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May 042019
 

If you look at Everest over the past decade or so, there is a slight trend with the weather. April is generally nice, May starts off horribly, then a ‘miracle’ happens and the winds and snow take a holiday off the summit opening the floodgates to everyone on both sides. Well, 2019 is on track! But no one counted on a Cyclone and the Jet Stream playing footsie on May 2! No doubt that the upper mountain was hit the hardest.

Each weekend during the season I’ll post a “Weekend Update” summarizing the main stories for the past week. Also, I strive to post my daily updates for all #everest2019 each day before noon, Mountain Daylight Time, GMT -7.

Everest 2019 Permits by Nationality

Headlines

Winds, weather, winds, weather …. Needs I say more? Oh yeah, and snow. Cyclone Fani hit India hard and some of the most outer bands swung deep into Nepal and even China to bring a tough period to Everest, on both sides.

But the biggest news of last week is that the Indian Army claims they found Yeti foot prints near Makalu base camp, but the Nepal Army says its a bear. I hope this disagreement doesn’t escalate!

Some teams got hit harder than others losing supplies and tents, especially at the North Col and at Camp 2. Both base camps were mostly spared getting under 10-inches/25cm at most and a lot that had melted away by late Saturday. A few teams are reporting no damage and less wind and snow than others. They claim all off the weather news is exaggerated and scaring people back home. Fake weather! 🙂

In any event, pictures don’t lie and there has been some damage over the weekend. The best teams know this can happen and have spares or can recover quickly. That said, the real impact of this storm with many tents and supplies lost will fall on the shoulders of the Sherpas. They will be asked to rebuild tents, carrying new ones back to the high camps and, on the Nepal side, make more trips through the Icefall than planned.

The fixed rope is now at the South Col and the North Col. The big question is when will they reach the summit. This all depends on the winds, and as we know it can be fickle. There are forecast the jet stream will sit on the summit for the next few days.

Bottom line from this event and the outlook:

The Cyclone wasn’t that big a deal but the Jet sitting on top stopping the ropes is.

The permit numbers continue to grow a bit. Nepal has now issued a record 378 Everest climbing permits and 92 Lhotse permits to foreigners as of 3 May. While not updated, the Tibet side seems to have around 364 total people made up of 144 foreigners, 12 Chinese and 208 Nepalese Sherpa.  I’m still expecting over 900 Toal summits by all routes, all humans i.e. members and support.

The Ministry of Touism updated the nationality list on Everest through May 3, 2019. China, the US, India, the UK and Nepali nationals have the most climbers. Note this does not include Sherpas.

When Will They Summit?

This is always a big question around this time of the season. The honest answer no one knows, but we have about 75 years of history upon which to make a good estimate. Some people might be worried that the recent winds and snow will slow everything down and create huge traffic jams as the summit windows gets compressed like it did in 2012. While that’s always a possibility, this recent several day delays is tiny in the grand scheme.

The following charts show that the sweet spot for summiting on both sides is between May 12 and May 25. The ladders were on schedule and the prediction of the ropes to the summit on the Nepal side of May 12 is spot on. The Tibet side is similar.

 

Once the ropes are in, there is usually a rush to see who can summit first, but there are many teams happy to let the rush go without them and stay put to see how the season plays out. The big benefit of this is that the route gets kicked in, ropes fine tuned and any issues like rockfall or avalanche danger exposed. The downside is if poor weather moves in and sits on the Hill stopping all climbing, then it is “those who hesitate, are lost.” Or something like that.

All of this suggests the more experience the team leader has and access to human generated weather forecasts along with a well-thought out summit strategy and not a rumor-based follow the crowd mentality … they will do better and have a safer, more positive experience.

These charts show the number of all time summits by day for the standard routes in Tibet and Nepal and then for all routes, including the non standard ones. Again, May 19, May 21 are the standouts. It’s still amazing to me how this trend has been steady for decades.

Every now and then summits will slip into June, mostly on the Tibet side where there is no Icefall to be maintained. Usually the Icefall Docs remove the ladders at the end of May ending the season. Recently the Chinese rope team has said their side also ends at the end of May bit that is a bit more fluid.

 

Nepal – EBC Good, C2 Hit

With the ropes now to the South Col, albeit buried under a a new coat of snow, look for teams to get back on their rotation schedules as soon as the new stuff consolidates in a few days.

Madison Mountaineering, Garrett Madison, called in that everything was rosy on Sunday, May 5 and also the previous day Saturday:

Hello this is Garrett calling in for the Mount Everest climbing team.  Today is May 4th and we are up at Camp 2.  It was a great day today.  The winds died down a bit, it snowed a litte, but the Sun came out – which is nice.  We took a walk up towards the Lhotse face in our down suits and back.  Tomorrow our plan is to head back up the Lhotse face [garbled] perhaps to Camp 3, if the weather permits.  Then the following day we’re going to head to base camp.  Everybody’s doing great up here at Camp 2, just enjoying the beautiful scenery and looking forward to a [garbled]today tomorrow.  Thanks for checking in!

Adventure Consultants once again gave a solid report on the conditions from Base Camp on Saturday

Camp sounded quiet this morning, more to do with several centimeters of snow covering tents, which muffled the usual bustle. Snow slid off tents, hissing, to let in light and sounds, as people stirred awake. The weather forecast was accurate with around 25 centimeters falling overnight and today. Visibility was 100 metres all day until finally this evening the clouds lifted and the very top of Nuptse glowed in evening sunlight, as if to say, thank you for waiting.

IMG gave a good report on Camp 1 and 2 from Saturday:

Up at Camp 2, the Teams 1 and 2 reported 6 inches of snow this morning and limited visibility. They had scattered snow showers for much of the day, but that did not stop IMG guide Justin Merle from hiking up to below the bergschrund in order to get a good view of the Lhotse face. He observed a few small avalanches that had released within the new snow from higher up. With these conditions Teams 1 and 2 will take another acclimatization day tomorrow at Camp 2, giving the new snow more time to stabilize.

Tibet – CBC Good, NC Hit

7 Summits Club posted an update on the damage at ABC and the North Col where the winds were the highest:

Greetings from 6400 – from the ABC camp on Everest! During the day we descended from our last acclimatization rotation, after spending a night on the North Col.  Altitude 7000m.  Yesterday in the evening the weather deteriorated.  All night long our camp (all members and guides) groaned and coughed under snow. But this was not heard, because of the strong wind and heavy snow.  In the morning we were forced to punch the trail down and pull the rope out of the half-meter layer of snow.  It wasn’t easy. But no one tent of our camp was tumbled down. In previous days, dozens of tents were demolished and torn down by many expeditions. Tomorrow we go down to the Base camp…

 

 

Long lines going to the North Col. Courtesy of 7 Summits Club

 

I asked Adrian Ballinger for his view on how the season is going and he sent this to me around his 9:00 pm Sunday night May 5, 2019:

Here on the North Side, progress below 7500 meters continues (load carrying to N Col, along with acclimatization touches and overnights), but no one has, to my knowledge, yet been above. With only 150ish foreign and Chinese climbers, supported by a similar number of Tibetan and Nepali HAW’s (many of them Sherpa), the mountain does not feel busy…it actually all feels a bit spread out this season between BC and ABC and N Col. Perhaps Alex Abramov’s famed Russia Party (later this week) will change that, bringing teams together for a night.

Overall, it is shaping up to be a late season. With jet stream winds predicted at least until the 10th (and maybe later) and the CTMA rope fixers split between resting in BC and Shigatse (!), patience is the name of the game.

I expect things to move quickly when the winds dissipate, but even if everything goes perfectly I don’t expect summits on the North Side before the 16th.

Also Chris Tomer of Tomer Weather Solutions  verified the jet stream situation:

Jet stays locked on summit this week then weakens significantly May 12-14. That would be first summit window of season.

New Route Update

Last week, I posted this short clip of Cory Richards scouting out his new route on the Tibet side but wanted to put it out there again. His commentary:

It was a wee bit breezy at 7,000 m today. Because of high winds on the mountain, Topo and I decided the best move for acclimatization would be to spend the day on the standard route. We only saw three tents blow away! Anyway, thanks for the video Topo…I’m pretty pleased we turned around when we did…tho I know you would’ve kept going

When the last new route was put up on Everest seems to have a few different answers, so I asked Cory this week when he consider the last new route on Everest was sent.

To answer your question, both Topo and I are inspired by various aspects of all the aforementioned ascents in their own rights. That said,  we never gave any thought as to what we consider to be the last new route. By celebrating one, we neccesarily diminish another…which neither our place or desire.

Love that attitude!


The “Other” 8000ers

While everyone gets focused on Everest, there are serious efforts underway on several of the other 8,000-meter peaks.

Annapurna

Sadly, Malaysian Wui Kin Chin, 49, passed away in a Singapore hospital on May 2, 2019. Cause of death has not been released but his death was attributed to injures he sustained while climbing Annapurna. Nima Tshering Sherpa, 32,who was Chin’s Personal Sherpa has been released from the hospital but is facing potential loss of three toes due to frostbite. They were climbing with Seven Summits Treks.

The Other Side of Annapurna

On the other side of Annapurna from the normal route which climbers finished up last week, Felix Berg and Adam Bielecki are attempting a new route on the Northwest Face. They were acclimatizing on Langtang Lirung.

Dhaulagiri
Horia Colibasanu along with Marius Gane and Peter Hamor managed through the winds and snow just fine as their home team reports. I assume they are still targeting the May 15th-25th window for a summit. There have been only 5 member climbing permits issued for this season.

Good news! The team is all right after the hurricane passed through the base camp, at about 7000 meters up, and even the geared trail remained untouched. Horia, Marius and Peters continue the climb ups for equipping a 600 meters tall wall. Further on, their route will require climbing on the ridge line.

Hamor gave a good update on May 1:

We’ve been at the base of Dhaulágirí for almost two weeks. The mountain seems to be extraordinarily quiet and unwelcoming this year. The base camp we visited during our acclimatization ascent into the French couloir is mostly empty. Only 3 tents of Nepali porters, who are waiting for a Nepali climber, are present. There’s five of us in the base camp at the base of the northwestern ridge – us three, the cook Gyalzen, and his assistant Naris. Following the acclimatization, we’ve been fully focused on the climb in the peak’s wall pillar, and we are now three fourths through. In the final chimney, which we named “The Ošarpancov Chimney” two years ago, we got to an overhanging part located approximately halfway up the chimney. The chimney is probably the last big obstacle before arriving at the ridge, which shouldn’t be technically difficult itself. At least we hope it won’t be, but everything is yet to be seen.

Nirmal Purja who summited Annapurna is now on Dhaulagiri as he works toward summiting all fourteen 8000ers in 7 months, break the current record of 7+ years.

Lhotse – South Face
Sung Taek Hong team last reported in that they had reached Camp 2 at 7,200m. They report a lot of avalanches. This is what has stopped them in prior yers. With the new snow from the Cyclone, it will be interesting how they proceed.This is his sixth attempt to scale the face.

Sung Taek Hong 2019 Lhotse S Face Climb

Makalu
Altitude Junkies have been acclimatizing in the Khumbu and this week took a helicopter to Makalu base camp, just ahead of the snow and winds. They aren’t alone as there have been 53 permits issued for four teams. It is 8,463-meters/27,765-feet high. No updates thus far.

Kanchanjunga

Maya Sherpa has left for Kanchanjunga. This will be her 3rd attempt, previously stooped by weather and conditions. There have been 34 member permits issued.

Next Week

The fixed rope teams made great progress this past week reaching the South Col and the North Col. Now they need to get to the summit.  There was talk of reaching the summit perhaps by the 12th BUT some reports are suggesting the Jet Stream sits on top of Everest through May 10th, and that would definitely slow down progress.  Whenever the ropes do get to the summit, look for teams to summit daily thereafter, assuming the weather is good.

The teams that returned to the base camps over the weekend should resume their acclimatization rotations in a few days after the new snow settles. They will go at least as high as they can go given the wind conditions. For those who have slept at the North Col, they are probably good on their acclimatization and will now wait for the ropes to reach the summit and a weather window to develop.  Similar on the Nepal side for those who have slept or tagged C3. For a complete list of where everyone is located, see the Tracker Table which is updated often and with the latest headlines.

Also look for Sherpas to begin ferrying summit push supplies as high as possible. This usually include tents, stoves, fuel and oxygen bottles.

Several times a day, I’m updating the team location table and tracking climber’s blogs (see sidebar). If you have a team not listed, please let me know and I will add them if I can track them. If you prefer not to be mentioned, please contact me. You can sign up for (and cancel) notifications on the lower right sidebar or check the site frequently.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything


Why this coverage?

I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I’m just one person who loves climbing. With 37 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.
donate to Alzheimers

Ida Arnette 1926-2009


Previous #Everest2019 posts:

Everest 2019: Team Locations and Headlines

  3 Responses to “Everest 2019: Weekend Update May 5”

  1.  

    Hi Alan, thanks for the updates, I’m South African and follow the season relentlessly, may God bless you and i pray a cure is found for Alzheimers. Take care

  2.  

    Dear Alan,

    Fascinating reports on the logistics disruption caused by the weather.

    All this raises a question: does each individual climber “own” his specific oxygen bottles…..or…..does the Team have a community stock piles at various locations?

    How do the Teams keep track of the locations\ quantities of oxy bottles cached up the mountain? It seems like accuracy in this accounting is a matter of lethal importance.

    What happens if a team member wants to buy additional supplies of oxy as part of the trip fee?

    •  

      Each team has their own inventory of oxygen cylinders. They are brought to base camp usually by yak then ferried to Camp 2/ABC then on to the South/North Cols for the summit bid. Each team does this individually and track where they are. Occasionally there is theft of bottles by people who either try to save money by not having their own, or get into some kind of “situation” They put others at significant risk when this happens. Finally,yes, almost all expeditions offer “extra” oxygen for a sizable price ~$4-$6K. While the bottle only cost ~$600 each to the climber, its the transpiration that is costly. Usually, it requires a second Sherpa on the summit push to carry the extra bottles.

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