It was another good week on Everest. While it was windy and snowy at times, overall teams on both sides did well. There was one accident on the Nepal side when a tall serac in the Icefall collapsed onto the route injuring two Sherpas. As we enter May, talk of summit dates will increase. It looks like the Nepal side may see the first summits, but we have a long way to go.
The Big Picture
Most teams will do two or three “rotations” to high camps in order to force the creation of red blood cells and other physiological changes needed to perform at extreme altitudes. Known as “climb high, sleep low” this has been the practice for most high altitude climbers for decades. Today a few will try to “pre-acclimatize” at home in altitude tents but most people use the old fashion way. Even those who use tents still need a rotation or two since they only get pre-adjusted to about 17,000’/5200m, even though some advocates will dispute this saying they go even higher. So this is what has been going on for the last two weeks. Most teams are back at their respective base camps this weekend resting up and growing red blood cells.
Next up will be another rotation to Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face around 23,500’/7162m and to the North Col on the Tibet side at 23,000’/7000m. Hopefully the ropes will get to the summit on both sides in the next ten days allowing for member summits starting around May 11. But for the 99% of climbers this season using supplemental oxygen, those bottles must be staged at Camp 4 on either side – and that takes a lot of work by the Sherpas.
Probably the topic most discussed, besides the weather, is the quality and safety of the route through the Khumbu Icefall. As you have read consistently, most everyone is saying the route is the best in years. By best, they mean it has few ladders, is as direct as it can be and seems to be a bit away from the hanging seracs on both Everest’s West Shoulder and off Nuptse. All in all this makes for fast times from EBC to the Western Cwm. Willie Bengas and Matt Moniz made it to Camp1 in 3:22 – that’s Sherpa time! However, even with a good route, it is not without danger. On Wednesday, a tall ice tower collapsed injuring two Sherpas and closing the route for a few hours. The Icefall Doctors brought up new ropes and ladders to replace those damaged or dropped deep into crevasses when the collapse occurred. While unsettling, this is not uncommon thus many people prefer to climb on the Tibet side where there is only a tiny Icefall to navigate through. Mike Foreal posted this video of when the collapse occurred in the Icefall and everyone had to turn back. Its was 4:00 am
Jagged Globe gave an update on the fixed rope status. As you know this is a nylon climbing rope, sourced through Black Diamond this year instead of from Korea, that the climbers “clip into” using a piece of nylon webbing attached to their climbing harness then to a carabiner that is clipped to the rope. The rope basically runs from Everest Base Camp to the summit serving two purposes: first to mark the safe route and two to protect a person if they should fall on steep section or into a crevasse hidden by fresh snow. JG noted: ” The weather conditions have been good enough for them to complete their planned acclimatisation programme, but strong winds at altitude and moderate snowfall lower down the mountain have stalled the planned rope fixing. The rope fixing teams have not yet reached Camp 4.” But other guides are posting that the weather is great with low winds. Garrett Madison posted: “The weather has been good, only a little wind on the upper mountain and some daily snow fall in the afternoon, but not enough to worry about.”
Nobukazu Kuriki is now at base camp for his secret climb by a different route. He will be fun to watch. The other climbers seeking new routes continue their acclimatization programs. EverestER gave a nice update:
We’ve seen 148 patients so far, 57% are Nepali, 90% are men. As has been the experience for every single season in the past 15, we’ve been inundated with mainly respiratory issues as well as some gastroenteritis. Lucky we have Dr Subarna, a bone doc, who has been busy giving his expert care to lots of patients with musculoskeletal issues. We’ve now seen 3 cases of AMS in the last 2 days (1 in an ascending climber who skipped a couple of recommended acclimatization days en route.) We’ve facilitated 10 evacuations from base camp so far and have been missing sleep for the past 2 nights because of early morning accidents in the icefall. Luckily those patients suffered non life threatening injuries but were evacuated to Kathmandu for further care. As high camps become established, stakes are higher, our climbers get up into the very most extreme altitudes and we are ready to help them get there safely.
Sun Yiquan (China), VIP member of Our Everest Expedition 2018. This year 14 Peak Expedition have 3 VIP members who will attempt to the summit world’s highest peak. Born on 31 Oct 1986, Mr. Sun is one of the most popular artist (painter) in China. Today on 28 April he reached to the basecamp (5364m).
On the north side, teams have spent a few nights at Advanced Base Camp at 21300’/6492m. There are still teams just arriving at the Chinese Base Camp. In general teams arrive a bit later on the Tibet side because they usually do one less acclimatization rotation because the camps are higher and the summit day is a bit shorter – for some. I like this picture Adventure Peaks posted of climbing to the North Col. Note the image was from last year but probably the same this time around.
7 Summits Club does things a bit differently on the Tibet side. At every new camp, the members sleep using supplemental oxygen the first night. They claim this aids in acclimatizing. Dima Tertychnyy posted: “This night we’ve slept with oxygen in order to increase the chances of a better acclimatization and feel better. Actually, it did really help! Chilling 2 more night in BC and moving to Middle Camp (5800m) and then ABC (6300m).”
One significant change I’m seeing this year, on both sides, is the use of “box” tents. In all my years I usually stayed in 3 person expedition style tents made by The North Face, Mountain Hardwear or Kailas. While roomy for one person and some of their gear, you could not stand up or sit comfortably for hours, if you needed to. If you got sick and were forced to stay in your tent, it becomes very claustrophobic. The box tents allow you to have a small chair, a cot for your sleeping bag and room to stand up – a nice perk when getting dressed. Of course this is more of the domestication of the entire Everest experience and shunned by many. 7 Summits Club, always know for over the top base camps provided this update from their camp on the Tibet side: “Today we opened two massage rooms with the masseuse, the inhabitants of Tibet. Today was the opening of the bar. And going to Rongbuk. All members and guides are happy and proud that we have the best camp on Everest for all 60 years of development of Everest.”
The Other 8000ers
Let’s do a quick summary on the other 8000 meter peaks being climbed this spring season.
Lhotse – Ropes into the Y
There are 88 climbers for Lhotse this season. The ropes are fixed to the Lhotse Y thus opening the opportunity for a team to push for the summit soon. There are many climbers only seeking Lhotse this year so we may see a Lhotse summit before Everest. Both mountains share the same route almost to the Geneva Spur which is between Camps 3 and 4 (South Col). At that point you take a hard right (at the Y) and climb almost a direct route to the Lhotse Couloir then to the summit.
Cho Oyu – No Updates
As usual, there are few teams, about 15 people, on Cho in the spring season since most guides focus on Everest. We can expect to see Alpenglow as part of their Cho/Everest Flash combo, Kobler & Partner, perhaps Summit Climb and a couple of private teams including the Bulgarian Atanas Skatov. Rolfe Oostra with 360 Expeditions is also there and posted a cryptic message about problems with one Sherpa and losing a bag, but he says all is well. He now has a full update on Facebook.
Makalu – 27 climbers – No Updates
This peak is popular with serious mountaineers as it present a real challenge to summit in the best of conditions. There are 27 climbers this spring, 2018. German Thomas Lammle is there along with a three person Chinese team, and Peruvian Richard Hidalgo and Carina Ahlqvist .
Dhaulagiri – Good Progress but “enormous avalanche”
There are 26 people on Dhaulagiri. One of them, Nick Rice hurt his leg after nearly falling in a crevasse. He was aided back to BC by other teammates including my fellow Colorado Ryan Kushner. He also posted that today, 28 April there was “enormous avalanche swept very close to the route to Camp I“. He said there were no injuries. Carlos Soria Fontán at age 79 is back at base camp after three days up high:
On the 22th we went out, about five in the morning, from the base camp (4.700 M), reaching, six hours later, field I (5.700 M), where we spent the night. The next day we went up to the field II Site (6.450 M) in four hours, coming down again, to sleep in field I. This morning we quickly descended into base camp. With this ascension we have completed our acclimatisation to the height and we are prepared to begin to think of an attempt to summit, when weather and mountain conditions permit.
Kangchenjunga – Camp 2
David Liano one of the 42 climbers there, has climbed to Camp 2 and is back at base where he reports: “A scene from base camp, just before we got dumped with 30cm of snow in 6 hours.” He leaves for C3 today. Don Bowie said he has gone up to 7,000 meters. Chris Burke made some interesting comments on her blog:
These kinds of mixed and changing conditions are why many climbers consider Kanch to be harder to climb than K2, and Mt Everest. Kanch is the 3rd highest mountain in the world but the route is long and winding in order to navigate all the crevasses and rock fall that presents itself up to Camp 4, with more challenges above Camp 4 to the summit. As you climb to the summit you have to zig zag the mountain – a lot – and before the true summit you have a very long traverse (along the summit ridge) where you do not gain much height.
By comparison, K2 is quite direct on the Abruzzi route and Everest has a pretty consistent route on most of the mountain each year, plus a dedicated team to fix the route – we don’t have that here so co-operation and conciliation between teams is required. Chhiring, from Expedition Base (and Lakpa’s nephew) led about 80% of the route setting on Kanch in 2017. This year, it looks like he gets to share the load with a good deal of others. Many of the more technically challenging sections of the mountain are still ahead of where the ropes are fixed to currently so we still have many unknowns.
Shisha Pangma – No Updates
Not many people on This, only about 10 or less. Maybe on a new route, Ines Papert and Luka Lindic from Slovenian-German are on Shisha. I’m covering Bulgarian Boyan Petrov while he is on Everest now but immediately after he plans to travel to Shisha and join up with Italians Mario Vielmo and Sebastiano Valentini, and Hungarian David Klein.
There are eight people with permits on Manaslu but no names. And last but certainly not least is Korean Climber Hongbin Kim seemingly alone on Annapurna I.
Sherpa dancing is a long honored practice during a Puja. Sherpas line up arm in arm and do a coordinated leg and foot movements that no westerner can match. But these guys have taken it to a new level! Phunuru Sherpa adds: “They say climbing and guiding is a risky job but there is much more to see behind. For me I would say this is one of the best job in the world. Our team showing up in Gangnam Style at Camp 1.”
Memories are Everything
Why this coverage?
I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I’m 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, Ida Arnette, 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 ever to me.