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May 212017
 

The Everest season has turned tragic as scores of climbers summit on the south side and more are on their way. The fickle weather of 2017 has finally calmed calling to the climbers to finish their quest.

There have been deaths on both sides. While few details are provided, it appears these were associated with altitude, not weather.

Meteorologist, Chris Tomer, told me just now that the good weather we discussed over the past few posts will continue with one exception:

Looks about the same from my vantage point…jet streak arrives on 22nd with wind flare. The earlier they summit the better

Deaths

This is what has been reported by expedition operators to the Nepal government and then to the press. Families are usually notified by the companies before going public.

and Ravi Kumar is reported missing after getting separated from guide at Balcony. A search team was dispatched hours ago.

The previous two deaths were:

Deadly Everest

I posted this yesterday along with a summary of the Sunday morning summits and it is more valid today as we are now at the historical average of deaths:

This is part of Everest. Each year, on average, around 6 people die. This year has been safer than normal thus far. The common causes of death include altitude related illnesses – complicated by poor decision making when symptons first appear. In other words, turn back immediately upon any sign of altitude sickness – this is known by everyone but followed by few.

The summit pushes thus far have reported cold temperatures and there have been cases of frostbite. Guide are reluctant to talk about this as it reflects poorly on their leadership and decision making. Also it is not surprising for a guide service to have a death and never report it publically.

All this just re-enforces that every climber should come to Everest self sufficient with proper experience, knowledge and judgment to take care of themselves in any circumstance. To depend on others is to ask another human to take responsibility for your life, something you would never do at home, so doing so at 28,000 feet is simply silly when it can be avoided.

This is a summary of deaths on both sides thru Spring 2016. As you can see both sides have about the same % -~3.7%:

  • 282 people (168 westerners and 114 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to June 2016 or 3.7%
  • Of the deaths, 109 died attempting to summit without using supplemental oxygen.
  • Of the 282 deaths, 70 died on the descent from the summit or 25%
  • The Nepalese side has seen 4,863 summits with 176 deaths through June 2016 or 3.6%
  • The Tibet side has seen 2,783 summits with 106 deaths through June 2016 or 3.8%
  • Most bodies all are still on the mountain but China has removed many bodies from sight.
  • The top cause of death was from a fall, avalanche, exposure and altitude sickness
  • From 1923 to 1999: 170 people died on Everest with 1,169 summits or 14.5%. But the deaths drastically declined from 2000 to 2015 with 5,832 summits and 112 deaths or 1.9%.
  • However, two years skewed the deaths rates with 17 in 2014 and 14 in 2015.
  • The reduction in deaths is primarily due to better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial operations.

Monday, 22 May will be big

There are probably 150 climbers headed up right now, around 11 pm 21 May. They should start summiting around 4:00 am Monday morning. Weather is reported still good but there are reports of one large team clogging up the route. As I discussed in How to Mange the Crowds on Everest, now is the time to be strategic.

While deaths will occupy the news, we need to remember that are hundreds of people climbing and they could use our positive energy.

I wrote this now for my long time climbing buddy Jim Davidson. You can follow Jim on his Garmin InReach:
You are on your way my friend.

It looks like you left the South Col early, that is good this means you should summit just as the sun peaks over the horizon between 4 and 5 am early Monday morning!

You are climbing Everest.

You leave the South Col, Camp 4, and climb the Triangular Face, it might feel steep. You are probably in a line of the climbers, relax – slow-simple-steps. Your breathing is slow and steady. All you hear is the sound of your own body bringing the oxygen in; releasing it a rhythm that will be your friend for the next 8 hours. It is dark, your headlamp lights up the white snow against your green Lowa boots.

You are climbing Everest.

After 4 hours you will reach the Balcony. Sadly several people died over the last 24 hours in this area so you may see a dead body. There is nothing you can do but take care of yourself. Focus. Take a break. Sit on your pack. Let your breathing slow, let your heart rate slow. Drink, eat the foods we discussed. Look around. It is a clear night. Look up, with no moon, you can see every star ever created – at least that what it feels like.

You are climbing Everest.

Getting up, slip your pack back on. It holds your lifeline, your oxygen bottle, food and water. Adjust your oxygen mask, your headlamp, clip back into the fixed rope and start walking. It is easy leaving the Balcony. Your crampons are getting good purchase on the hard packed snow. You follow the rope, and the boot path.

You are climbing Everest.

All of a sudden the angle increases. Your slow pace slows down even more. It is OK, this is as it should be. You are where your should be. You and yourself in a line of climbers – a high altitude ballet with slow, thoughtful movements – all in unison, all sharing a common goal, a shared vision. The snow gives way to some rock. This is the Southeast Ridge. No problem Jim. How many times have you climbed with crampons on rock?

You are climbing Everest.

You have been moving for over five hours. The angle on the Southeast ridge eases a bit. You can see the lights of Camp 4. You look behind and see line of headlamps, ahead it is the same. All of a sudden, it gets real steep. Hey! Your pause a moment to gather yourself, rest, and then take another step. You are moving with your feet, not pulling on the rope. The steep section ends as quickly as it start and now you are on the South Summit. Another huge milestone and time for a break. You know the drill, drink eat, allow your body to relax, allow your mind to be free.

You are climbing Everest.

Leaving the South Summit, you descend. What? You are going down? Yes but not for long. The wind picks up a bit as now you are on the ridge line leading to the summit of Everest. The booth path from previous climbers marks the trail. All of a sudden the terrain becomes narrow, car width. You glance both left and right – all you can see are drops of thousands of feet. Focus. You move on with purpose. A small rise is ahead. No this is not the Hillary Step but one of several small bumps. Focus.

You are climbing Everest.

The route steepens once again. This is the Hillary Step. No rock climbing needed this year. You already heard the part of the Step had collapsed from the earthquake or erosion so you follow a 50 foot snow slop the leads to a long rise ahead. You are now minutes from the top of the world.

You are climbing Everest.

Your heart begin to race. The excitement builds as you get closer and closer. You want to see the summit. You look up from the steady 100 yard stare that has been your pal for the last 7 hours. You move you head to the left, looking for the summit. Nothing but snow. To your right are cornices. A new sensation comes into your being sunrise. A tiny yellow line emerges on the eastern horizon – sunrise. You feel better, much better. The sun brings on a new day. You take another step and another.

You are climbing Everest.

You feel like you are in limbo, a place between here and there. You have been in auto mode for the last few hours. Your mind focusing on short simple steps, breathing, staying clipped into the fixed rope. You have not thought too much about the summit but more feeling the wind will pick up, you will see another body. Yes, your mind has been empty and full – a strange contradiction the comes with altitude. And with this, the terrain eases a lot.

You just climbed Everest!

You look up. Your eyes come into focus. You see prayer flags, lot’s of prayer flags. And you see people, many people – all covered in brightly colored down suits, hugging, waving, laughing, smiling, posing for pictures – it’s a party on top of the world!!. It is the summit of Mount Everest. Your shoulders ease. Ha! You have had them tight for the last hour. And with one more step you are there.

You just climbed Everest!

Descent

The descent is fairly straightforward but you are very tired and all the excitement is gone. Mistakes come easy. Many death do occur on the descent. It usually take about 4 hours to reach the South Col or Camp 1 on the north. Many teams will try to get to Camp 2 on the south and the North Col on the north. The lower the better.

Dreams Come True

We are in the crux of the season. As predicted the weather is looking good.  Let’s end this post on a good, positive note.Furtenbach Adventures told me today they had 100% success on the north side on perfect weather – “zero wind”. Also that German climber Andy Holzer became the second blind person to summit.

Summit !!

Today at 7.10 in the morning, all participants were at the summit. Windstill and -26 degrees.

With Andy Holzer , the first blind man has reached the summit from the north. He is the first blind man at the summit of Everest. And he makes the Seven Summits full! Congratulations to Andy and his two companions Wolfgang Klocker and Clemens Bichler. With Anja Blacha the youngest German stood on the summit.

Rise without traffic jams, hardly any other people on the road. Thanks to our super meteorologist, who prognosticated us this weather window. The team has returned to C3 and will be off to the ABC tomorrow.

A great performance of the Sherpas – THANK YOU !! Congratulations to everyone !!

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

Comments

comments

  11 Responses to “Everest 2017: 3 New Deaths, 1 Missing”

  1. 14 deaths in 2015 – is that a typo by any chance? The number we had around us at Base Camp at the end of that awful day was higher than that (unfortunately). Great news on Jims success.

  2. Alan, I was so moved by your powerful words of tribute to climbing buddy, Jim Davidson. How wonderful that you and he now share this incredible experience and successful Everest summits!

    Unfortunately, my husband was forced to turn back very early in his team’s summit rotation. A double wallop – pneumonia and a viral GI infection – left him too depleted to safely continue. Understandably, he’s deeply disappointed, but we both know it’s all part of “taking what the mountain gives you”. We’ll celebrate his success as having a rewarding, life-changing experience and returning home safely to loved ones.

    • Thank you Terri. It is tough when things out of your control hit you. He will need some time …

    • I’m so sorry your husband wasn’t able to summit but glad he realized he was sick and didn’t try. Too often climbers think the symptoms will go away and continue to go higher or stay at higher camps waiting for them to causing their deaths. Your husband lives to climb another day. I read today the family of the Indian climber who fell into a crevase from the balcony wants his body recovered. I’m sorry to say but I think that’s a selfish decision firstly because this has never been attempted at this altitude before and because it’s going to put so many sherpa lives at risk. This climber knew the risk when he decided to climb Everest as well as when he decided to push for the summit after bad weather conditions set in. I hope no one dies recovering his body and if they do the family can live with that on their conscious. I’m sure their religion plays a part in the family wanting his body back but every climber knows most bodies aren’t brought down from the death zone because of the danger to others.
      I’m glad your husband is safe hope he has a speedy recovery and can try for the summit another year as Everest will always be there waiting for him to try again. Better safe than sorry is what I say and I’m sure you and your family will agree with that. Give him lots of hugs and kisses when he comes home.

  3. There seems to be a lot of repeated information in this blog.

    • Thanks for the feedback. yes, not everyone reads all my vblogs and in this case, felt it the repeated information was needed to frame the deaths. Please use a valid email in the future. Thanks.

  4. To Alan thanks for the great blog reading what you wrote actually made me feel like I was in line climbing the mountain you’re an awesome writer. I hope you keep your blog going for many many years to come it’s amazing and full of info some of which you can’t find elsewhere plus written by someone who’s been to the top of the world. Please keep up the awesome work you are appreciated for it very much.

  5. Congrats to those who have summited and good luck to those still climbing I hope everyone gets up and down safely. I lived in a city not far from where Dr. Yearwood is from so my prayers are with his family for their loss I do hope they take comfort in knowing he was doing something he loved and dreamed of doing when he passed so he died happy whether he was going up or going down. My prayers are with the families of the others who’ve died climbing this year they too died doing what they loved and dreamed of doing. Tho I still hold out hope the Indian climber is found odds are he won’t be and my prayers are with that family as well there’s always hope so let’s give the positive vibes until we know for sure. I’m disabled from a spine disease and know I could climb to camp II but afraid the Lhotse face would be more than I could handle but would feel a great accomplishment making it to camp II for myself tho my friends think I’m nuts even thinking about trying to climb Everest . My words to them are always that I may not make it to the top but the beauty and the views from camp II would be more than enough to bring a world of happiness to me they’re something not every person gets a chance to see and I could always send a few cameras up with teammates for the beautiful breathtaking views from the top I’m sure someone would be more than happy to snap a few pics for me. More importantly would be meeting and talking to others climbing the mountain and learning about another culture in which so many still live very simple lives in such beautiful countries with the most beautiful mountains of the world holding 14 8,000 meter peaks. I do hope they can find a way to clean the garbage and waste off the peaks leaving then as clean as they were before expeditions started climbing one day to preserve their beauty. The bodies belong to the mountain but what a beautiful final resting place for those who died doing what they loved and trying to fulfill a lifelong dream to those I say RIP. Let’s hope the mountain has taken the last life this year and the other climbers make it to the top and back down safely I’ll keep them in my prayers along with the families who’ve lost loved ones this season.

  6. Congratulations to your friend Jim Davidson whom literally just summited Mt Everest right now.
    http://tinypic.com/r/r1lx5s/9

  7. Roland Yearwood was also at EBC doing the 2015 earthquake

  8. My thoughts and prayers are with there family’s and friends.

    Colin
    Mount Everest The British Story

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