing with no exposed skin to prevent frostbite, frostnip, and windburn. We made good time getting to the Lhotse face and then began climbing above the bergshrund (big crevasse). This can be a tricky section to get through.
Myself and a couple of our climbers had just passed this section and we began climbing a little higher on the Face when we witnessed someone falling down the face and over the Bergshrund. Jangbu was first on the scene and then myself and a few others came to help in the beginning and then there must have been 30 people around to help move Tenzing to a landing zone for the Helicopter.
When an unfortunate accident does happen it is nice to know the amount of support and resources that are available from many teams on the mountain. The great news is that the Sherpa who fell is alive and was later evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu where he is now in the hospital. I hope that Tenzing will have a full recovery and he is doing well!
Russell Brice sent me an email just now with an update:
It was one of our sherpas who fell off yesterday and despite falling about 300m he is totally fine. He was helicoptered off directly to a Ktm hospital within about 3 hours.
Summit Ropes Stalled
Mike Roberts, Adventure Consultants, also noted that the winds have stalled the rope fixing to the summit:
Our hardcore Sherpa headed for Camp 4 for the second day in a row. Viscous winds whipped the upper Lhotse Face and threatened to freeze and frostbite any exposed skin. Wisely they retreated to C4. Loads undelivered, summit rope fixing stalled. Sleep deprived and hypoxic they retreated to C2 to lick their wounds and contemplate one of the hardest occupations in the world.
Med Kits (and how to use them)
Tim Mosedale’s small team is ready for their summit push. I like this picture that member Ronny Rein posted of the med kit Tim provides for his clients. He also holds a training session on how, when and how to use these emergency meds. Yes, they practiced injections on an orange! Ronny is climbing Lhotse:
Theft at Base Camp
Benegas Brothers are climbing from the Nepal side and made a disturbing discovery:
Rest day in base camp. A peaceful sunny and downright beautiful day, members relaxing after their rotation, shaving, catching up with family and laundry… Bliss.
Dining floor a little wonky, we lift the floor (wooden plates each on a metal frameworks, supported by rocks) to fix… What do we find?! A stolen Gouda cheese, a corner nibbled, an untouched kit Kat, and various empty chocolates too?! This can’t be – a mouse?! Or in fact super-mouse to carry items of this size from high shelves to this comfy (and heated!) hideout??!!
Shiva, our beloved waiter and rock of all our expeditions says hang on!! 7 eggs missed from kitchen! Left out for alpine start breakfast and disappeared! The plot thickens… This is noooo mouse… Or rat… Could it be a weasel!?
Willie has seen a beautiful long tailed weasel in Gorak Shep, they do live at altitude. And what better choice than BBE’s luxury base camp?!
We have named him Josecito. Finally a BC pet, I hope he will come and snuggle with my hot water bottle. Proof: only some LARGE footprints….. CCTV to come!
OK, to continue this year’s theme of Everest going to the dogs, The Adventure Consultants family has adopted a Tibetan Mastiff (kind of) pooch and named him/her Blizzard. Courtesy of their team Doc Sophie Wallace:
It has become almost universal on the south side to descend down valley for a few nights of R&R before the summit bid. Anatoli Bourkreev coined the phrase “touch grass before the summit”. Mountain Trip made a post on their plans:
Jacob checked in from Everest Base Camp, …
As they descended the Khumbu Icefall, it was very apparent that the Icefall is ever-changing. There were a few gaps that had not been there a few days ago, requiring each climber to take a literal “leap of faith” to cross (roped of course!). There is a new ladder bridge across a crevasse that consists of five ladders strapped together to span the gap. Exciting!!!
The team will descend down to Dingboche, a village situated at about 14,000′ (4270 m) for four nights, enabling everyone to rest in the relatively thick air and build up some reserves that had been depleted during their stay up high. They will stage their ascent back to Base Camp with another night at the village of Lobuche at 16,200′ 4937 m) before returning to Base Camp to prepare for their summit bid.
Sherpa climbers and guides will start fixing lines on sections of the route up to the summit next week, and to help in that effort, a number of our Sherpa team will head up to Camp 3 and then to Camp 4 this weekend.
Mountain Madness Returns
As I profiled before the season began, Mountain Madness is back on Everest teaming up with the excellent Colorado based company Mountain Trip.
I was struck by a video Mountain Madness posted on Facebook of Scott Fischer and his words back in the early 1990s. They posted:
21 years after Scott Fischer led the 1996 Everest Expedition we’re pleased to report we’re back on the mountain after a 8 year absence. Our team, led by Oswaldo Freire and Jacob Schmitz, are currently resting and waiting for their final attempt- wish them luck! Happy to be carrying on the vision and tradition Scott started.
Ueli Steck Service
Ueli was cremated at the Tengboche Monastery on 4 May. Ten visitors including family from Switzerland attended the three hour ceremony performed by nine Buddhist monks.
New information is coming out that contradicts the original reports. Now it seems that Ueli was climbing Nuptse across from Camp 2, not Camp 1 as originally reported. This makes better sense since the route to Nuptse’s summit is directly across from Camp 2, not Camp 1 and Ueli had a permit to summit Nuptse. But as to why he fell remains a mystery. The family has requested to refrain from speculation and I will honor that here as well in the comments.
This report from Swiss Info:
The cause of the accident is still unknown, the family said, but more details about his last movements are emerging.
On April 29, he ascended from Everest base camp to Camp 2 at about 6,400 metre to climb and acclimatise more the next day on Everest’s traditional route to the almost 8,000-metre South Col, then return to Camp 2 in the same day.
From Camp 2, he noted that the conditions on the Nuptse wall were ideal, so he decided that night to change his plan and to climb up to Nuptse the following day.
On April 30, the day of his death, he started out at 4:30 am. Together with the Frenchman Yannick Graziani, he crossed the glacier. Afterwards, Graziani continued on the Everest normal route towards Camp 3, while Steck entered into the Lhotse flank.
His accident occurred around 7,600 metres, at about 9:00 am, only a few hundred metres lower than Nuptse’s 7,861-metre summit. His body was finally recovered by the Italian helicopter pilot Maurizio Folini at a height of about 6,600 metres, and transferred to the hospital of Kathmandu.
2nd Death this Season
On a very sad note, Min Bahadur Sherchan, 86, died from unknown causes at Everest Base Camp. He was attempting to set the age record and was reported feeling well. My condolences to his family, friends and teammates.
There are now calls to put an upper limit on ages to attempt Everest from the Nepal side. You have to be at least 16 to climb Everest from the south side but there is no upper age limit. On the Tibet side you must be over 18 and under 60.
Min was a Gurkha so the Gurkha team climbing Everest this year paid tribute to their mate. Min was climbing with a different team.
“As a Gurkha and an Everest summiteer his legacy is indisputable, and in a few days’ time, as we make our summit bid, we will do so as a fitting tribute to Minbahadur Sherchan.”
Dhaulagiri saw summits last week and 77 year-old Carlos Soria is ready to head up also! High winds and snow continues to stall many teams. But Altitude Junkies on Makalu said they are starting their summit bid. Similar over on Kanchenjunga.
You Can Climb, But You Cannot Hide!
Every few years, someone tries to climb Everest without buying the $11,000 permit. They usually take side routes, travel under the cloak of darkness – you know – real spy stuff!! Anyway, today, the Himalayan Times reported that South African Ryan Sean Davy did just that.
Of course they are always caught because in spite of close to 800 people on the south side it is a close knit community and the Sherpas seemingly know everyone and everything. Mr. Davy was caught, passport seized and could be deported and banned from Nepal for 10 years.
So, the season has progressed in a low-drama manner thus far. The winds have been a bit of a challenge on both sides as it appears the Jet Stream is reluctant to move. But history has shown it will move starting about now, so we will see.
A few climbers are already positioned at Camp 2 on the south side and Advanced Base Camp on the north ready to risk the cold temps in early May for their summit. Others are resting at base camps or even down valley in Khumbu and Tibetan villages eating to replenish the weight they lost thus far.
Best of luck to all and I wish you a positive experience regardless of the result.
Memories are Everything
This Weeks Posts:
Broken Leg Update: Three Months Out (a personal update on my broken leg and will I climb again?)
Why this coverage?
I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I am just one guy who loves climbing. With 35 serious climbing expeditions including four Everest trips under my belt and a summit in 2011, I use my site to share those experiences, demystify Everest each year and bring awareness to Alzheimer’s Disease. My mom died from this disease in 2009 as have four of my aunts. It was a heartbreaking experience that I never want anyone to go through thus my ask for donations to non-profits where 100% goes to them, and nothing to me.
Thanks to Steve Hyder for this video from Britain’s Got Talent 2017. Take a moment to watch it. It is goose bump quality, and reminds me so much of how I felt about Ida Arnette, my mom.