Activity is increasing as we approach mid April. Several teams have crossed the border with China heading for Chinese Base Camp (CBC) and many others are already at Everest Base Camp (EBC) on the Nepal side. There have been the normal annoyances but nothing major. One of the Icefall Doctors was hurt in the Icefall but not seriously.
Tibet, South, China, Nepal, North???
Terminology can be a bit confusing so let me lay out how I talk about both sides of Everest. As you know, Everest is climbed the vast majority of the time from the North side aka Tibet aka China via the Northeast Ridge aka North Col or from the South side aka Nepal and take the Southeast Ridge aka South Col. Click on the links to see maps and more details about these routes.
Usually teams arrive at their respective base camps around mid April, so we are right on schedule the year. Regardless of side, teams spend about 40 days on expedition. Looking at which side has more success, defined by putting at least one member on the top using one of the two standard routes, 439 out of 734 Tibet side teams were successful or 60% compared to 66% on the south or 656 out of 992 expeditions since 1950. For those who didn’t succeed, poor weather was the number one reason.
Of note, looking at the success rates from 2003 to 2013 to eliminate skewing the result by two years with no summits in 2014 and 2015, the Tibet side increased their success rate to 67% while on the Nepal side, it greatly improved to 78%. But just to show how statistics can be misleading, last year, 2017, Tibet enjoyed an 81% result while Nepal dropped to 68%. A lot of this can be attributed to weather, the experince of the teams and a million other factors!
Sherpas in the Cwm
IMG is getting a jump on the other teams. Greg Vernovage noted that 34 IMG Sherpa left Everest Base Camp between 2:45am and 3:30am Thursday morning. The Sherpa team went through the Icefall and arrived at Camp 1 by 6am. They reported the Icefall was in excellent condition. “The best we have seen it in a long time.”
Also Mingma Sherpa with a Chinese team and one Canadian, said “today our 11 Sherpa made it to camp 1 and all returned back. The route to camp 1 is best so far. They used to experience ladders in more than 20 places but this year it is only in 3 different places with two ladders joined maximum.
But it is expected to have at least 9 ladders joined to cross a big crevasse between camp 1 and camp 2.”
Chinese Base Camp
Multiple teams have crossed the border into China including Arnold Coster with Seven Summits Treks and Summit Climb. I can tell you from first hand experience that this crossing is “different” at best. The officials have zero expressions, give zero feedback and once you are “cleared” you have no idea what you did right or wrong.
For many years, if not decades, climbers entering China to climb in Tibet made the border crossing at Zhangmu but the town and road suffered major damage in the 2015 earthquake and has been closed until recently. Now the Chinese have opened the crossing at Kyirong (sometimes spelled Gyirong or Kyidrong) to foreigners. It’s about 60 miles west of Zhangmu on a paved road that goes all the way to Lhasa. Teams will take this road and spend several nights along the way acclimatizing.
7 Summits Club have established their luxury base camp. Each member will have their own “2-room Cabana”.
Rolfe Oostra at 360 Expeditions is on Cho Oyu and made this interesting post:
Back and forth to various meetings today to establish some facts about climbing Cho Oyu this season. Climbing in Tibet is never as straight-forward as Nepal and there are endless surprises which only this place could generate. Take Sheena’s passport photo for example; yesterday a mini-emergency arose when I was told that Sheena’s passport photo was in-adequate to be used for her visa application. When I found her, she produced another which was exactly the same and since we didn’t have time to get to a photo booth I gave my fixer this copy. He came back today saying that this photo was perfect.
Apart from mini-mysteries such as this I have discovered from the Tibetan Mountaineering Council that there are only 19 foreign climbers attempting Cho Oyu this spring. There will be a total of 7 climbing Sherpas and 1 foreign guide (me) working on the mountain this season. Many of the climbers this year will be without Sherpa or guide support but they will be using the fixed line put up by both the 360 and Kobler teams. We will bring more than 1 kilometre of rope and so will the Kobler team of 4 foreign climbers and 3 climbing Sherpas. Team 360 has two climbing Sherpa’s who are Himalayan veterans and who I will introduce to you in a following post.
Personally, I love the fact that so few climbers will be around. Everyone it seems is on Everest. Before us lays a mountain as pristine as found by the first ascensionist and only a small handful of people who have to work closely together to find a way to the top. When all the teams finally get to basecamp the atmosphere is bound to be akin to one found in a tiny mountain hamlet as compared to the Megalopolis that is Everest basecamp each year. Wow! Can’t wait, now if only those bureaucrats would hurry those damn visa’s along…
In the department of rush as fast as you can to reach the summit and get back home to work, Alpenglow promotes “Which mountain would you rather climb? Cho Oyu (26,906 ft) vs. Everest (29,029 ft). A select group of Alpenglow climbers will attempt to summit both mountains in under 30 days!” Adrian Ballinger tells me he has two teams, Team 1: 35-day Everest Rapid Ascent team – 6 climbers, 2 guides, 9 Sherpa and Team 2: a 28-day USA-to-USA Cho Oyu and Everest Lightning Ascent team – 3 climbers, 2 guides, 5 Sherpa.
As always, I wish everyone a safe and positive experience regardless of the result.
Memories are Everything