Mt. Everest 2005 Season Coverage
Himalaya - Nepal
29,035 feet 8,850 m
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I summited Everest on May 21, 2011 and have climbed it three other times- 2002, 2003 and 2008 each time reaching just below the Balcony at about 27,500' (8400 meters) before health, weather or my own judgment caused me to turn back. When not climbing, I cover the Everest season from my home in Colorado as I did for the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Everest seasons.This page is my 2005 climb coverage.

South Col Route
102 Official Summits

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North Ridge Route
194+ Official Summits

See more on the north routes description with pictures
Everest South Route Map
Everest Route North Ridge
Teams with Blogs BC C1 C2 C3 C4 SUMMIT Teams with Blogs ABC C1 C2 C3 SUMMIT
* Adventure Consultants e     h     * Himalayan Experience e     c 15/14
* Alpine Ascents International e         5/6 * Jagged Globe - North e     c 4/3
* International Mountain Guides e         4/5 * Summit Climb - North e       2/6
* Jagged Globe - South e         4/3 * Norwegian Women e   h    
* Gavin Bate (audio) e       h+   * Adventures to the Edge e       3
* Summit Climb - South e         2/6 * Team Ogawa-Boealps e       1/4
* Gabriel Filippi e         1 * Alexander Abramov e       11/12
* Climbing for a Cure e         1/2 * Norwegian Men e       5/5
* O'Brien Brothers e h         * DCXP Duncan Chessell e       1/2
* Mountain Madness e         5/9 * Project Himalaya e       2/2
* Kanatek Canada e     h     * Big Green Everest e       2/2
* Exploradus e         2/4
* Team Honda e       h 2/2 others (Chinese, India, Iran)   49/40
* Algonquin - Shaunna e         1
* Keith Woodhouse e       h+  
* Singapore No O's e          
* Singapore NUS e         3/3
* Lepzig e     h    
others (Iran-12, Korean-8, Mexico-2) 15 /17            
Total South Summits           45/57  Total North Summits         100/94
e= climb ended, x=last reported location, x+ = on summit bid, -x = descending h=high point. Summit number = client/sherpa Locations are estimates derived from public websites
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Helicopter at BC
June 12, 2005 - A few last updates

Now that climbers are back home, a few have updated their sites with summit day reports or general observations of their experience. A couple worth reading include Martin Minarik of the Check Republic. He attempted the North after summiting Cho Oyu. His observations of the politics around base camp, the trash, toilet "norms" and crowds make it quite clear that Martin does not like crowds!

Another update is from Project Himalaya. There are some nice pictures of the Steps on the North side. I also liked Rob Chang's final summary of the Climbing for a Cure team where he notes the on-mountain cooperation that is normally ignored by the press.

And finally, I don't know how I missed this but in addition to chickens, marriages and helicopters on the summit, there was a marriage proposal! You have to check out the Big Green Everest site to see the picture ... and what she said! May you all have a great life!

June 9, 2005 - Summit updates

Himalayan Experience has reported they put 31 climbers on the summit from the North side. This included 15 clients, 14 Sherpas and two clients with Adventures to the Edge. I believe this is the most summits of any Expedition this year. All the action happened on June 4 and 5 - probably the last summits of this season. Congratulations to all, especially with their patience this season.


June 6, 2005 - What you said... The next climbBoy giving flowers to trekkers in the Khumbu

This site developed quite a following for Everest 2005 building on Everest 2004. Over one thousand of you visited it daily. Not Google but not bad for a little personal site! And many of you voted in the polls I put up just for fun. So here is what you had to say.

First on "Why do you follow Everest climbs?"

The majority of you just like mountains and climbing and find it fun to follow but almost 30% of you want to climb the Big Hill one day so your interest is more than casual!

Then on the question of "Has climbing Everest become too easy?" you were very clear - NO! Over 75% said the altitude, climbers still having to take one step at a time and the sad deaths that occur every year (6 this year) have not made Everest the cakewalk some people say it is. Congratulations, you know better.
Child near a teahouse in the Khumbu from C3
"Would you climb Mt. Everest?"
Well a surprising 46% said yes! But time and money are always a problem noted 22% of you. However 10% of you said "No, I'm not crazy!" I understand....

Your comments here were interesting ranging from a few I deleted (not appropriate for my family site) to - that it was too risky and you love your family too much - I can respect that! One comment struck me in particular "... I started climbing too late in life ..." I started the my climbing career when I was 38. And the person going to base camp next year - good luck and have fun!

So "Who was the greatest Everest climber of all time?" I put up 10 choices selected from the climbers you have heard of to some you might not have. Your favorites were Rinehold Messner who along with Peter Habler made the first summit of Everest without bottled oxygen in 1978. Many thought it was impossible at the time! Apa Sherpa with record 15 summits came in second. Norgay/Hillary were third. By the way, Junko Tabei was the first Japanese woman to summit and Cathy O'Dowd was the first woman to summit both sides. These are very notable since they did it when climbing was mostly dominated by men.

One more comment on this question was "I think no one is the greatest. All the humans who attempt Everest... are great." Well said!

Finally, "What is your primary source for news on Everest climbs?" I put this up kind of in jest since I assumed most everyone got their primary info from the two monster sites of MountEverest.net and EverestNews.com and over 20% said just that. But you flatter me with 35% saying this site was your primary source. Ha! You are so kind! But it did put the pressure on me to keep the updates swift and accurate.

Speaking of that, why do I do this? Simply put - climbing is a passion for me even if I am not doingChildren having fun in a village in the Khumbu
g it. I am a very active climber and have some ambitious plans, more on that in a moment. I have tried to use my two climbs on Everest and on many other Big Hills to provide insight and interpretation on what was going on up there. I tried to be honest and not give the rosy side all the time but not to criticize the climbers either. After all they are there and I am in Colorado. What they see and experience does not deserve second guessing by anybody.

I spent about 3 hours a day keeping it updated trolling about 30 websites looking for the latest news several times a day and tried to acknowledge my sources. I am not in competition with any other site, I try to compliment what they report. They have an amazing network of current and ex-climbers around the world that contribute to their content and they work the phones, emails, sms and other technologies to give you the latest many times each day. So why do I do this?

Life is fragile. It is precious and it is a gift. I believe we have a responsibility to use our time wisely - what ever that means to you. Obviously readers of this site are engaged in life and enjoy following the adventures out there. Some of you are climbers yourself, others are armchair climbers but it doesn't matter. You recognize that climbing is a sport that challenges you to the core. It is you against the mountain but it also is not a contest. The goal is to do your best and come home to those you love you.

Climbing is simply one channel for fulfilling life - being the best mom or dad, brother or sister. Achieving that lifelong dream to be an expert on the history of the pyramids. Serving your community. It doesn't matter what. Doing is what is important.

A young lady inthe KhumbuNow, a few words on my next adventure. You might have noticed a link that has been on this page for a few weeks -"I am planning an expedition to Broad Peak and K2 in 2006 and am looking for partners." Well, plans are progressing nicely. We have attracted some world-class climbers and will begin to finalize the list in September. We are also looking at using the expedition to raise money for a worthy cause. I think it will receive a lot of attention because the press will likely headline it as "Is K2 the new Everest?" This will be due to our approach of using guides, high altitude porters (analogous to Sherpas on Everest), fixed camps and ropes for K2. If you have ideas on a worthy cause, are interested in joining or just want to come along via the Web, continue to check out my K2 page.

OK, this is it for 2005. I hope to do it again for 2006 but will have to see how much time I have since I will be busy working on my own next adventure! If you have feedback, complaints, criticisms, compliments, suggestion or just want to say hello, please contact me.

Once again, congratulations and to all the climbers on Everest this Spring 2005. You dealt with the harshest weather in memory and did well. Well done, Well done. Bravo!

Climb on and climb safe.

Alan

June 5, 2005 - Weather, weather and summits(updated)

There are still some teams going to the top this weekend but the main action is over with most teams back at base camps or home. Shopping at the Namachi Bazzar

Quite a season! The summits on May 21 were the latest first summit day in 45 years of climbing Mt. Everest. Norgay and Hillary did it on May 29, the earliest was April 4 in 1984. But it was still a good year for summits with over 230 climbers standing on the top of the world. To put this in context, around 150 made the summit in 2004 with the first summits on May 15.

The season started quickly with teams arriving early and getting their acclimation trips in by early May. They were assuming a "normal" season with first summits around May 15. But the Jet just sat there. It didn't move and when it did, it came back so quickly that the 3-day window never materialized. So the climbers sat in base camps. Some went down valley to enjoy the rich air and sleep on real beds, some went on sight seeing trips to nearby Monasteries and other just sat there. But they entertained themselves with chess games, concerts, hockey games and swap meets. These climbers are creative if nothing else!Sherpas at Camp 2

But Chomolungma was not going to give in easily. It seems some was amiss on the mountain and early tragedies set the tone. First Ben Webster broke his leg when the Icefall shifted suddenly, then Mike O'Brien died in a tragic fall also in the Icefall. Sean Eagan died on April 28 while going down valley to rest up after not feeling well at the higher camps. An avalanche of historic magnitude wiped out the normally safe Camp 1 on May 4th.

Teams became unsettled and anxious. The ol' Timers just sat it out but the ambitious took their chances and pushed the windows. Sometimes they made it and other times they turned back with frostbite and disappointment. Ropes were late to go in above the High Camps since the Sherpas could never do their work in the deadly windchill above 8000 meters. The South was socked in so badly that just getting to Camp 3 was a heroic feat. The action moved over to the North side while there was speculation that 2005 might not have any South side summits.

Then it happened - a summit ... and no surprise it was on the North. On May 21, Mike Franks, Rosa Fernandez, Marko Lihteneker and Viktor Mlinar were among the first to stand on the summit that Saturday morning. That same night attempts on the South were thwarted by bad weather. With the route now in, summits became a regular occurrence on the North but not without tragedy. After being among the first to summit, Marko Lihteneker died around 8000m on his descent. It sent reverberations through Alexander Abramov's team. He ended up putting 22 climbers on the summit.

Meanwhile the South teams finally broke loose when Willy Benegas led his Mountain Madness team up the mountain. 40+ climbers followed their footsteps and the first South summits occurred on May 30. With this route now in, the rush took place and almost 50 climbers summited during the next few days.

The season had some unique, interesting and downright strange events. First, allegedly, a helicopter landed on the summit on May 14. Some said it was a great adventurer's event just like a first ascent; others said it never really landed. Time will tell. Teams using an alternative to the reliable Poisk oxygen system began reporting up to 80% failure with the system. Teams had to abort their summit bids and others scrambled to find surplus Poisk systems. Controversy surrounded rope fixing on the North with teams claiming they were mislead and others saying all was well. In the end, ropes were fixed but hard feelings abound. The Chinese had a massive expedition and put 15-20 climbers on the summit along with a live broadcast for all of China on CCTV (we don't get that channel in Colorado!). Then on June 2nd a helicopter crashed at the South base camp - no injuries - the second crash in 3 years in the same spot.camp2 at sunset

One disturbing item was when an Indian woman became the focus of worldwide concern when her guide published a harsh plea for her family to contact her and request she descend. She did and is fine today but his method left many wondering. A happier note was the wedding ceremony of Moni Mulepati and Pem Dorjee Sherpa on May 30 - on the summit!

In my view every climber, guide, Sherpa, cook, porter, base camp manager, doctor and crew are to be congratulated for surviving this season. However there are a few firsts. Danielle Fischer, 20, became the youngest person to complete the 7 Summits, Urszula Tokarska - the first Canadian woman 7 Summitter. Jake Meyer, also 20, becoming the youngest Brit to summit Everest. Apa Sherpa got his record 15th summit! From Iran Farkhondeh Sadegh, a Graphic Designer and Laleh Keshavarz, a Dentist, became the first Muslim women to reach the top of Everest. And Gerfried Göschl made a true solo, no supplemental oxygen summit on the North - a rarity these days.

Then there was Mr. Gavin Bates, a true individualist. He never pitched a tent at base camp ... or camp1 or Camp 3 or Camp 4 for that matter. He used a tea house at Gorak Shep as his base and traveled fast and light. His summit bid started there and ended between the summit and the Hillary Step. He said he "couldn't be bothered" to go the few more meters to stand on the true summit. Actually, it was very crowded and the weather was worsening. His audio dispatches were wonderful and his ambition amazing!

But my favorite for dispatches had to be Keith Woodhouse. He had a numerical scale that showed us on a scale of 1 to 10 how his mental state was, relationship with teammates, attitude and even his bowels. He wrote with sincere honesty and frankness. Thank you Keith for bringing us along.

I will do at least one more report since we are waiting word on HimEx and Todd's South team. Also, I will summarize what you have said by way of the polls. If you haven't voted, this is your last chance!

updated
One climber died (details unknown) according to the Nepal's Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation. Robert Milne was from Scotland and was posting some dispatches about his use of technology. From his site "Simply put, the purpose of I-X is to provide computer support to people who are performing some task. This task might range from, say, designing a car to coordinating an attempt on Everest. The I-X architecture supplies a framework that encourages a methodological approach to the task, based on cycles of issue-raising, -handling and -resolution. This is underpinned by the 'intelligent messaging' of issues, activities and other information among the agents in the system. This allows users to manipulate, transform and transmit information in context-sensitive ways that continually aim to move the process forward." He was reported on Henry Todd's team but the Press Release showed him on the Jagged Globe permit. This is standard for teams to share permits.

AAI has posted an outstanding summary of their summit night written by Tony van Marken. One of the best personal accounts this season.

One name caught my attention was David Tait who, I think, had his own site last year during his third attempt. Success on the fourth try! He also raised a bunch of money for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

another report tomorrow or later today as news breaks
June 4, 2005 - Expeditions: Too Small, Too Big and Just Right (updated)
Sherpa at South Col
Wow, what a season. Jagged Globe put more climbers on the top yesterday - 4 climbers plus 3 Sherpas. Adventure Peaks was also successful with 2 climber and 2 Sherpas including Jake Meyer at 20 becoming the youngest Brit to summit Everest.

With the final teams making their bids from the North side, I thought I would take this chance to look at the different expedition styles we saw on climbing Mt. Everest this Spring season. As I said yesterday, there were several styles this year ranging from the extremely independent Gavin Bates (solo w/o O's) to the Independents such as Big Green Everest. Then there were the small teams that ran like an expedition, for example Climbing for a Cure. And finally the standard commercial expeditions such as AAI, IMG or the monster Himalayan Experience. Each has it's advantages and disadvantages.

First, what is the objective for any expedition? I suggest it is to make a good effort to summit the mountain and return home safely. This implies the climbers did not create a crisis during their climb that required others to rescue them. Some would add - and remain friends with your fellow climbers! Then, what is needed to make the attempt? The obvious - climbing gear and food but also knowledge of the mountain and route and access to weather forecasts (how did those early climbers do it?). Again some would add "luxuries" such as porters to help with loads, Sherpas to fix ropes, bottled oxygen and more. Finally is there a link between accomplishing the objective and the style?

Let's start with the solo style. We had two examples - Gavin Bates on the South and Gerfried Göschl on the North. Both were extreme climbers in that they went solo (well Gav had one Sherpa) and without supplemental oxygen. One summited and one didn't but both are down safely.

Inside a commercial expedition dining tentThe "independents" received some notoriety this year. These climbers buy onto an expedition as individuals or small teams (usually 2 or 3) as part of a larger group permit. Asian Trekking (AT) specializes in this approach. They provide base camp services (kitchen tent, dining tent, toilet tent, shower tent, chairs and tables), cooks, porters and climbing Sherpas. There are no Western Guides and you have to be careful about the experience of the Sherpas. By the way, commercial companies such as IMG offer "base camp only" services that compete with AT. Big Green used this style and both Dan and Greg stood on the top of the world.

The smaller, self organized expeditions are usually made up of someone who had been to Everest before and wants to put their own expedition together, Team Honda was an example. They have contacts for their own Sherpas and base camp services. This style is a case study in networking where experienced climbers use their contacts to get the best resources. The results were mixed this year with a relatively low number of summits per attempts.Sherpas retuning from "cleaning the mountain"

Finally we have the commercial expeditions that have made climbing Everest a science. Year after year they use the same Sherpas, western guides and acclimatization schedule. They have a formula and rarely deviate from it. Deaths and problems are rare since they err on the side of conservatism. Their base camp services are what you hear about with sushi, hot showers, morning tea, extra sleeping pads, sat phones and more. Success? take a look at the table above and it shows most of the large expeditions put folks on top.

Another thought on commercial expeditions. Anyone can declare themselves an Everest guide over the Internet, take a deposit for the expedition and meet you in Katmandu There are expeditions prices ranging from a used car to a small home so make sure you thoroughly investigate what is included and who is guiding, before signing up.

So which style is best? As you might guess, the answer is "it depends." Experienced climbers (several 8K climbs) who do not need the full services will be more comfortable with an AT style expedition. There are no large group dynamics to deal with and no western guide telling you where and when to move. If you have a group of qualified friends, the small, self-directed expedition is great. Bob Hoffman specialized in this several times on Everest. Climbers who are nervous about Everest probably should not attempt Everest but the many who fit this profile should go with a commercial outfit. But which one?

In my mind, there are only a handful of commercial companies who have earned the right to guide Everest - AAI, AC, HimEx, IMG, JG, MM are there. Clearly others can and do guide as well. My advice is to get reference on the guide, not the company. These I have listed are all excellent and I recommend them without hesitation .. until I see the guide. Guides are the wildcards on commercial expeditions so make sure you speak with your's and know what is really important to both of you.


But the real question in my mind is not "did you summit?" but rather "did anything go wrong?" You can plan for every contingency, train like crazy and have all the experience in the world but when it goes bad - what do you do and who is there with you. Sadly this year one climber died on the North apparently all by himself. Accidents happen even when climbers are roped or climbing closely together.

The reality is that the Sherpas and the large expeditions are the true safety net on Mt. Everest. They don't have to do it, they are not paid for it but they do. Several dispatches this year note the leaders of the commercial teams providing leadership when there were avalanches, organization needs, the final ropes fixed, rescue missions, emergency tents for ill climbers and on. And there are many unreported incidents of Sherpas giving aid to sick climbers, carrying their loads, keeping an eye on them and serving as the overseers of the Hill without anyone noticing.

Results? Gerfried had summited Cho Oyu, Aconcagua, G2 and Shishapangma before Everest. Gavin Bates has been to Everest three times. Dan and Greg had the fitness (Iron Man!) and experience. Robert Chang had 5 expeditions to the Nepal Himalaya that include Mount Everest plus he had Apa Sherpa on his team, 15 summits of Everest! And those 18 to 40 climbers who summited with large commercial expeditions .. well they had hot showers and sushi! All deserve congratulations and credit for getting to the top in one of the most difficult years in memory.

Conclusion? There are many ways to summit Everest. If the mountain is kind, almost all will work if the climber is prepared. But guides and Sherpas and support systems are like insurance - if you never need them, you think it was wasted money; but when disaster hits there is no amount of money worth your life. And on a mountain like Everest, never be alone.

Tomorrow, the final wrap up for this year.


update 1
Everestnews.com reports that there is one more expedition on the South - Henry Todd. He has 9 climbers at Camp 4 and is going tonight (now). No word on HimEx yet.

It is interesting that is appears these are the only remaining expeditions on Everest and both have leaders that are arguably the most experienced expedition leaders on the mountain this year ... and they are the last to go up in what is reported to be the calmest weather of the season!

June 3, 2005 - North summits, climbing ages and ATMs (updated)SUnset over Everest from Camp 2, Western Cwm

All the action has moved completely to the North side and there is plenty. First, multiple teams summited yesterday including the Indian Air Force, Big Green and a speed climb from the North! You can follow Bruno Brunod's speed climb on his site - it is happening now (8 AM MDT)

Jagged Globe put 8 climbers on the summit and have another 5 climbers plus Sherpas ready to go tonight (basically now). Several other North teams are going tonight including Adventure Peaks and Jean Pavillard's Adventure to the Edge, using HimEx logistics.

I am not sure when but Himalayan Experience (aka HimEx) should be going soon. They have two teams consisting of 11 climbers plus 9 Sherpas and 12 climbers plus 11 Sherpas. Good luck and safe climbing to all!

Take a look at Big Green's site for a summary of Dan and Greg's summit night. It sounds like they had a very difficult time for these two "normal" climbers. This was a small team of 2 climbers and 2 Sherpas. They did not have all the advanced support of other teams but they made it. More observations on this approach later. Once again, congratulations guys!

The South teams are moving back to base camp. A great tradition is when the base camp cooks and team meet the climbers as they emerge from the Icefall. Enjoy this dispatch from Mountain Madness "We made it safely to base camp today. Our cook staff greeted us with coke-a-cola and cinnamon rolls part way up the icefall. We all celebrated our successful climb of Mt. Everest. We had a wonderful team and everyone worked together to make it to the top. It's sad to see the expedition over.

I know there was a lot of interest in the Indian woman who was stuck on the North side with Project Himalayan so here is a link to an Indian website with another side of the story from her family. She is safe now .. and one brave woman! While we are on "unique" stories, two Nepalese were married on the summit yesterday. Helicopters, rubber chickens, marriages ... what a season!

Are you too old, or too young, to climb Mt. Everest? So with a short break, I did an analysis based on the press releases from Nepal's Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation of the ages of the guides, climbers and Sherpas who summited this year from the South side. Not every age or title was listed but there was enough information to get an idea. So here it is and I hope it makes you more motivated to get out there!
2005 South Summiteers Leaders Climbers Sherpas
Total 8 39 44
Average Age 38 34 32
Youngest 24 20 20
Oldest 52 47 48

Finally, good news for those traveling to Nepal! The Shanghai Daily reports there is now an ATM right in the Tribhuvan International Airport! For those of you who that have been there know, getting cash is an art-form involving exchange rates, finding open banks, hotels lobbies, etc. The most popular places have been the small stores in Thamel that sell rugs - they always have the best rates!

This has been an interesting year (and not over yet) to compare the approach of climbing Mt. Everest. We had several quality examples ranging from the extremely independent Gavin Bates (solo w/o O's) to the so-called Independents such as Big Green Everest. Then there were the small teams that ran like an expedition, for example Climbing for a Cure. And then there were the standard commercial expeditions such as AAI, IMG or the monster Himalayan Experience.

More on these comparisons on Saturday.

June 2, 2005 - Success and Crashes (updated - 2)Helicopter at Base camp

What a strange season on Everest this year. Unpredictable weather, early tragic accidents, confusing rope fixing deals and now a helicopter crashed at base camp early this morning. The details are vague but this is the second 'copter to crash there in the past three years. It is ironic since this year saw the first helicopter land on the summit of Mt. Everest. For standard helicopters, their operating range is a little higher than the level of base camp or 17,500'. The crash in 2003 was due to one of the rotors hitting a nearby boulder but this year the teams cleared a larger area that would hopefully avoid another incident like that. Again, it is not clear what happened today.

I remember flying out in 2003 on a big Russian machine. We waited for a day and half for it to arrive after our climb. We sat by the small dirt pad with all our duffles piled nearby. Stupid in hindsight. Hearing the "woop,woop, woop" of the blades biting into the thin air, we moved away from the pad behind some yak-sized boulders. Anxious to get on board, we created an assembly line to throw the duffels on board and then quickly jumped on ourselves. Needless to say, there was not a lot of thought to load balancing. With everyone on board, I sat scrunched between two of my climbing mates with my knees at my chin because the gear was taking all the leg room. I felt the chopper lift slowly .. and return to the ground. Another try got us about ten feet off the ground and on the third try we gained altitude then swooped back towards the ground as the pilot headed down valley. I swore I would never take another helicopter in the Himalaya again!

On a more pleasant topic, Exploradus put several climbers on the summit Wednesday morning. I am very happy for them and especially their Sherpa, Nima Tashi. This was his 9th summit. Also Danielle Fischer made to the summit thus becoming the youngest person to complete the 7 summits. At 20 years-old she has shown some nice maturity and strength. And she picked one hell of a season to finish it out! Congratulations Danielle. Speaking of age related events .... note Apa Sherpa's record 15 consecutive summit on Tuesday with the Climbing for a Cure expedition. He is 48 years-young!

So AAI had 6 on top and Exploradus - 6 . Plus . Luckily they had a calm night and made the climbs at a very fast pace. In fact, Canadian Urszula Tokarska climbed to the summit in 8.5 hours from the South Col and became the first Canadian woman to complete the 7 summits. I wonder if this is a speed record for a woman climber on the South? Take a look at the three or four AAI dispatches from last night. Ellie did a nice job of keeping everyone informed plus some very interesting time tables showing previous times for the climbing legs from C4 to the summit. Thanks Ellie!

Over on the North, it was overall quiet on dispatches with one exception involving an Indian woman with Project Himalaya. An update on the DXCP site states she is descending. I hope she is safe today and it was all a misunderstanding due to the stress of the expedition.

I believe the South side teams are finished ... except for getting back to base camp through the crumbling Icefall. My favorite solo climber, Gavin Bates noted on his down climb two days ago that "the Ice fall was as bad as he has ever seen it... One of these crossings Gavin reports was massive at 45m with only six inches of ladder each side holding it in place." And Everest veteran and expert, Eric Simonson said "...With the end-of-the-season warm-up the conditions with the ladders and crevasses starts to deteriorate, so it is definitely more dicey now than it was a month or two ago. Keep your fingers crossed that the Icefall continues to be kind to the team for another day or two! ". As Yogi said, it ain't over till it's over.

So now on the North. I believe there are several expeditions left including the huge HimEx team, which includes Adventure to the Edge. Also climbers from Abramov's team and Jagged Globe is still there as is Adventure Peaks and perhaps the reclusive Martin Minarik. Maybe Sigrid from the Norwegian Women's team. There are probably others from the Indian Air Force, Army, Marines and women :) but I cannot track them easily.

Since there is no Icefall on the North and permits are usually longer, the time pressure is eased somewhat. At this point it is the resources and patience of the teams plus the desire to get back home after two months in a tent! However, most teams are looking at a summit bid around this Saturday, June 4. Look for 30 or more summits!

Dan and Greg from Big Green Everest were reported on their site to be attempting the summit last night but there is no word thus far. Everestnews.com did report on pair summiting but it was not them so it was possible last night.

update 1
Abramov's team reports 7 more summits in " ...9 o`clock in the morning local time. The weather is clear, but a strong wind blows. "

Sounds like the weather is horrible on the North.

Jagged Globe North is still pushing "David, Tore, Fred, Sibu and Alex spent two nights in Camp 3 being battered by atrocious winds. David described last night as “the worst night I have ever spent in a tent”. If you consider that David’s career for the last 20 years has been leading mountaineering expeditions to the Himalayas, it must have been a pretty rough night! Two out of three of the tents in Camp 3 were broken by the wind. Plus their second team "... are currently in the remnants of Camp 3 (7,900m) alongside Russell Brice’s team."

Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic has a good report on the helicopter crash ... the tail rotor hit some boulders. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The newspaper Hindu reports "Indian Army's women mountaineers created history today by becoming the first women's expedition to scale Mt Everest. Captain Shipra Mazumdar, Captain Ashwini Pawar, Cadet Tshering Ladol and Trainee Dechin Lhamo scaled the 8848-metre high peak between 0615 and 0939 hours this morning. The peak was also summited by five members of the support team -- Major S S Shekhawat, Subedar Surjeet Singh, Naib Subedar Jagat Singh, Havildar Topgey Bhutia and Commando Kaman Singh. "

update 2
Great news! Greg, Dan, Ang Mingma and Mingma Dorjee, the Big Green Everest team made the summit this morning. Their site has all the details with more promised but "...started their traverse from Camp 3 to the Northeast Ridge at 11:30 PM, June 2 Nepal time. Ten hours later, at 9:30 AM, they made the Summit. The technical climbing was more difficult than expected, but did not give them any particular problem. Weather was clear, sunny, warmer (nearly 0 F), but windy. The view from the Summit was "Awesome". Congratulations guys. Well done!!

June 1, 2005 - The toil of a summit (updated - 5)

There were some brave souls last night high up on Everest!

AAI reports from the South Col " Last night there were 3 teams in position to go to the summit yet we didn't get a let up in the winds for the entirety of the evening. The past couple of days have seen higher winds with many lenticular clouds over the summit and on the summits of surrounding high peaks. This morning we have high winds remaining but the skies are clear in all directions."

The winds picked up again last night thwarting many efforts. From 7 Summits on the North "We are still in Camp 3. There was too much storm last night to go up. Alex and Nate will go down today. Lorenzo, John, Dmitri and I will stay at 8300m and try again tonight." The team spend an uncomfortable night in their tent, waiting for the winds to reduce to allow them to go up, but it did not happen."

Also on the North, DCXP reports tough conditions "...they started at midnight in strong 30-35 knot winds, blasting directly onto the North Face at them. Some stronger gusts buffeted them about and kept the temperature cold. They made it to the second step at about 8500m only 350m below the Sherpa helping returning climbersummit of Everest! At this point everyone was getting very cold feet and hands and Jamie called it a day, they returned to High Camp took off boots and gloves to rewarm in the tent and thankfully there are NO PROBLEMS." They have reset their attempt for 2 of their climbers until June 4, Saturday

I am still looking for an update from Exploradus.

Thus far well over 150 climbers have stood on top or valiantly tried. While there are more than 50 climbers in various expeditions looking towards the end of the week weather window, those who have returned from the summit are just now recovering.

returning from the summitI have climbed enough mountains to have some insight into how these climbers feel after spending 18 hours on their feet. They are spent. 100% exhausted. Nothing left. And it doesn't matter if they summited or not. It takes every ounce of energy to make a summit climb and even more on Everest.

I remember seeing a climber retuning from his (or her's) summit bid in 2003. He stumbled down the Triangular Face and onto the semi-flat South Col. Upon finding a boulder, he just collapsed on it. Head by his knees he cried out "help me." Those in their tents looked out at the mountain warrior and soon his friends went to him. Arm in arm, they took the final steps painfully slowly to the tent.
returning climber in good shape
Each climber has an empty look in their eyes. While some may actually think about what they have accomplished, most stare blindly ahead. Sherpas continue to be the heroes upon a return. While they are just as tired, they look after the climbers as the family they have become. Sipping hot tea and sucking in oxygen at the maximum rate, they feel slightly better. But to be honest, all they want to do is sleep.

The recovery from a summit attempt is twofold - physical and emotional. Bodies heal and strength returns with some solid rest and improved food. However it make take weeks, months or years for the emotional scars to heal from an Everest climb. Even the summiteers will talk about the trails they went through. some will say it wasn't worth it. Other can't wait to return - perhaps on the other side. Friends and family will ask over and over "how was it?" but the climbers search for words that cannot explain the depth of their experience ... just look into their eyes to see the answer.


For some South climbers in 2005 one obstacle remains - the Icefall. With the late date and warm temperatures, the 'fall will be even more dangerous. This means that ladders may slip, anchors pull out and seracs move. So most teams will try to get through it as early in the morning as possible - well before the sun has a chance to inflect any more damage.

Let's hope the weather window opens soon and they get this thing done. It may already be too late for the South climbers given the Icefall doctors will leave on June 4. I really hope everyone get's their chance...

update 1

Jim Williams reports they did not go up last night and will try tonight "Last night after quite a bit of discussion the group decided not to go out in the strong winds and risk a failed summit attempt. They agreed to wait another day and then try with others on the S. Col tonight. At the moment there will be a strong team from AAI and a Singaporean team trying to summit on 02 June 2005.

Jagged-Globe notes some acts of kindness up high "David has just called in from C3 on Everest. You can hear the wind in the background. It is very windy, but they're going to stay put for the time being in the hope that it's going to calm. They lost one tent which was shredded by the wind, but HimEx have kindly loaned them a tent.

So as near as I can tell, four teams (sometimes 1 climber) are at the South Col and will attempt the summit again tonight, Wednesday June 1, leaving around 8:30 PM Nepal time - quite a bit earlier than the standard 10. Perhaps they are trying to climb mostly at night hoping the winds will stay clam. If successful they will summit on the following morning Thursday June 2 perhaps around 9 AM or about 9 PM mountain daylight time June 1 in the US.

The teams include: Singapore (Edwin), IMG (Pete, Mingma Ongel and Ang Pasang ), AAI (Dave, Lakpa, Jose Luis, Esther, Tony, Danielle, and five sherpas), Exploradus (Neal, Chris, Urszula plus Sherpas led by Nima Tashi)

So South Col teams will be climbing during the day (US time) starting NOW!!

Climb Safe...

update 2
AAI is off as well "Everyone is feeling good and excited to be on their way. Conditions are still good – clear and calm – and we are hoping for the best for them.

update 3
Jim Williams notes excellent progress for his Exploradus team "The team just checked in from just below the balcony. They are making very good time - in fact if they keep up this pace they may reach the South Summit before sun rise. This is excellent in that it has been about 3.5 hours since they left and some climbers can take 5 to 6 hours!

IMG has pulled their final climber "... now in the process of pulling off the hill. Peter, Rex, and Ed made it safely down from the Col to Camp 2. The Sherpas have already pulled most of the gear from C3 and C4 and everyone is heading for base camp."

From the North, Big Green Everest's Dan and Greg are off "Greg, Dan, Ang Mingma and Mingma Dorjee, are ready and will all attempt the Summit. Weather is not favorable for success. Yesterday, strong winds caused the two teams that attempted to turn back. Today's forecast is no better." Good luck guys! I'm pulling for you "independents"!

update 4

AAI is at the Balcony in only 5 hours at ... another great pace! And Exploradus is already at the South Summit - before sunrise. Canadian Urszula Tokarska is leading the pack - OH Canada!

These folks are burning up the Hill!! There could be a summit in the next few hours. I believe it might be the last for the South for this season. And then we shift back to the North.

update 5
Jim Williams Exploradus's Nima Tashi summited at 5:00 AM with Urszula Tokarska - the 1st Canadian 7 Summiter. This is an incredible time - 8.5 hours from the South Col. There are others just behind and the weather looks good. Finally a real window! Congratulations Nima and Urszula!!

More tomorrow.
May 31, 2005 - HAPE, HACE and Summits (updated)

More summits last night! Everest Base Camp Medical Clinic reports cases of serious of edemas on the South but no one seems to be in trouble at the moment.

Here is the recap from this morning's 25 summits on the South:

Team Honda put 2 climbers and 2 Sherpas on top. IMG notes cold and windy conditions with 6 of their 8 clients turning back before the South Summit .. it must be bad up there ... but they did get two climbers and two Sherpas on the summit. And the Singapore team put Lindley up there. The no o's attempt is tonight.

No word from AAI on Danielle Fisher. The last report I saw she was at C2 and preparing to go for the summit. Meanwhile, Australian Rex Pemberton at 20 years-old is reported by IMG to have summited. Ah, the youth of our world!

On a odd note, Eric Simonson said "Apparently one of the other teams on the mountain, Jagged Globe, had a climber hit on the head by a rock near the South Summit and Dave Hahn and Doug Brockmeyer (the brain surgeon!) are staying at the Col to see if they need some help."Helmets are not normally worn on a South side climb since falling rock is actually not common. You have to worry more about ice chunks hitting you. I hope the JG climber is OK.

Duncan Chessell reports one summit from his team in a very through dispatch. He reports on more trouble with their oxygen system and had to switch to the Poisk system. This is a must read report in that it shows great maturity and judgment by Duncan in handling his problems up high: "So combined it meant I should go down. I was mindful that often in these situations people don’t listen to their bodies and push too hard, resulting in death. It was a hard decision after so much time and effort, but I am sure it was the right decision for me and in retrospect back at ABC now I know I would have been in serious trouble if I had elected to continue the ascent."

For tonight, Jagged-Globe North reports from their team at C3 "They're feeling good, but report that the winds are picking up again. This concurs with the most recent forecast, which suggests stronger winds again over the next couple of days - not good news! These forecasts are frustrating to say the least, so we'll just have to see. Big Green is probably already at C2.

Jim Williams and the Exploradus team did not leave last night as planned and is going up now!

Also HimEx states in their latest North side dispatch that they are sending their 40+ climbers and Sherpas up in two waves targeting summit bids around Saturday, June 4th. This may be the last summits this year ... but who really knows!

More later today as news develops...

update

I just received an email from Jeff Rosenthal, a close friend of Mike O'Brien who died on May 1 in the Ice Fall. I strongly endorse this cause. Here is an excerpt from his message:
I am asking for your help; please make a donation to HDF in Mike’s memory www.hdfoundation.org . The donation would be 100% tax deductible as HDF is a 5013C federal non-profit organization and has been for 36 years. HDF funds research for cures for all hereditary diseases including Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, Lou Gerhig's Disease, and even cancer. 100% of donations are given to research.

AAI just reported "Meanwhile Team II, consisting of Esther, Dannielle, Tony, Dave, Jose Luis, and Lakpa are moving from camp III to camp IV in hopes of improving weather, which has deteriorated somewhat in the past two days. They are optimistic yet realistic about the winds abating in the next two days, which is all the time they will have to attempt the summit and make it back down through the icefall before the June 5 cut-off date."
May 30, 2005 - Summits, turnarounds and giving it up (updated)heavy snow in 2002 as seen from South Col

Well it finally happened, South side summits. And a few from the North. But the action is not over with an estimated 200 climbers in the que on both sides, the action will continue tonight and this week on both sides. But after it is all over with, 2005 will be remember more for the weather than summits. Nepal’s ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, who has the final say on "official" summits on the South published that there were 46 summits on May 30. One female Sherpa climber and two Muslim females (the first ever) were amongst the summiteers!

Let's try to run down what happened yesterday and today.low snow year in 2003 as seen from South Col

First on Gavin Bates. You have to listen to his audio dispatch. I listened several times since he was breathing hard and seemed slightly out of it but still well in control. He turned around just below the summit citing safety, high winds and fearing "another 1996" with so many climbers moving up. He also said there was a "4-hour wait" to stand on the true summit! However he seemed very satisfied with his effort and eager to get off Everest as he ended with "I'm sick of this mountain." I am proud for him. He gave it his best and performed some miraculous physical feats with his final summit bid starting at C2, not the South summit. Oh, and he was not using supplemental oxygen! He is reported back at Camp 2 and will spend the night there.

Mountain Madness, led by Willy Benegas, drove all teams to the summit. Take a look at my pictures from 2002 (left) and 2003 (right). Both were taken from the South Col and you see how deep the snow was in 2003. This year was worse. And it got deeper as they approached the South summit. MM summited at 9:20, remarkable given all the work that was required to fix the rope in thee conditions.

The names and villages of the Sherpas are rarely noted so here they are for this wonderful team as noted from the MM site: "Lhama Jungbu from the village of Kari Kola and has summited Everest 9 times. He has two sons. - Mingma from the village of Kari Kola has summited Everest 4 times. - Pasang from the village of Kari Kola has summited Everest 3 times. He has 1 daughter and two sons. - Undi from the village of Kari Kola has summited Everest 2 times. - Lakpa from the village of Namche has summited Everest 1 time. Lakpa is our Sirdar who is in charge of our Sherpa staff. - from the village of Kabra has summited Camp 2 three times. He's our Camp 2 cook, but also helps stock camp. He has three children."

Shaunna Burke, on her second attempt in as many years, made the summit. She teamed up the Mountain Madness after her leader Ben Webster broke his leg. Well done!

To no one's surprise Dave Hahn got his client, Doug Brockmeyer, along with Sherpas Mingma Sherpa, Danuru Sherpa and Phunuru Sherpa on top. They followed Mountain Madness' rope work. Dave shows what kind of person he is as he acknowledges Willy' Bengas effort "... the route wasn't in until Willy Benagas put it in. Willy led every pitch from the Balcony, from 27,500 on, it was really something to see, but it was really something cold to see, because we were standing around pre dawn waiting for the route to set in..."

Adventure Consultants reported on their site that they will not attempt the summit at all. The cite running out of time and the closure of the Icefall by June 4th.

On the North Alexander Abramov's team put 13 climbers on the roof. However he reports "“Now on the high slopes of Everest the weather has deteriorated. Right now all the summit group is back in Camp 3 at 8300m. Most of them will spend the night there...". I hope it holds for tonight's rush.

As for the next push, JG is preparing to go from the North eyeing a Wednesday morning summit. Dan and Greg for Big Green Everest (my vote for the best expedition name!) are moving to C2.

Both Singapore teams are in position with the first team at the South Col and will start time climb around 10 PM Nepal time today. They note about 60 climbers at the South Col! JG-South are sending 5 climbers plus Sherpas up tonight.

My favorite quote today is from Jim Williams as he sends his team to the summit today "This weather window may prove to be quite short. We are all hoping that the members are given the chance to stand on the summit by the goddess of Mt Everest - Sagarmatha - Mother Goddess of the Earth. As one of the sherpas told one of the members before leaving BC - pray to the god and not to the girls.... Advise to be heeded if you wish to summit with the support of the sherpas and the goddess Sagarmatha." Good advice!!

I am keeping an eye of Nima Tashi from Jim's Exploradus team since he was a house guest of my friend Joe Acero this year. They were on Ama Dablam last Fall. A strong friendship developed resulting in Joe arranging a hearing aid for Nima. I know Joe is following the climb closely. You can read more about Joe and Nima at his site.

updates throughout the day...

updated
His local television station reports that Iowa Iowa City climber Chuck Huss turned around on his 4th summit attempt. He probably feels very disappointed but you have to admire his courage and determination.

The IMG guided team has left for the summit as of midnight Nepal time "...These climbers' decision to go ahead and climb now was prompted in part by the updated weather forecast, which predicts a possible new disturbance forming 1,000 miles to the west and moving toward Mt. Everest. This might cause the winds to start increasing again over the next couple days. From what Mark tells us, it sounds like everyone considered their options (to climb now or wait 24 hours for hoped-for improvement in the conditions) and ultimately decided that it was not likely to improve much after waiting another day, could in fact get worse, and that made more sense to go now, especially with the route already kicked in by yesterday's summit climbers." Sounds like the weather is getting dicey and they want to slip in before the Hill closes completely. Success only!
May 28, 2005 - Climbing is a gift. (updated)

Climbing is a gift. Not everyone can go climbing. Not everybody wants to. Those who do, sometimes gets the chance. And then those who do, sometimes do not.

This season on Everest is validation that it is the Mountain that decides who climbs, not the climbers. Michael Franks was chosen. Keith Woodhouse was not. This does not make Mike good or Keith bad. It is just the way it is. Those who climb know the deal. They go to the Hill. They give it their best. Sometimes they get a shot. Sometimes not.

The next few days will show who stands on top and who gave it their best and took home something different. Any climber who is in touch will tell you it is not about the summit. But the pressure is there. The desire is strong. Everest 2005 has tested every climber like no season in recent memory. There are no explanations. Some got fed up and left, others hung in there. Neither was right, neither was wrong.

Climbing is very personal. It is individual. Climbers are on a team but it is a team of individuals. Yes they support one another, they give aid when needed. But climbing in the dark, hearing only your breath, seeing only your boot; you feel very alone. And you are. They think of home. Those they love. Those they miss. And they keep climbing.

Teams on both sides have moved into position for summit bids. As previously noted some teams are sitting fast at lower camps not willing to take a chance on this window. But some are going to make a run for it.

Gav Bates is one of those climbers taking a gigantic gamble "Late tonight [Sat 5/28] he is going to head for S Col in one go! From there he'll wait for few hours and go for summit. This runs against what other teams seem to be doing so it's a huge decision. This worries me since he is going solo, without supplemental O's and no sleeping bag - no tent. To climb from C2 to the summit and return safely is a huge feat. The only climbers I have ever heard of doing this are several Sherpas trying to set speed records. They have tremendous support at each camp with food and water waiting for them. Also they typically go after 100 people have already summited so the route is hard packed. Good luck Gavin.

Jim Williams of Exploradus reports his schedule: "we are planning to leave for our summit push on the morning of the 29th May from Camp 2. We will move Camp 3 and then on to Camp 4 at the South Col. This is the place where the wind is funneled between Mt Everest and Lhotse (the 4th highest mountain in the world. It is here where the winds can blow camps to pieces. We are still hoping for the winds to taper off for our final summit push on the 31st May and 01 June 2005."

Eric Simonson reports a similar schedule that has Dave Hahn leading a small team of strong climbers along with their Sherpas to get out front of the crowd. AAI and AC have similar comments so it could be crowded next week!

updated
Make sure you check Gavin Bates site every 6 hours or so this weekend. He is sending audio dispatches regularly. It will be interesting hear how his voice holds ups. His last one was at 3:00Am as he was getting ready to go to the South Col. Climb safe Gav!

IMG reports that Dave Hahn and team is at C3. Also Shaunna Burke is reported at C3 and will go for the summit tonight.
May 27, 2005 - The South Col ! (updated)

One the guides I respect the most, Dave Hahn is with IMG this year. He posted this report on the team's plan "... we're going to go for it tomorrow morning, {Friday May 27} -we're going to head up the hill, so this whole thing will be figured out in the next few of days and were all pretty anxious to know how it turns out. We got some good forecasts and we want to be on kind of the front end of that good forecast, so we're going to shoot for the summit on the 29th, but it will be real interesting as we go to camp III tomorrow up the Lhotse face and camp IV and the South Col after that, it will be real interesting to see whether the winds are howling or whether it's starting to slack off like our forecaster is saying it will. The forecaster is also saying it's going to be good in June, but right now the icefall is starting to really warm up and starting to move around so we don't have unlimited time we need to get this thing done so we're pretty excited about getting up tomorrow and making it happen. We'll let you know how it goes."

As if getting ready for the summit push wasn't enough, some teams have had to deal with oxygen problems. Duncan Chessell notes "We have coped with replacing all our UK Summit Oxygen systems with Poisk (the Russian system) as it seems the UK systems are having major problems very high on the mountain. " I described the two type of systems back on May 16 and was very interested in the Summit Oxygen system since we were looking at using it on K2 next year.

For most teams their task is "simpler". They are packing whatever high-altitude gear they don't already have at the higher camps and eating and drinking as much as is humanly possible. And they are thinking...
Summit Pryamid from South Col
One of the most sobering moments of a South side Everest climb is arriving at the South Col and seeing Camp 4. The Triangular Face dominates the view. And it is almost impossible not to let your eyes trace the route (tomorrow's update) to the balcony, up the southeast ridge to the South summit. You cannot see the true summit from here. The Col is about the size of a couple of football fields. There is absolutely nothing up there. Small rocks and a few large boulders cover the Col. Tents are pitched on the smooth ground where rocks have been moved over the years. The wind blows like there is no tomorrow. Finding a place to take care of nature's business is a challenge!
South Col looking West
You often hear that the South Col is littered with discarded oxygen bottles, bodies and such but I did not see any of this in 2002 or 2003. There have been many expeditions to clean up the South side of Everest and now there is one planned by the Chinese for the North. Also, every expedition is required to bring down every oxygen bottle, tent and waste or forfeit their $4000 garbage deposit.

Once you clear the top of the Geneva Spur (described on May 19) you take a short, flat walk to the South Col proper. The first site are all the yellow tents. Relief is the only emotion. You are tired. I don't care who you are: Viesturs, Messner, Habler or The Yeti - you are tired. The first order of business is to find your tent. More than likely your mates or Sherpas are keeping an eye out for you and will wave you in like an airplane on the tarmac.

Next is to get some liquid into your dehydrated body. Again, no matter how good you are, you probably did not drink enough on the climb from C3 to C4 and you are dehydrated. Usually the Sherpas have some hot lemon tea ready. Sitting on your pack, you gulp the drink and begin to let it sink in ... you are higher than all the mountains on earth except for 14. Higher than Denali, higher than Kilimanjaro, higher than Mont Blanc - but not your goal.
View of Makalu from South Col
Each direction brings an amazing view: East - the Himalayas with Cho Oyu at 26, 907'. West - Makalu at 27,765' South - Lhotse - 27,939' and North - Everest - 29035' .. and the goal. But you really don't spend a lot of time looking around.
South Col
Climbing into your tent, you pull out your sleeping bag knowing that it will be your friend for only a few hours. More than likely you are sharing a 2 person tent with 3 or a 3 with 4. No matter how many it will be crowded but you really don't care!

The snow or ice melts in the pot while you look out the tent door. You look at the Triangular Face and wonder. Just how hard is it? It doesn't look that bad. Oh, I am at 26,000'. Will the weather hold? Can I do it?

After a small meal, you crawl into your bag to get a few hour's sleep. You are about to climb Everest!

So today most of the teams will get to Camp 3 on the South. The North teams are on their way as well. After all the delays, they are rest. I would bet no climber is thinking about the time spent in base camps. No thoughts about yesterday or last week. They are 100% focused on tomorrow, the day and night after. And the summit.

I am thinking the same for them .. and their descent to safety and home.

updated

It seems that the weather forecasts are not being interrupted the same by all the teams. First Gavin Bates on the South posted "There are vastly conflicting reports as to the weather over the next couple of days so Gav may well now go down to Camp 1 or BC and wait.

Later Big Green Everest (BGE) said they will stay at ABC on the North " The BGE team remains at ABC as it looks like the summit window will not open as soon as initially forecast. They will assess their situation again tomorrow. The British, Russian, and Indian teams plus a few others are moving to the North Col today and tomorrow. The Norwegians left yesterday"

Now AAI has posted extreme disappointment "Well, it's been a very difficult day here at camp II on Everest. Emotionally draining and disappointing for the team as a whole. We received weather forecasts that contradict our optimism of the last few days on our move up. It seems that Chomolungma is not ready to have climbers on her upper reaches. These forecasts were the end of some of the team members' optimism and motivation. Therefore we are losing 3 teammates tomorrow morning that have decided to head back to BC and onward towards home. The reason for this is commitments at home as well as a general feeling that this season is just not 'the one'. . IMG has a similar posting.

These guys must be very disappointed and very tired. However they are showing great maturity and excellent judgment in not pushing it. The time is just not right. They will hold at C2 and see what happens.

May 26 part 2 - What is next???

Oh. My. God. What is next? First we had a helicopter land up there. Then a rubber chicken on the summit :). Now we hear the Chinese are planning on taking the Olympic torch to the summit and ... televising it's summit live!!!! What's next? Paris Hilton?

May 26 2005 - And there off!

updatedClimbing the Lhotse Face

Many teams left for higher camps yesterday and today targeting the windows this weekend and early next week for their summit bids. Duncan Chessel, who is turning into my favorite author! says "The best thing going for us is the winds are predicted to be from 240 degrees (South-West), which means we should be protected from the wind for most of our climb along the summit ridge and north face, but the summit will be windy. I expect we will only have time to be on the top for 2-3 minutes, not long to enjoy the view but with strong winds we will have to be quick.
Jumar or Ascendar
The mountain must be busy. AAI has Sherpas at C3 and I am sure there are others making final carries to the South Col. AC has left as well. The weather ruined their arrive late and miss the crowd plan! IMG has 20 Sherpas and 12 climbers! Eric Simonson says his IMG team will get out front "I think the consensus is that they would like to be at the front of the parade, rather than at the end...even if it means more work getting the route put in."

On the North, some complex math by Alex Abramov shows a whole lot of climbers going up at the same time "How many climbers are on northern side of the Everest ? Russell Brice has told, that he has collected on fixing ropes 17 thousand dollars. It means, that 170 persons have handed over on 100 dollars. And approximately 150-170 climbing Sherpas are here. So it is possible to assume, that for 2 days on the slopes of Everest there will be from 200 up to 300 climbers. It will be a chaos on May, 30-31."Climbing the Face

This is when it gets interesting on the Lhotse Face! Climbers and Sherpas going up and Sherpas going down. Usually there is only one line and everybody stays clipped into it. When two climbers pass each other they must stay clipped in with one carabiners while removing the other, reach around the other climber and clip in before removing the first 'biner. A little complicated but it is critical to always have one 'biner attached. Climber have two points of contact to the fixed line - a piece of webbing attached to their harness and another piece of webbing attached to their jumar or ascender. This last item has teeth pointing "uphill" so that if a climber falls, the teeth catch on the line preventing a fall.

There are some reports of new ladders on the Icefall due to movement. Other dispatches make note that climbers are making good time getting to C2. For example, Gavin Bates reports it took him 5.5 hours to climb to C2. This is good news demonstrating that their lengthy delay has not hurt their fitness too much. But there are also sporadic mentions of team members dropping out. All in all it will be an interesting next week!

May 25 2005 -Ready, Set, ... Ready, Set ...

This season seems like a continuous series of false starts. Teams go up and come back down. They return to be positioned for the next window and BAM it shuts in their face. With time running out it literally is now or never ... well for this season anyway. The Icefall Doctors will maintain the ladders in the Khumbu until June 4th and then they are out of there. It is already warming up and the Icefall is stating to melt so every day it becomes even more dangerous than before.

The climbers have been patient beyond belief. At this point in a "normal" season most climbers have made their summit bids and some might have returned home! But this year all the activity on both sides will be compressed around June 1. Duncan Chessell notes two windows emerging " Summit push is planned for a 30th May or 1st - 2nd June. There are two windows of opportunity appearing on the radar. The first on the 30th May will is predicted for 20 Knots of wind and -23? C, which is upper level for safety, but is firming up as a reality. The Second window is more like the 1-2-3 June, still some way off, so not 100% yet, but predicted lower winds in the range of 5-15 Knots is much more friendly to the fingers and toes.

Some preliminary schedules are starting to come out like this one from Jim Williams of Exploradus:

26th May - Climb to Camp 1
27th May - Climb to Camp 2 all members will be in Camp 2 on this day.
28th May - Rest day in Camp 2
29th May - Climb to Camp 3 sleep on Oxygen for the first time.
30th May - Climb to South Col using Oxygen
31st May - Begin summit push 1st June ? Summit and return to S. Col
2nd June - Return to Camp 2
3rd June - Return to BC and begin clearing the mountain of our gear.

Courtsey Weather Channel
David Hamilton with Jagged-Globe reports on the activity from the North "Today's forecast indicates that the jet stream is still about 745 miles north of Everest, with winds of 90 knots at 12000m. Between now and 31 May, it is due to move to 1500 miles away, to the north and northeast. Winds are forecast to be lessening to between 20 to 30 knots at 8000m on 31 May. Into the first few days of June, these less strong winds should remain at about the same level. Monsoon activity is starting to occur to the south of India, but precipitation isn't expected to reach Everest until at least 1 June.

The satellite picture today from the Weather Channel site shows the activity in the Bay of Bengal. When compared to a similar image on May 14 you can see that the Everest area is now clear of clouds. But this year it seems winds are the major problem. A scenario is building for two massive pushes to the summit. The first this weekend with summits on Sunday morning and a second wave a few days later with summits on Thursday, June 2. I would bet most of the big teams will hold off until the second round and let the crowds sort themselves out.

I always enjoy following certain individuals with interesting stores. Last year there were several. Some of my favorites were RAF Ted Atkins with was his third attempt and he made it! Oath 7 climber Dan Lochner had a sobering report of his north side summit, a must read. And in the non-writing department, Dave D'Angelo's of Explorer'sWeb had multiple videos from his North Side summit climb. It is a remarkable series of sharply edited footage matched with head bobbing rap music that results in a fast paced approach. But my favorite last year was an excellent dispatch by Martin Boileau of the Mexico/Canada expedition.

This year it has been difficult with few individual web sites and the large commercial dispatches have been fairly generic. A couple of individual who are already finished are Keith Woodhouse who did a great job as did the Michael Franks and Boealps team.

I am looking forward to Big Green Everest's reports and it was good to see Danielle Fischer's picture on the recent AAI dispatch. To remind you, Danielle is 20 years-old and is attempting to become the youngest person to complete the 7 Summits. I wish her the best. Another story is of Piers Buck. We exchanged some emails a while back. He was attempting to traverse Everest from the South but has now abandoned that plan with a move over to the North side. He will attempt the summit over there. Best of luck Piers.

Of course there is the return of Irishman Gavin Bates. He has attempted Everest twice - once from the South and then from the North. He is also raising money for a good cause: hydo-electric power plants in Nepal. His third attempt will be from the South, he will go solo and without supplemental oxygen. He has done some interesting audio dispatches. Go for it Gavin!

And of course there is Shaunna Burke who lost her teammate and leader Ben Webster earlier in the season with a broken leg. She has shown amazing perseverance by staying on the Hill. I really hope she finishes what she started last year when she almost made it. We are pulling for you Shaunna!

And finally is Chuck Huss with the Climbing for a Cure expedition. He is the expedition doctor and this will be his fourth attempt to summit Everest. Fourth attempt! I'm pulling for you buddy!!

May 24, 2005 -Rubber Chicken summits Everest!!Rubber Chicken on Everest with Da'Ngima. Courtsey of ichael Franks and Project Himalaya - THANKS!!

It had to happen one day. After all the common wisdom is anybody can summit Everest!! And apparently it is true with the summit of a small rubber chicken .. and there is proof - take a look at this picture by Michael Franks! (All the pictures I have shown thus far are from my own collection but this was too good to pass up) In all seriousness, Mike has posted several stunning pictures of his summit on the Project Himalaya site.

The big news today is the planned movement to higher camps on the South, The Singapore team, AAI, Mountain Madness will move to C2 tomorrow looking at the May 28/29 window for a possible attempt. Most of the IMG team is already there. AAI is also moving and is looking at the end of May projected window . Apparently Willie Benegas of Mountain Madness has taken a strong leadership role in coordinating the expeditions to try to avoid bottlenecks as they all make their summit bids within the same narrow window. It is nice to note some positive cooperation up there.

AC reports on a collapse at the top of the Icefall that will keep the Icefall Doctors busy installing some new ladders and ropes ... the 'fall is moving! The climbers will need to hustle through some of the more dangerous areas.

So back to that rubber chicken. Who is the greatest Everest climber of all time? Vote for yourself on one of the polls I have put up on the site just for fun!

May 23, 2005 - Stay or wait?!

The waiting game continues on Everest. Duncan Chessell at DCXP captures the mood " the 4-6th of June is the first GOOD weather window, but this is a long way off (so it could disappear and the small chance window on the 28-29th might improve, many teams are leaving the mountain as they run out of food and gas for cooking. Many climbers are losing so much physical condition that even if the weather does come good, many will be too weak to climb fast. We have supplies through to the 7th June."

As I have commented before it will be patience, resources, weather and the Hill that determine if anyone climbs Everest from the South in spring 2005. With today the birthday of Buddha, I am sure many Sherpas are forming the opinion that Sagarmatha does not want to be climbed this year. Perhaps the Lamas who performed the Pujas are feeling the same way. As temperatures warm, the icefall becomes more dangerous it will be interesting to see if expeditions lose any Sherpas to "bad karma". This is serious in that the Sherpa people are very spiritual. Many have strong beliefs that it is wrong to climb some mountains since they are religious places. But the harsh economics of Nepal create this dichotomy we see today.

Michael Franks of Boealps post his summit report. He was one of the first to summit from the North on May 21. It makes good reading and exposes the dangers of climbing. A few points stand out to me: confusion within his own team as to their plan, climbing on smooth and slanted rock with crampons, no fixed ropes near the summit, "squatters" in his tent and his report the two people died that night. Thus far only the only death widely reported was Slovene Marko Lihteneker whose body was found by the Chinese surveyors. My condolences to his friends and family. I believe Mike is mistaken about the second death.

I really like Mike's report in that he shows the human side of climbing and the determination it takes when conditions get tough. Congratulations Mike - a great job!! Mike's report also brings out how tough the North is. The weather is harsher than the South side. There is more exposed rocks. The steps are technical and require more skill than on the South. When comparisons are made between the two sides, it is often said the South has the Ice Fall and the North has the Steps. In the end, both are difficult.

Big Green said " 21 climbers and 14 Sherpas summited from the North Side. This is less than 10% of the estimated 250 climbers still active on the North." But Gavin Bates reported that " On the North side about 60 people have summited but on the south side no one has made it up yet. This is common to have different reports of summits, deaths, attempts, weather and the rest. My little chart on the top of this page is based on direct reports from dispatches from on-mountain teams. But I could be wrong! For the official numbers, we will have to wait for the final official report from Nepalese Tourism Ministry once the season is over.

Lepzig posted a dispatch that said they are leaving the mountain. His posting has some fascinating comments about the emotions of aborting their attempt and the politics with the large commercial expeditions. One comment I found amazing was about the climbing Sidars (the Sherpas who lead the climbing Sherpas and are the most experienced climbers on the mountains) about future plans : "All people of distinction met each other, but the famous Shirdars like Apa Sherpa (14 times on the summit) or Pemba Dorje were not invited. I wondered about this discussion, in particular because no Shirdar (the chief of a sherpa team) was there. But they talked about things that affect mostly the sherpas! And no one accepted the fact that the Everest cannot be pushed from South this year."

This goes to the point that climbing a big mountain is a hobby, a passion and a business.

The next forecasted "window" is on May 28/29. You will see several teams making moves back to the South Col to get in position.

May 22, 2005 - A must read!Summit Pyramid from the South Col

It is too early for a full accounting of who summited last night but a couple of interesting notes. First, a large Chinese team put a TV antenna on the summit an sent some live pictures and they also left a GPS beacon in order to measure the height of Everest (called Mount Qomolangma in China).. again.

But for me, there is a must read dispatch from Keith Woodhouse. I have thoroughly enjoyed his writing thus far and this time he does his best work with a vivid description of his summit bid ... I won't spoil the ending. Take a minute and read it now. Well done Keith, well done!!

It sounds like it was a tough night on the South. More later today as the dispatches come in from the mountain

update 2
It looks like those on the South are resigned to wait until early June for their summit bids. I can only imagine what they must be thinking. This will mean some climbers will have a gap of almost a month since their night C3. Ideally you want a week or less in order to maintain your overall "mountain fitness". But in addition to the physical it must the mental that is starting to wear on them. Everest Base Camp is not the best place to spend your Spring Break! Yes, the scenery is awesome and you are at the foot of the most famous glacier in the world and you are on a mission, but day after day after day...

Jim Williams of Exploradus comments "At the moment the likely window will develop at the end of May or early June. As of today this will be the latest summit day in the past 45 years from the South side. Our team seems to be ready to wait until a real weather window is in sight before heading back up the mountain for another summit attempt.

This year's Everest is looking more like a Denali or K2. Maybe the mountaineering community has been spoiled over the last 10 years with semi-predictable weather, teams that work together and some semblance of organization on the world's highest mountain. This year, it seems that everything is up in the air. The on-mountain politics seem stranger than normal. The small teams lead while the big teams wait. Early and frightening deaths and accidents. And the weather is not letting go.

So it looks like another week of waiting on the South. And perhaps the same for the North. But this year, anything can happen ... and will!

May 21, 2005 - Summits!!

Success on the North, thwarted on the South. Michael Franks (Seattle Boealps), Spaniard Rosa Fernandez, Slovenes Marko Lihteneker and Viktor Mlinar and 11(?) Sherpas (Da'Nima, Da'Yula, Lhakpa, Dawa and more) all stood on the summit of Everest between 10:30 and 12:30 Saturday morning, May 21! SummitClimb's Magnus Flock and Neal Jing and 6 Sherpas/Tibetans were reported by everestnews.com to have also summited. They climbed from the North side taking advantage of a small and closing window. Rosa reports very cold temperatures that prevented her sat phone and video camera from working ... but she will always have the memories! By the way, I used Google for the translation.

Congratulations to all these climbers. They took some very real risks and won. Now they can relax as they prepare to return home. Also nice call by Alexander Abramov yesterday proving once again that Russians are some of the best climbers in the world. Make sure you take a look at Project Himalaya's site today for some awesome pictures.

Over on the South, it seems the Koreans made it to the Balcony but turned back due to weather and the lack of fixed rope any higher. Mr. Honda was at the South Col but did not make an attempt.

With weather forecasts of more high winds, most teams are sitting it out in the relative comfort of their base camp with some teams higher. Once there is a hint of a window, you can bet all the teams will make a huge push to summit before their permits or resources run out. This is setting up for some dangerous conditions high up. It will be interesting to see what the very big teams like Himalayan Experience, AAI and AC do. Will they hold back even longer waiting for the smaller teams to clear our? Will they lead? Who will fix the final ropes to the summit on the South - Team Honda?

There is still a lot more action this year!
May 20, 2005 - The Weather Rules!

Yesterday Alexander Abramov makes a bold prediction of 50 climbers on the summit on May 21! He cites a poor but acceptable drop in winds that will allow climbers from both sides to scurry up and quickly retreat before the winds pick up again. He notes his team is positioned "There are now 65 cylinders of oxygen on 8300m, 30 cylinders are in the second camp (7700m). In each camp there are 5-6 tents and complete sets of utensils, products, gas etc. Our Sherpas have done huge work"

This plan makes me nervous since there is zero room for error. If an climber is forced to stay high on the mountain longer than planned, they will suffer miserably in the sharp winds and low wind chills.

Everest veteran Willi Prittie made this very clear statement on behalf of AAI "I recalled the entire expedition to base camp yesterday due to continued very low temperatures up high and continued strong winds, forecasted to increase significantly in the next few days. Winds as high as 80 knots and temperatures of -37 degrees are in the forecast. There is a group of Koreans and two British-based groups trying to sneak in a summit bid before the strongest of the winds in two days. We wish them well, but this morning, which was supposed to be lower winds, dawned very breezy here at base camp with obvious signs of high winds on all the peaks in view around base camp. "

Other teams are sitting out this "window" Jim Williams notes "After careful consideration we decided to return to BC from Camp 2 as most of the weather reports showed the possibility of very high winds near the summit and cold temps. The team decided that we would be better off waiting for a more certain weather window and not waiting our summit bid on a iffy weather window so we are once again back in base camp.

update 2
While reports are sketchy, it seems that most of the South side attempts today were aborted between during the climb to C4 or the South Col. As I have described over the past two days, this is a deadly area in deep snow and high winds so I am glad they pulled back. On the North, Michael from Boealps is reported headed for the summit with their two Sherpas. There are a couple of other teams that may be making their attempts tonight.

More than likely, no teams will summit tonight given the volatile weather. Brave climbers will get braver as they climb in the dark and experience extreme cold temperatures, the real risk of serious frostbite and violent winds. They will make the tough choice of going on or turning back. There is an immense amount of pressure on some of the climbers since they may not get another chance if they abort this attempt. But in the end, I hope they make the right decision and live to climb another day.

update 3
Jagged Globe-South reported "As far as we are aware, all of the teams that had been making summit attempts in this vague window of 20/21 May have turned back and are coming back down off the mountain. It's been the worst weather day today in the last two weeks - cold and snowing intermittently."

And from Alexander Abramov on the North: "Today Slovenes Mapko and Victor, Vladimir Lande and his Sherpa-partner have climbed in the camp of 8300 m. The weather was quite good and climbers plan tomorrow climb the summit. ... In the camp ABC, we have now quite strong wind, very coldly, clear weather. Our friends from camp 8300 speak that, there are no wind at all. But under the forecast, tomorrow there should be a wind up to 50 kms at one hour. We hope, that the ascent will pass successfully. And everyone can go down safely."
May 19, 2005 - Higher and Higher

Progress continues to be made by climbers on the South. Several small teams are at C3 moving to C4/South Col today and tomorrow. The large commercial teams are hanging tight at base camp. A similar story on the North but complicated by the fact that the ropes are not fixed above 8300m. The rhetoric is increasing with accusations about bad weather forecast and broken rope deals becoming more common in the dispatches and commercial websites. While unfortunate, it is fairly common for tensions to increase at this point in the season. Not only between teams but within as well. What I don't understand is the war of words between the large commercial websites...

Back on the Hill, I find Keith Woodhouse to be the lone voice of candor, as usual: "Team relations are at an all time low. Serge and Luda are not talking. The rest of are just trying to avoid getting involved but it makes for a bad atmosphere. Still soon be over!

But the climbers will climb and on the South, some tense days are just ahead.
Geneva Spur as seen from below the Yellow Band
An interesting plan is from Team Honda. If you look at their site and the "routemap" it shows a camp 5 on their South side route. Now most Everest climbers and followers would say that Camp 4 at the South Col is the highest camp but a recent trend in Japanese climbing is to place another camp at the Balcony or 27,700'. This a truly brutal place since it sits directly on the Southeast ridge and has zero protection. But it splits the summit climb in half - about 1300' from C4 and another 1335' to the summit. This same plan got Yuichiro Miura, 70 years old to the top in 2003 - the oldest person to summit. Team Honda's leader is Mr. Michihiro Honda a very young 66!
Looking towards the Spur
Yesterday, I described getting to the Yellow Band. Today let's look at the Geneva Spur as the climbers must pass this structure to get to the South Col and Camp 4. Once past the Yellow Band climbers turn back north or left and follow the fixed lines (if they are in) on a relatively gentle slope. They are approaching the saddle that defines the South Col between Everest and Lhotse. However a huge nose-like rock formation defines the route on the climber's left called the Geneva Spur. While looking up at the Spur, the climbers are also very aware that one slip without the being clipped in could mean a free fall 5,000 feet down the icy Lhotse Face.

Climbers don't actually climb the Spur proper but hug it's south side as they climb the final few hundred feet to reach to Col. But this final climb takes all the energy they have left. It can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to reach the base of this section depending on conditions and how well the climber has acclimatized. But standing at the bottom of the rock and snow covered slope is intimidating no matter what your condition is!Climbers on the Geneva Spur

They carefully remain clipped in and start a slow step by step climb which is mostly on rock. Remember the vast majority of their Everest climb thus far has been on snow or ice. Rock is different, very different. Crampon points do not "stick" into rock - they slide. So climbers must have careful foot placement and stay focused on small steps. Again, this is not terribly difficult but the altitude and fatigue introduce complications.

These pictures do not do it justice. It is steeper than it looks and only a view from above provides a small hint of the difficulty.
looking dow from the top of the Geneva Spur
So while there are not a lot of teams moving towards the summit, the one that are will experience some of the worst cold and windy conditions we have seen in years. Don't be surprised if no one makes its. I just hope they return safely without a lot of frostbite.

I do find it interesting that the large commercial expeditions like IMG, AAI, and Himalayan Experience are sitting tight while the small teams and independent climbers (ones on a group permit but climbing solo or with one or two Sherpas) are pushing it. Some of this is that the larger teams have more resources - food, Sherpas, porters, etc. and can support a wait comfortably. And some of it is the personalities and objectives of these large teams. They run a business to be sure. If they don't put clients on the summit year after year - safely - and get them down - safely - their business suffers. As a result they tend to be a bit more conservative. Word has it some North side teams will wait until early June for a true window. Another two weeks!


May 18, 2005 - Serious Climbing

The Boealps team is going for it on the North hoping for a summit on the morning of May 22. The SummitClimb North team may be the first to summit this year reportedly at Camp 3 . But this may all be in vain considering this morning's comments from AAI "This morning, we saw a huge plume coming from the Everest summit. The wind was roaring up high. Not a good indication." This is a direct observation and not from any weather forecast. Obviously, it doesn't matter if you come from the North or South, the winds on the summit are the same!
Yellow Band above C3
With many teams sitting at Camp 2 on the South and a couple at the North Col, the serious climbing is about to begin. Not to say what they have done thus far is not serious, it is now that they have to Yellow Band up closepull out all the stops and go for it. It is rare for a team - independent, private or commercial - to make multiple summit bids on Everest. First, there are weather windows, then supplies, then sufficient oxygen depending on much they used on the first attempt and finally, energy. But I am getting ahead of myself.

There has been a lot of coverage of climbing in the Western Cwm, avalanches and all, and the Lhotse face is fairly well covered. But the climb from Camp 3 to the South Col usually receives some casual mentions since everyone is so excited about getting to the South Col. In my experience, it is a challenging part of a South side Everest climb and here is why.

Leaving Camp 3 the angle is suddenly steeper. While there are fixed lines, you find yourself moving slowly and carefully trying to avoid a mistake that would leave you in the crevasse at the bottom of the Face. Most climbers leave as close to sunrise as possible because, believe it or not, heat is the primary issue - even at 24,000'. The sun bakes the climbers as it rises over Lhotse. The route is usually very crowded. There are Sherpas carrying loads and climbers carrying themselves. For many climbers they will use bottled oxygen for the first time on a climb during this stretch. As noted previously, it takes some adjustments getting comfortable with the mask.
Yellow Band
Yellow BandAfter an hour or so, the route turns sharp to the left and begins a gentle climb to the Yellow Band. This is a limestone rock band that is prevalent throughout this area of the Himalayas. You cross the same striation on Cho Oyu! The Band is not very difficult if you are a rock climber and if it was at sea level almost anyone could scramble over it. But at 24,000' it takes concentration to keep your crampons on the smooth rock, staying clipped into the fixed line and breathing steadily. The Band is only a few hundred feet in total vertical and horizontal area and after half an hour or so you are pass it.

As is often stated, Everest - south is not a "technical" climb (other than the Hillary Step); it is the altitude that gets you and the climbers will live this axiom as they cross the Yellow Band on the way to the Geneva Spur




May 17, 2005 - The South teams start their move!

The Khumbu Icefall must be a busy place today! By my count at least 6 teams (see the chart above) are positioning themselves at C2 in preparation for the summit bid. Now it get's very interesting. The Singapore team captures it well : "Despite these apprehensions, I have to admit that I feel a certain excitement. After all, my team mates and I have set our sights on this world’s highest mountain for the past three years. And here I am about to embark on the journey of my life, and I intend to give it my all."

As they moved up, all the teams were reminded of the dangers ahead of them as they passed by C1. Jim Williams of Exploradus notes "Our trip to Camp 2 took us through the remains of Camp 1 where earlier we had spent several nights. Many of the campsites we completely buried and others were just pieces of tattered tents flapping in the wind."

By now most climbers have their high altitude gear cached at C2. This will usually include down suites or heavy jacket/pants, extra gloves, goggles, sometimes their Super Gaiters or expedition boots. But other climbers use this same gear up and down (except for the full down). Tents, oxygen bottles, masks are hopefully at C3 or better yet at the South Col. With each step, they look around to see if there are wispy clouds or other telltale hints of changing weather. They are strong and weak at the same time. But most of all they are ready to give it their best.

This year it seems the gap between tagging their high point, usually C3 on the South, and returning for their bid has been unusually long. Some climbers have spent two weeks back at base camps on both sides. So a question is how long does acclimation last? Each individual reacts to altitude differently so there is not fixed rule. That said, some research (mostly for runners training for marathons, etc.) shows that the increased red blood count last about a month after leaving high altitude. My own experience showed that after returning from Everest, I climbed my local 14,000 mountain in personal record time three weeks later. So it would seem that for most climbers they are well within the window.

But the weather will be the dominate conversation item over meals. The climbers will check their own weather source (if they have it) or try to glean some information from those expeditions who pay for "custom" reports. Another concern is the fixed ropes. IMG reports they are fixed to just below the Balcony on the South. This means the first team will be carrying rope, fixing it and breaking trail during the first summit attempt. Not impossible to be certain, just very difficult.

As I have said before, this is one of the most unusual seasons in the past few years. With all the fresh snow and unsettled weather, those who are climbing Everest for the first time will be thoroughly tested. And the veterans may be called on to help those who perhaps should have turned around earlier. In any event, let's all throw some good Karma their way - they will need it.

May 16, 2005 - North Attempt and Oxygen

The big news today is the aborted summit bid on the North side by the Norwegians and their almost immediate return according to Big Green. Winds at the First Step were forecast at 40 mph with temperatures of below -20 Fahrenheit and they experienced some mild frostbite.

This attempt is interesting in that they seemed to be quite alone in believing they could make it. The Jagged-Globe dispatches makes a few key points: "High winds continue to be forecast until the end of this week, so we can't imagine the team looking to summit until around the 22, 23, 24 May ... There are reports of climbers attempting the summit last week and coming back down with frostbite and others saying that they would have been blown off the ridge if the fixed ropes weren't there ... Unlike the teams climbing Everest from the South side, who really only need one day of less strong winds to climb from the South Col and back, the North side climbers need a four-day window. As soon as they are on the North Col at Camp 1 (c7,000m), they are exposed to the winds, so it means they have to wait a bit longer than the South Col climbers to position themselves for the summit climb.

With time running out and a brief respite from the winds on the horizon, many teams are returning to base camp from down valley or moving up to C2 on the South or the North Col. But the primary activity over the weekend was reviewing their oxygen strategy. Most climbers on their summit bid start using some level of supplemental oxygen above 7,000m. For example, on the South is is common for two climbers to share one bottle while sleeping at C3 at a rate of .5 to 1 liter per minute. This is not a lot but just enough to take the edge off. Many climbers then use O's for the climb to the South Col and above.

Using Oxygen is not a substitute for lower altitude. In fact the difference is about 3,000 feet. So even though you are on O's at the South Col (26,300') you still feel like you are at 23,300'! Another benefit is that your fingers and toes stay slightly warmer.

There are a couple of systems out there. One from Summit Oxygen and the traditional approach using the Russian Poisk system. Both use lightweight metal bottles but they differ in delivery approach.

The Poisk system use bottles filled at the factory in St-Petersburg, Russia. The oxygen is delivered through a regulator to a tube to a face mask that provides a constant flow of oxygen. They hold about 720 liters of oxygen and weigh about 5.6 lbs. Climbers usually run their flow at 2 liters per minute and count on getting about 6 hours out a bottle.

The Summit Oxygen approach uses nozzles inserted into the nostrils instead of a full mask. This "on-demand" approach is more efficient but has not been widely used on Everest. Their 3-litre system weighs about 7 lbs. when full. Running at 2-litres/minute it will support about 22 hours of climbing thus require significantly fewer bottle and less weight. Several teams are using it this year and I am anxious to see how it goes.

It takes a lot of work to get the bottles positioned on the mountain. There are some at C3, South Col, Balcony and the South Summit. Obviously they are used for the summit as well as the descent. These days all the bottles are carried down and reused for future expeditions. The days of littering the mountain are hopefully gone forever. The bottles you see in pictures were left behind years ago.

On summit night, climbers put one or two bottles (using Poisk) in their packs. The rubber tube runs over their shoulder to the mask. Many climbers put tape on their cheekbones and nosebridge since the masks will rub those areas raw after 18 hours on a summit climb. The mask will interfere with visibility in that it is almost impossible to see your feet. This makes you go even slower! And since the mask is not 100% sealed around your face, air will escape and fog up goggles and sunglasses. All in all it is a fairly uncomfortable situation. But very few climbers would trade the discomforts for that extra 3000 feet!
May 14, 2005 - Talkative Teams

With many of the expeditions sitting out the weather in base camps, there are many dispatches to read. And they mostly say the same thing as typified by this one from Adventures to the Edge " Frustration !! The jet stream is not showing any sign of relief. Very strong wind above 7500m is halting teams on both side of the mountain.The weather computer model is showing some improvement starting May 24th. Patience !"

On the North, many of the teams had retreated to base camp to enjoy the lower altitude and slightly better weather. But now they are moving back to ABC at 21,300' to be ready for a summit bid when/if the weather breaks.

The best summary of the situation directly from the Hill is from Duncan Chessel's DCXP "The BAD NEWS is the weather forecast is for a disturbed – erratic – high speed jet stream wind to spread onto Everest from now until the 27th of MAY…no one is very impressed with that news! There are some very short bursts of slightly lower winds 21-22-23 May but for the speed and size of our team – we can not risk these short windows – lest we get caught out high on the hill. Some fast teams will be able to exploite these with some risk. Our friends on the South Side in Nepal might make better use of these winds as they are sheltered on the other side of the peak from these winds for most of their climb. This gives us a likely summit date of the 30th May at the earliest and ONLY if the wind drops on the 28th May onwards."

Courtesy of the Weather ChannelOn the South, AAI have returned from their "vacation" down valley and are ready for their push. IMG is with them at BC as well. Gavin Bates, solo without O's made a cryptic report, probably from C2, after being MIA for two days. He is probably fine but his radio transmission was garbled. With all that is happening this season any uncertainty creates anxiety with the home team.

With all this time on their hands, some nice pictures are being released. Take a look at a night shots of Everest (North side) that was taken by British Climber Stuart Holmes, click on the image to see it full screen. Another interesting activity was reported by Jim Williams from Exploradus was a violin concert by a Czech doctor.

So here is the situation: the jet stream sits on top of Everest most every day of every year. This means winds of 100 mph are common on the summit. Humans are knocked off their feet at 60 mph on level ground... So it is virtually impossible to climb in these conditions. Every Spring in Asia the heavy rains or monsoons start around the end of May or early June. Low pressure builds in India and the Bay of Bengal and "pushes" the jet stream North and away from Everest thus creating a climbing window since the jet soon moves back. Expeditions are looking at weather reports for this low pressure area. Pray for rain in India!
May 13, 2005 - More waiting

Duncan Chessell notes with disappointment " The new weather forecast has predicted high winds until 18-19 May which is still another week away. Which is disappointing to say the least. So it looks as though our BC stay will be extended by another 3-4 days…

On the North, Big Green said "Most teams are at BC. Conditions at ABC or at even the North Col are not bad, however, there is no point in being at higher altitudes unless a weather window is going to open. It is better to stay at BC and conserve strength." Those on the North seem to have some more options for R&R than on the South. They rent motorscooters to take them down valley or visit the Karsang village and the Rhonbuk Monastery. Not as remote as one might think!rock near a dinning tent at Basecamp

Meanwhile on the South, it seems the warm weather is playing havoc with the tents at BC. Nigel Clark notes "base camp is still busy but melting away! All the tents look as though they are on platforms as the spaces between melt in the daytime sun." As the end of May approaches, it brings much warmer temperatures and the glacier starts to melt out on base camp. Also at C2 it gets very mushy and stream of water suddenly appear. Remember that most of the tents are simply sitting on ice so when it starts to melt, the tents shift and your comfy little home away from how become more like a rumpled rug on a hardwood floor. So everyone spends a little time moving tents to more stable ground. Also large boulders tend to move so if a tent is next to such a hazard you have to move the tent or the boulder!

As usual, Keith Woodhouse is providing the most honest assessment of what is happening up there "...After much thought and debate with other member from different teams I have decided to tough this out! Tomorrow I'll set of for Labuche not two far down the track but enough to get some exercise and to sleep in a bed! General consensus is weather improving slowly but current outlook not the stable window we are looking for. Still some teams planning to begin climb next few days in anticipation of improving conditions and with a view of calling it off if necessary! Problem with this is the Ice Fall which everyone agrees is becoming increasing unstable and not climbed unless necessary.

Conditions on the Lhotse Face must be difficult. The Adventure Consultant's Traverse team reported it took them 8 hours to reach C3 from C2. The "normal" time is about 6 and sometimes less. We know that there is a lot of snow up there and many teams are sitting tight at BC so this means there are not a lot of "footsteps" to follow since the previous traffic has been lighter than usual. And obviously, the fresh snow increases the difficulty. These are strong climbers so we can expect some difficulty for some of the others. I doubt 2005 will be a record year for summits.

May 12, 2005 - Viesturs finishes his dream

Ed Viesturs summited Annapurna to become the first American to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks. Quite a feat! He succeeded on his third attempt - a climber after my own heart. And he says he has more peaks to climb! If you think this is no big deal ... Ed is only the 5th person to ever accomplish climbing all 14 without supplemental oxygen. He is lucky to have an oversized heart and a body made for high altitude but he is also a nice guy. Make sure you see him if he has a speaking engagement near your home
May 11, 2005 - A summit plan on the South?

There is talk in several dispatches of a summit plan taking shape. With a target summit date of May 19, climbers would leave base camp this Friday, May 13. The only problem is that IMG is the only team that has Camp 4 or the South Col
stocked with the proper gear for a summit attempt. So that that would imply that IMG Sherpas would fix the line and break trail to the summit - both difficult and time consuming tasks that the other expeditions would benefit from.

This is not uncommon in that last year Jagged Globe did the same with their first summit from the South but to ask one team to put in all the work without some advantage seems a little unfair. Thus a meeting was held earlier this week amongst leaders of the large expeditions to agree on a fair plan for all the climbers. IMG has taken the lead this year.Fixing rope on the Lhotse Face

The IMG commented about the meeting in their latest dispatch "We had about seven teams and I counted 30 people in our tent having a meeting regarding fixing up above the South Col in the near future. It's all about trying to be flexible, about trying to position yourself and not wasting the precious resources we worked so hard to put in place. No sooner did we made a big plan than about two hours later we got a new report on weather"

To explain a little further, establishing the route above the South Col is by far the most dangerous segment of the South side climb. The strongest Sherpas take the honor of the task (and many consider it to be an honor). It involves carrying over 2,700 feet of rope - 18 segments of line each weighing about 7 pounds in their backpacks as they free climb. In addition, they carry snow anchors (2 foot aluminum angle irons) and ice screws which are used to anchor the rope into the snow and ice. They must stop for 15 minutes or longer depending on how hard the snow and ice is to attach each anchor. Then they also must tie rope together and to the anchors - all of this at altitudes from 26,500' to 29,035! Almost all the Sherpas perform these demanding task using bottled oxygen - another 6lbs of weight!

Even though there are lines from the previous years, sometimes five to 8 old lines, these cannot be used since the sun's ultraviolet light weakens the nylon lines. In all likelihood, these old lines would snap in two under the weight of a falling climber. Once the lines are fixed, it is very normal for the very same Sherpas to spend the night at the South Col and then climb with clients to the summit the next day!

So cooperation starts on the South similar to what was agreed upon on the North several weeks ago.

Jagged-Globe South reports "Depending on the forecast tomorrow, they may well leave base camp on 13 May to head for the summit. And they go on to comment on the weather and the impact on their plans ""...it has been extremely windy today and our Sherpas had to turn around at the Geneva Spur en route to Camp 4 on the South Col, where they had planned to finish stocking the camp. This means that they will have to get ahead of the main climbing team, who will probably arrive in C4 on 18 May, to make sure that all the oxygen, ropes, stakes, ice screws etc are in place."

Even the small teams (of one!) are contributing noted Keith Woodhosuse "a deal has been struck with a number of teams to fix ropes on the final 900m. We are contributing some ropes, screws and Oxygen

As previously reported, Adventure Consultants is, by design, lagging the other teams and has a target summit date towards the end of the month "The weather forecast for the next week is for very strong winds aloft. This has the potential to delay the first summit attempts of the season until the final week of May. Adventure Consultants were never planning to be part of the first summit wave. . This is exactly what they did last year with great success. Kind of a tortoise and the hare story.

I will be posting new pictures of the Yellow Band, Geneva Spur and South Col over the next week as the teams progress up the Hill. The race is about to begin! Let's hope for all the climbers success and, more importantly, safety as they begin their bids.
May 10, 2005 - Improving Weather?

Dave Hahn of IMG reports from Camp 3 that the Lhotse Face is settling down"...It was a little harder than normal coming up the fixed ropes today, with kinda snowy steps, up two steps up, back a half step, that kind of thing but boy it felt good to be moving again."

An interesting comment from the Algonquin team "cannot find anyone to accompany Shaunna. Either climbers are not ready, or they do not have their camp IV setup. The soonest most groups want to go is around the 18th of May. We are afraid that a good opportunity will be missed. We have no choice but sit and wait, feeling just a little frustrated! If they really leave on may 18th that would imply a summit of May 25, a little late but still in the window.

In another dispatch from Algonquin "... Due to all these traumatic events, Shaunna reports that she has seen nearly thirty percent of the climbing community leaving base camp." Interesting, but I believe the "real" climbers have stayed and will go for their summit.

Yes, there has been serious tragedy early this year coupled with some "interesting" acts of nature. But this should not deter the climbers from going for their summit. The danger is not with the mountain but with their minds. The mental part of climbing Everest is not to be underestimated. You want to quit. You hurt. You are tired. You miss home. You are afraid of what you don't know. All these thoughts and more will enter every climbers head in the next several weeks. Some will lose the battle and other will beat it.

But the real winners will do their best and return home with all their fingers and toes.
May 9, 2005 - Waiting

JG-North reports "There's not been much action this last week, as the team have been down in base camp. Team members have been getting a few chores done, such as washing clothes and themselves! There has been a lot of snow the last few days with increasingly strong winds. The forecast isn't great, so we don't expect much to happen for a few days. The North Col team arrived in base camp today, led by Ian Barker."

JG-South: "Our South side climbers are now back in BC or C2 having been down the valley in Dingboche since they came off the mountain. They are all in good health. The Sherpas are doing another carry to Camp 4 on the South Col tomorrow, so that will be Camp 4 established. The weather forecasts until early next week are for increasingly strong winds up high, so it's unlikely that they will be going up. Just to confirm that although we lost two tents in Camp 1 in the avalanche last week, none of our members or Sherpas were involved.

Boealps says "...So we keep having to remind ourselves that this is suppose to be hard. We've spent the last few days socializing, playing cards, eating noodles, and lounging around. Living at over 17,000 feet never seemed easier after living up at ABC!

Exploradus said "So the weather is bad up high, but has somehow improved in base camp. I spent the day in a t-shirt, jeans and a pair of Crocs. It was wonderful!

Singapore NUS comments on something to do " We have been resting close to 2 weeks now, and frankly some of us are getting pretty restless. The weather hasn’t been kind to us for the last one week or so, and today is one of the first good-weather days for a long time. We decided to practise on the Ice Fall, and mimic some of the conditions we will face on our summit bid. We went to a site with ice features about 10 metres high and 30 metres long 15 minutes away from the base camp, where Mark Tucker, one of the main guides in the American team, had set up ropes across the entire ice section.

Keith notes "Nothing to do but wait!! Weather at base camp is very pleasant and winds high up look less than forecast. There are rumours of a team making an attempt arround the end of the week but its all hearsay. We are talking about making a start Thursday or Friday but its cot confirmed as yet.

This is a very difficult time for the climbers. While many have spent a night above 7000m, they have not experienced the hardest part of climbing Everest ... yet. And they know it. They are anxious to get up there and get this thing done but they are also enjoying the relative luxury and low pressure environment of base camps or below. It is a strange feeling - kind of like pushing the car accelerator and brake at the same time.

There is nothing they can do with the bad weather so every team tries to make the best of it. The worst thing they can do is nothing. Just lying in your tent and sleeping away the day (while nice) actually hurts the body. So they go on 3 - 6 hour walks, do some climbing on nearby hills and generally keep their muscles engaged and their lungs and hearts working. The Singapore team did a great practice climb complete with down suit, oxygen and boots! A great idea to shake out the loose ends.

So, we all just wait. But don't worry when the weather clears, there will be a mad dash .. and that brings another set of problems.
May 8, 2005 - Where are they?

All is quiet today on both sides with bad weather discouraging any attempts to climb higher. Reports of avalanches on the Lhotse face are unsettling especially after the big one at Camp 1 last week. So I took advantage of this lull to work on a little project. Sometimes it is hard to figure out where the teams are on the mountain so I added a notation beside every expedition I regularly follow as to their current location (c), their high point (h) and if they have stayed at a camp (x). I'll update it as often as I receive new information. As you can see, almost every team is at base camps.

May 7, 2005 - Waiting out the weather

I discovered a new site from a two climber team on the North, Dan and Greg, both 28 years-old. It seems they are taking a break from their promising careers to do some climbing! They are
"independent" climbers using permits from Asian Trekking. Their site has almost daily updates plus some of the best pictures I have seen of the North side route. They call themselves Big Green Everest.

Another North site with nice pictures is Project Himalaya. The snow depth looks amazing !

So the weather has moved in and it looks bad for a few more days. I went back and looked at my dispatches from my 2002 climb and saw my comments about high winds, deep snow at C2 and base camp as well as waiting six days for a window before our summit bid. It was all about his time in our expedition so while this year's weather may seem worse than normal, I don't think it is. Of course the avalanche at C1 has set a tone!

AAI is now at Deboche (3800 m/ 12,300 ft) resting up for their summit bid as well as waiting out the poor weather on the South. They have already spent time at C3. The Exploradus team will be staying base camp but are enjoying some interesting fantasies "... joked about chartering a flight to the Thai beaches for a couple of days and several teams are heading down below base camp to spend a couple of nights in thicker air and in the comforts of a Tea House. So far we are intending to stay at base camp, which we?ve built into quite a comfortable home and keep ourselves focused on the goal of our trip" Adventure Consultants have retreated from C2 to base camp due to the heavy snow and dangerous conditions up there. Smart move! They still need to spend their night at C3 before their summit bid so their schedule will be tight but no cause for concern quite yet.

Back up on the Hill, the conditions are dangerous. IMG notes the instability on the Lhotse Face "A couple of a Singaporian neighbors and two Sherpa climbed up to the base of the Lhotse Face from camp II and no sooner than when they grabbed hold of the lowest fixed rope it triggered a small fresh snow avalanche." While this is a small and normally not dangerous type of avalanche, it reveals that the climbers need to let the snow consolidate before attempting to climb to C3 or above.

Tomorrow some thoughts about spending time waiting...

May 5, 2005 - Climbing Realities

With all the activity on the South, you may wonder what is happening on the North side. The weather is similar to the South - windy, cold and snowy ... but hey, this is Everest! Oxygen bottles, tents, stoves, fuel and food have been stocked at the 8300m level for some teams and fixed line is there as well. So great progress. In fact with all the problems on the South, we may see the first summits from the North side this year.

Ryan with Seattle Boealps gives a wonderful description of what it is like climbing at altitude. They were climbing on the North side above the North Col "... put on our down suits for the first time, big boots, face masks, goggles and high altitude mitts and headed into the wind. The views were amazing! Once out of the protection of the 'schrund, the Tibetan Himalaya unfolded before us! For the first time, the altitude and the sweeping views became a reality. Cho-Oyu, Pumori and Shishapangma were sticking up through the clouds, and all the other peaks were now below us. It was some of the most spectacular climbing I've ever done." . Take a look at his complete dispatch - it is one of the best from the North thus far.

The Singapore NUS team made these comments on their South side schedule: It seems like it will be another week or more before the team can launch its summit bid. Not only do we need a good-weather window, the fixed ropes up to the summit need to be established." But the no O's team headed up the Icefall planning on reaching South Col. This may be tough with heavy snow and high winds forecasted for the next 5-7 days. Adventure Consultants reported from C2 they were socked in and waiting for the new snow to consolidate before attempting C3.
Camp 3 looking towards the Western Cwm
If you are not familiar with avalanche danger as it relates to fresh snow and the dynamics of how snow naturally packs, it is a very complex process that often requires experts to accurately read. Sometimes pits are dug to actually look at how the snow is layered. The key is to see if the fresh snow has bonded with the existing snow. If it has, the chances of an avalanche is reduced, if not then the fresh snow could slip off the old snow just like a sled going downhill ... an avalanche. A great site for more information is the Colorado Avalanche Center.

Speaking of avalanches, many dispatches continue to buzz about the C1 avalanche yesterday. Once again Lepzig once again has some excellent photos.

Those on the South are probably doing some schedule calculations. Their climbing permits usually require being off the Icefall by May 31.That is when the Icefall doctors stop maintaining the ladders and ropes! If you assume it takes about 7 days for the summit bid including return to base camp, then climbers must leave no later than May 20. Also a couple of days are required to break down base camp. So the next two weeks are critical for getting the South Col stocked and for climbers to get some acclimatization time above 7,000m (Camp 3).

But the real wildcard continues to be the weather.

Stay tuned!


May 4, 2005 - Avalanche at Camp 12002 picutre Camp 1 and West Ridge of Everest - Serac that avalached
Dispatch after dispatch speaks of this year's bad weather. Often the pictures show fresh snow. With fresh snow on mountain sides it is when, not if, there will be an avalanche. And one occurred today at Camp 1. Apparently in the early morning hours, around 5:30 AM, an avalanche occurred damaging or destroying more than 50 tents. The good news is that there were no deaths. There are several reports on injuries with some saying they were minor and other reports mentioning a critically injured Sherpa and other Sherpas helping climbers descend to base camp.

AAI has reported no one on their large team was at Camp 1 when this happened but describes the rescue in detail. IMG has reported in that they are also not impacted. The Adventure Consultants Everest Traverse team also said they were fine and I assume this includes the larger AC team since the are all together. An excellent dispatch with pictures is at Leipzig goes to Everest
Avalanche off Pumori next to Everest South Base camp in 2002
You might wonder why Camp 1 would be put in an "avalanche zone". Well it is not - usually. The location of Camp 1 (shown in a 2002 picture on the left with the serac that generated the avalanche very visible to the left of the person standing) is just over the top of theKhumu Icefall and at the mouth of the Western Cwm. It is used year after year after year for several reasons:

First it is a relatively stable area, second it is somewhat flat, third it is in an area between the heavily crevassed top of the Icefall and the also heavily crevassed lower Western Cwm. And finally, it is far enough away from the nearby mountain sides to avoiding a direct hit in the event of an avalanche - usually - but in 2002 some snow and wind did hit some tents. I remember worrying about my gear I had left up there. But this is what mountaineering and mountains are all about: Everything you know about mountains is wrong!
Avalanche off Pumori next to Everest South Base camp in 2002

Actually, the snow itself does not have to directly hit a tent to cause damage. The wind gusts from the falling snow is enough to knock one over. I can remember sitting in base camp, more than a half a mile away from an avalanche and feeling the cold wind against my face. These pictures are of an avalanche off Pumori next to Everest South base camp.

However, from the pictures it looks like snow actually hit the site. Thankfully, at this point in most expedition's acclimation Avalanche off Pumori next to Everest South Base camp in 2002schedule, Camp 1 is used for storing some gear and emergencies. It appears that the vast majority of the tents were unoccupied since most of the climbers were at Camp 2 and 3 or at base camp.



You know, this is a strange season. There have been several deaths, accidents and unusual occurrences. Sadly, every Everest season has too many tragedies but they usually occur as climbers go above 7,000m, to the summit or on the way down from the summit.

Several expeditions are reporting the Sherpas have moved oxygen bottles and tents to the South Col. There were come comments about "early" summits but with all the bad weather this week, it looks like the traditional summit days around May 21 will hold again for 2005. For those teams hoping to avoid the crowds by being early just like the previous four years, it will probably not happen. Look for a crowded summit day soon!


May 3, 2005 - First person reports

EverestNews.com made first person reports available on Tuesday night about Mike O'Brien's death. His brother Chris O'Brien and fellow climber Blair Falahey issued statements. Also team leader Mark Merwin commented on the warm weather, soft snow and low fixed lines. Please visit their site to read them in detail.

My reaction continues to be one of tremendous sadness. It appears by all accounts that this was an accident that could have happened to any climber on any mountain with any expedition. One detail caught my attention - warm temperatures.

The snow becomes very mushy when it warms and there had been fresh snow over the past few days. All Everest climbers in the Icefall wear crampons on their boots. Crampons, as many of you know, are sharp spikes that attach to the boot bottom. There is an inch or more gap between the sole and the ground (snow or ice). The spikes provide a solid connection to the ground thus reducing slipping and allows for climbing up or down steep slopes.

This systems works very well unless snow gathers in the space between the boot and the ground - called balling or bailing. Almost all crampon manufacturers make a rubber or hard plastic device that fits in this open space called an anti-bailing plate. But invariably snow gathers if it is really warm and mushy. When this happens your normally secure footing is turned into an ice skating rink. Climbers regularly hit the sides of their boots with their ice axe to knock loose the bailed snow.

The fixed rope being low to the ground is also very common. In areas of the Icefall that have a lot of small bumps and hills, it is almost impossible to string the fixed line in a convenient manner. Sometimes the line is loose, others it is very tight and sometimes it is very close to the ground. Remember the line is attached to the anchors to catch someone if they fall so the line should be tight. When it is low and tight as when over the top of a small bump, it is very awkward to clip in. You have to stoop down and walk in a crouch for a short distance. If the area is somewhat flat, most climbers simply don't clip in and go to the next anchor.

None of the reports reveal precisely what happened but there is enough evidence and with the conditions the way they were it seems likes an accident. And I repeat, an accident that could have happen to any climber on any mountain on any expedition.

Rest in peace Mike.

May 3, 2005 - How can it happen?

I must admit to anyone who reads my pages that I am still shaken by Mike O'Brien's death. Since I am not a reporter and this site is not a "news" site and I simply post my comments and thoughts for anyone interested, I am going to take some liberties with the following.

How it happened is still not documented by credible sources. All we have is rumor and innuendo. While some of the speculation may be correct, I believe we should wait for the truth to come out from those who were actually there when it happened. But it really doesn't matter. Those who instantly became judgmental and posted comments that only made themselves look good and others look bad will have to live with what they have done. It doesn't change the sad reality.

The Khumbu Icefall is a horribly dangerous place on Everest. In modern times more people die there than any other place on a South side climb. And all the climbers know this. This is why there are specialized Sherpas called Icefall Doctors who install and maintain the ladders and fixed ropes so that there is some semblance of safety for all the expeditions. Whether the climbers use these devices is totally up to each individual.

It is very common to see the Sherpas racing up and back down the Icefall. I never remember seeing a Sherpa clipped into a fixed rope in my 18 trips up and down the Icefall. I can vividly remember seeing professional guides not clipping in and moving quickly by slow climbers on certain sections. I also remember seeing climbers, probably clients of commercial expeditions, of all skills sometimes clipped in and sometimes not.

Why would someone not clip into a fixed rope on one of the most dangerous sections of a climb? Well for several and none very good reasons. The Sherpas have an order of magnitude more experience in the Icefall than other climbers since they can make twenty or more round trips in one season. This experience creates a false sense of knowledge and security. Also, I have noticed there seems to be a slight bit of competition amongst the Sherpas as to who can get up or down the fastest. That said, they are always careful not to pressure a western climber and will almost always stop to check on someone in obvious trouble.

Most western climbers are not as comfortable in the Icefall and will clip in. But even then there are some sections where the anchors that fix the rope to the ice are closely spaced so climbers will skip a section and clip in when there is a longer run. Not wise, but everyone does it.

There is the matter of the anchors themselves. I can tell you that not all the anchors are solid. They melt out in the hot sunlight during the day and freeze back into place at night. That is why everyone tries to climb in the early morning and avoid the late afternoon. A rope fixed to a floating anchor is simply a pacifier and not a security device. But it is hard to know which is which at 20,000' especially when you are tired.

After a few trips in the Icefall, you get more comfortable. You are often measured by how fast you make it up or down. Make no mistake, there is a genuine pressure to improve your times or risk being asked to stop your climb. Some of this is absolutely legitimate since you should make it through the Icefall faster on your third trip than your first if your body is acclimatizing properly. But not every climber understands this flow and may push themselves too hard and make simple but costly mistakes.

These days there are all types of expeditions on Everest - huge commercial ones, military, government, private, solo and independent. If you pay, you can pay as little as $20,000 or as much as $100,000 or more. It all depends on what you want. There is an increasing trend on big mountains to be an "independent" climber. This often means that a permit is purchased for seven or more people by an operator and then places are sold to individuals. There is usually no "guide" and the only services offered are base camp tents and food - and access to the fixed ropes and ladders set up by others. Bottled oxygen is an optional charge. This option attracts experienced climbers who know how to take care of themselves at high altitude and are also making a bet that there will be no health or weather problems since if they get in trouble they are on their own. The fact is that if everything is perfect you win the bet, but if not, you may lose big.

Another emerging trend are expeditions that charge half the "rack rate" or list price of the traditional commercial operators. While I am positive there are operators doing this that should not be in the business, there are several that are simply offering guided expeditions without all the frills. Think of Jet Blue or Ryan Air versus United or British Airways. These "value" operators provide base camp and High Camp tents, Sherpas, porters and usually western guides. There are no hot showers, space heaters or sushi in base camp. I have several experienced climbing friends who have climbed Everest using such logistics and were extremely satisfied.

Obviously you can climb Everest in almost any way you can imagine.

So where does that leave us with the dangers and risks that climbers expose themselves to? It is a myth that by having someone with you will keep you safe. It is a myth that by clipping to a fixed line you will avoid disaster. It is a myth that by paying more you are buying your safety.

It is fact that by matching your experience with the difficulty of your climb you will reduce your risk. It is a fact that by using all the safety devices you will reduce your risks. It is a fact that by climbing with an experienced partner who you know and trust will reduce your risks.

But it is also a fact that mountaineering is a dangerous sport where people die in spite of all the precautions. None of this makes it easier for those left behind. While they may have understood, supported and loved their climber, their climber is gone. No words can ease the pain. No amount of "could-of, should-of, would-of" will bring them back. If a person goes to climb a mountain such as Everest, he or she must have loved mountains and mountaineering.

I hope there is some comfort in that.


May 2, 2005 - More Tragedy!

Now widely reported by several news agencies and confirmed by his father and brother, Mike O'Brien has died while descending from higher camps on Everest. Apparently he was in the Icefall, slipped and fell into a 30' crevasse. His brother Chris was with him at the time. This is especially disturbing for me even though I did not know them, in late March, I exchanged emails with Mike before his departure. We discussed the climb, website coverage and .. safety. My last sentence was "...But most of all climb safe and climb on!"

Mike and Chris were trying to become the first American brothers to summit Everest. Also they were raising money for the Hereditary Disease Foundation, which funds scientific research seeking cures for diseases such as Huntington's, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson's. Their goal is $100,000. They have lost several family members to Huntington's Disease.

Several dispatches from other teams are criticizing their organizer and the climbers for not being experienced enough, not being clipped into the fixed ropes and not paying enough money for real guides. I find the timing of the comments sad. There will be plenty of time to understand exactly what happened. Perhaps I will add my own views for these points later.

But for now, a 39 year-old climber who just wanted to do some good is dead. My heart-felt sympathy and condolences are with Mike's family and friends and especially Chris.

May 1, 2005 - Ready, Set, Rest up!

The weather did turn bad this weekend forcing climbers on both sides to sit tight. Piers Buck on the Adventure Consultants Traverse team noted "The 1st day of May. Unfortunately, heavy snow this morning prevented us from leaving base camp to try for camp3." So they sit and wait. breakfast at Basecamp

Sometimes it is health, the weather or the need to rest up. For many teams, they have completed their acclimatization climbs to the 7,000m (23,500') level where they jump-start the production of oxygen carrying red-blood cells. Once this milestone is successfully accomplished they return to their respective base camps (or lower) to rest, reload on food and fluids and begin the mental preparation for the summit bid.

This break is crucial in that they have already spent almost a month at altitude. I don't care if you are living in the lap of luxury with gas ovens, heaters, dinning tents with table cloths, padded chairs and great food. Or you are in a simple two-person tent cooking on your favorite Primus and using the nearest big rock as your table, you are starting to wear down. The food becomes monotonous. The ground hard. The weather cold. Your skin burned. Your muscles tired. And you miss home.

All that said, you wouldn't leave for anything!

The recent trend has been to go down to one of the upper Khumbu villages for a couple of nights in order to enjoy the rich oxygenated air below 17,000' (it is all relative!). Also to sleep on a real "bed" (again relative). And to eat something slightly different. But mostly it is a change of pace that relieves the routine that has become your life for the past month.

Keith Woodhouse makes some comments about this time in his climb "I was hoping the 1st May would bring a new optimism but not so far. I desperately miss sensible conversation at less than 100 dB which the only volume Russians can communicate!!! Tomorrow I will be heading down the valley on my own as more Russians have turned up at BC and there will be some sort of reunion. I'm happy about this and the solitude is not an issue. I may even find some British trekkers to talk with. I will be back in BC for Friday 6th which be the earliest trigger da20te for an ascent between the 10th and 15th which we are hoping for. This will be my first and last attempt at Everest, the preparation is more than I could bare again!!! Despite all this my resolve and determination is high, I'm not going through this for nothing!!!!" Yes, patience is tested and little things start to wear on everybody.                               

CLICK HERE FOR MORE DISPATCHS FROM THE MONTH OF APRIL 2005

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