Everest 2009 Season Coverage
Himalaya - Nepal/Tibet
29,035 feet 8850m
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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 2009 climb coverage.

South Col Route
281+ Summits

See more of the south route description with pictures
Clickhere to see the route in motion

North Ridge Route
57+ Summits

See more of the north routes description with pictures
Everest South Route Map
Everest Route North Ridge
Team with blog. See Climber List
only team locations noted
BC
C1
C2
C3
C4'
SUMMIT
Team with blog. See Climber List
only team locations noted
BC
ABC
C1
C2
C3
C4
SUMMIT
* Adventure Alternatives (2)
e
          * Extreme Summit (17)
e
           
* Adventure Consultants (6)
e
       
6/9
* Adventure Peaks (8)
e
         
8/5
* Altitude Junkies (5)
e
       
2/1
* Gabriel Filippi
e
           
* Alpine Ascents Int. (19)
e
       
11/10
* Czech Team
e
         
2/2
* Asian Trekking Eco Everest (14)
e
       
3+/14+
* Everest Columbia 2009
e
           
* Croatian Women's Team (4)
e
       
4/4
* Canadian Mad Frogs
e
           
* Dream Guides
e
       
5+
* Chinese
e
         
20
* First Ascent (10)
e
       
9/5
* Manny Pizarro
e
         
1/1
* Explore Your Planet (3)
e
       
3/5
Japanese Kanagawa University Team
e
         
2+
* Finnish Ranger Club (9)
e
       
4
* Norwegians            
4+
* High Himal
e
       
2/2
               
* Himex (Russell Brice) ()
e
       
30/28
               
* Discovery Film Crew (4)
e
       
4/4
               
* IMG (15)
e
       
7/8
               
* Indian
e
       
11+
               
* International Adventure Alternative
e
       
13
               
* Singapore Women (7)
e
       
5/5
               
* Jagged Globe (13)
e
       
10/8
               
* Lasser Alpine
e
       
2/2
               
* Mountain Link (2)
e
                         
* Mountain Madness (3)
e
       
2/1
               
* Peak Freaks (10)
e
       
4/10
               
* Summit Climb (6)
e
       
5/2
* Summit Climb
e
         
5/5
* Atumas Taiwanese
e
       
6
               
* 7 Summits (17)
e
       
21
               
* Lhotse-Everest traverse (6)
e
                         
 
Total South Summits:
281+
 
Total North Summits:
57+
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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2009 Climbers

partial list with Blogs

- Alec Turner
- Adrian Ballinger
- Bill Burke
- Billi Bierling
- Bruce Parker
- Bud Allen
- Chris Dovell
- Christophe Vandaele
- David Tait
- Eugene Constant
- Gilad Stern
- Ian Rogers
- Johnny & Brain Strange
- John Golden
- Lance Fox
- Mike Farris
- Michael Morales
- Nic Cunningham
- Megan Delehanty
- Robby Kojetin
- Scott Parazynski
- Tomsky Arnold
- Valerio Massimo
- Wendy Booker
- Yuri Pritzker

Picture Galleries

South Col

South Col

South Col

South Col

Lhotse Face

Lhotse Face

Lhotse Face

Camp 3

Camp 3

Western Cwm & C1

Lhotse Face

Everest from Western Cwm

Camp 1

Khumbu Icefall

Top of the IceFall

Khumbu Icefall

Khumbu Icefall

Khumbu Icefall

Everest Base Camp

Puja

Everest Base camp

Dining Tent

Trekking to Base Camp

YAK

CHildren in the Khumbu

Helicopter at BC
June 8 update: Gabriel Filippi reports that the entire remaining team of 5 climbers are now back at base camp. They are not reporting if they made the summit or other details yet. This was the last team attempting Everest on either side in the Spring season. With the monsoons moving in, Everest will be quiet until the Fall.

Everest 2009 Recap

The summary is – it was a good year. Now for the details.

Overall this was one of the safest seasons in the past few years in spite of some difficult weather that created a long delay in early May. There were over 330 summits and sadly 5 deaths on Everest and one on Lhotse.

Similar to 2008, the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) changed the rules and gave vague guidance to teams during the critical planning period resulting in almost all of the major north side operators making the switch to Nepal. That fueled speculation of overcrowding, bottlenecks and record summits and record deaths. And in the end it was just speculation.

While the route was crowded during the peak summit days of May 19th and 20th, it was somewhat orderly for such a potential mess. The Sherpas, Sirdars, veteran guides and expedition operators worked together to put in redundant fixed lines on the critical sections and even attached permanent bolts into the Yellow Band to improve safety and speed up the climbers.

Cheers went up in base camp when on May 5th; the fixed line was taken all the way to the summit by a consortium of Sherpas thus clearing the way for the masses to summit. British climber David Tait climbed along with them marking the first western summit of the season. Excited talk of an early summit year worked its way throughout the community.

However as always in mountaineering, the mountain and the weather have the last word.

This year it was the Icefall and a dangerous hanging serac that threatened climbers on every trip through the Khumbu Icefall. Report after report commented on the ominous threat and climbers adjusted their schedule to climb in the coldest and darkest part of the early morning to avoid being underneath it when the warming rays of the sun came out. It seemed that small avalanches were taking place daily somewhere on the route. Was global warming real and Everest a casualty?

And then it finally occurred and on May 7 it came crashing down directly onto the lower third of the Icefall sweeping away three climbers. Sadly Lhapka Nuru Sherpa, husband and father of three, was killed and his body never recovered. Several climbers were so shaken by this event that they aborted their climbs.

Veteran Himalayan operator Russell Brice was so concerned about this danger that he had a different plan from day one. He allowed the majority of his team to enter the Icefall only twice – once for acclimatization to Camp 3 and another during their summit bids. They did the rarely tried program of using a nearby trekking peak, Lobuche, for the majority of their acclimatization. In the end almost every member of the team summited.

After the serac fell, there was a slight feeling of relief since the obvious danger was now dramatically reduced. Climbers continued their acclimatization programs in earnest with endless sorties through the Icefall and the eventual night at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face.

When it all started to look good, the weather moved in and sat on Everest bringing everything to a screeching halt.

On the Tibet side it was abnormally quiet. Western teams dealt with delays crossing the boarder and receiving their final permits. But finally they made it to the Tibetan Chinese Base Camp in mid to late April. The CTMA took on the role of fixing the rope so the teams watched and waited while using the time by taking their acclimatization climbs to the North Col. Information was sparse and details, cryptic.

Teams on the south waited out the storms down valley in the teahouses and enjoyed the relative oxygen-rich air and sleeping off the ground. But they knew they had to return so one by one the teams all returned the base camp always glancing up to see what the day brought. The drama was notched up when two Nepalese cooks were reportedly poisoned by illegally brewed whiskey – one was saved but one died, Kaji Sherpa. A sad cloud dropped over base camp.

Weather windows started to appear but they were short and narrow. One small team from IMG bravely tried to squeeze into one and made an impressively quick climb to the South Col only to be turned back by howling winds. This false start gave everyone room for pause.

Then weather forecasters far away from Everest gave the green light for summits starting on May 19th – and they were right. For the next four days, team after team made the long cold climb from the South Col to the summit. Overall the climbers enjoyed a safe season but a few climbers needed help and a few rescues took place. It felt like there were a few more helicopter evacuations from base camp than in prior years.

While every climber is special, a few stood out with their achievements. Apa Sherpa made his 19th summit – the most ever; Dave Hahn – his 11th, the most of a non-Sherpa. Sir Ranulph Fiennes – the British exploration legend who made it on his third try at age 65. And then we had a covey of 17 year-olds make the top as well.

The oldest American to summit became complicated with Dawes Eddy at 66 summiting but then Bill Burke summited the next day at age 67. As clarification, the oldest American to summit Everest was Nils Antezana who was born in Boliva but a US citizen. He summited in 2004 at age 69 but died on the descent.

Korean Park Young-seok opened a new route variation on the Southwest Face after three previous failed attempts since 1991. Mr. Park is another rare adventurer with the true Grand Slam under his belt - North and South Poles plus all 14 of the 8000m peaks.

A mystery was the Kazakhstan team who was looking to do the first true traverse from Lhotse to Everest and back down the West ridge. Theirs was a world-class team. Reports were sketchy throughout their climb and maybe ended with a fuzzy message about "...It doesn't matter, who's summited and what has he summited. We need only the team success. Somebody was already looking at himself as on the winner...". After the last south side effort of the 2009 season, they surrendered to bad weather on May 26 and returned to base camp. One climber, Serguey Samoilov, reportedly died on the Lhotse climb. Eleven climbers died across various peaks this spring season in the Himalayas.

This year’s commercial guides performed well. Asian Trekking’s Eco Everest effort removed tons of garbage from the Nepal side through a “cash for trash” program. Peak Freaks continued to set the bar for green climbing. And safety was also front and center with the larger teams such as Adventure Consultants, IMG, Jagged Globe, Himex, Alpine Ascents all putting their climbers on the summit and getting them back safely without drama. It felt like safety was the top priority for almost every team this year - well done.

Then there were the independents such as the Finnish Ranger Club who made a successful expedition without the traditional Sherpa support. Great effort you guys!

Back on the north, summits started on May 14 with success by the Chinese and Japanese. That was followed by a few more international teams but death hit once again with Czech climber, M. Veslav Chrzaszcz, who died during his summit bid. Then German, living in Canada, Frank Ziebarth, died during his descent after summiting without bottled oxygen. This made three deaths on that side including a Chinese climber who died earlier in the season.

With wave after wave racing against the weather, the final push took place from the south on May 22nd with more than 50 climbers making it to the top of the world in the season’s most difficult conditions. We were allowed to share in their climb courtesy of an Eddie Bauer sponsored team for their First Ascent clothing line – all this provided the money to broadcast incredible video and audio during the summit attempts.

And speaking of technology, the Discovery Channel was also there in 2009 filming another of their series, Everest: Beyond the Limits. They followed climbers with IMG and Himalayan Experience with high-tech infrared cameras, microwave links and Sherpa-cams. With hair combed and jackets straight, the teams felt the presence of cameras all around them. The series is supposed to start airing in November 2009.

But with the high tech and excellent updates from the professionals it is always the unfiltered personal accounts that bring us in. A few come to mind: David Tait, Lance Fox, Bill Burke, Christophe Vandele, Dave Hahn, Gilad Stern, Billi Bierling, and Bud Allen. And then we were teased by Gavin Bate, Tim Rippel and Scott Paraszynski who tweeted during their climbs! Thanks for including us and being generous with your time and thoughts.

To wrap up the season the 17 member Serbian team refused to give up. Climbing on the north, they stayed through very difficult weather conditions and eventually climbed to Camp 2 in a sprawling storm. After the rescue of Norwegian Jarle Trå and other fast retreats, most the climbers returned to the safety of ABC and called it over on May 29th. A strong effort in harsh conditions. However as of June 1, Canadian Gabriel Filippi plus 4 other climbers and 3 Sherpas were at ABC holding out hope for a last minute push.

Another season of Everest climbing is now almost complete. Not as many summits as I thought there would be. Thankfully not as many deaths as there have been in previous years – but even one is too many. Hundreds of climbers saw their dreams come true. Hundreds of Sherpas made enough money to last until the next climb. Hundreds of friends and families wait with open arms for their climber to come home.

Yes, it was a good year.

Thank You
to all the readers of this site this year and for the past 9 years. You are the reason do it. Your comments and encouragement from my Everest coverage to my own adventures are simply amazing and honestly keeps me going from time to time.

Now that I am retired (early - hey I am not THAT old!) and have made climbing and Alzheimer's fund raising as my life work you will see me ask for donations to go to Alzheimer's causes on occasion. I promise not be that guy you avoid because he is always asking for something but I have learned that if you don't ask, people don't have the opportunity to say yes.

Sign up for site notifications, join the Memories are Everything® campaign, just give a donation or just donate some time to a local hospital - it all helps, it all matters. In the end we only have one another.

Climb On!

Alan

P.S. Next for me? I am training for the 7 summits with multiple Colorado 14ers this summer - with trip reports on this site - of course :) See you on a mountain!


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June 1, 2009

North Updates:
It is now down to a few brave men still holding out hope on the north. From Gabriel Filippi's team this report:

After 2 attempts to reach Camp 2, and fighting winds of 80 km/h, the 3 Sherpas of the team turned around and went back to advanced base camp (ABC), leaving Gabriel to open the trail for his two climbing friends. He reached 7600m. Even in these intense conditions, and besides major burns to his skin by the sun and the wind, Gabriel stays optimistic. He is now at ABC and waits, once again, for a window of good weather to try another summit push. There are only 8 men left on the mountain: 2 Canadians, 1 Peruvian, 2 Tcheks, and 3 Sherpas. Out of these, 3 climbers, including Gabriel, have confirmed a new attempt as soon as possible. Some good forecast has been announced for the 1st of june, and unless something else happens, Gabriel should be heading back up on Tuesday. What great patience and perseverance!

Best of luck!


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June 1, 2009

A wrap-up letter from Ang Tshering of Asian Trekking. Of note is Apa Sherpas' intent to lead more summit climbs. He already has 19!

Dear Alan,

Namaste from Nepal.

The 2009 Spring Mountaineering season has been very eventful as well as filled with tragedy and sorrow.

I am saddened to report that there were eleven fatalities on various peaks this season. Among them was our Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa climbing with Eco Everest Expedition 2009.

Please join me in praying for eternal peace for the departed and for strength to the bereaved families.

My son, Dawa Steven, Leader of Eco Everest Expedition 2009 and his Team Members returned to Kathmandu on 28 May - safe and in good health.

As you know Apa Sherpa, climbing leader of Eco Everest Expedition 2009 reached the summit of Mt. Everest for the 19th time - a new world record. He joined Eco Everest for his 18th summit of Mt. Everest in 2008. Apa said he is committed to support the efforts of Dawa Steven to bring awareness to the world community about Climate Change and to help remove old garbage from the slopes of Mt. Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) - our sacred mountain.

This year Apa Sherpa joined Eco Everest Expedition 2009 to carry a “wake up call” to the world about the negative effects of Climate Change on the Himalaya. He carried the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) banner with the slogan “Stop Climate Change – Let the Himalayas Live” to the summit of Mt. Everest to draw international attention to Global Warming and Climate Change.

Eco Everest Expedition 2009 led by Dawa Steven brought down to base camp 6000 kilos of garbage for proper disposal. In addition wreckage parts of the Italian Army helicopter were also recovered from the edge of the Khumbu Icefall. The helicopter crashed at Camp 1 (6100m) on Mt. Everest during the Italian Everest Expedition in 1973. This probably demonstrates the movement of the Khumbu Icefall over the past 36 years.

Apa also installed a Bumpa (sacred vase) blessed by the Venerable Rinpoche of Tengboche Monastery containing 400 different sacred ingredients. The offering is to seek to reduce the negative impacts of environmental changes and restore the sanctity of the Himalayan beyul (sacred valleys).

Before leaving for the USA, Apa Sherpa said he was committed to return as Climbing Leader of Eco Everest Expedition every year to continue to support efforts to deal with Climate Change.

The other summits achieved by members and sherpas on expeditions handled by Asian Trekking in the Spring 2009 season are:

1. Eco Everest Expedition 2009 : 17 on the summit.

2. Atumas Taiwanese 7 Summit and Everest Expedition 2009 : 6 on the summit.

3. International Adventure Alternative Everest Expedition 2009 : 13 on the summit.

4. 7 Summit Club Everest Expedition 2009 : 21 on the summit.

5. Kazak Lhotse-Everest Expedition 2009 : One on the summit (Lhotse)

6. Indo Bangladesh Mt. Makalu Expedition : 10 on the summit.

The Second International Everest Day Celebrations was observed on the 29th of May this year amidst various functions and felicitations to climbers.

We are busy preparing for the Autumn 2009 mountaineering season and finalizing details for expeditions to Mt. Everest and other peaks.

The Imja Tsho Action Event 2009 is taking place in the Khumbu on 18 and 19 June 2009. The event, organized by the Sherwi Yondhen Tshokpa, a group formed to create a network between all the Sherpa students, is supported by iDEAS, an NGO set up by my son Dawa Steven. As part of the event, the Beat the GLOF Action Run is being held on 18 June. It starts at IMJA Lake, at the source of the biggest threat to the people of the Khumbu. The run route follows the possible path of the Outburst Flood. The runners will run on the paths and bridges that will one day be washed away.

Asian Trekking is sponsoring two nights (16/17 June) full camping services at Imja Tsho Base Camp for the participants and volunteers.

On the following day, 19 June, the Khumbu Festival will take place in Khumjung village. The theme of this Festival is to focus on the Mountain Communities Culture, heritage, and their crucial role in maintaining and protecting their mountain environment. This will be an occasion for the communities to show their solidarity in taking action to tackle the impacts of Climate Change. National and International experts will be invited to share their studies with the communities, and together to formulate plans of action that are realistic.

As part of this event students from schools in the Khumbu have participated in Letter Writing and Art Competitions on the impact of climate change on our mountains.

Please visit www.ideas-action.org for more details on this event and other programs that Dawa Steven is initiating.

As always - please do not hesitate to let me know if there is any way in which Asian Trekking and I can be of help.

With very best wishes,

Ang Tshering Sherpa


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May 30, 2009

North Updates:
Looks like the summit attempts on the north are winding down with this report from the Serbian Extreme Summit team:

The expedition leader, Dragan Jacimovic called today. All members safely returned to ABC yesterday. Dragan, on his way from ABC down to BC faced strong wind and deep snow today. There in BC, he’ll welcome other expedition members tomorrow. The decision to give up the summit attempt has been brought. It was hard decision but lives are the most important. Everest will remain where it is and will be waiting for some other time. There is a lot of new snow and the wind maintaining its speed of 80-90 km/h. In such conditions climbers would be exposed to unacceptable risk. Dragan plans to produce a detailed report in days to come. He will try to describe what was happening in the mountains while not having contact with them and reasons for his decision to give up.

Russianclimb.com translated a report from www.mountain.kz that the Lhotse-Everest Traverse team was now down to base camp. They were the last team to pass through the Icefall. In normal years, the Icefall Doctors maintain the route through the end of May so they just made it. With the warm temps this year, it was dangerous. I remember coming though it about his time in prior years and seeing the seracs literally melting in front of me and the normally hard snow, being a mushy surface.

Also the details of the death of world-class climber Serguey Samoilov remain a mystery. This is their report:

Lhotse-Everest traverse. Two days ago one of the strongest Kazakhstan climbers - Serguey Samoilov Serguey Samoilovreported lost during Lhotse summit push. Max and Vassily had found Serguey's body at 6800 near the sleeping bag. It's controversial, because first they said that had found Serguey's body between C3 and C4 attached to the fixed ropes and without injuries. Later they wrote about the body at 6800. It's unclear how did he die (guys saw him at 7500 the last time). Probaby, Serguey was caught by the avalanche. We'll explane the detailes as soon as the team return home.

Max, Vaso, Svetlana, Dmitry and Nickolay arrived in BC after dark yesterday, at 8:00pm, local time. The climb down from Camp 1 had taken all day in thick fog and deep snow. The climbers had to feel their way down in the fog; trying to uncover old ropes buried in the fresh snow. This morning the team started the trek back to Lukla. (www.mountain.kz)

As for the Serbian team and Gabriel Filippi, the last word was they were at ABC on the north side evaluating their situation. Heavy snow caused them to retreat from Camp 2.

On the south the majority of all clients have left base camp and almost all are in Kathmandu flying home. However the late deep snows delayed removing the group gear from as high as Camp 2 so many Sherpas are still working to take the loads down. Remember the Sherpas ...


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May 28, 2009

A consortium of teams have come together to continue the push on the north. Courtesy of the Mad Frogs home team with special thanks to Genevieve for these translated updates:

Gabriel and his team, along with 17 members of the ex-Yugoslavia team, opened the trail yesterday by digging out the fixed ropes under, in some places, one meter of snow. It was hard work where Sherpas and climbers from the two teams were alternating up to 7350m, half way to Camp 2. Sometimes, the winds went up to 70km/h.

Back at Camp 1, the Colombian team, and all members of the ex-Yugoslavia team, decided to end their expediton because of the strenuous conditions. Therefore, only Gabriel, his great cameraman friend, Richard (the Peruvian), and their Sherpas, are left at Camp 1. They are hoping for good weather to be able to proceed towards Camp 2 tomorrow. Gabriel assures us that they are in good health.


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May 27, 2009

Very sad news from the Lhotse/Everest Traverse team. This reported from mountain.kz: "May 27, During the last attempt of Lhotse summit, Sergey Samoilov was lost." My condolences to all involved. They promise more details as they are available.

The deep snow has brought everything to a halt for the remaining teams on the north: This update from the Mad Frogs home team:

Mad Frogs Alex and Jean-Philippe left ABC on the 27th in the morning, and are on their way to KTM and then home. The third Mad Frog Marc-André couldn’t leave with them as he has some irritation making his walk very difficult, especially with the late snowfall!

So Marc-André remained at ABC with Jorge from the Columbia Team. The rest of Columbia Team is at Camp 1, unable to go either up or down, stopped in their summit attempt by the snowstorm. I believe they will all descend together, when the Yaks come back for transportation of the equipment.

No words however on the other teams who were at Camp 1 when the snow hit, a couple of days ago. (Gabriel Filippi and the Serbian Team)

Teams on the south report 3 feet of snow and some are staying at base camp waiting for a break. The yaks are having problems getting to the camps with the deep snow.


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May 26, 2009

The storm has taken it's toll now on the Lhotse/Everest Traverse team. They are all back in base camp and ended their attempt. This from russianclimb.com:

26, May 2009 Lhotse-Everest traverse. The expedition is over. All descended to BC, because the weather's very bad, storm and probably monsoon came to Everest. So, the team is going to Kathmandu and try to be in time for their flight to Almaty May, 30. The head of the expedition Baglan Zhunussov arrived to Almaty this night already. He tried to climb Everest with the guide Serguey Lavrov and had understood how difficult is +8000 climb. He also confirmed that team member Alexander Sofrygin summited Lhotse May, 15 in very bad weather. So, it's not clear now if he'll be able to confirm his climb for Elizabeth Hawley. We hope he will and wait the detailes from Alexander as soon as he return home.

More news from the north. A huge storm moved in today and is apparently creating havoc on both sides of Everest. The only team we know of on the south is the Kazakh team working the Traverse. Last report had them at the South Col. On the north, teams were looking at a window late this week but that may have changed with this update from Alex of the Canadian Mad Frogs:

Hi Alan,

another update from ABC on Everest North. The Mad frogs were planned to go down Today, but a mega snow storm hit ABC and the North col last night and is still going on with at least 1 meter of snow on the groung right now. As I am stuck at ABC until the yaks open the trail, this is what it going on now.

Yesterday, 3 teams went up the North col to start their summit push and are now stuck at Camp 1 with a visibility of 2-3 meters:

1) Gabriel Filippi
2) The Columbian Team
3) The Serbian Team (Extreme Summit)

As far as we know, Gabriel's team is supposed to push to C2 Today, hopefully to get above the snow clouds. At ABC, we hear the avalanches from the col and surounding peaks every half hour, so it is very scary to move.

Hope all our friend at Camp 1 make it safe, either up or down.

Cheers

Alex
The Mad Frogs


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May 25, 2009

Update:

Looks like the season ended exactly at the right time with a huge rain event headed right towards Everest. There could be some significant delays with flights from Lukla to Kathmandu.:

Summary: Cyclone Aila made landfall today at about 2 pm Nepal time about 500 miles due south of Everest. Over the next 24 hours the storm will weaken and gradually move to the north towards Everest and also to the east away from Everest. The bull’s-eye of the heavy rain is just to the south and east of Everest where 10” inches of rain between now and continuing into Tuesday is forecasted. For Everest during the same period between 1 to 3 inches is forecasted.

The Lhotse-Everest Traverse team continues. I will continue to post whatever hear:

Trio Maxut Zhumayev, Vassily Pivtsov and Serguey Samoilov left BC two days ago and ascended to C3 yesterday. They're going for the traverse. The second group - Svetlana Sharipova, Dmity Grekov and Nickolay Gutnik - are going to Lhotse and ascended to C2 yesterday.

And just in today:

Arrived at Camp 4, there's no wind, it's overcast with the visibility of about 200 m. The winds were high last night, and today it's drizzling snow. We are sitting in the tent and drying our down suits. The second group went back...


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May 24, 2009

Update Directly from the North

Alex with the Canadian Mad Frogs was kind enough to send me a compete update on various teams who climbed from the north side this year - sadly it includes a newly reported death and some details on another death. I will just post it as he sent it to me and thank you Alex - safe travels home.

... small update from ABC for Eastern Canadian teams. The summit push for the mad frogs happened 3 days ago and I made it to the second step (8600m) with my friend Frank Ziebarth, and decided to turn around because of exhaustion. Frank decided to go on and the result was unfortunatelly very sad for him. JP from my team made it to between C1 and C2, and Mark could not go higher than 7000m because of disease.

For Manny Pizarro team, Manny made it to the top on the 21st while Andre was forced to go down from ABC because of pulmonary edema.

For Gabriel Filippi's team, Luc Poirier made it to C2 while Gabriel and Elia are still waiting at ABC for a good weather window. Actually, summit push is still to come for these guys.

Me and my team are heading for beer now tomorrow.

On another sad note, while going up, we had to perform CPR on a Czeck climber, M. Veslav Chrzaszcz. Our Czech frien died of a heart attack, and his body, with benediction from his family, was disposed in a crevasse at Camp 1. Our sincere condoleances go to his family and friends.

Also more details on the death of Frank:

On May 21st 2009, at the age of 29, Frank Ziebarth, a German mountaineer living in Calgary, made it to the top of the world from the Tibetan side without the use of supplemental oxygen. By doing so, he became the first German, and also the first Canadian resident to accomplish this Herculean task.

Very sadly, Frank could not make it back to High Camp, suffering from hypothermia and obvious lack of oxygen. He was last seen at 8700 meters still determined to go down on his own strength. It was later confirmed by fellow climbers that his body now rest peacefully at the bottom of the third step high on Mount Everest.

Frank was an accomplished 8000m climber who already made it to the top of Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, and Lohtse without the use of oxygen.

His strength, smile, humility and care for others were an inspiration for all his fellow climbers and revealed the true nature of a great mountaineer. He was a born leader.

We, the team who shared his last trip to the highest point on earth, would like to offer our sincere condolences to Christina his fiancée, to his family in Germany and to all his friends all over the world.

Alexandre Paré, Manuel Pizarro and Anna Baranska on behalf of the whole Everest North mountaineering community.

My sincere condolences to both the families and friends of Frank and Veslav. There are now a total of 5 deaths on Everest this year, 3 climbers (Chinese, German, Czech) on the north, 1 Sherpa on the South and 1 Nepali Cook Boy at south base camp.

Correction: I noted the summit of Kay LeClair (age 60) as oldest American woman to summit. It was actually Carol Jean Masheter, 611/2 who summited last year. Congratulations to both women on their achievements.

I will post my total season summary later today or Monday.


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May 23, 2009

Update:
Teams are making their way down to Camp 2 from their summit bids last night. They are focused on getting back to base camp as the weather warms and the Icefall becomes mushy. The weather is supposed to turn bad starting tomorrow but is good today. No summits bids remaining on the south to my knowledge but I could easily have missed a few going for it tonight!

I have been remiss by missing that Kay LeClair became the second oldest American woman after Carol Jean Masheter (611/2 who summited last year) at age 60 to summit Everest. She was with AAI and it was her fourth attempt in five years. She started climbing at age 50 - I love this story!!

If you would like to read how the summit is done by a regular guy who is incredibly strong yet very humble please enjoy Yura Pritzker's report as it the Dispatch of the Day.

2009 Season recap up next.

Last Wave Recap

Quite a way to finish out the south side for 2009. Well at least I think it is over! The last few teams were positioned at the South Col as the winds picked up overnight. With flapping tents they debated whether to go or not. If they did not go then they probably lost their chance for 2009 since a major system was forecasted to move in on Sunday.

So one by one, they all decided to go for it. - Alpine Ascents, Eco Everest, The Austrian team of Walter Laserer's, a solo climber - Mike Farris - and the last of the Eddie Bauer First Ascent team led by Dave Hahn. Great audio dispatches from Hahn told of cold temps and increasing winds as they swiftly climbed the route while the base camp team of AAI kept us updated on their slow and steady progress. The rest remained a mystery for most of the night.

But in the end, the Hahn team tagged the roof and return to the Col in an fast 11 hours roundtrip time. AAI put almost all their team on top except for 2 climbers plus, oddly enough, their 2 western guides. The Sherpas are the foundation for most safe Everest summits. Lori Schneider, the climber with MS, proudly stood on top of the world. Eco reported 3 climbers on the summit including 67 year-old Bill Burke. Mike Farris summited but may have suffered frostbite when he had oxygen problems then found himself alone on the return and missed a turn thus adding to his return time.

*updated* A bit of a last minute surprise was the second Himex team leaving the South Col at 2:00 AM on May 23rd. All of the second team summited according to Lance Fox including Robbie Kojetin, reported summiting at 9:40 and Bruce Parker at 10:00 AM. More details are expected on the rest today.

There is talk on the north of staying for the next window around May 27- 29 but we will see. It is almost certain the Icefall Doctors on the South will dismantle the Icefall once this last round of climbers return to base camp and the Sherpas retrieve all the gear from the High Camps.

Ed Wardell with the Discovery Channel team does a great job of capturing their summit day the the Dispatch of the Day.

I will continue to report as well as post my annual recap of the entire season.


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May 22, 2009

Last Wave Updates

Update #8:
It is official that Bill Burke summited - congratulations to Bill! Also the second Himex team was scheduled to leave the South Col at a very late 2:00AM looking to summit Saturday May 23rd. This was a bit of a surprise. One of the climbers' site, Robby, reports he summited at 9:40AM Saturday May 23rd Nepal time.

Update #7:
Congratulations to Alpine Ascents International for their summits tonight including Lori Schneider. Asian Trekking with Bill Burke is close behind making him the oldest American born climber to summit Mt. Everest at age 67 and descend alive - nice job to all the climbers in difficult conditions. They may be the last summiteers of 2009 on the south side. More details tomorrow.

Update #6:
Looks like the weather has turned even more cold but the winds are still manageable near the summit of Everest. A fresh report from Bill Burke's home team with encouraging news:

.. they are at the hillary step. Bill is going to be at the summit within the next hour. We are all waiting for that final radio call to confirm it. The wind is pretty bad today but it got better as the climb commenced. Bud turned back at the balcony with Pemba Tenjing but told Puchhanga to head on up for the summit.

It seems that Bud had oxygen problems around 27,000' and is returning to the South Col. Safe climb down Bud and we are pulling for you Bill!

Update #5:
First Ascent's Dave Hahn's team summited in tough conditions - the dispatch. AAI is now beyond the South Summit, approaching the Hillary Step and also reporting cold and windy conditions according to the last update from Elli at their base camp and no updates on the other teams.

Update #4:
First Ascent's Dave Hahn's team is at the South Summit - only an hour away from the true summit and notes the increasing winds in this audio dispatch. He mentions 30-35 mph winds which is quite high. Historically teams have turned back from at the South Summit in these conditions. The Alpine Ascent team is still on the ridge between the Balcony and South Summit. No word on the other teams.

Update #3:
Both First Ascent and AAI are doing a nice job of keeping us updated tonight. Both report several teams have passed or are near the Balcony and are climbing to the South Summit. At this pace climbers should be at the summit around 6 -7 AM maybe earlier. The temps are very cold but the winds are acceptable.

By my count there are around 40 or more climbers going for the summit tonight so the crowds should not be a huge problem. Note the difference in pace of the elite Dave Hahn team taking 2 hours to reach the balcony and the more representative AAI team which took a little more than 5 hours. Pacing can be either motivating or discouraging so setting expectations is critical to keeping a team on schedule.

In looking at some of the summit dispatches from climbers earlier this week, it looks like they experienced some very cold temperatures as low as -35F/C (about the same scale at that temp). So moving quickly and not exposing bare skin are the best methods to avoid frostbite. This means that climbers should not take the time to phone home - there is plenty of time for that once they return to the South Col.

I do not have specific updates on the Asian Trekking Eco Everest team.

Update #2:
Great news from the Col - the winds are low enough that the teams have left. Once again, the Eddie Bauer First Ascent expedition is leading the way with real time updates. The latest has an audio dispatch from Dave Hahn describing the conditions with an expected departure for them at midnight. He reports that other teams have already left for their bids.

Comment from Alan:
While we are waiting for the last big push of the season to develop, I want to thank all the readers from around the world this season and to all those who sent me emails with updates, corrections and comments. This season's coverage was a true global team effort!

Also to remind everyone that the primary reason I do this is to raise awareness and research money for Alzheimer's Disease. If you enjoyed the coverage, please donate right now while we wait for the next update. Also consider becoming a part of Memories are Everything®: The 7 Summits journey. You an read more at this link.

Thanks everyone and Climb On!!

Update #1:
Looks like the winds are calming and teams are looking to leave the South Col around 10:00 PM Nepal time.

There are two climbers that many people are following today: Lori Schneider, who has MS and is climbing with AAI and Bill Burke who at 67 is attempting to be oldest American to summit and descend safely. I will try to post updates specifically on these climbers but also visit their sites as well. Best of luck to them and all the other climbers tonight.

Speaking of age, one of the guides for the 7 Summits team who summited this week was Nickolay Cherny - he is 70!

Breaking news is that Dave Hahn's team has really pushed their schedule and are going for the summit as well tonight if the winds allow. This may be the last summit push of the season from Nepal.

Expect the next update in mid to late afternoon US Mountain Daylight Time when they pass the Balcony or reach the South Summit.


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May 22, 2009

Summit Wave #4 Recap + The Last Big Push of 2009 - maybe?

Yesterday was a quiet day with only a few summits on both sides - I say this tongue in cheek - all summits are important as are the efforts. It is amazing when we view Everest summits in quantities of less than 50!

That said, the Singapore Women's team completed their expedition as did IMG's. On the north, Adventure Peaks put 13 climbers on the roof - great job by this patient team. So it was a good day for all involved. Visit the teams web sites to see the details.

Today we finish up most of the teams for the south side with a big push from Walter Laserer's 5 climber team to AAI's 15 person team as well as the last group of Asian Trekking's Eco everest expedition.

However reports that the winds are quite high at the Col so Eco has delayed their start and AAI are looking carefully at how to approach their bid. A storm was forecasted to move in on Sunday so this may be the leading edge. AAI mentioned that the window may be narrowing:

The guides have been discussing what time to start out from the South Col tonight, and have arrived at the following plan. They are trying to climb as much as possible in the warmth of daylight, but at the same time trying to avoid winds that may pick up later in the day.

There are probably more teams pushing from the north tonight.

Dave Hahn and team are one of the last still pushing for a last minute summit on Saturday before the weather forecast turns ugly again starting on Sunday. If Dave makes it he will have 11 summits under his belt - the most of any non-Sherpa. Best of luck!

Updates throughout the day.


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May 21, 2009

Summit Wave #4 Updates

Update #5 :
Congratulations to the Singapore Women's team with two more summits tonight - Joanne Soo and Lee Peh Gee

Update #4:
IMG's Eric Simonson updates us on their team's 11 member's effort tonight. This include the last two members of the Singapore Women's team, Joanne Soo and Lee Peh Gee.

The Second summit team moved to the Col yesterday and are doing well. They left for the summit about 9am the evening of the 21st for the summit. Weather was good and they are now en route. Climbing tonight are Joanne/Datenji, Pehgee/Dawa, Kamen/Pasang Ringing, Petya/Nima Karma, Jon/Phinjo and Justin. Yesterday Matt summited with Mingma Dorje (filming the Himex team) and is spending a second night on the Col. Ed descended to Camp 2 yesterday after his filming stint up high and will be back to BC today. So far everything is going according to plan and we are keeping our fingers crossed on the weather!

Update #3:
Quiet day today on the south with a few summit attempts but most of the climbers are resting at the South Col for their bids Friday. But there is movement on the north.

Adventure Peak's home team said they are going for their summit as we speak. With weather outlook still good, the team may have made a slightly later start from Camp 3 so as to spend a little less time climbing in the dark/cold, making expected summit time closer to dawn than 3 a.m. One member of their team, Chris (age 65), had to turn back 2 days ago at the North Col. This is the latest from1 their site:

The group have arrived safely at High Camp 8200m and are currently resting in preparation for their summit attempts. We will post an update as soon as we hear anything...normally around 03.00hrs, but don't panic if northing appears, much depends on the sat phone working and for our leader Paul to be in a position to use it. Good luck to all.

Also from the north that Canadian Manny Pizarro summited yesterday:

Manuel attained the summit last night around 10:15 pm !!!!! He communicated with his family and friends that had mustered themselves to await his telephone call from the summit of the world!

Now widely reported, another historic summit occurred yesterday with the rarely attempted route up the southwestern wall. A team led by Korean Park Young-Seok successful summited via the SW Face after three previous failed attempts since 1991. Mr. Park is another rare adventurer with the true Grand Slam under his belt - both the North and South Poles plus all 14 of the 8000m peaks. The route is considered the most dangerous on Everest. Only two other teams, a U.K. and a former Soviet Union, had climbed the route.

The last of the Eddie Bauer First Ascents team have accelerated their plans and want to summit on the 23rd since it looks like the weather is turning poor the next day.

Update #2:
Correction: Bill Burke and Bud Allen with Eco Everest are leaving Friday night, not tonight as I previously posted. They are taking a rest day at the Col similar to AAI.

Update #1:
The second Eco Everest team were scheduled to have left the are at South Col by now (Thursday night Nepal time). Bud Allen's home team reported in after a phone cal with Bud from the South Col:

He will call me from the summit, provided he can convince his sat phone that he is in Nepal, not China. He told me that some of the communication problems we have had are due to geographical phone confusion.

An interesting nuance for climbers with Thuraya sat phones is if they are using the less expensive (US$0.39 a minute) ECO SIM card, it will not connect from the summit. The GPS system starts to thinks the phone is in China somewhere above Camp 3 to the south col and the eco card does not work in China but does in Nepal. To get around this, Thuraya users can bring a second Super SIM card (US$0.84/min). So in this hi-tech world of boarderless satellites, boundaries still exist. As a note the Iridium system does not have this problem but the per minute charge is US$0.99/min.

AAI has arrived at the South Col and will spend a complete day resting before leaving for their summit bid Friday night Nepal time. I noticed a nice touch by AAI for their teams members. While most climbers have a quick bite of an energy bar or soup before heading up, AAI offers some real food (thanks to the incredible Sherpas) according to today's update from the Col:

But first things first, our team of sherpas are doing an incredible job – hot drinks are flowing, soup is flowing, and we’re having dal bhat for dinner. Everyone is relaxing on oxygen, which is a very nice thing, allowing us to recover a little bit more. So tonight we’re going to continue with more of the same.

Lori Schneider, who has MS, is one of the climber with Alpine Ascents International. This will be her 7th of the seven summits.

Ed Viesturs planned on climbing without using supplemental oxygen but changed his mind at the last minute. Watch this interesting video as he explains why.

Early reports from the Himex teams shows that most of their members last night safely made the summit. For a nice tease as it happened check out Billi Bierling's site as reported by her friend Rich. It is the Dispatch of the Day.

Over on the Tibet side, SummitClimb's second summit team of 6 is heading for the top tonight after putting 10 climbers up there earlier this week. They report a difficult time for some of the team. The Mad Frogs's Alex is still going and is looking at a summit bid as well.

The Lhotse-Everest traverse apparently continues as reported by RussianClimb.com:

Very strange info Maxut wrote yesterday for Mountain.kz: in his story are the words "...It doesn't matter, who's summited and what has he summited. We need only the team success. Somebody was already looking at himself as on the winner..." No detailes, but we know that guys had fixed ropes till about 8500 (as Maxut wrote in another source) so they were very close to the top. Some of guys could summit Lhotse that day. But no comments from the team, only the silence...

Looks like the monsoons are starting right on schedule. So the climbers had excellent timing. This report was just posted:

Quote from: INDIA METEOROLOGICAL DEPARTMENT “Southwest monsoon set in over some parts of south Bay of Bengal and entire Andaman on 20th May 2009. The Northern Limit of Monsoon (NLM) passes through Lat. 5oN / Long. 80oE, Lat. 9oN / Long. 85oE, Lat. 12oN / Long. 90oE, Lat. 14oN / Long. 93oE and Lat. 17oN / Long. 97oE.”


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May 21, 2009

Summit Wave #3 Recap

A day like yesterday does not come along too often. Two historic figures in their own right stood on top of the world. Not to take away from any of the other summiteers, Apa Sherpa and Sir Ranulph Fiennes hold a special attraction in their worlds of adventure and mountaineering. Congratulations to both of these climbers.

And there were many more heroes last night with multiple summits from Himex, Asian Trekking, 7 Summits, the Indian and Russian teams plus 2 more from the Croatian Women's team - in fact an estimated 50 more summits but impossible to track at this point - maybe later when the official notices are submitted to the Nepal Ministry.

Had enough yet? Well not if your friend or family is still headed up. All the climbers are important and I will cover them until the ladders are removed and the north side is cleared.

So the next and final big wave include Alpine Ascents (AAI), the rest of the teams from IMG and Asian Trekking including my friends Bill Burke and Bud Allen. You know the drill. They leave around 9:00 PM, make the Balcony by 3:00 AM, South Summit next, then the Hillary Step and on to the summit hopefully no later than 9:00Am and, of course, back down to the South Col by mid afternoon.

Over on the north it is a different story. We have had little regular communication throughout the year for unknown reason. The last several dispatches mentioned teams headed to the summit and of successful summits by Chinese, Japanese and a SummitClimb team. However there are several more teams there. So at this point, I will pass on what I hear. Congratulations to the summiteers and best of luck to the rest.

If you are wondering about activity on other Himalayan peaks including Lhotse visit the Adventure Blog for that and more adventure sports coverage.

Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
Alzheimer's can strike anyone, anytime with early onset effecting people in their 40's. Learn more and make a donation today.


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May 20, 2009

Summit Wave #3 Updates

Update #4:
Looks like Apa Sherpa continues to set records with his 19th summit tonight leading the Eco Everest team. Congratulations to Apa and the entire team. In their latest dispatch they commented on the crowds tonight that made the pace very slow. We know that large teams from India, Russia and Himex are all there - perhaps 100 climbers or more. Thankfully the weather is holding.

Another notable summit is from Sir Ranulph Fiennes. He is a legend in Briton. Well done Sir, well done Please visit to read the entire inspirational story:

In 2005, Sir Ranulph made his first attempt on the mountain, from Tibet, as part of his bid to raise millions for charity, but turned back 400m from the summit after fearing for his heart. It was just two years after suffering the heart attack that left him in a coma for three days. That attack happened on an aeroplane, moments before take-off at Bristol Airport in 2003, and had it not been for the immediate proximity of a defibrillator, he would almost certainly have died.

A dispatch from Himex climber Valerio Massimo's home team say he is at the south summit making good time. I assume (dangerous) that most of the Himex team is at the same place.

To get an insight into a guide's mind take the time to read Dave Hahn very well written description of working with his ambitious client. This is how a professional guide does his job well. Well done to Erica - there are many climbs in your future.

Congratulations to all!

Update #3:
Another crowded night on Everest with teams clogging the route. As expected no updates from Himex as they climb tonight - they usually wait.

Meanwhile Apa Sherpa's Eco Everest team has reported in at the South Summit commenting that they are behind (and I assume) a slower team. However it is a perfect night. Note that Bill Burke, attempting to be the oldest American to summit and safely return is on the next AT wave and is now at Camp 3. He is sending audio updates if you want to hear what a climber sounds like at almost 8000m! As clarification, the oldest American to summit Everest was Nils Antezana who was born in Boliva but a US citizen. He summited in 2004 at age 69 but died on the descent.

By the way, The youngest person to summit Everest was in 2003 was Miss Ming kipa, a Sherpani, 15 years-old. She summited from the north since you have to be 16 to summit in Nepal - this is to protect the kids. (this is corrected from my original post today) Yesterday, American John Collinson summited with Mountain Madness who is 17.

Courtesy of 8000ers.com this table shows the youth movement on Everest:

No.
Climber
Nationality
Birth Date
Ascent
Age
1
Edmund Hillary New Zealander 20 Jul 1919 29 May 1953 33 years, 313 days
2
Jürg Marmet Swiss 14 Sep 1927 23 May 1956 28 years, 252 days
3
Hansrudolf von Gunten Swiss 12 Dec 1928 24 May 1956 27 years, 164 days
4
Chu Yin-hua Chinese 31 Mar 1935 25 May 1960 25 years, 55 days
5
Sonam Wangyal Indian Ladakhi 8 Jan 1942 22 May 1965 23 years, 134 days
6
Shambu Tamang Nepalese Tamang *20 Oct 1955 5 May 1973 17 years, 197 days
7
Pema Chiring Nepalese Sherpa 17 Dec 1983 22 May 2001 17 years, 156 days
8
Temba Tshiri Nepalese Sherpa 6 May 1985 23 May 2001 16 years, 17 days
9
Mingkipa Nepalese Sherpani later 1987 22 May 2003 15 years, ??? days

The oldest was 76-year-old Bahadur Sherchan, from Nepal on May 26, 2008. However Japanese Yuichiro Miura (the man who skied down Everest) has now been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the oldest summitter at age 75 since Mr. Sherchan could not prove his birth date. Tamae Watanabe also of Japan is the oldest woman to summit at age 63 on May 16, 2002.

And if this is not enough for you, this announcement just last week that the 80 year old Former Foreign Minister of Nepal, Mr. Sailendra Kumar Upadhyaya will attempt Everest next spring.

The Discovery Channel just posted some raw footage of their summit from last night. Note that the wind is not quite as calm as we thought. Crazy to say this but I wonder of they missed the sunrise?

On a slightly disappointing note, Wendy Booker, who has MS, has decided to halt her climb. Please read their complete description. Our best to you Wendy and team - well done

Update #2:
A nice overview from guide Adrian Ballinger of the Himex about their plans for tonight - they are leaving in about an hour from now:

The present plan is to leave Camp 4 at 11:30pm tonight (that’s 10:45am PST) for their push to the summit. Although the last two days have seen a significant number of people summiting, there are still plenty of others who — like our team — plan to make their bid tonight. Adrian has seen the team from Asian trekking, Henry Todd’s team, and teams from Asia and Russia. His best guess is about 65 people, plus the 25 from our team. It’s going to be a busy time on the ropes. To increase our margin of safety, each of our climbers will have 3 bottles of oxygen. That’s enough for 24 hours, so if a log-jam occurs somewhere they can wait it out without difficulty.

Adventure Peaks reports moving up to Camp 2 on the north with a target summit on May 22nd.

Jagged Globe does a nice update on their summit night describing what happens if you climb too fast and risk missing the sunrise! A nice read.

17 year-old Johnny Strange summited with his dad, Brian, and guide Scott Woolums last night - nice job to all.

Note: AAI will be making their summit bid on Friday night, May 22nd

Update #1:
Teams are reported moving up and down the Lhotse Face today as yesterday's summit teams return to Camp 2 and Camp 3 climbers move to the Col for their summit bids. Apa Sherpa leading the Asian Trekking Eco Everest team will be making his 19th summit. The weather is still holding with summit attempts currently planned through May 24th by several teams.


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May 20, 2009

Summit Wave #2 Recap

Another great day for Everest climbers on both sides. With perfect weather team after team accomplished their goal of summiting and returning safely to a High Camp. IMG's local Astronaut, Scott Parazynski stole the show with a swift climb to the summit well before sunrise and the strong Fins made their goal with little local support. Also of note was Dawes Eddy who at age 66 became the oldest American to summit Mt. Everest. He was with IMG. There was also success on the north side with SummitClimb putting 4 clients and 4 Sherpas on top. There were probably more summits that will be reported today from last night.

Today brings the next huge wave of climbers on the Nepal side with Asian Trekking and Himex leading the way. Both teams are moving to the South Col.

However AAI with 15 climbers plus Sherpas will take a planned rest day on the South Col on Friday (they are at C3 today, May 20th) - one of the few teams that does this by design - and start their summit push that night will top out on early Saturday May 23nd. In fact, I enjoyed reading their recent dispatch describing their program for the summit push. It is the Dispatch of the Day

According to Himex guide Adrian Ballinger, their team of 11 plus Sherpas will take the traditional schedule of climbing to the Col from Camp 3 then make their summit bid that night - hoping to summit on May 21st.

So it is not over yet, as they say. Stay tuned!

Updates all day today as usual.


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May 19, 2009

Summit Wave #2 Updates

Update #7:
More summits on the early morning hours of May 20. First the Finnish rangers put four of the team on top without support in the usual style Everest is climbed these days - well done to the strong guys! Over on the north we have a confirmed report from SummitClimb of 8 summits split evenly with the Sherpa team. They reported perfect conditions on that side of the mountain.

I want to correct my prediction that updates would be sparse today - they were fantastic and thanks for letting us come along. So all in all another good day with over 40 summits today but the final count will take some time. Congratulations to all!

Update #6:
Another busy night! IMG just reported on summits including the Singapore Women's team and a great story of Dawes Eddy who at 67 may be the oldest American to summit Everest. But look out for Bill Burke who is slightly older and making his summit bid tomorrow with with Asian Trekking. But you know, it doesn't really matter who is older - wonderful job Dawes. Take a look at his site to see how he trains - it will get you away from the computer!

Update #5:
Scott Parazynski became the first person to fly in space and summit Everest at 4:00 AM Nepal time. He and Sherpa Danura made the summit climb in about 8 hours - an exceptional time. Congratulations to both of these climbers. Read the compelte update on Orbit.com

Climbers are reported to be making good time and are many are already past the Balcony. The Finnish Ranger Club reports the night is clear and the winds are low as they pass the Balcony. Most teams who summited last night should be back at Camp 2 now.

Update #4:
Teams are well on their way to the summit right now. After getting overloaded, Scott Parazynski's SPOT tracking site is back up. This is an alternate link. His site reported he left Camp 4 at 8:26 pm Nepal time and the rest of the IMG team around the same time. The teams climbing tonight are not as active with their websites as the ones last night that did a great job especially Peak Freaks, First Ascent and Adventure Consultants so tonight's updates will be more sparse. IMG seems to be the most active at posting right now and remember they have the Discovery Channel cameras along that are sending real-time info via microwave to base camp - very high tech! Weather looks good.

A rather cryptic update from Russian Mountaineering on the Lhotse - Everest traverse:

The team had fixed 600 m of ropes above 7900 (the work of 1-st and 2nd groups) and lifted 250 m of ropes, put them and other gear in the deposit at 8350. The team wrote about very strong wind near the summit and temperature -40C. Now the team rest in BC and hope for the next push... But probably, they had some more reasons to turn back... But we read only official news. (www.mountain.kz) But probably (it looks like), they also had some more reasons to turn back... We read only official news.

 

Update #3:
Congratulations to the Croatian Women team of sisters Darija and Iris Bostjancic. They became the first non-Sherpa sisters in history that summited together and first women to summit this year. Three Sherpas were also there - Lakhpa, Pemba and Nawang.

Update #2:
As we saw last night by following Gavin Bate's GPS tracker made by Yellowbrick, Gavin had some problems. It showed him descending when we thought he would be climbing higher - and it was accurate. Well there is another opportunity watch this technology in action tonight with Scott Parazynski's summit bid. He is using a similar device - SPOT. You can follow his progress - click on the terrain button to see his last reported position was at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face.

Update #1:
Gavin Bates has called in from Camp 2 with this report from his home team in Ireland:

Gavin reports that he was going good but in very cold weather, not windy but extreme cold, his mask started freezing up. This reduced if not fully stopped his oxygen intake and quickly brought on the same symptoms of HAPE as he experienced last time in 2007.

This is excellent news. Please read the entire update as well as Gavin's request to his followers.


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May 19, 2009

Summit Wave #1 Recap

Monday May 19th was a rewarding day on Everest. More than an estimated 80 climbers summited on a clear, calm day after waiting out high winds, some at the Col. Over on the north, we have reports of summits by both a Japanese and a Chinese team, Sadly one amateur Chinese climber died.

All of the the summit teams should be back at the South Col. It usually takes between 6 to 8 hours to return from the summit, however note that the elite First Ascent team did it about 4. Their climb was quite impressive, nothing short of Sherpa speed with Ed Viesturs (no Os). They left the South Col at 11:00 PM, summited at 8 and were back at the Col at 1. Just a normal work day for these guys.

Of concern is climber Gavin Bate who has not reported into his home team since the he left the South Col. He is using a GPS tracking device that sends his location as they note:

At present the support team back in Ireland are not quite sure of events on the mountain. The tracker is showing a descent presently from camp three to camp two. It could be that the team had to turn around for some reason or it could be that one or two of them had to descend and are carrying the tracker unit which is not with Gavin but in one of the Sherpa’s packs.

There are hundreds of possible scenarios but nothing at present can be confirmed until we hear from Gavin. Due to his lack of contact we can only assume that he is either higher up and queuing to summit without the tracker or on his way down and the phone battery has died with the cold weather. Obviously laptop and hence twitter updates cannot operate without the sat phone link up.

I will pass on updates as I get them on Gavin.

Today will be another busy day on the Nepal side with several large teams going for the summit including IMG. Himex and AAI are one day behind this wave. I expect a big push on the north but communications is limited from that side. The weather is holding so it should be another good day.

Sincere congratulations to all the climbers and safe climbing to those going up.

Updates through the day.


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May 18, 2009

Summit Wave #1 Updates

Update #6
More summits are now reported by the Eddie Bauer First Ascent team aka Ed Viesturs; Adventure Consultants at 7:30 AM and more. A special shout out to my friend Ang Dorge Sherpa for his 13th summit. At this point I would estimate another 30 people to summit with 60 already there, including Sherpas. These crowds were anticipated so dual ropes were put up including 3 at the notorious bottle neck, the Hillary Step.

It looks like the weather is holding, cold, but the winds are low. At this point there is a continuous line of climbers going to the summit and back down. This mobius strip from the South Summit will continue until all are back to the south col in the late afternoon of May 19th ... then wave 2 will begin.

We were expecting the world's highest Twitter from Gavin Bate for his charity, Moving Mountains, but that has not occurred as of this posting. His GPS shows his track.

If Sir Ed was alive, he would be in shock at all of us following climbers by GPS, Twitter, Facebook and websites However, I think it is great - after all mountains are for everyone but not everyone can climb them. These technologies provide the opportunity for all of us to share in the summit experience - albeit in the comfort of our homes.

Congratulations to all and climb safe on the return.

Update #5
First summits reported from Jagged Globe and Willie Benegas at 7:05 AM. Report from their BC:

Doug, Bill, Nick and Willie have summited Mt Everest. The first summits of the c100 people who have left the South Col tonight. Congratulations guys!

Update #4
Climbers are at the south summit at 6:00AM local time which means they should be on the summit by 8:00AM. Expect to hear of a few summits before then from the faster climbers. It takes about 8 hours to return to the South Col normally.

Update #3
Many teams are now passed the Balcony where they get new oxygen bottles. Making good time - under 6 hours from South Col. Next up is climbing the Southeast ridge. Reports are that the route is very crowded. Weather still clear and calm.

Update #2
Japanese team summits from north - link to their site translated from Japanese. Tim Rippel returned to South Col with numb toes (via Twitter). Could be very cold tonight -10F but calm winds at least. Viesturs/Whittaker left at 11:00PM - everybody 3-4 hours earlier! Listen to the checking in at the First Ascent site, which is fantastic by the way.

Update #1
Triangular Face coutrsey Adventure Consultants Summit Bids are now underway. Ten teams are reported leaving base camp for the summit. Estimates say over 100 climbers are on the route now. The winds at the Col are manageable right now.

The fixed line towards the Balcony was cleaned yesterday by a team of Sherpas - it was encrusted in snow and ice by the recent snows and lack of use over the past two weeks.

Pictures of the Triangular Face show little snow on the route from the South Col to the Balcony. Picture courtesy of Adventure Consultants who are providing good regular updates right now as are Peak Freaks.

Climbers who are updating via Twitter include @gavinbate , @timrippel

Expect an update when the climbers reach the Balcony in about 5 - 6 hours or about 3:00 AM Mt. Everest time or GMT 20:30


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May 18, 2009

Stuck and Crowded at the Col - Summit Waves Have Started

Multiple teams are at the South Col today thwarted by high winds on Sunday however they are planning on summit bids tonight (now in Nepal time). Today is difficult day for those waiting due to the harsh conditions up there. More teams continued their journey to the Col with Adventure Consultants confirming there were no summits last night and their climb today from Camp 3 was a bit breezy:

The wind during the night of the 17th / 18th were stronger than predicted. This had two consequences: we had a windier than expected night in Camp Three, and no-one climbed to the summit.

Just glancing at the location table above shows a lot of people at the Col who are planning to go for the summit tonight - assuming the winds let up. Reports have the summit winds between 23 and 45 mph with a temperature of -11F. So the conditions are right on the safety edge for a summit tonight.

Meanwhile the remaining teams are moving from base camp to Camp 2 in preparation for summit attempts later this week. IF the winds die down it should be several days of summits throughout this week.

Up at the Col, all the climbers and Sherpas are resting on a low flow of oxygen, perhaps .5 a liter per minute. even though the still air temperature is around 0F (-17C) they are warm inside their tents especially during the day. Most teams assume they spend only a few hours in the tents so they put up to four people in a 3 person tent. While this may seem uncomfortable, and it is to some degree, it is also much warmer.

A team member or Sherpa usually keeps an almost continuous flow of water so everyone can rehydrate after their climb from Camp 3. This is probably the most critical job at the South Col. Food is sparse, maybe some ramen noodles, energy bars and soup. Nothing fancy since the body almost refuses to digest anything.

So you can paint a picture in your mind: 4 people, all dressed in their down suits, sitting or lying on their -20F down sleeping bags, oxygen masks covering their nose and mouth, surrounded by oxygen bottles, boots and cups and bowls - packs, crampons and ice axes fastened down outside the tent.

The tent door is cracked to get access to the melting snow. They hear the steady hum of the propane stoves and an occasional strong gust of wind causes everyone to come out of their stupor - they are living at 8000m on the South Col of Mt. Everest.

Once again, no news from the north other than teams are at ABC also looking for a clear summit window.

Random Notes:
There are at least two climbers not using supplemental oxygen from the south this year: Ed Viesturs and Croation female climber Darija Bostjancic.

More updates as the day progresses ...


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May 17, 2009

Update: High winds and clouds overtook the South Col as the climbers were ready to go for the summit in the early evening hours of Sunday, May 17. To my knowledge, no teams went for the summit tonight but some may have. Most will try again Monday night after spending Monday resting at the Col.

Everest 2009 Weekend Update, May 17

A good week on Everest. All the teams returned from their R&R down valley with lungs full of oxygen, stomachs full of food and in some cases, lower intestinal tracts infected with ... well anyway, most returned healthy, eager and ready for their summit bid.

The weather continued to play games with climbers and forecasters. A snow storm caught a few teams off guard at the upper camps early in the week but everyone was fine. In fact the upper mountain was almost deserted with so many teams still down valley.

A few brave climbers took their shot targeting a very narrow window of low summit winds but the mountain had the last word as they climbed quickly to the South Col only to see dangerously winds higher. Wisely, they turned back.

But as the skies became a clear blue over base camp, plans were hatched for a summit bid on May 18. As the word spread, so did the window with teams looking from the 18th through the 21st to summit. This meant they needed to leave base camp four days before their target and that they did.

The congo line developed on the Lhotse Face with Adventure Consultants spotting 30+ climbers snaking their way to Camp 3 on Saturday. Peak Freaks reported few climbers but a "ton of Sherpas" headed to the South Col with oxygen bottles on Friday.

And more good news. Over on the north side, Adventure Peaks noted a summit attempt for the Japanese and Chinese teams over the weekend. No word on their results yet.

So the first huge wave of climbers are at the South Col or starting their summit bids this Sunday (right now) evening, Nepal time. There is a chance that no one will leave the Col since the weather forecast continues to show higher than desired winds for tonight. The First Ascents video mentioned winds in excess of 30 mph which is quite high.

I estimate that there are well over 150 climbers for this first wave occurring over the next several days. And many more are in the queue at base camp awaiting the next window. Plans have already been made to dig out the ropes from recent snows so the first teams will have a slow go of it. But once the winds die down and the route is cleaned up - look for several days of huge summit numbers this week.

The next big wave looks like for the end of this week. Himex had a large team of 14 leave base camp looking to summit on the 21st and other teams are looking at May 23rd. This might include AAI as well as MS climber Windy Booker. But once again, a week is a lifetime for Everest weather.

My personal wish for safety and success to all teams on both sides. Climb On!

An Update on the 7 Summits from Alan
I mentioned on April 19th the Memories are Everything®: The 7 Summits project to raise $1 million for Alzheimer's research, education and support. The project is coming along nicely. We are planning the climbs starting with Aconcagua in February 2010 ending with Denali in July 2011. Of course, Everest is one of the 7 and we will climb it two years from now in 2011. We are discussing the project with several professional guide companies who are excited the project.

Contact me about opportunities to participate. We are looking for corporate partners as well as qualified climbers to join the fund raising and expeditions. We have added a safari option to the Kili climb in 2010 and a trek to Everest Base Camp in 2011. The project's priorities are fund raising, safety, summits and fun!


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May 17, 2009

Summit Wave #1 Starts in Earnest

Multiple teams are at the South Col today, Sunday May 17th and could summit early May 18th, Monday morning. Winds are still reported in excess of 50 mph on the summit making conditions less than ideal so we will have to wait for reports directly from the teams.

Update:
Peak Freaks' home team of Becky Rippel reported early Sunday morning that in fact there are high winds at the Col and Tim Rippel and team are holding tight for the moment. Also that there are 60 climbers in queue for the summit bid. Read their compete report including an update on 68 year-old Bernd Wittman.


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May 16, 2009

South Col - Stop or Stay?

Adventure Consultants reported from Camp 2 that about 30 climbers were headed up the Lhotse Face towards Camp 3. This would put those climbers at the South Col tomorrow and leaving for the summit Sunday night and making the top on early Monday, May 18th. Some estimates double that for the climbers headed up tomorrow night.

The South Col is one of the most unique places humans visit on this planet. As popularized in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, as the beginning of the Death Zone it is a difficult place for a few reasons: you can't breath, you can't eat and it is not the ultimate goal but only a stop along the way.

The standard summit program has climbers leaving from Camp 3 early in the morning and arriving early afternoon at the Col. You spend a few hours eating and drinking whatever you can get down, try to get a few hours of sleep and leave around 9:00 PM for the summit. If the weather window forecast was accurate, it is an incredible, almost surreal environment with perfectly pure air and crystal clear skies that in spite of the sub zero temperatures, causes any climber to take pause to let it sink in - they are higher than all but a few places on the planet.

Some teams take a slightly different tact by spending a full day at the Col and leave for the summit the next day. Common wisdom says you cannot survive for long at the Col but this has been shown to be a reasonable strategy - you get a full night and day's rest - as difficult as it is - and leave as hydrated and energized as is possible. It can be done, I spent 3 nights at the Col one year.

Once again, there is not right or wrong in these matters just variations on a theme.

Even with good weather in the forecast, teams are taking it all in and are prepared for delays. Canadian Tim Rippel leading the Peak Freaks team is prepared to spend an extra day at the Col:

Our plan is to stay here 2-nights at Camp 2, tomorrow (May 17) to Camp 3, next day (May 17) to the South Col and leave 21:00hrs (Nepal Time) for the summit, arriving sometime in the morning of the 18th. Strong wind is expected in the afternoon of May 16 and possibly the 17th. I think we can weather it okay and be in position for the 18th. We have ample oxygen and provisions at the South Col to hold up and sip oxygen for another night if need be.

Over the past couple of days, the snows have returned causing the Singapore Women's' team to delay one day but now reports team 1 left their base camp yesterday and their second team will depart a few days later:

The last couple of days saw the entire Khumbu region, including surrounding towns like Pangboche and Pheriche experience high precipitation and winds. Even though this is not entirely weather to celebrate about, we remain hopeful here at Base Camp - because every inch of snow is an indication of the jet streams passing over us and the coming of good weather.

Over on the north, we could see summits today or Sunday. According to SummitClimb, the Chinese and Japanese groups are at 8300 meters or the highest camp on Friday. Obviously this implies the route is fixed or will be with their effort.

Adventure Peaks keeps us updated with a target summit date of May 21st:

Summit fever has arrived at Base Camp. After a few days of poor weather with snow and high winds the forecasts are now indicating the weather window the team have been waiting for. The current plan is to leave Base Camp tomorrow and take two leisurely days to reach ABC conserving their strength for the challenge ahead. If everything is still looking good then they are hoping to summit on the 21st May.

As if being crammed in a tent with one smelly mate wasn't enough, the Fins, missing their sauna, set a record with seven smelly climbers in a three person tent. Why? I can't explain but they try in the Dispatch of the Day.

Random Notes:
Our oldest climbers this year, Bill Burke at 67 with Asian Trekking; Dawes Eddy, 66 with IMG and Bernd Wittman, 68, Peak Freaks are all doing well and should attempt the summit. On the other end, the Brat Pack, the 17 year-olds Erica Dohring with Dave Hahn and Johnny Strange with Scott Woolums are also moving nicely. Well done to all these climbers!

Site Note:
If you love climbing and mountaineering like me, this site is full of information. Use the menu in the upper left corner of each page to navigate to more Everest coverage, trip reports for my climbs on Denali, Rainier, Aconcagua and many more plus pictures, climbing gear, guides - there is a bunch of stuff here :)


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May 15, 2009

Watching the Winds

While teams make their way towards the South Col, one of the key weather variables they monitor is the wind speed on the summit. In general most teams will not attempt a summit if the winds are over 20 mph and they prefer less than 15. High winds combined with -20F air temperatures creates an almost guaranteed risk of frostbite.

Tim Rippel of Canada's Peak Freaks noted from Camp 2 yesterday that :

... There are just a few of us here who made the move up to C2 today and a ton!!!!! of Sherpas. I even saw some climbers going from Camp 3 to the South Col which means they are positioning themselves for a possible summit bid tonight.

Our plan is still the same that we set about a week and a half ago. We bumped it back by one day to go for the 18th summit window. There are high winds expected on the afternoon of the 16th so we didn't want to be on the South Col then, instead we have positioned ourselves to hunker down at Camp 3 during that time and move the next day. We are still pretty much on track as we said 16th or 17th, it will be the night of the 17th and hopefully on top the morning of the 18th. It will be a colder ascent than last year at this time and more wind but we are up for it.

I am not sure which team Tim saw climbing towards the South Col, there are many possibilities. Could have been the Lhotse-Everest traverse team.

Everest is truly an international place with many, many countries represented each year. The Croatian Women's team has been mentioned in several dispatches this season as to how strong they are. Roman, a reader, sent me this email today:

I just want to inform you that 1st summit team is on the way to the top. Sisters Darija and Iris Bostjancic and dr. Lana Donlagic are ahead towards Camp 2. Darija will try summit without supplemental O2 if wheather conditions will be fine. Second team made of 3 members will follow tomorrow or day after.

Best of luck Ladies, safe climbing.

Most of the teams that left yesterday are now at Camp 2 taking a rest day. Saturday will be a big day moving up to Camp 3. And Monday night into Tuesday dawn still looks like a reasonable summit night - and it seems to be getting more crowded.

Adventure Consultants has joined this summit push by taking a controlled climb up with an overnight stop at Camp 1. They are looking at the 19th or 20th as good days. Scott Woolums, guiding the Strange Father/Son team, is targeting a summit for 21/21 or Wednesday/Thursday so there may be a several consecutive days of summits if the weather holds.

AAI and Himex as well as 7 Summits Club are holding their departure dates close to their chest but it will probably be in a few days and not targeted for this next summit window.

Most climbers are reviewing their gear, discussing oxygen plans or just resting. Billi Bierling is doing all this but also thinking but the necessaries - yes the pee bottle. The question I am often asked during school presentations is "How do you do that?" And with that, she gets the Dispatch of the Day

No solid information from the north teams today but expect them to be watching carefully for the ropes to be fixed to the summit. I would expect them to make summit bids over the next week.


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May 14, 2009

And They Are Off - well almost

In a mad rush, they are off to the summit. While patience is the word of the day for most teams on both sides of Everest, on the south there is a dash to get in position for a May 18th summit window. The Ed Viesturs - First Ascents team is off for a summit push plus members from Peak Freaks, IMG, Singapore Women, Summit Climb and Altitude Junkies. Also the Lhotse Everest Traverse team is already on their way to the summit of Lhotse this morning.

Gavin Bate sent me an email this morning saying in part:

We will go up tomorrow and look for summiting on the 19th. So far it looks like a possible 60 people for that day - Damien and Willie are both planning for it, some of the Croatian team, an IMG group I think, and several others. If the forecast is right then it will be a busy day on top and it will be the usual play off of safety in numbers against traffic jams and queues. I'm happy that climbing with Willie and Damien, we'll all work out a good system for keeping things flowing.

So the mood is very positive up here right now and certainly in my camp, now that we don't have a death hanging over the team, things are cool.

But not everyone is in a hurry. Some are quite content top let the "early adopters" lead the way and follow in their steps when a longer window appears. On the Tibet side, if you read French, the Canadian Mad Frogs' blog tell of their trip to the North Col but now are back to base camp due to weather and waiting for the ropes to be fixed by the CTMA to the summit. On the south the seasoned commercial teams of AAI, Himex and Adventure Consultants are quite content to lay low for a few more days.

Lori Schneider (who has quite a following I might add!) is one of two climbers with MS checked in today with this email:

Hi Alan, I have not had access to this account in a month, so just received your email. All is well here and we are down valley, waiting for the weather on Everest to clear. I am feeling strong, acclimitized and ready to rock. We've already been to camp three and all went well. Three of our team members had to leave due to illness, but the rest are excited to get underway. Hope all is well in your world. Mine is perfect! More when I can. Let the fun begin! Live your dreams. Lori

A common question is how long does acclimitization last. Some of the climbers spent a night above 7000m almost 14 days ago and are now living at 5000m. This is a difference of over 5000 feet - a mile. Every person is different in how the body reacts to altitude but some studies of high performance athletes show that the increased red blood cells from going to high altitude can last for 4 weeks or longer upon returning to sea level. This matches my personal experience. So the climbers should maintain their benefits throughout May living at base camp. However, as they say, results may vary. For anyone wanting more information on altitude training, an excellent book is Performing in Extreme Environments by Lawrence Armstrong.

While some speak of a summit bid, others are dealing with different issues.

Christophe Vandaele posts an incredibly emotional post yesterday about his very difficult decision to stop his expedition. It is a must read for anyone considering climbing Everest and for anyone who thinks climbing mountains is all about bragging rights. Well done Christophe, well done and safe travels home. This a part of the Dispatch of the Day:

I've learned so much, in climbing, life, myself and the limits of nature. If the summit was the goal, yes I didn't make it. But im proud for giving it everything i had, I found strength in places I never thought possible, not once but 3 times. The personal knowledge and awareness i received from that is priceless. Acclimatization was the one thing I couldn't controll and it did me in, - it really is genetic. Like my climbing buddy Gregory says: "The mountain can be so cruel, all is well one minute and then the next all hope is lost."

So it looks like the mountain in starting to get busy and teams are looking to summit anywhere from May 18 through the following few days. In general it takes 4 days to get to the summit from base camp and another two to return. Hang on the excitement continues to build!

Random Notes:
It seems that everyone is Twittering these days. Follow these tweets to read the latest in 140 characters or less: @FirstAscent @gavinbate @SPOTScott @timrippel

During the summit push there will be multiple updates on some days so check back to track the progress.


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May 13, 2009

Wind and Snow,Waiting and Watching, Teamwork and Survival plus THE Summit Report

This week started slow with most teams either down valley, in base camp and a few stuck at Camp 2. A storm moved in on Monday that caused everyone to hunker down for a couple of days.

It is interesting to read how the climbers view their current situation. I appreciate them taking the time and energy to send us their thoughts when it is much easier to just relax and not fool with sat phones and computers. Here are three views from three places over the past day or two:

Dave Hahn at Camp 2:

This was a great day for staying put. That said, it sounded like everything outside our little tents was moving around. The forecast called for snow and wind - the reality was exactly that. I was wide-awake at 5:40 a.m., listening to what sounded like a 20-minute train derailment: an avalanche pouring off Everest’s Southwest face. Several times I zipped down the tent door, only to see that we were still in the milky midst of the turbulent powder cloud thrown off by the slide. I knew the actual debris couldn’t possibly hit ABC - but it was a reminder to me that it wouldn’t be a day for wandering around.

Scott Parazynski takes note from down valley:

A thick wet snow is falling here in Pheriche on Day 52 of the expedition, and uncertainty exists as to when we can easily return to EBC, when the weather might lift to allow teams to recommence their summit bids, and when we might get our chance… Snow up high means fixed lines will likely be covered, as will have our bootprints from multiple prior forays up the route. All 20+ climbing teams will be poised to go at the first hint of promising weather, which might result in crowding and bottlenecks. Meanwhile, the end of May and the approach of the monsoon season is less than 3 weeks away.

Uncertainty exists, but we’ll eventually prevail…

Valerio Massimo tells his view from base camp:

Base Camp is getting restless. After the highs of the trip up the Lhotse Face, now we are stuck waiting. Five of the team have now left the expedition, the last this morning due to an inability to acclimatise to the higher altitudes after persevering with a last attempt to reach Camp 3. Those that remain will make up the eventual summit teams, but for some the waiting around is proving hard, particularly for those who have not been on a 8,000 meter peak expedition before – all this forced inactivity is new to them. Spirits are generally good, the team strong and in the main recovered from illness, and people are still getting on – which is quite an achievement given we have all been thrown together to live at very close quarters, in less than perfectly comfortable circumstances, in what is undoubtedly a high stress environment, for almost seven weeks. There have been no arguments or politics which are common on other expeditions of this size, so we are lucky.

For some climbers, the harsh realities of climbing Everest took their toll. There is honor is all these cases. Climbing Everest is not "simple". Verne Tejas leading the AAI expedition shared some updates on his team's tough experience to Camp 3.

The team is now back together again. We are one big happy family, yet somewhat smaller. Our push up to camp three was really tough on Blue team members. None of us slept well in our 23,000 foot tent city, but Alex didn’t sleep at all. In the morning he was hurting so we helped him out by carrying his equipment for him as we descended to CII. Yet even with our help he moved slower as time went by. Our concern led us to seek medical help from the wonderful doctors at the Himalayan Rescue Association. They looked Alex over and told us he had to fly out as soon as possible because he had acute pulmonary edema. To complicate matters, while we were descending in the wind from Camp three, team member Kurt did not notice how cold his hands were. By the time we got to CII he had frostbitten his hands. The doctors said he would need to leave the mountain as well to heal safely. So, both were medivaced off the mountain by chopper. With them a big chunk of our team spirit left too.

In those same two days, Kathy had an I. T. band flare up in her right leg. It became excruciating for her to climb. We had to decide what was best for her and the team’s safety. Ultimately she was able to down climb to CII and Base camp under her own power but was not able to reach CIII. Without CIII acclimatization under her belt she is not able to attempt the summit. She has been a delightful team member so her departure stunned us all the more. We miss you guys immensely and are sadden by your departure. May your travels home be safe and relatively easy. Please get well soon.

There is a quiet murmur amongst the climbers that this could be another 2005 where the weather was so bad during May that some teams never tried to summit. However, in late May, a window appeared. This is what I said in my 2005 recap:

Quite a season! The summits on May 21 was 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.

those were the days! "Only" 230 summits!! Of course we already had the first 2009 summit on May 5 but nothing since then.

Against all this waiting, boredom and wondering, a good ending came out of a potentially and still unfolding story. You may recall that a cook boy died from alcohol poising from an illegal batch of moonshine. Another cook was also stricken. I encourage you to read, in it's entirety, Gavin Bate's summary of the entire situation. Not only does it show how strong the human body can be but also the incredible work and cooperation of all the people at base camp. My best wishes to all around this situation. Please read his dispatch.

Over on the north, it is a similar situation with weather delays. Adventure Peaks reports in:

Well phase 2 of our trip is over. The team were given a good beasting back up to ABC but snow and winds couldn't stop them! After a rest day and a Surrendra dalbhat we were off to N. Col. We stayed for 2 nights at North Col and visited as high as possible, mostly in the 7300 mts to 7500 mts band. It was cold and windy, perfect for down suits and a gear sort out. The weather has been a bit rough over the last few days, sunny starts followed by a windy and snowy afternoon seems to be the pattern.

Currently the ropes are fixed to 8300 metres with little chance of going further in the current conditions. Our Sherpas are waiting to set up our camp at 8300 metres and have cancelled going up 3 days in a row because of the weather. Sherpas have done good with the N. Col camp, unlike some groups our tents are still in place, I noticed some teams tents parked in a very deep crevasse due to the wind. There are a lot of people heading up today so I'm guessing it'll be for finishing the ropes.

And fianlly one of the most eloquent summit day trip reports you will ever read, Britain David Tait describes in amazing detail his opportunity to be the first westerner to summit in 2009. As you know he followed the Sherpa rope team to the summit almost by accident .. well you really need to read this Dispatch of the Day (or year?). Well done David. Congratulations Sir.

Random Notes:
I split this coverage page into two pages with all pre-May updates on a new page This will speed up the loading for climbers on slow connections.


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May 11, 2009

Summit Bids Stopped - again

As most other teams were down valley or monitoring the deteriorating weather from base camp, IMG climber John Golden, along with two guides and four Sherpas left from Camp 2 on a summit bid yesterday. Obviously driven, John received a double human transplant on his left leg in 2005 - visit his site for details. They were reported above the Yellow Band around 8:30 AM after climbing for 7 hours - not a bad time at all. After taking a good rest and hydration break at the South Col they evaluated the weather and stopped the push. Here is the report from IMG's Simonson:

Shea, Golden, Merle, and four sherpas made it up to the Col yesterday by 11am but during the afternoon the weather deteriorated so they were unable to make a summit attempt (they were planning to start in the late evening). Down at Base Camp we had snow in the afternoon and it is cloudy this morning and looks like it may continue. This morning Justin reports from the Col that they are all OK after their overnight there, and now are above the clouds, but that they are going to be coming back down to Camp 2 today.

Eric goes on to report that they are back at C2 now. On a completely different note, Simonson' also reports on the death of a cook boy at base camp due to poisoning from locally purchased bootleg whiskey made from methyl alcohol. This is very sad but not uncommon in this poor country. Every effort was made to save him by the doctors at base camp.

Most of the dispatches comment on more watching and waiting for a good weather window. Teams are slowly returning to base camp as are the Sherpas from visiting their families and taking care of business back in their villages.

A few climbers still need to spend their night at Camp 3 for acclimatization purposes like 17 year-old Erica Dohring climbing with guide Dave Hahn. Dave' gets the Dispatch of the Day where he describes a recent attempt to get up there. I like the over riding lesson from his post of patience and safety as he says:

... We’d already passed through the big avalanche scar on the route and were in the “popcorn” section when I did the math and figured it just didn’t make sense for us to try getting to ABC as planned. We’d all be too tired, overworked and dehydrated from so much extra time spent out on the trail with packs on our backs ...

The weather forecasts have been reasonably consistent the past few days looking for increasing winds so it was good that most teams did not try for the summit in these dangerous conditions. The winds were about 70 m.p.h on the summit today. With so many people on the mountain, I am sure leaders are becoming a little anxious that when a window appears there will be a rush to the top.

Also it looks like there may be a two week gap from the time the ropes were set to the summit and the first teams using them. So they may be encrusted in new snow and ice needing to be dug out thus taking more time for the first team.

All in all, this is actually all quite normal for a modern day Everest - crazy weather and crowds. And the teams seem to be working pretty well together with most taking a conservative path. Look for a quiet next few days as the teams resettle base camp in snowy conditions.

Random Notes:
For you Twitter fans, two climbers are using it very effectively this season: @gavinbate and @SPOTScott.

Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death and recently passed diabetes.


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May 10, 2009

Everest 2009 Weekend Update, May 10

A difficult week of contrasts on Mt. Everest. Early in the week five Sherpas took the fixed rope all the way to the summit clearing the way for all the teams to begin planning their summit bids. British climber, David Tait was close behind this team and became the first westerner to summit in 2009.

With that success and an ominous weather forecast, teams began the difficult tasks of planning their own summit bids. The team leaders discussed the situation to try to stagger climbs in order to prevent crowding. But even now, there was crowding and congestion on the fixed ropes.

The main story was a hanging serac on Everest's West Shoulder. This huge piece of snow and ice had been hinting all season that something big was to come. Climbers, both new and veterans, watched it carefully with every trip through the Icefall. With the warmer than normal temperatures it was not if but when. Most climbers started earlier than normal for their climbs to Camp 2, some starting as early as 2:00 AM.

Then in the early hours of Friday, May 7, teams noted even more activity than before from this serac. Sherpas hurried their clients through the fall zone - pushing them as hard as they have ever pushed. The Sherpa community knew.

And then it happened, with a huge pop and crash, it let go. With all the cameras on Everest this year, YouTube was quickly filled with video showing the huge spray that engulfed the lower part of the Icefall and then into base camp.

Twenty people were in the Icefall. Post after post and emails told of running for cover, but the only cover offered were the car size ice blocks that were big enough to hide behind but small enough not to topple over from the blast

Climbers above and below the debris zone called one another to verify each other's safety. All but three quickly reported in as being safe. Two climbers and their Sherpa, climbing through the direct path, took refuge as best they could. But all three were buried.

A frantic effort recovered two but the third was lost.

A canopy of sadness fell over base camp. And the understanding that this is part of the contract when climbing these mountains. However some felt the contract was too much and left for home. Other's regrouped and returned through the Icefall with a sense that the worse was over from the deadly serac.

Sitting at Camp 2 they listened to their radios as their home teams worked the weather forecast. Hoping to climb quickly and thread a narrow weather window, climbers were all dressed up and ready to go. But once again, the mountain had the last word and the winds picked up, promising not to let go for days ahead. Some returned to base camp, not defeated but just delayed. And a few stayed at Camp 2 against the odds to go for the ever disappearing summit window.

The teahouses in the Khumbu are doing a booming business overflowing with climbers and trekkers. The Sherpas are back home spending some time with wives and children. And they all know the clock is ticking. After a good rest, everyone will return to base camp. With some luck, the winds will become silent for a few days and the climbers will climb.

But for now, they are in their private worlds thinking of what just happened and what their future holds.

Pushing for the Summit Today
Several IMG climbers left for the south col this morning (May 10) and are targeting a summit bid after a few hours at the South Col. This would have them on the top early Monday morning, May 11. My best wishes for these guys since the weather is so variable right now.

SummitClimb left for Camp 2 today chasing a brief window around May 14/15. Over on the north SummitClimb there commented on how cold it is which they say is not normal for this time of year. All in all a strange weather year.

While there will be a few pushes for a narrow summit window, most teams look like they will wait for a more stable and safe period that is at least 4 days long. It is not common for a western climber to do multiple summit pushes, while it does happen, most people are fairly tapped out after one attempt.


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May 9, 2009

Aborted Summit Attempts, Processing the Danger

Scott Parazynski's team posted a Teet (via Twitter) late Friday night reporting no summit attempts for this round:

Keith Cowing: Weather conditions atop Mt. Everest have become unacceptable for further ascent at this time. Scott and other climbers have begun to descend from Camp II and should be back here at Everest Base Camp any moment now. Stay tuned for updates.

It was a gamble that the winds would be low enough for a safe summit without risking too much frostbite but it looks like the winds did not let up. Several other reports noted that the weather would get worse before it got better so we will have to see when the teams determine it will be safe for another attempt.

Many climbers with IMG and Altitude Junkies, two of the teams that were just up at Camp 2, are now headed down valley for some much need low-altitude rest. SummitClimb never went up as they had planned.

Now that a day has passed since the massive avalanche that took a Sherpas' life and ended two climber's journey, the processing of the event has begun. Reading through the various dispatches this morning, there is a slightly different tone to them. They range from fearful to reflective to optimistic to pragmatic. Each person deals with the seriousness of the crux of an expedition in different ways. Now that the avalanche has taken a victim, the Icefall has taken on a new look. Also with an aborted summit attempt by many climbers and the understanding that another window may not appear until late May, the weight of their journey has become a bit heavier.

But the avalanche is on most people's minds. With that there are three stories from three very different people seen from three different perspectives. Please take a few minutes to read each one. You need to read every word in the context the author intended. This is life on Everest today.

Dave Hahn describes in detail what he saw from base camp and then what he witnessed upon arriving at the debris zone. Gilad Stern was so impacted the he decided to end his entire expedition and tells his story of no regret. And Bud Allen describes what it feels like to be in the Asian Trekking camp, home of the expedition most effected by the avalanche.

Rest up everyone and be safe.


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May 8, 2009

Regrouping

Death in the mountains is always difficult but especially so when it involves a Sherpa. They are there doing a job while the "climbers" are there doing what they love. While every Sherpa has immense respect for nature, climbing is a means to support their families, put their kids through school and make a better life.

memorialToday, an all Sherpa team was scheduled to return to the Icefall to search for his body. In general bodies are left on the high slopes of Everest but being so close to base camp, the Sherpas will make every effort.

When you trek to base camp as a climber, Sherpa, trekker or porter, you pass by an area that holds perhaps 30 stone memorials to climbers who have dies on Everest, the vast majority of these are for Sherpa. It has been said a million times and to be said again, these are the true heroes of Everest. They deserve all the respect, admiration and support they receive.

If there is anything positive about this last avalanche it is put forth by Becky from a conversation with Tim Rippel of Peak Freaks.

The relief part is because now that big chunk we have watching has fallen off- GONE!!!!....Now they can freely finish the climb without this literally hanging over their heads. He said there is one more piece up there but it is far enough to the left, when it goes it will land far away from the route.

IMG reports their climbers are still heading towards the summit and are at Camp 2. Meanwhile other teams are revisiting their schedules and evaluating the weather window. Tim Rippel has now set May 16/17 as a potential summit day. Himex spent the day reviewing oxygen bottle procedures and is looking at a summit bid at least a week from now. Adventure Consultants and many others teams are relaxing in the teahouses in the villages down valley. They are enjoying sleeping off the ground, having slightly different food than at base camp but overall they are enjoying little more natural oxygen at altitudes of about 13,000' and rebuilding their bodies before the summit bid.

Manny Pizarro on the north side give us a good look at what is going on and an expected summit date. The window is quickly closing on that side with avalanches and route difficulties:

The weather is crisp cold and the winds strong and harsh making us not forget who rules this mountain. The weather and the collapse of an avalanche on the North Cole has delayed our ascent to the next camps. The window of opportunity for summit day and the end of season for climbing Everest is approaching. Waiting for the new ropes to be fixed following the avalanche and for the winds to calm down has affected our plans of bringing our loads of equipment and oxygen to the higher camps. Our challenge right now will be to eliminate extra weight and receive any help we can get to carry our loads.

Physically we are doing good, we have lost a considerable amount of weight, we have headaches and decrease appetite, all of which is to be expected at high altitude. We have started eating a liquid diet that supplies us with the nutrients needed for cellular energy, this will also be our sole summit diet. We plan to push to the next camps on May 7 to set up camps 1-3 and then reach for the summit of Everest on May 15 or 16 or maybe sooner.

It is beginning to look like teams are now focusing on mid May from both sides. However, this is still over a week away - a lifetime in the world of weather forecasting on Everest. Remember that May 21st has been the summit day over the past several years and we are two weeks away from that. But each year is different.

The issue is wind and cold that can create frostbite and impact the strength of some climbers. This is when team leaders must manage expectations. They get hourly questions of "When do you think we will go for it?" In all reality, they are looking at their forecasts, talking to their Sherpas and trying to keep everyone focused on building strength for the big push. Sounds easy, but the tension grows as does the drama. Sometimes waiting is harder than climbing.


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May 7, 2009

Another Icefall Avalanche, Sherpa Lost, Climbers Injured, Gambling against the Weather - Updated

A word on protocol before I post this report. Everest climbing season bring accidents with injuries and sometimes death. My policy is not to comment until I have a first hand witness report and preferably more than one report that confirms the story then not to report names until it is clear the family has had an opportunity to be notified. The following meets that criteria.

Another massive avalanche off the west shoulder of Everest on Thursday, May 7. Pictures are coming in showing a massive blast covering the lower third of the entire Icefall including the route. To put this in perspective, small avalanches almost always occur each year but 2009 has seen more significant avalanches from this section. And it has hit the route more often. Today's blast was huge as described by the most seasoned veterans.

We know climbers were headed up today including IMG sub team with Scott Parazynski who has reported in from Camp 2 safely. However Gavin Bate was returning from Camp 2 to base camp and came upon the avalanche zone. He posted this just now on his site, but go to his site to read the full report:

Suddenly we came across a cluster of Sherpas who told us there had just been an accident, a huge avalance or collapse literally minutes ago. Some people were hurt, someone was lost in the debris, nobody seemed entirely sure.
 
I raced down with Pasang, sweat pouring into my eyes in the extreme heat of the day, and came across a huge area of devastation. This had been a very large avalanche and apparently two members and a Sherpa had been caught in it. The two members, or foreigners, were alive but one was hurt quite badly. One Sherpa was lost. This was the case of the needle in the haystack. Damien Benegas was there organising ropes to be anhcored down so someone could abseil into the now new crevasses to find any sign of a body. It was a vast job but he was coping very well, as many Sherpas congregated to help. Other than me, I saw few foreigners, so I  grabbed my axe and wrapped down the ropes into the new section of broken ice to start searching.
 
It is very hard word at altitude but we kept at it, digging in the snow and hacking at ice blocks to pull them away, to see the little flash of colour or a boot or a rucksack strap which might give us a sign. Any sign. People all came together to search for the body, but the area was large and it is quite dangerous work, when you don’t know if there might be another collapse.
 
Eventually after about an hour of digging there was a shout that a backpack had been seen nearby and again Damien Benegas set up ropes to drop down and look. I was totally exhausted and I could see that I would be no use now. Sherpas have the strength and condition to do this sort of work, but I was angry that I was so exhausted! I met a Discovery cameraman who interviewed me but at that moment I wasn’t sure of the details of the accident, I only knew we needed lots of people to search for somebody whose life was perhaps ebbing away as we stood there. 
 
To my knowledge the Sherpa has not been found, I write this having stumbled into Base Camp where Ngima filled me with orange juice and soup, thank God for him. I’m still feeling quite shaken by how close Pasang and I were to the avalanche, there’s nothing you can do to prepare for, or avoid, it (other than not come here, I suppose), but it does make you stop a moment. I clip in every time, but if one of those seracs or lumps of ice snaps off then there’s not a lot you can do except run.
 
Well done Damien Benegas for being there, on the ball, organising and doing useful stuff. Once again the Benegas brothers have proved themselves to be serious assets to the Everest season. I heard a lot of voices on radios, not doing much, but I saw Damien doing something, and I was very happy to be a part of the search and rescue.

Reports including from Peak Freaks, who posted the first report in the middle of the night last night and IMG that has a full report as well, note the injured climber was evacuated to base camp and the body of the Sherpa has not been found. My deep condolences to the Sherpas friends and family. My best wishes for a speedy recovery for the injured climbers.

With all this instability in the Icefall it has had an impact on some climbers. Several are posting on their blogs that they are headed home now. There is no shame in this, after all going home safely to your family is never wrong.

Teams Leaving Now for Summit Bid

So against this tragedy this morning, teams continue to look for the summit window. And there are dramatically different views. Betting against Mine that Bird in the Kentucky Derby cost gamblers a lot of money. He won at 50-1 odds. On the other hand it made many people rich. Eric Simonson seems to be the gambling type as Ed Wardell with the Discovery Channel describes:

Eric Simonson, IMG expedition leader, says it's time to go for the summit. He has laid his money on the table, thrown down his cards, fired the gun, pulled the trigger.
Eric is gambling with Mother Nature. He’s spent years perfecting the system, weeks pouring over the weather reports and discussing in detail the strengths of the climbers and the state of the jet stream. But at some point he has to say, “Its time to go.” If he’s wrong, we may only get to Camp 2 and find the weather is so bad we have to turn back. He may be right and in five days, we’ll be standing on the summit of the highest mountain on Earth.

Most teams are down valley looking to rest at the lower altitudes before their summit bid and not looking to thread the weather window. That said, I personally know that Eric puts safety first for all his climbs so while this may be positioned as a gamble, perhaps it is more of a calculated decision with a solid backup plan. In a video dispatch Ed Viesturs said in a video that his elite team was also headed up looking for a May 12th summit window.

Russell Brice told a small sub team to get ready for their summit bid yesterday according to Billi Bierling but then changed his mind as he pondered the forecast - the window was just too small according to Billi. Adventure Consultants reached the same conclusion so they and the huge Himex team are not even considering a summit bid for at least a week as are many other teams down valley. So it looks like IMG, SummitClimb and a couple of others may be going for a summit early next week. I am sure the Discovery producers love this drama. But as a guide once told me, drama is for the theater, not the mountains.

On the north, trouble somewhat continues. After a slow and delayed start, teams finally made it the North Col and Sherpas fixed the route to 8300 meter. But an avalanche at the Col has now taken out the route creating a short delay.

Everest feels very unstable this year -on both sides. My best wishes for safe climbing for all.

Update #1
An update on the names of the climbers and Sherpa caught in the Icefall avalanche today from Yuri Pritzker with Asian Trekking. Please read Yuri's entire report. My sincere deepest sympathy to Lhapka Nuru Sherpa's family and to the entire Asian Trekking family. Lhapka Nuru Sherpa was 32 and had a wife and three children.

We reached he BC 5 min later, and as it happened, the Whole BC was watching the people still on the Ice Fall. All teams called on the radio to check on their people. Soon we found out that two people got into the crevasse, and it became known that it is the two Austrians - Walter and Bernice.

Their Sherpa, Lachpa was missing. The BC response was tremendous. Many Sherpas and Western Guides started running up. We were all watching with binoculars and listening on the radio. We saw that some people were being helped out of the crevasses.

Bernice was ok, but Walter could not move himself. We sow that group separated with some helping down Walter and Bernice, some starting to search for missing Sherpa. Emergency equipment was sent up - oxygen, stretchers, down sleeping bag. After 40 min we started hearing some good news - Walter was going on his own power.

2 hours after the avalanche hit the rescue group came to BC. Walter was bruised, hypodermic, but was ok. However the search for Lachpa Sherpa was unsuccessful, and was abandoned after 3h. This is the guy that I talked with this morning….It is the first death this year on Everest, and it is in our team.

Update #2
There remains significant concern about more avalanches for this same section on the West Shoulder onto the Icefall. However, it seems the largest piece was taken away with this last avalanche so some teams feel relieved. An all Sherpa team will try to recover Lhapka Nuru's body tomorrow. When Sherpas were killed in the Icefall in 2006, a day of mourning followed to honor the Sherpas. I expect this to happen this time as well.


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May 6, 2009

Watch and Wait

With the first summits checked off and the route now fixed to the summit, it becomes a watch and wait scenario for those on the south. Over on the north, climbers are spending nights on the North Col but high winds are stalling their progress a tad. SummitClimb reports in:

Today we tried to gain some more altitude, but it was kind of hard because of the serious wind we experienced. Some members reached as high as 7,600 members/24,000 metres, so no worries. We’re now just hanging out here in the altitude to get more acclimatization before we go down for our final rest. Also, today our sherpas took up most of what we will need in Camp 2, so they did a very good job in such strong winds.

For the 500 people in base camp in Nepal, the conversation is about one subject and one subject only - weather. This is when weather forecast are protected like state secrets and others share them like neighborhood gossip. In the end, everyone knows everything and everyone knows nothing - after all, it is weather!

Still there are teams that have not spent a night Camp 3 or are now returning from that night to base camp. So all in all Everest remains quite busy and will for the next several weeks. Dispatch after dispatch seems to point to a summit window of May 12th. By window they mean a 3 to 5 day period when the winds on the summit are calm enough to climb.

As most of you know, the jet stream stays parked on Everest for 50 weeks a year and only moves when high pressure or typhoons in the Bay of Bengal form thus pushing the 150+ m.p.h. winds a bit off the summit. Traditionally this happens in mid May each year.

So right now expedition leaders are looking at forecasts provided by services in the US, Switzerland and other far-away places to try to discern when the window will emerge. With so many climbers up there, the leaders are trying to stagger their bids to avoid creating bottlenecks. It seems that while Himex has been quite aggressive in acclimatizing, they are now quite patient for the summit. Lance Fox says:

The good news is that the ropes are fixed to the top. We now have to be patient for the ideal weather window. Some other teams are heading up the mountain now yet we may not see our first team ascend for several days if not a week or more. Unless something changes significantly in the next week my next dispatch may be delayed a bit. Time to rest, read, draw, throw the football, and maybe even have a brew or two. Hard days are just ahead so please stay tuned. Remember, patience is a virtue (yes, I am reminding myself of that as well).

Of course waiting is a double-edged sword. One one hand the days are getting longer and warmer as we move towards summer but that also brings the threat of monsoons and instability in the atmosphere. Also, the Icefall becomes even more dangerous with the warmer days. But remember that even waiting two more weeks will be about the same time, May 21st, as the first summits on a "normal" year. So lot's of time for the climbers to rest up.

A little more on the summits yesterday, David Tait was the only westerner to accompanying the Sherpas. This was David's third Everest summit after making it twice from the north side. In 2007 he wanted to do a double traverse climbing from the north to south then back but stopped once he made the single.

This year he wanted to go without supplemental oxygen. So he was on a different acclimitization schedule than the rest of the Himex team leaving base camp on April 23rd and was strangely quiet until today. David is one of the most prolific writers who climbs so I missed reading his updates. In any event he has caught up making today's post. It is short, honest and genuine. Well done David all around, well done.

Finally, hearing of early summits, infrared cameras, sushi at base camp and hot showers may give the impression impression that climbing Everest is just not that hard. After all, with all these conveniences, what's the problem? Well, never - ever - let anyone tell you that is it a cake-walk , a yak route or any other diminishing description. These climbers, regardless of training and experience will tell you that this is one of the toughest things they have ever done in their entire life.

One of these climbers, Christophe Vandaele, shares his unfiltered emotions on his last sortie towards Camp 3. It is the Dispatch of the Day.


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May 5, 2009

First 2009 Summits! - updated

Well as expected we have our first summits of Everest in 2009 today. The Sherpas who fixed the route to the Balcony yesterday (see map above) continued today all the way to the summit. One Western climber, David Tait joined them. David was scheduled to be climbing without supplemental oxygen and has now summited from both sides (twice from the north). Congratulations to everyone!

These are the names of the Sherpas: Panuru and Mingma Tenzing of IMG, Himex sherpas Phurba Tashi, Dorjee Sherpa, Nima Sherpa and Thapkee Sherpa with AAI.

This is how Eric Simonson proudly described the moment since his IMG SHerpa was the first to top out this year:

IMG sherpa Mingma Tenzing was first on top of Everest for 2009 at 12:25pm. Panuru (IMG), Kami Rita (AAI), Dorje and Nima Tsering (Himex) were a few minutes behind him. They left the Col at 2:15am. Over the last two days the five sherpas fixed the ropes from South Col to the Summit and cut away a lot of old ropes on the rock step below the South Summit and the Hillary Step as part of the continuing efforts this year to clean up the route of a lot of the old ropes that have been left on the mountain over the years. After their climb, they descended to the Col, took down their tent, then descended to Camp 2, a very impressive performance on the part of these men.

With the route now fixed look for multiple summits starting as soon as the weather allows. Some of the IMG, First Ascent and other teams are looking to start from base camp on May 8 which would put them on the summit maybe on the 12th. However there is a conflicting report from climber Billi Beirling with Himex with some very discouraging news:

The news [of the summit] reached us just as we were finding out that the weather was supposed to change and that we might have to wait for our summit push for about two weeks as high winds are expected to hit the roof of the world.

While early, there have been earlier summits according to 8000ers.com with 44 on May 5, 54 on May 8 and 44 on May 9 over the years by various routes. There have even been summits in February and April!

Check back for more updates today.

Random Notes:
Climbing is emotional. For a first hand view of some raw emotion, Himex climber Gilad Stern shared his feelings about the recent avalanche in the Icefall -- he was there. Thanks Gilad for your courage and this is the Dispatch of the Day

Interview with Guy Cotter - Adventure Consultants

What if you ran one of the oldest guiding companies and due to injury you had to stay home to monitor the progress, safety and success of your team. Further, you have tuned your company over almost two decades for small teams with highly personalized service with some of the most recognizable names in the Sherpa community. Finally, you have the legacy of the most publicized disaster on a high mountain.

Well, all this and more is part of a day's job for Guy Cotter, owner of Adventure Constants. He runs his company out of Wanaka New Zealand at the foothills of the Mount Aspiring National Park, some of the most beautiful country on earth. I have climbed with AC on three different expeditions, Guy and I have gotten to know each other over the years. In the midst of this crowded season he graciously agreed to answer a few questions on the eve of the summits

Q: AC has evolved quite a bit over the past 17 years. What are you most proud of for your company?
The industry as a whole has evolved a huge amount since we started leading expeditions into the worlds highest and the different players have found their niche to offer the type of expedition they are most comfortable in delivering to their prospective clients. I’m proud of the fact that we have stayed committed to our objective of offering high quality guided expeditions and that we have a strong contingent of return clients who believe in the level of quality we deliver. I am also heartened that we have evolved from being a very small organization running only a few trips a year to one that can offer our clients a wide range of expeditions including all Seven Summits and other expeditions and trips across the globe. I gain a lot of satisfaction from working with a high caliber of staff who share the objective of being the best we can be at what we do and not becoming a juggernaut that ‘processes’ people for the sake of income alone. We all enjoy it when our clients tell us that their experience with us has been the best experience of their lives.

Q You run trips all over the world, which climb is the most difficult to pull off year in, year out?
Carstensz continues to be the most interesting trip we run due to the nature of the infrastructure and every trip is a real adventure in itself due to the fact we are operating in terrain where people are still living in a pre historic age that is in such stark contrast to the organised western world we live in.

Q: With climate change, there is a strong emphasis on protecting the environment by climbers What are your thoughts on "green climbing"?
I have always been an advocate for minimizing the impacts we have on the world and I am always cognizant of the effects we have in a social and environmental sense. We’ve been dragging other peoples garbage off mountains ever since Rob Hall and Gary Ball ran the first ever clean up of Everest basecamp back in 1990. Keeping the environment clean is definitely part of a kiwi climbers heritage and one that is etched in our national psyche. I do get upset when I see huge amounts of resources going into clean up expeditions that may whip a few bottles off the sth col but the overall impact of the expedition is greater than the environmental benefits. The general public get’s convinced that there is an environmental nightmare occurring but the money that goes into some of these trips would be better spent on the education and health issues of the people whose country’s we visit.

Q: AC tends to keep your teams under 10 climbers or clients. Is this by design and why?
Larger groups enable expedition outfitters to offer lower pricing per person but in my view we lose the intimacy of our expeditions that way and our social and environmental impacts are that much greater. I know that if I was just in this for the money I’d run large groups at the lower end of the cost spectrum and put fewer (and less qualified) guides onto the trips to reduce costs but my personal standards dictate that if I want to sleep at night I have to be able to say to myself that I have done my very best to run the best trip I can with the most appropriate level of resources to achieve the type of trip I’d like to go on myself. I’m probably too idealistic for my own good but I feel good about operating in this manner as do the clients on our trips who want a high quality experience and recognize that you get what you pay for.

Q: With Everest summits happening right now, what worries you most about the 2009 season?
Naturally I am always concerned about the safety of all the people on the mountain and feel a sense of relief when the season is completed and they are all off the mountain. That there is a larger number of people on the south side than normal due to the difficulties in Tibet is of concern too but there are a sufficient number of ‘main players’ who can work together to coordinate the logistics on the mountain to achieve the best results with the factors at play. At the end of the day, the success (or not) of a season is dictated by weather. In 2005 we did not have a summit due to continued bad weather yet that season saw some teams going to the summit in marginal conditions with little safety margin and more than a few cases of frostbite.

Q: What do you think, as a true mountaineer, of the bolts on the Yellow Band?
Bolts are an emotive issue in mountaineering. On one hand the small metal bolts are not intrusive and reduce the impacts that come form other ‘anchors’ that are usually left behind such as snow pickets, pitons etc. On the other hand some feel the mere fact that the rock has been ‘violated’ is not acceptable. I am sympathetic to both arguments but at the end of the day, in my view, there are more important things to get passionate about that are a lot more meaningful.

Q: You recently had some knee work. How are you doing and how much do you still get to climb?
In the last twelve months I’ve had operations on both knees which is due to years of wear and tear of the knee caps onto the cartilage on the bottom of the femur. It’s called patella femoral syndrome so if any of you readers feel hot sensations behind the kneecaps that’ll be the same thing. My knees themselves are still really strong but I was getting swelling and discomfort and figured I’d better get it sorted now so I can get back at it later. I was scheduled to be climbing Kanchenjunga right now but made the excruciating call to get myself fixed up instead. I’m taking a winter off skiing but I’ll be climbing in Europe in September and guiding on Elbrus after that so it’s not so bad taking time out to fix the problem now. I climbed (guided) Everest again in 2006 and 2007 and will continue guiding and climbing on a few trips a year as well as keeping up my rock climbing. I think that overall I have a good mix of climbing and work in the office because with expedition organization there’s always lots to think about!

Thanks Guy and safe climbing for all your team this year.


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May 4, 2009

Bolting the Route, Sherpa Summit Planned

With a mixed weather picture, some climbers were stalled out on Sunday at the foot of the Lhotse Face while others quickly turned back in a blizzard as Dave Hahn noted from Camp 2:

Today, just when it got ugly, mean and nasty out, with the tent walls shaking and rough snow pellets, peppering everything - just when it seemed proper to turn up the head tunes and guide by hiding from reality - I became aware that all was not right.

But the five Sherpas who will fix the line to the summit are looking at a Tuesday, May 5th summit according to Adventure Consultants:

It seems probable that the first Everest summit of the 2009 season from Nepal will happen tomorrow (5 May) and this will be mostly a Sherpa team from the 3 largest expeditions on the mountain. This small window will be followed by a period of relatively high winds in the summit region and the first large scale ascents could be approx one week later.

The names, courtesy of IMG, of the five Sherpas are: Panuru and Mingma Tenzing of IMG, Himex sherpas Dorje and Nima Tsering and Kami Rita with AAI. Nice job guys!

Remember to look at the date when a dispatch is posted and that for readers in the US, Nepal is 12 hours ahead. So you can easily read that the weather was perfect and horrible on the same day! In this case it was bad on Sunday and pretty good today, Monday, in Nepal.

A previous posting mentioned putting bolts into the Yellow Band. And there is more talk of improving the route on the south side. IMG's post the following:

Yesterday was a historic day for route making on Everest. Kari Kobler donated his Hilti bolt gun and guides Willie Benegas and Adrian Ballinger drilled six new 10cm Mammut stainless steel bolts up on the Yellow Band to anchor two new ropes — one for up traffic and one for down. Good work you guys. In the process they also cut down over 30kg of old rope. The immediate benificiaries will be the sherpas, who have had to deal with a spider-web of old ropes over the years. Now, this is much safer for them. When the climbers start going up to the Col in the next few days they will find that this makes it a lot faster and less confusing. We are hoping to do the same thing up on the Geneva Spur next, and hopefully up in the rock step below the South Summit too.

boltscrewBy bolts they are referring to steel cylinders that are drilled into the rock using a high pressure gun. The fixed line is then attached to the ring on the end of the screw. This makes for a solid attachment for the fixed rope. Otherwise, ropes are attached to temporary anchors that can slip out of crumbly rock thus not providing any support for the fixed rope.

boltTo some, this feels like a common sense measure and appropriately makes the route safer in dangerous places. For others it is further evidence that Everest is looking more like a tourist route than a mountaineer's home. There are arguments on both sides. However if you think that of a Sherpa who may make 3 to 5 times more carries through these sections than a client climber, it is all justified to keep these guys safe. I guess if a climber objected to these improvements they could always not use that anchor or rope - however unlikely.

Yellow Band A similar discussion has been ongoing for years on the north side about the ladder on the Second Step. Installed by the Chinese decades ago and even upgraded by modern climbers recently, it now allows north summits for the 99.999% of the climbers who could not free climb that section without the ladder. An improvement or a crutch?

Mountaineering is full of controversies - gives people something to do while stuck in tents during storms. And this will be yet another discussion. I am sure both viewpoints will have their immoveable supporters.

Random Notes:
Dave Hahn's description of worrying about the Sherpas high up gets the Dispatch of the Day.


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May 3, 2009

Everest 2009 Weekend Update, May 3

This was a big week for climbers on the Nepal side. The majority of teams had climbers spend a night at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face at 23,500' or 7162m. Also, Sherpas established a presence on the South Col with tents, rope and oxygen bottles. Finally, in spite of some more movement in the Ice fall, including the season's largest just yesterday (see video), and a few snow showers, everyone was safe. You cannot ask for a better week on Everest.

Over on the north, teams wrote of brief visits to the North Nol but not above. There was no mention if the ropes were fixed above the Col and in fact there was little mention of anything else. All in all, the north is a bit of a mystery this year - not totally unexpected.

In a departure from recent years, the south route will be fixed to the summit by a team of 5 Sherpas from three different teams ahead of the large crowds. Speculation was that the ever present Discovery Channel cameras were "encouraging" a level of cooperation not usually seen. After all, what team does not want their moment in front of the cameras - unless there is a problem!

We also got a hint of how Discovery will film climbers on summit night as they tested infrared cameras in the dark on climbers in the Icefall. Other climbers noted they are wearing chest cameras to record their viewpoint while they climb, an improvement on the traditional helmetcam. During practice, the signal was relayed via microwave to base camp. The video from these techniques could be stunning.

Once climbers returned from Camp 3 to base camp, they had a decision. In recent years it has become popular to go back down valley and spend a few nights in a teahouse to rest up in the "thick air" - a more reasonable altitude than base camp. But there is a downside as Scott Parazynski told Miles O'Brien who then added some color commentary:

... This was a surprise as he told me 24 hours ago that he was going to hike down into thicker air to do some blood doping for the big push to the top. But on further reflection, he decided not to go. Word is some climbers got the trots while there - and it is overrun with lowly trekkers - who are not aiming for the summit. A real mountaineer cannot be seen with such a crowd, can he /she?

Team leaders are thinking deeply about their summit bids. Tim Rippel sums it up for his team -

We will all take a rest, including the Sherpas. A good four days for everyone is what we would like to see, maybe more. Some of the climbers may opt to retreat down the valley to refresh their oxygen saturation levels. We need to try and figure out who is going when so we aren't in the middle of the masses, all going at the same time. This is the tricky part because there are so many people up here and so many TV cameras with filming agendas. All climbers seem to climb with a video camera these days so there will be a lot of footage come out of Everest this year. Let's pray for no drama. If the weather holds it should work out just fine spreading everyone out. If the window gets squeezed because of weather, then we have a problem, otherwise I am sure we can all work together moving climbers up and down safely.

Overall, the weather continues to be better than normal with low snowfall and with a few gale-force days, manageable winds. However, we all know weather and in fact, it was a tough weekend on Everest with high winds and some snow. Scott Woolums guiding the Strange Team reported this morning that:

Epic day today here in Camp 2. Started out good, but very soon some serious weather came in. We left around 7am for Camp 3. Within an hour we had decided to turn around as lots of wind and a lowering cloud cieling threatened. By the time we arrived back at Camp 2 a full scale storm raged. The biggest concern now was our Sherpas up near the South Col. They started up with the last of our Oxygen at 1am this morning. We had good radio communications with all. A very serious day.

Scott has the Dispatch of the Day. Please read it in his own words.

It remains to be seen what the conditions are on the Triangular Face but there could be more rock than snow for a change. Unless there is a major weather event this week, don't be surprised to see the first summits from the south in late week continuing through mid May.

Regardless of whether I am on the mountain or back home like this year, I start to get a little apprehensive for the climbers. The hard work of acclimatizing is done, the camps are in, bottles cached up high. All that is left is to watch and wait for a summit window. Stay safe everyone - climb on!

Memories are Everything®: The 7 Summits
Two weeks ago, I mentioned that my primary reason for covering Everest and climbing mountains is to raise money for Alzheimer's research. I also hinted of a big project. Well here is more detail and an opportunity to participate. In conjunction with the Cure Alzheimer's Fund, we will be doing fund raising activities as I climb the 7 Summits starting in 2010. This will be a unique effort that will touch thousands around the world. Please contact me if you would like to be part of this as a fund raiser, event organizer, corporate sponsor or qualified climber. You can read more at this link.


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May 2, 2009

Looking North

In a limited way, Everest is back to being balanced this year after being one-sided in 2008. As many Everest followers will remember, the Olympic torch relay became the only team to climb from Tibet in 2008. It was very controversial and reeked havoc in the climbing world but was a tiny footnote everywhere else.

For 2009, the China Tibet Mountaineering Association, CTMA, was vague about permits officially saying they wanted to clean the trash off Everest's north side before permitting commercial expeditions on the mountain. The delays and uncertainties drug on encouraging many of the regular north side operators to switch to the south side for 2009. However a few stayed committed to the north and are there today.

Teams dealt with border closings and permit issues by delaying their arrival or trekking in Nepal's Kumbu to get a jump on acclimatizing. And when the border was open, they were thrilled as reported by the Canadian Frogs in mid April:

... we finally managed to cross the border!  We're currently in Nyalam, Tibet with the Czecks and a mixed internal team (2 Spanish, 1 German, 1 Equatorian, 1 Polish and 1 Italian).  Can't wait to be at base camp.  We should be there in 4 days. According to CTMA, the Japanese are in Tingri now and should be at base camp tomorrow.

Adventure Peaks arrived even later posting on April 29th:

The team arrived at ABC yesterday and have spent there time resting and acclimatizing around ABC. They will walk to the bottom of the headwall today before they head up to the North Col in a couple of days time.

The good news is that due to the Olympic torch effort, the roads to base camp were paved making access to the base camp faster and easier. The bad news is access to the camp is faster and easier. Teams normally used the difficult access and extended travel time to the camp at 17,000' to acclimatize to the high altitude.

This what the Canadian team Manny Pizarro and André Rossin-Arthiat reported on April 25th:

... because of the olympics of 2008, the roads of Kodari to Tingri were in a lot better conditions than in 2007. 70% of the roads are newly paved and, after the city of Jangmu they were able to roll in good pace. Therefore, they have arrived at the base camp more quickly ... they climbed to 11,000 feet in a little less than 72 hours. It is necessary to remember that the ascension time of the south side requires more than 14 days to attain this altitude. Fortunately, their bodies are still semi acclimated. They met other mountaineers that literally were crushed by the altitude and they had to go back down until their departure point to Kodari.

SummitClimb seemed to be the only Western team to get a jump on everyone arriving at base camp on April 18th. Still about 3 weeks later than in 2007.

While there has been no comment specifically on the CTMA rope fixing progress, in both 2006 and 2007, Himex Sherpas had not only fixed the route but also summited by the end of April. To be fair, we have had very limited communication from western teams this year with SummitClimb and Adventure Peaks posting occasional dispatches with basic information. So it is difficult to have a clear picture of what is happening on that side.

Similar to the south side, there is quite an international presence on the north with Japanese, Columbians, Indians, and more. We do know that teams have camps established at the North Col and are proceeding with their normal acclimatization programs. At one point it was reported that 200 climbing permits were to be issued for the Tibet side so we can assume that the mountain is busy. All my best to all the teams.

Meanwhile on the south, the Discovery film team is preparing for the summit bid by asking some climbers with Himex to use chest mounted cameras. Lance Fox commented on this. They are also using hi-tech film techniques as described by IMG's Simonson:

Ed and Ang Pasang were out in the predawn hours filming the Himex team with infrared cameras as the climbers started up the Icefall. The live footage was sent back by microwave to BC where it was recorded to tape. This was a test of the system that will be used on the summit bids to follow the climbers up high.

Asian Trekking's Cash for Trash program continues to exceed expectations now approaching 11,000 pounds! Dawa Steven Sherpa posted today:

We separated the garbage by type: aluminium, mostly old ladders and tent poles; rusted tin cans; biodegradable and burnable material like cardboard, paper, old tents, plastics, etc.; batteries and other toxic items; helicopter parts; and Treasure, like a tin cans that says “1964”, wooden beams with crampon marks that were used before the advent of ladders (some could quite possibly have been used in the 1953 Tenzing-Hillary Expedition in the icefall), old oxygen bottles, ancient film reels in what looks like little lunch boxes, miniature stoves for high altitude, etc.

The climbers are all talking of early summits this year with about half now back down to base camp after their night at Camp 3. Look for a few quiet days as the remainder of the teams return for a little R&R before the big push starting as early as late next week!

Random Notes:
Remember to read the actual dispatches from the teams via the links above or going directly to their website. While I try to capture the feeling, there is nothing like reading their own words. The Dispatch of the Day is from Lance Fox with Himex.

Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
Alzheimer's can strike anyone, anytime with early onset effecting people in their 40's.


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May 1, 2009

Acclimatization: The Higher Road

Teams continue to make their way to 23,500' on the south side of Everest for a night at Camp 3. The Lhotse - Everest Traverse team has acclimatized to 7400 meters and is returning to base camp awaiting the weather window for a Lhotse then Everest summit. Predictions of snow snow accumulation came true allowing the hard working Sherpas to take rest day finally.

It looks like many teams are targeting a summit bid well before the historically early date of May 11. Back on March 21st, Scott Parazynski published a schedule on his blog with May 14th as the summit day. He may be very close if he weather holds!

The Lhotse Face is quite busy with climbers going up to C3, Sherpas all the way to the South Col and everybody returning to C2 at some point. Then they will spend several days at base camp resting up for the big push. I easily estimate there could be over 100 people at any given time on the Face.

So what's going on?

In a word - acclimatization. Or the process of the human body adjusting to the current environment. Just like how we perspire to cool the body in extreme heat, shiver to warm ourselves in extreme cold; our bodies also react to extreme lack of oxygen. However unlike getting warmer or cooler,there is no switch you can throw or room you can go into on a mountain (or anywhere) to quickly create more red blood cells.

Here is what is happening to the body - with the disclaimer that I am not a doctor (or play one on television). First the human body simply does not function well at high altitudes and especially above 8000m (26,300'). As you go higher, the barometric pressure decreases, although the air still contains 21% oxygen, every breath contains less molecules of oxygen.

Once exposed to high altitude and less oxygen, the watery part of blood (plasma) decreases to increase the density of the red blood cells thus making blood thicker and harder for the heart to pump. The heart pumps faster and we breath harder to compensate. Over time, this is corrected with more red blood cells and basic bodily functions somewhat return near normal.

Red blood cells are critical since they carry oxygen to the muscles. Without sufficient oxygen, muscles get tired quickly but more critically, a climber could suffer from potentially fatal cerebral edema (the brain swells) or pulmonary edema (fluid build-up in the lungs). The only cure is to get lower fast (1000' minimum) but if you are high up on the mountain this is often impossible.

So our climbers are forcing this red blood cell creation right now by climbing to Camp 3 on the Nepal side or the North Col or slightly higher from Tibet. By climbing higher than the previous day then returning to a lower altitude, the body creates these red blood cells. By the way, an obvious comment, it does not matter if you are climbing Everest or Kilimanjaro or going to a 9,000' ski resort, the body reacts the same way to altitude thus the need for some kind of acclimatization.

This year we are seeing a couple of approaches to acclimatization on Everest. The program used for years was for teams to make multiple, and ever higher, trips towards their summit bid launching point (the South Col for the south side) through the climb high, sleep low paradigm. This was started commercially in the mid 1990's by amongst others, Adventure Consultants. Over time it has been refined to what we see today and is used by climbers all over the world.

Fearing the dangers of the Icefall, Himex has taken a slightly different program but the principles are the same. Instead of using the High Camps in the Western Cwm, Brice had his team climb to the summit of safer Lobuche Peak - twice - to force the creation of red blood cells. However, they still need to spend some time above the 20,100' peak to be prepared for the rigors of 29,000' so they are now heading towards Camp 3 at 23,500' for a night just like everyone else. This program did eliminate at least two trips through the Icefall.

I found it interesting (or at least motivating for a regular climber like myself) listening to uber climber Ed Viesturs describe his acclimatization program this year. It is the same as most other climbers. Another interesting case is David Tait who is climbing without supplemental oxygen. He is following the regular program but with a trip to the South Col - 1800' higher than Camp 3. This is how he described it:

The basic outline is to spend a few nights at C2 before climbing to C3 [7500m] where all will sleep. I, unlike the others who will then descend, will be expected to then climb to the South Col. or C4 [7950m] before descending back to C3 where I will spend a further night before a final return to Bc with the whole party. At this point it is accepted that all our acclimatization will be "complete", or at least adequate.

While on the subject of supplemental oxygen, it only makes about a 3,000' difference to the body so if you are at 28,000' you still feel like you are at 25,000' However it does keep you warmer thus reducing the load on your heart and lungs to pump blood especially to your fingers and toes. Almost all the climbers start using O's when leaving Camp 3 for the South Col and their summit bid.

And what about the Sherpas? Well they are just as human as the rest of us and get altitude sickness just the same. They need to acclimatize, stay hydrated and take care of themselves just like every other climber.

Finally proper hydration is critical to acclimatization - urine needs to be almost clear in color.

OK, more than you ever wanted to know about acclimatizing but one more thing, and this is what makes it so frustrating. A climber can do everything perfect and still not acclimatize. Or they can have a great history of performing at altitude and then have a bad experience. So once again, the human body was not designed to function properly at these extreme altitudes. Who lives permanently at the highest altitude? The people of La Rinconada in southern Peru at 16,732'.

If you want to read more about this entire process, these websites are well done:

Random Notes:
The clinic at base camp, Everest+ER , has treated 150 people in the first three weeks of the season this year


See the April and earlier updates at this link

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