Everest 2009 Season Coverage
Himalaya - Nepal/Tibet
29,035 feet 8850m
|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. 2015 coverage will start in March 2015. This page is my 2009 climb coverage.|
South Col Route
See more of the south route description
North Ridge Route
See more of the north routes description
|Team with blog. See Climber List
only team locations noted
|Team with blog. See Climber List
only team locations noted
|* Adventure Alternatives (2)||
|* Extreme Summit (17)||
|* Adventure Consultants (6)||
|* Adventure Peaks (8)||
|* Altitude Junkies (5)||
|* Gabriel Filippi||
|* Alpine Ascents Int. (19)||
|* Czech Team||
|* Asian Trekking Eco Everest (14)||
|* Everest Columbia 2009||
|* Croatian Women's Team (4)||
|* Canadian Mad Frogs||
|* Dream Guides||
|* First Ascent (10)||
|* Manny Pizarro||
|* Explore Your Planet (3)||
|Japanese Kanagawa University Team||
|* Finnish Ranger Club (9)||
|* High Himal||
|* Himex (Russell Brice) ()||
|* Discovery Film Crew (4)||
|* IMG (15)||
|* International Adventure Alternative||
|* Singapore Women (7)||
|* Jagged Globe (13)||
|* Lasser Alpine||
|* Mountain Link (2)||
|* Mountain Madness (3)||
|* Peak Freaks (10)||
|* Summit Climb (6)||
|* Summit Climb||
|* Atumas Taiwanese||
|* 7 Summits (17)||
|* Lhotse-Everest traverse (6)||
Total South Summits:
Total North Summits:
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
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
Western Cwm & C1
Everest Base Camp
Trekking to Base Camp
April 30, 2009
Climbers are all over the mountain's south side today - literally all the way from base camp to the south col. The majority are spread out from base camp to Camp 2 heading up for their Camp 3 rotation. So they are busy climbing or resting and rightfully not fooling around with computers! So here's some random stuff that is out there - no rhyme or reason!
More updates today if available.
April 29, 2009
Another good day on Everest with fewer than normal updates from the teams and individuals climbers as they are at the High Camps now. But the headline is that there are a lot of people at Camp 2 preparing to climb to Camp 3 for the night. Take a look at the table above for your favorite team. The weather is holding in spite of some talk of snow over the next few days and no serious health problems are being reported (not that they would anyway).
Climbing Everest has several parts, sections or milestones but spending the night at Camp 3 may be the most significant step other than the summit bid. At 23,500' almost every climber will spend at least one night there before making their summit attempt. This is to force the creation of red blood cells by putting the body under extreme oxygen depravation and stress. And it is not pleasant.
By now we have read many dispatches about seeing the Lhotse Face, that steep rock wall that forms the west side of Lhotse Peak. It is mostly covered in hard ice with some thin layers of snow. While some parts are avalanche prone, the winds keep it from being covered with a lot of snow. The route hugs the safer sections and meanders with a steady angle interrupted by only a few flat sections. Sherpas usually fix one line for climbers to clip into and in steep sections, they put in two - an up and a down line.
While not technically difficult to ascend, it is long and can be brutal when the winds blows, clouds cover the sun or the sun shines brightly - in other words, it is rare when climbing the Lhotse face is not brutal.
Most teams like to start early, as in sunrise, to avoid any searing heat. Funny that getting hot is a big worry on Everest. But since everyone has the same idea, the route can be very crowded with over 200 climbers on the Face at any one time.
In addition to the climbers doing their rotation to Camp 3, the Sherpas are busy carrying tents, fuel, stoves and oxygen bottles to the South Col. While a few climbers might struggle to reach Camp 3 in under 6 hours, the Sherpas regularly climb from Camp 2 to the South Col (Camp 4) and back in the same time. All the accolades they receive are all well deserved.
The other item of note is the different ways of acclimatizing on the south side. I'll discuss this later this week as we see the Himex team make their first climb above 20,100'. A few dispatches have been posted that some of their team are now at Camp 2 and doing well. Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to climb these mountains and there have been as many techniques as teams over the years, it is just interesting to compare them.
Meanwhile, not to be forgotten, the north teams have been just as strong with establishing camp at the North Col. For the first time in many, many years, it looks like the first summits will be from the south this time around.
Teams are outfitting the South Col camp; route to the summit expected in the next few days!
Note that he said the route to the summit should in in a few days. If this is accurate, it would be a departure from the past when the summit route is put in by the first team to summit. But this is exactly how Russell Brice managed the north in 2006/7 and he may have had some influence in getting this changed on the south. By having the route installed by a few strong Sherpas, it would speed up the first summit day when there may be over 100 climbers on the route at the same time.
April 28, 2009
Another day at work on Everest today. Sherpas are doing the behind the scenes work of hauling gear ever higher up the route, cooks are keeping everyone fed, porters are bringing fresh produce to base camp from villages down valley and climbers are climbing.
With the winds now more manageable, the Western Cwm and Lhotse face are quite busy. IMG reports that 11 of their Sherpas took gear to the South Col and six clients are spending the night at Camp 3. Himex is preparing to leave tomorrow morning for their climb to Camp 3. They will take about five or six nights including a one at Camp 3.
There are very few climbers, much less teams, that do not employ Sherpas to help with loads and setting up camps however the Airborne Ranger Club of Finland is one of them. They recently did a carry up the Lhotse Face and did a nice job of capturing their experience:
After around four hours and 500m higher we arrived
at the first sites for tents. Here and there you could see broken tent
poles, ropes, oxygen bottles, snow pickets etc. We had arrived at the
site of camp3 at the height of approximately 7100m. We continued maybe
50 meters up and noticed that the good tent sites were more or less
reserved. We decided to continue up the next serac to following level
area. Maybe 30m to the right we saw a small snowy area covered by a
small serac. We went there and noticed the place to be otherwise good
but slightly airy.
A update for the Lhotse Traverse team from www.mountain.kz This is two days old so they are making good progress:
The team ascended to 7400. They've found good places for the tents. Very strong wind. Group 2 will climb to 7400 today. Baglan and Seguey Lavrov ascended from C2 to 7000 and then descended back.With teams going for Camp 3, expect few updates from them over the next five days. As has been noted, they enjoy almost unlimited power at base camp and the full size computers to send dispatches and email. Up high, they are reduced to battery power and small PDAs. Many climbers do not have these tools at all.
April 27, 2009
As if on cue, the weather has turned from incredibly good and talk of early summits to one of running for cover from extreme winds and worries about keeping tents in place. As I have previously mentioned the last few years have seen a nice April moving to lousy early May weather. However, 2009 is a bit different with little snow on the upper parts of Everest, more instability in the Icefall than usual and an early melt-out at base camp.
I posed some thoughts to Michael Fagin of EverestWeather.com about all this. Michael is currently providing weather information to several teams on Everest and the daily summit conditions on this page.
Michael, is there a root cause for the
warm weather the climbers are seeing thus far?
So it looks like the expeditions will be dealing with some warm temps and windy conditions. Everest is always windy so most climbers can deal with that. The low snowfall and warm temperatures will have them climbing more on rock than snow on the upper flanks of the mountains - not my personal favorite condition but manageable.
These are pictures of the Triangular Face I took in 2002, 2003 and 2008 from the South Col. You can see the variable snow conditions leading up to the Balcony and then to the South Summit. The route is on the right side following the gully to the lower flat spot, the Balcony. Note the true summit is not visible from the South Col. 2009 is probably looking more like 2003 (middle picture) at this point:
I noted that Adventure Consultants issued climbing helmets for their Sherpas (and I assume climbers) for use on the upper parts of Everest. Oddly, helmets are not normally used since there is usually more snow than rock. However, last year a basketball size rock nearly missed me below the balcony (I was not wearing helmet and it would not have helped anyway) so this is a good decision by AC.
All in all, the south will look and feel more like a traditional north climb with all the exposed rocks. However, we are talking weather so anything goes.
Meanwhile today is seeing mixed activity after some teams retreated to base camp from Camp 2 with the gusty conditions and others sticking it out. Report after report noted lost tents at Camp 2. Peak Freaks discussed their hasty retreat:
Everyone is back in base camp. High winds hit Camp 2 and for fear of loosing gear and tents if our camp remained upright, the Sherpas unassembled the tents and loaded them with rocks while the climbers retreated to EBC. It looks like a storm is moving in with considerable precipitation on May 1 from what I see on my weather report. Tim sees a dark cloud moving in that direction now. What does this mean? It means that all is normal for this time of year. The fact it had been so dry and calm was not normal. Reality sets in. Just when the climbers think it's going to be a cake walk, nature reminds you whose is in charge.
But for many teams, it is business as usual. Jagged Globe is headed back up to Camp 2 with a goal of tagging Camp 3. AAI's blue team is heading towards the Lhotse Face for an acclimatization climb, IMG's Sherpas are headed toward the South Col. Another busy day on the world's highest mountain.
... today I am charging a rather bulky battery pack for Gary Kobler who has brought up a drill to put in some bolts on the Yellow Band. At the big team leaders meeting the other week it was agreed to do this, since that particular section is so notorious for dodgy anchors and loads of old ropes.
April 26, 2009
In spite of an Icefall that never stops shifting, the 26 Everest south side teams made excellent progress this week. Almost every team spent nights in the Western Cwm at camps 1 and 2. Some touched the Lhotse Face for the first time. But the big news was the route is now in to the South Col.
The movement of the ice in the Khumbu Icefall dominated the news early in the week and now it is high winds today. Climbers spoke of delays when a serac fell near the popcorn taking out some fixed ropes and ladders. Thankfully no one was hurt. In fact there were no reports of close calls.
While some saw this as a reason to to take an extra rest day other teams simply waited for the Icefall Doctors to repair the route and they continued higher. It seems the Doctors are doing a nice job this year, probably due to adding a couple more Sherpas to their team.
The weather continued to be relatively mild at base camp with Dave Hahn noting how fast the glacier was melting around their tents. When the Jet Stream parked on the summit of Everest, Camp 2 and above experienced extremely high winds. This created issues for the Sherpas trying to set lines and establish camps. Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies said:
At 5 PM the jet stream seemed to descend directly
upon us and after an early dinner we all hunkered down for another
night of frustrating tent nylon flapping. The wind that night was a
strong as I have ever experienced on any hill and several times during
the night our team members and Sherpas had to strengthen the anchors
on our Trango’s to stop them becoming kites. Unfortunately, our old
school, and I mean old, Mountain Hardwear dome did not fare so well.
For those of us who have been in Phil's old tent - goodbye and about time :)
In spite of these winds, Sherpas began to set the line up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3. This will be the highest camp the climbers overnight at until their summit bid. And on Saturday, Sherpas from several teams combined the get the route in all the way to the South Col. A huge milestone!
But Camp 3 is the next stop for our climbers. Due to the crowds, Camp 3 has actually grown in size, scope and location over the past few years. It used to be perched on a wide (not really) somewhat flat section just below a huge ice wall high on the Lhotse Face. Today there are two Camp 3's - one at the original spot and another a few hundred feet lower. The higher camp is better since it shortens the day by at least an hour when climbers go to the South Col but it makes the climb from Camp 2 slightly shorter.
The alternative acclimatization approach taken by Himex continues with all the team members summiting the 20,100' Lobuche peak. They thought they would finally experience the Icefall last week but Brice surprised them with another trip to Lobuche. He is concerned about the dangers of the Icefall. But sooner or later they will go through the Icefall and next week seems to be their time.
Meanwhile, news from Tibet has been sparse at best but enough so that we know teams are at the Chinese Base Camp , Intermediate Camp and Advanced Base Camp. I can assume at this point that the first trips have been made to the north col at least by Sherpas to establish tents.
And a report has the Lhotse-Everest team above Camp 3 on their way to the summit of Lhotse. I never know what to believe about these guys and also never to doubt what I hear. They may be the first team to summit this year from the south in alpine style so I doubt they will leave any fixed ropes behind!
I commented on the Everest youth movement but there is also the opposite side - climbers that were born well before Tenzing and Hillary summited. The latest is Sir Ranulph Fiennes - a remarkable story of courage and perseverance for the 65 year-old cancer survivor. He wanted to keep this 3rd attempt quiet thus avoiding all the pressure of a public climb but the Telegraph.co.uk broke the story. I could write an entire page, deservedly, to him but read his story at Mount Everest: The British Story.
So, everything is looking good for our climbers. Some reports of stomach problems have been reported by almost every team. A couple of chest infections as well and there was one climber who returned to Namche to visit the Dentist plus a Korean climber was helicoptered out with circulation problems. While disturbing for all involved this is pretty normal for Everest.
Next week will probably see a lot of rest days since the customary schedule is for climbers to take at least three days after returning from camps 1 and 2 for the first time. But later in the week they will return straight to Camp 2 in preparation for a night at the very uncomfortable Camp 3. Let's hope the fact that winds are picking up are not a harbinger of things to come.
April 25, 2009
Cheers went up in base camp today with the news of two very significant events for south side climbers - there now occupied tents at Camp 3 and the fixed line goes all the way to the south col. These events will allow teams to send climbers for their "required" night at Camp 3 for acclimatization purposes and for the Sherpas to begin stocking the Col with tents and oxygen bottles for the summit bids. This is a big deal!
A couple of weeks ago, there was some discussions about who would fix which section and the planning generated a little controversy. But now everyone is best friends (not) and in fact IMG has listed the teams that are participating on today's dispatch. Perhaps omission is the point and maybe this is a little extra drama for the Discovery Channel cameras - after all we know after two seasons of Beyond The Limit that Discovery loves a good fight! Anyway, here is the list from Eric Simonson of who's doing the work on the upper routes:
Here is Jangbu's official tally of the teams that
worked on the route, and the number of sherpas they contributed to
the fixing each day, over the last three days:
Seems like Eric is serious about naming the names as he promised on April 17th!
Meanwhile, the Green theme is in full swing with Asian Trekking's Eco Everest expedition. Bill Burke reports a bounty on trash:
Dawa Steven and Asian Trekking are very high on protecting the environment in the Khumbu region and cleaning up Mt. Everest. Thus, the name of our team “Eco-Everest.” The day before yesterday, he concocted the idea of offering the Sherpas at Base Camp 100 rupees for 1 kilo of trash ($1.25 for 2.2 pounds). This started a rush among the Sherpas to collect trash, and, as of today, 2 tons of trash has been collected, consisting of helicopter parts, tent poles, gas canisters, oxygen cylinders, clothing and other junk. We have dubbed this project “Cash for Trash.” As Dawa Stevens said in jest “I’m going broke.” Now, we have to figure out how to get this trash down the mountain. If any of you want to volunteer as porters to help carry down 200 pound helicopter parts, please let me know.
If you are new to this thinking, please read my interview with Dawa Stevens Sherpa where he explains his thoughts. You can also download a nice report from their previous Eco expedition. Nice job guys!
You have heard a lot about Russell Brice's Himex team using Lobuche as an acclimatization peak instead of the Icefall. If you are wondering what it looks like, Chris Dovell has some very nice pictures on his blog. Nice job Chris. After two consecutive summits of the 20,100' peak, it is time for them to move over to the Western Cwm. Look for Himex to join the crowds next week with a trip direct to camps 2 and then to 3 at 23,500' in preparation for their summit bid.
There is a real youth movement on Everest this year with two - 2! - seventeen year-olds up there as Dave Hahn reports:
Erica is not the only 17-year-old on Everest this year. In fact, two “Johnnys” were both camped within 100 meters of us last night -one with Damian Benegas and one who is working with Scott Woolums. And they both appear to be doing great. But I’m pretty sure that Erica is the first 17-year-old that I walked into ABC with.
Here's to the future of climbing.
April 24, 2009
The last couple of days have been critical milestones for the Everest climbers with the fixed lines now set to Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. They have been staring at the Face with every trip up the Icefall, into the Western Cwm and even on trips to nearby Pumori base camp or Kala Patar. From afar it looks steep, icy and daunting. And up close, it looks worse!
Most climbers have spent several nights at camps 1 and 2 and taken a walk to the base of the Lhotse Face. Their climbs though the Icefall have become easier, faster and perhaps more comfortable but probably not. And they know that they are not even close to the toughest days they will face.
It is interesting how climbers are in a kind of ongoing competition. Not that this is all bad since seeing how you compare with others gives you a sense of how your body is acclimatizing. For example Bill Burke courageously shares his feeling about his performance yesterday on the first trip into the Icefall:
I was disappointed at my performance in the Icefall.
I moved very slowly, which is planned and is not a problem. But, I
was breathing a lot harder than I prefer on high altitude climbs. It
just seemed like a really hard day, and when I returned to Base Camp
at 10:30 am, I was pretty tired. But, Dawa and Apa rated my performance
high, stating that I was moving at a good steady pace and seemed really
strong. In addition, I am pleased that I got to the Football Field
in 4 hours and would have arrived in Camp 1 in 6 hours or less, which
is really good for someone my age.
Melissa Arnot with the First Ascent team speaks of her competition with herself:
This morning ended my first rotation to Camp 2, and I am finally feeling that the climbing is starting now. My preparations for this trip started so long ago, when Camp 2 was only a small glimmer in the future, and a memory from last season. Now it is fully upon us, and this season is forming its own voice each day. I am here this year with a different eye and a different attitude than what I had last year. I enjoy thinking back to my trip and all of the joys and learning that it provided me…but this year is shaping up to be quite different.
Back at base camp there are the simpler challenges. Tim Rippel of Peak Freaks gives us an inside took at cooking at altitude:
The teams personal shopper arrived today from Namche Bazaar with a basket full of fresh veggies, fruit and steaks. TIDBIT: The cooking of fresh meat, potatoes and rice at altitude is extremely slow and high in fuel consumption. At 21,000 feet water boils at 185F compared to 212F at sea level. To get around this, the use of a pressure cooker is now an essential piece of equipment on any Himalayan expedition. I wouldn't want to be the Sherpa carrying it to Camp 2, ugh!
Progress is steady on both sides. The weather is holding. All systems are green ... or is that nominal for the astronauts out there?
April 23, 2009
With the Icefall route back up, teams wasted no time in moving to camps 1 and 2. IMG reports the route to Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face is now in with the standard up and down dual ropes. More on C3 tomorrow. Looks like some the the Asian Trekking Eco team is now at C2.
Teams at Camp 2 spent the day visiting other camps, taking a short walk towards the Lhotse Face and generally resting while building those important red blood cells in their bloodstream. But for some just being on an Everest climb can be an emotional experience - even for a veteran.
Gavin Bate (Adventure Alternatives), who has been on Everest four times notes his personal reaction to being back in the Western Cwm:
Surprising myself, I found myself in tears at the sight of Everest, so familiar and this time so welcoming. Many people, my own mother included, talk of my relationship with this mountain in terms of obsessive, but few can really know what this mountain means to me. As a climber I am transported back to my childhood days, reading stories of the great Everest pioneers from the romantic stories of derring-do in the Twenties through to the Seventies when astonishing individuals and teams made history here. This mountain encapsulated all my dreams of adventure, which began with a book read by torchlight under the covers.
On the north more teams are now at ABC including SummitClimb's north side team. Sounds like they are progressing normally and have good communication links.
So kind of quiet today with teams either climbing higher or lower. This happens from time to time. While in base camp, they have access to power and decent keyboards on their computers. Up high most use a tiny PDA and have to tap on the small screen each letter of a dispatch. This "encourages" shorter dispatches. Also at base camp they often have higher speed Bgan satellite uplinks devices while higher up they use their Thuraya or Iridium handheld satellite phones which are much slower at uploading data. Thus we see shorter dispatches with few pictures.
But all seems on schedule with climbers managing the Icefall nicely in spite of the instability. As a side note, there are always seracs collapse and ladders falling in the Icefall each year. After all it does move three feet a day! So all the movement is as "normal" as it can be on a moving glacier. More on the weather and all this hopefully over the weekend.
April 22, 2009
As a kid I loved to hear the words "snow day" - no school, sleep late, play outside and no school!! Well yesterday was a snow day for our Everest climbers. With a serious serac collapse in the Icefall, most teams took the day off.
But the funny thing is that most of them were probably not that happy. You see, at this pont they have been away from home for nearly a month and most have only made one trip through the Icefall to the High Camps. So for some it feels like they have not really been climbing. The challenge becomes more mental than physically. Boredom is a real enemy.
Phil Crampton posted:
I expected our team members to be somewhat disappointed with the very early start and the abrupt return to base camp but the excitement shown on Joe’s face declaring a “Snow Day” means that we all must enjoy our environment at base camp.
And this is what our Astronaut Scott Parazynski had to say
I keep myself busy here at base camp by spending time with my teammates (often with visits to the Everest bakery), writing dispatches for this blog, taking short hikes around “town,” reading well-worn books from the IMG “library,” and listening to my Zen Nano. Regrettably I didn’t update my music list from last season here on the mountain, so the music is getting a bit stale… I also have an occasional satphone call with family, but the difference in time zones (Nepal is 10 hours 45 minutes ahead of Houston!) make it difficult to synch up on a regular basis.
And what about those teams already up at Camp 2? Well they had a similar experience - no school, sleep late and play outside - well kind of! When you do a rotation to C2, the idea is to do some mild exercise as in a couple of hours walk perhaps to the base of the Lhotse Face and then spend the rest of the day hydrating, eating and sleeping. Sounds lazy and relaxing but actually it is quite a lot of work at 21,500'.
Of course, there are always the overachievers :) like Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker. Dave Hahn noted their activities at C2:
Peter and Ed Viesturs were setting out to help pioneer the route to the base of the Lhotse Face. There are usually some crevasses to be probed out, marked and avoided in this uppermost part of the Khumbu Glacier. If they are successful at getting a safe set of tracks up to the “Bergschrund” (the giant crevasse separating the live ice of the moderately angled glacier from the static ice of the steep Lhotse Face) then it will be a big help to the teams of Sherpas intent on fixing rope on the Face in the coming days.
Some people just don't know how to "rest"!
OK, so hopefully the Icefall is back up and running today and over the next few days will see more gear carried to the High Camps thus setting up the next important phase of climbing the mountain - fixing the ropes on the Lhotse Face. But that is still a couple of days away.
Meanwhile, enjoy your snow day climbers!
Thanks to a couple of readers, I have added a new link to my favorite name for a team this season: Strange on Everest - a father son team of Johnny and Brian Strange along with 7 Summits Guide, Scott Woolums. Their blog is up and running as is Scott's. Follow the links from the table above. Thanks Greg.
Also an update from the north side Everest Columbia 2009 team. They have not updated their site but thanks to reader Betty, she passed on this message translated for me about their status:
How nice it is to feel the kindess of people.
For this we are deeply grateful. We find ourselves at base camp which
is at 5,200 meters. Our group is feeling strong and enthusiastic. For
the moment you can contact us through our web page everestcolombia.com.
We have not yet updated our website, as connection to the internet
from the Chinese side is a little problematic. But your messages of
encouragement are the best. Thank you and until later.
With all the issues in the Icefall, the Himex team might be feeling a little giddy about their decision to use Lobuche as an acclimatization and training peak instead of being subjected to the Icefall. And some are but some are ready to move on. By now all the clients have made the summits of Lobuche and are back in their base camp. The next step was to climb the Icefall into the Cwm. But Mr. Brice had a different idea.
Valerio Massimo notes:
I was hoping for some rest and then to go up through
the Icefall, although I feared the worst as the Icefall has had four
major collapses over the past three days due to the high temperatures,
with many climbers coming within a whisker of getting flattened. We
all gathered in the white pod and Russell announced the plan. He said
he was aware that most people did not want to go back down the valley
to climb Lobuche Peak again (this time to camp higher on the summit
ridge), but that the guides had unanimously decided that it was safer,
and therefore the first group would leave…today.
However, it is not the same for every member of the Himex team. David Tait, who is climbing without supplemental oxygen is on a different scheme as he reports:
... Russ outlined the plans for the next few days.
He announced that the climbers would be split into 3 groups, but instead
of heading up through the icefall as many had desired, they would once
again visit Lobouche peak. I, on the other hand, would proceed with
guide Adrian Ballinger through the icefall to Camp 2 on the 23rd.
Bottom line: no matter what your strategy for climbing Everest, it is hard work.
Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
April 21, 2009
According to the Polls on this site, 28% of you want to climb Everest one day. For many Everest followers, you hear and read about what it takes through books, movies and websites. However there is a nice opportunity watch it unfold with one of the best Everest guides of all time Dave Hahn.
Dave is part of the First Ascent team and is guiding 17 year-old Erica Dohring. She has summits of Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and Denali under her belt. Her dad, Ed, is at base camp with her. Watch this video to hear her story in her own words - it is fun to see such excitement about climbing!
Dave is careful to keep her pace slow and steady and to "test" her before she needs to be tested. This is what he said about their test climb up the Icefall:
As we chugged up the first ice hills and watched
the light begin to hit the highest peaks, it was already gratifying
to see how much stronger Erica was than during our initial forays up
the glacier. This “dress rehearsal” was undertaken in the
hopes of giving Erica the necessary confidence for climbing through
to CI… but equally important for Seth and I was our need to
watch Erica and gain our own confidence in her abilities. Before we
risk our own lives in accompanying her toward her goals, we need to
believe she is ready to reasonably go after them. It is a delicate
It will be fun to watch her on this climb. Dave is one the best guides out there in general but also in terms of his writing so I am sure the entire experience will be educational for everyone. Again you can follow his dispatches at the First Ascent site. She is in the safest hands possible. Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On - and Go Girl Go!!
Meanwhile Adventure Consultants made their first climb to Camp 1 and then on to Camp 2. IMG is sorting through 150 oxygen bottles for proper pressure. AAI is taking their usual slow and methodical pace. By the way, they have one of the best summit records for any team on the south side and are one of the most expensive .. I wonder if there is any correlation?
The Lhotse Everest traverse team is back up the mountain on the most aggressive schedule of any team. First Ascents Viesturs and Whittaker are also at C2. Altitude Junkies is working their way back up. 7 Summits, SummitClimb, Adventure Alternatives are all above BC today. Anyway, it is quite busy - just what you would expect at this time of the season. I have tried to track the teams on the progress chart above so look up your favorite teams, click on the link and read what they are saying.
On the north, there is progress as well. SummitClimb is at the Interim Camp which is between the Chinese Base Camp (CBC) and Advanced Base Camp. Adventure Peaks has also arrived at CBC plus some of the other teams.
April 20, 2009
Every climber, regardless of route on the south side will eventually end up in the Western Cwm. Once called the Valley of Silence by first climbers, this is a 2.5 mile long valley carved out by the Khumbu Glacier which starts at the base of Lhotse Peak.
This week we will read many reports of climbers experiencing the incredible extremes in the Cwm. They are not exaggerating when they say it can go from 100F to below freezing in a matter of minutes. The sun reflects off the ice and snow laden west shoulder of Everest to the north and the flanks of Nuptse to the south. When a cloud layer masks the hyper bright sun light, the true nature of climbing at 20,000' becomes apparent.
However, it is not only the heat but also the lack of wind that makes this section miserable. With a few thousand feet of solid rock walls surrounding the Cwm on three sides, there is almost no wind at the ground level. So as you walk in layers of clothing designed for snow, wind and cold protection - in the heat of the day - and the sun comes out ... well, let's just say I hope you remembered your sunscreen.
This is what Ian Rogers had to say after some time in the Cwm:
... the radiant heat soars to a searing 40c, despite the ambient temperature being closer to freezing. We retreated to our tents for the afternoon, and as the cloud rolled in the temperature plummeted. By sundown it was way below zero, and the cold and altitude made for an uncomfortable night. Dawn brought cloudy, cold and windy conditions, but as we made our descent back through the icefall the sun slowly broke through, and it proved an energy-sapping last couple of hours into Base Camp.
As if this was not bad enough, the crevasse danger is also real. I know from falling into a deep crevasse myself in 2002 and watching our guide fall in in 2003. The frequent snow squalls create thin snow bridges over these deep cracks each night. In spite of hundreds of steps over the bridges, they hold up well - until one climber is on the wrong spot at the wrong time and whoosh. So smart teams rope up or least stay clipped to the fixed line for the section just into and out of Camp 1.
On a completely different note ... you knew it had to happen - cell phone service for the south side of Everest. According to this article, service will start in mid June (well after all the climbers have left!) to "provide an alternative to Thuraya". There has been limited service for the past few years but it generally was not reliable from base camp or above. It remains to be seen if this new repeater will reach to the Western Cwm, South Col and summit, - I doubt it - so climbers will still need a satellite phone with Thuraya being the best and Iridium another option.
The Chinese provided service on the north during 2007 and 2008 for their Olympic torch relay but is was removed. Word has it they have put it back up permanently but this is not verified. Speaking of the north, SummitClimb is now at the Chinese base camp which is the lowest camp for the north ridge route.
April 19, 2009
With good weather for the climbers, the Icefall became the proverbial conga line of climbers heading to the High Camps. Several teams spent nights at camps 1, 2 and a few even climbed up the Lhotse Face but no one spent the night since the camp has not been established nor have the lines fixed quite yet.
The annual meeting of expedition leaders and sirdars was held to determine who and how the upper mountain would be fixed. As usual, it was not without a little squabbling with some teams feeling like they were doing all the work. But it was all resolved and the route will be fixed on schedule allowing Sherpas to establish Camp 3. I would not be surprised to see some lines fixed to the Yellow Band this next week.
Of course everything depends on the weather. Thus far it has been excellent but this is usually the case in mid to late April. A false prediction of an impending storm created a small panic when a cyclone over the Bay of Bengal hinted at heavy snow for Everest. Climbers made last minute descents to base camp but the storm never materialized.
The predicted crowds are there. I think Dave Hahn, guiding his 17 year-old client, summarized it nicely:
We began to deal with a lot of traffic, both up and down and this was actually an important part of the test (although I definitely had not arranged with the Russians, Kazakhs, Croats, British, Koreans, Americans and assorted Sherpas to meet on these particular ladders at this particular time). Everybody stayed patient and pleasant and with some careful downclimbing we reached the lowest part of the Icefall and walked into the warm sunshine. Peter, Ed and the team already at CI had been listening out on the radios to make sure we were ok, and it was with great pride and relief that I told them to shut off and save their batteries… we were going to be fine.
A serac fell in the Icefall creating some anxiety late this week but no one was hurt and the route was rearranged. Also there was a small avalanche near Camp 1 in the Western Cwm that gave some climbers a little shower. The First Ascents team caught it on video amazingly. We hear about the dangers all the time and this is proof that it is real.
Meanwhile the north side teams are making steady progress across the Nepal/China border via the Friendship Bridge to Tingri and Nyalam. Landslides created some delays but so far so good. they should be arriving at base camp around now. will be curious of we hear from them given the uncertainty of communications in this area.
A Personal Word from Alan
My second reason is most personal. My mother is in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease. She no longer remembers me, my brother or her late husband of 60 years. Her memories have vanished. This disease will take her life.
Through the Cure Alzheimer's Fund , I raise research money. Nothing goes to me personally or to support this site or my climbing and a large project is in the works - more on this a bit later. Thank you.
April 18, 2009
The teams are progressing according to schedule with few surprises - well except for the avalanche on the Icefall route! More on that at the end of this post. Expect to hear from the various dispatches about spending nights at camps 1 and 2 - a serious introduction to high altitude slumber! But let's take a slight detour in the coverage for a moment.
We hear a lot from the climbers and owners of the guide companies especially during the Everest season but what about the behind the scenes people who keep family members informed, manage logistics and generally run the show - the unsung heroes of expeditions?
Peak Freaks in Canada is a great example of such a team. While husband, Tim Rippel is guiding clients on Pumori, Everest and other big peaks, Becky runs the show from their headquarters in Canada. One of the reasons I wanted to interview Becky, in addition to see how she manages the stress of managing an Everest expedition from far away, was to dig deeper into their unique "green" climbing model.
I have interviewed several owners this season and asked the same question about climbing green. Dawa David Sherpa of Asian Trekking is a good example of breaking new ground and other's give it their best shot. However Peak Freaks seems to have taken it to a new level for a Western company.
Here is Becky Rippel:
Q: As the 'home team' for Peak Freaks,
what role do you play?
You can follow the Peak Freaks season on their website and read more about the green concepts in action. Thanks Becky and best of luck this year to you, Tim and your team for a safe season.
General Updates (updated):
... a serac fell off the West shoulder today causing some concern. Patrick had his camera out with the big lens watching it. We had some Sherpas up there, so Tim discussed the situation by radio with them and it was determined that the route in that section needs to be pulled away from that part of the mountain should more decide to come down. The ice-fall doctors are now working on the change.
And Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies notes the plan for fixing the upper mountain as
The plan is to place two fixed lines, an ascent and descent line up the Lhotse Face and hopefully an ascent and rappel/traverse line on the Hillary Step to avoid congestion on summit day.
Their nine person team is planning on a trip to C2 and tagging C3 this week. Adventure Consultants and AAI are also looking at their first extended trips to the High Camps. Several climbers are noting the conga line of headlamps in the Icefall as they rise before dawn - mostly these are the hard working Sherpas making a "day trip" to Camp 2 ... yes a day trip with 50 to 80 lbs of gear on their back!!
Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
April 17, 2009
Fixing the route is a necessary part of climbing almost all the big mountains from Denali to K2 to Everest. By fixing, this means putting up climbing rope (thin 9mm nylon line) - lines that climbers clip into to stop falls on steep sections or over deep crevasses. On Everest the route is fixed from base camp to the summit - over 11,500 feet of line. But who does the work and who pays for it?
Each season the leaders from all the teams including the Sherpa Sirdar gather to discuss who will fix which section, who will provide the material (ropes, pickets, etc.) and agree on a schedule. Yesterday there was a telling post from IMG's Eric Simonson that hinted at some frustration with process on the south side. He said in part:
This afternoon we had a meeting at BC with the leaders of a number of the teams, to discuss the route and how we are going to collaborate on rope fixing and route cleaning (of old tattered ropes). Since our IMG team is ahead of most of the others, we will start working on the route to C3 and Ang Jangbu will coordinate with other teams on their contributions to the effort. Based on preliminary commitments from the leaders meeting, I note that some teams are prepared to step up with significant contributions, while others are rather pathetic. We will post a complete list on the website in the near future of which expeditions have contributed, and how much.
Peak Freaks also commented on the meeting with this:
... about 30 people there ... The meeting was successful in organizing shared ropes and more. Russell Brice is putting up a good supply from the South Col to the summit, Eric Simonson is pushing his Sherpas ahead starting tomorrow with rope up the Lhotse face and our team and others are sharing rope and Sherpa power to fix the glacier.
So what is going on? First, let's define who does what on the south side. This is different than on the north where in 2006 and 2007 Russell Brice's Himex Sherpas took full control of the route fixing and then charged each climber a bargain $100 to use the ropes. In general everyone agreed to this since Russell's team did a good job. For 2009 the ropes will be fixed by the China Tibet Mountaineering Association, CTMA, since Brice is on the south.
Over on the south it has been quite a different model. The Icefall Doctors manage the route from base camp to Camp 2 including the Icefall. They are paid through permit fees from the Nepal Ministry of Tourism's Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC). But they stop fixing the route at Camp 2 just short of the Lhotse Face.
From Camp 2 to the summit the route is fixed by a loosely organized effort of teams. Generally they work together to fix the Lhotse Face to Camp 3 and then to the South Col or Camp 4. From here one team, usually the first team to attempt a summit, carries rope, pickets and ice screws on their summit bid and sets the route as they climb. In the last few years this has been Mountain Madness and Willie Benegas plus several strong Sherpas.
The deal amongst the teams is for each one to contribute material or manpower in return for "free" use of the line. And each year, some teams contribute and others tag along for the ride. Usually the largest teams end up doing most of the work and contributing most of the material. Some think this is fair since they are using the line most of the time. However, it takes an incredible amount of work to get the ropes fixed and teams that use it without contributing are viewed negatively.
So the drama gets tight each year during this meeting. Usually someone leads the meeting, Willie Benegas did it this year, and does a quasi role call of the leaders asking what they will contribute. You can guess how this goes. Some leaders say 1,000 meters of line while another says they will manage the route from c3 to the South Col and others say nothing. The conflict is set.
The Sherpas take great pride in setting the lines and often are vying for the role. In fact this post from guide Adrian Ballinger of Himex is to this point:
Our sherpas have been quite happy with the status of the icefall and are already jonesing to begin fixing lines on the upper mountain. But for now our priority will be carrying loads and establishing ourselves well as high as C2.
Remember that everyone uses the fixed lines including the Sherpas so this is not a matter of pride but sometimes it is life and death.
As an aside, when someone claims they climbed Everest solo and unsupported in these times, it raises the question of whether they ever touched one of the fixed lines or ladders. Sometimes solo does not mean unsupported and it is rare for anyone to make that claim in modern times. Maybe on a remote mountain like Shishapangma but not on Everest.
With ropes now fixed, at least to Camp 2, more and more teams are heading there to spend a few nights. The exception is Himex which is using the trekking peak of Lobuche for their acclimatization. They intend to climb to C2 and then spend one night at C3, return to C2 for a night and back to base camp - a total of one trip and three nights above the Icefall whereas as others will do three to four trips and at least six nights - more on this strategy later.
For now, climb safe everyone!
April 16, 2009
You hear the word avalanche and think the worse but around base camp and the Western Cwm they are actually quite common. In 2005 an avalanche off the Nuptse Face hit Camp 1 and destroyed several tents and almost took some climbers with it. Thankfully no one was hurt. In 2006, Camp 1 was moved farther away from the mountainside and away from the avalanche debris zone still another small fall brushed the camp. Last year, we camped very far away and never had any problems.
So it is not a huge surprise to read from Seth Waterfall this comment on the First Ascent blog:
Camp 1 is a tricky place to camp. It is sandwiched
in between the steep faces of Everest’s West Ridge and the north
face of Nuptse. Both sides of the valley are prone to ice and snow
avalanches. The trick there is to position your camp so as to mitigate
the danger from both sides of the valley. Also the climbing route from
Camp 1 to Camp 2 currently avoids the big crevasses in the center of
the glacier but passes directly under some avalanche paths on Nuptse.
They actually recorded the avalanche on video - nice job! Note the scale of the mountains with the size of the avalanche spray and the tiny climbers. Puts it all in perspective!
Meanwhile the Kazakh team for the Lhotse-Everst traverse were planning on climbing to Camp 3 for a touch and the return to Camp 2 today. I assume they will go without fixed lines or put some in themselves. This team is taking their own path this year in terms of schedule!
IMG's Eric Simonson just posted this update on the cooperation amongst the teams:
This afternoon we had a meeting at BC with the leaders of a number of the teams, to discuss the route and how we are going to collaborate on rope fixing and route cleaning (of old tattered ropes). Since our IMG team is ahead of most of the others, we will start working on the route to C3 and Ang Jangbu will coordinate with other teams on their contributions to the effort. Based on preliminary commitments from the leaders meeting, I note that some teams are prepared to step up with significant contributions, while others are rather pathetic. We will post a complete list on the website in the near future of which expeditions have contributed, and how much.
There have been a lot of concerns with the crowds this year and justifiably so. However the leaders of the major and largest teams such as IMG, AAI and Himex have been discussing this for a while. This is business as usual to some degree since there is no single approach to fixing the lines above Camp 2. The Icefall Doctors only go to Camp 2 and then it is up to the rest of the teams to fix to the summit.
So it looks like the teams are on track and doing well. They are taking advantage of the stable weather. The recent pattern is for April to have great weather but then, like clockwork, it turns windy and snowy on May 1 - let's see what happens this year!
Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
April 15, 2009
First, an update from the Mad Frogs as they are now in Tibet:
... 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
SummitClimb reports being in nearby Tingri. This is good news for these teams since they have been playing the odds for several months now. The section Alex refers to is a notorious section near the Tibet/Nepal border within Nepal. I remember landslides there in 1997! The Chinese have been working for years to rebuild and improve their side and have made good progress but it somewhat unstable during all the construction and landslides are common.
OK, now how to climb Everest in 3 easy step!
Climbing Everest can really be broken down to 3 "easy" steps - 1) acclimatize through multiple climbs culminating with a night at Camp 3. 2) Then wait for a suitable weather window back at base camp or below and 3) go for the summit over a seven day climbing marathon. And of course any successful climb concludes with a safe return home so actually there may be 4 steps.
Now that the Icefall is in, it is time to start step 1. The teams will spend the next few weeks climbing up, over and through it, all towards the never ending quest of making more red blood cells - you know those little things that carry oxygen to our muscles. Details, details!
The standard schedule at this point is to make multiple climbs into the Western Cwm. First they climb to Camp 1 and spend a night or two. Some teams return to base camp for a brief rest break others continue to Camp 2 and spend anywhere from 3 to 5 nights before returning to BC. This is what will occupy most teams over the next 10 days.
Of course there are teams that are pushing their schedule to get to Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face as soon as possible. For example the Lhotse-Everest traverse team is pushing the hardest per their posting on russianclimb.com:
Kazakh climbers are actively preparing to the first high-altitude push. The team number 1 ... are going tomorrow to C2 (6400), then April, 16 - radial push to C3 (7100), then April, 17 back to BC. Kazakhs try to be in C3 asap, because there's no big room for 60 expeditions's tents, and very steep slope.
Honestly, this is amazingly aggressive but then again, I have learned never to question or doubt these strong climbers.
Each climb through the Icefall gets faster and faster with the first one-way climb taking anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. Aerobically blessed, Ed Viesturs, completed it in 3 yesterday but he is the clear exception for a Western climber. Sherpas also make the trip in 3 hours or less from the first outing. Once climbers are acclimatized the one-way time will be reduced to less than 4 hours perhaps 3.
The Sherpas are doing the heavy lifting as is always the case on Everest. They are ferrying tents, stoves, fuel, food and sleeping bags/pads to set up the camps as well as ropes, pickets and ice screws to fix the line above Camp 2.
And they will start carrying hundreds of oxygen bottles to the High Camps soon. With over 500 climbers on the south side and most using at least 5 bottles that is over 2500 bottles of oxygen that need to carried up - and down! At 6lbs each that is 2500 pounds or a ton just for oxygen!!
The western climbers usually carry their own sleeping bag and pad, extra clothes and their mask and regulator at some point. For most climbers they never carry more than 30 pounds and usually this around 20. But remember this is all well above 20,000 feet!
This is how Mike Farris, who is trying to go as self supported as is possible on the south, described his first trip in the Icefall:
The Khumbu Icefall was first seen in the 1920s
by George Mallory. It’s just a glacier that is falling over a
cliff, so it fractures into many blocks, big and small, that fall over
on occasion. It was considered impenetrable until the Swiss forced
a route through in 1952. It has a reputation for danger, but these
days the route is maintained by a special group of sherpas known as
the Icefall Doctors. We each pay about $500 each for this service.
Multiple reports are coming in noting there are fewer ladders in the Icefall than last year but the top is still steep with a labyrinth of ladders all lashed together. Also, it is quite common for it to be hot in the Icefall and in the Cwm. This is why most climbers try to be climbing no later than 5:00 AM.
April 14, 2009
The Icefall Doctors completed the task of fixing the Icefall ahead of their schedule and are now working on setting the fixed line to Camp 1. The Finish Airborne Ranger Club were one of the first non Sherpas to reach Camp 1 and set up their tents before returning to base camp. The IMG Sherpas have already climbed to the top of the Western Cwm and staked out their site for Camp 2. This is excellent news for the teams at BC so we can expect to see reports of more climbers spending the night at Camp 1 or even Camp 2 over the next couple of days.
Before everyone starts to talk of "early summits" remember that this happens almost every year - good weather allows for an early Camp 1 and 2 appearance that tricks everyone into thinking we will see summit bids in early May. Then a storm moves in that shakes things up and all of a sudden the talk turns to compressed schedules and fear of crowds on the few summit days. So the moral is to take what the Hill will give you and be patient when it takes it all away!
There have been many comments on how dry Everest looks according to the Sherpas. Well Michael Fagin of EverestWeather.com told me:
There has been much discussion on the low precipitation totals for the region this past winter and the precipitation statistics concur with this. Here is the precipitation totals for regions close to Everest since January 2009 and these numbers are percent of normal: January 5%, February 5%, March 95%, April (through 4-12-09) 22%.
This means that without a significant snow event over the next month, climbers will have dry e.g. rocky conditions up high. This is manageable but can slow the climbers since climbing on rock is more difficult than on packed snow. However it is still early and we will see what the climbers say once they have a chance to see the conditions up close.
SummitClimb reports that they finally received the papers to be able to cross the border into Tibet and should reach base camp in a few days. They are traveling by land from Kathmandu.
Today was a big day for the IMG team -- we had 23 sherpas carry to Camp 1 and 10 members with 8 personal sherpas moved to C1 and occupied it.
Weather Update from EverestWeather:
April 13, 2009
With the casual part of an Everest climb now over, the trekkers become climbers, Base camp is a bee hive of activity. Now there are forty more teams established at BC each with their sprawling compound of tents. The rock and ice trails meander throughout the camps creating roads, cul de sacs, intersections and traffic jams - especially when a yak train comes through!
A relatively new activity many teams take part in is to practice on a temporary training course at the foot of the Icefall and a few minutes from base camp. This consists of a short rope course and ladder spanning the top of a 20 foot high serac. Not difficult relative to what they will eventually encounter but hard enough that it is a nice run though for things to come.
Some people may question why "Everest climbers" need to practice especially when it is too late to do much about problems. But actually not many people get a lot of practice walking across aluminum ladders - in crampons - at 17,500' back at home! So it is good to get a little time in before doing it for real.
Dave Hahn describes the practice for his elite team:
The route through the Khumbu is unlike any other
climbing route in the world. Great technical climbers and glacier travel
experts from elsewhere will not have seen anything like this before.
And such is the case within our team. Practice in walking ladders with
crampons and protecting ourselves by properly clipping into fixed ropes
is a good thing.
Adventure Consultants' Ang Dorje Sherpa led his team though some basic training while still at base camp:
With the sun reflecting off Nuptse we sat in a
semi circle and with the guidance of David and Ang Dorjee started to
make the first of some very important decisions. We talked about the
ideal glove selection, something warm enough and dexterous enough to
deal with the freezing conditions. The fitting of goggles to avoid
misting was a hot topic as was our clothing selection to ensure the
ideal thermal regulation could be achieved across a wide spectrum of
temperatures. All of this to ensure our first ice fall expedition will
be as safe and energy efficient as possible.
Looks like the top of the Icefall is providing the normal difficulties for the Icefall Doctors. This section is always extremely steep and crevasse ridden. So it may be late week before anyone can get to Camp 1 in the Lower Cwm. Still on schedule for many teams.
Meanwhile other teams beside Himex are using the nearby trekking peak of Lobuche as an acclimatization climb while waiting for the Icefall to be fixed. IMG reports many on their team summited the 20,000 peak in addition to climbing to Camp 1 on Pumori. Both of these climbs are straight forward and give the body a good workout at altitude.
Over on the north, the situation is mixed. It seems the north remains a mystery for some teams and there is no clear formula to even get to the mountain. Alex with Mad Fogs just sent me this email from Kathmandu:
But Australian Andrew Lock has had to cancel his Shishapangma attempt when he could not receive a permit from the Chinese. He had also planned on climbing Everest from Tibet without supplemental oxygen. This is extremely disappointing since Andrew has been trekking in the Khumbu to acclimatize and then planned to go to Shisha to finish his last of the 14 8000m mountains. I really feel for my friend. He said he will try again in the fall of 2009.
OK, the season has begun in earnest. Expect to hear from all the teams about their first trips up the Icefall and life in base camp this week. With all the prelims and ceremony over, it is time to get to work.
Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
April 12, 2009
Nice progress this week by many of the teams - arrived at base camp, had their Puja and made their first climb into the Icefall - all in all nice work.
The weather has been normal for early spring in the Himalaya - clear and cold mornings followed by a buildup of clouds in the afternoon then a snow shower or two followed by a clear and cold night. However each day is longer and slightly warmer so that by the end of May the ice is melting at base camp and t-shorts and shorts are in order.
Yet, there is a concern about the lack of snow on the upper part of Everest as well as in the Icefall. We will see what the climbers have to say about this as they actually reach these sections. Climbing on rock with crampons is significantly harder than on snow. While not uncommon above the South Col, it is rare on the lower mountain.
The north side teams were handed some good news this week that their permits will be issued. Many are either in Nepal on acclimatizing treks or in transit. I know they are relieved that they can now focus their minds on the climbing and hopefully not the politics.
However, there still appears to be some delays. Alex with the Canadian Mad Fogs sent me this email:
Hi Alan, just like others, we got news that permits
are currently being processed for entry into Tibet. However, according
to an official fax from CTMA received on April 10th, they have required
that we postpone our entry into Tibet to April 13/14 in order to be
able to process all of the 200 permits for the North.
OK, so 200 climbers on the north. Actually that is more than I thought there would be but I am assuming this includes Sherpas and Tibetans. With over 500 climbers on the south, we could see a record year for total summits!
One item to watch over the next couple of weeks is the unique strategy adopted by Russell Brice of acclimatizing on nearby trekking peaks and not through the standard Icefall formula. I have written a lot about this this week but we will see how it works out when the Himex team makes their first, and apparently only, trip to Camp 2 and Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face prior to their summit bid.
Once again, video dispatches have taken the day. Both professional film crews with Discovery and First Ascent (Eddie Bauer) are putting some very nice footage up with professional editing and dialog. Well done to both.
But still I appreciate the 'from the heart' dispatches posted by the individual climbers with their only motive being to share their experiences with friends and family. Some of my current favorites include David Tait, Bill Burke and Scott Parazynski. As always, click on their link on the table above to go directly to their sites.
To this point, Lori Schneider checked in over the weekend with this note
Hi Alan, This is Lori Schneider checking in, although
I am not on my EmpowermentThroughAdventure.com email site.
Sounds like she is doing great!
April 11, 2009
The Icefall Doctors continue fixing the Icefall right on schedule. This means that ladders span the wide canvases. Thin nylon ropes are secured with ice screws and pickets to the ice thus providing a safety line for the climbers. They have about 20 ladders up thus far.
Ed Wardell of the Discovery Channel has a nice overview of the Doctors as they went with them to film their work. They took seven hours to record this twenty minutes of film for the next series. He notes:
In the blue-white chaos 500 feet below us I can see the tiny figures of the ice doctors cresting the waves and then disappearing into the troughs. I pull out the camera from my backpack and fumble with the exposure and focus through my heavy gloves. As the doctors get closer I see through the lens they are carrying ladders across their shoulders. Now six men, each carrying two 10-foot aluminum ladders, and they're moving fast.
With these necessary measures in place, climbers are now able to begin their first climbs. Usually the first time up the Icefall is only halfway or to the first ladder just to get a feel for it. It can be somewhat intimidating with towering seracs threatening to fall over at anytime, the sound of sharp cracks as the ice moves down hill and the occasional avalanche.
The Icefall looks deceiving. To some it appears as a straightforward ice slope at a manageable angle. You simply clip into the fixed line and pick your way through the obstacles. However this becomes the first time you are really working your body above 18,000' and you feel it. This is how Scott Parazynski described his first climb:
It took 2 and a half hours to get to our high point, and a full 2 hours to return to Crampon Point ("Crampoff Point?"). I was totally exhausted coming back into camp, and after lunch I completely cratered in my tent for the rest of the afternoon! In retrospect, I didn't stop to drink and rest often enough, and as a result ended up with a mild altitude-related headache in the evening.
As I mentioned before, Himex will acclimatize on nearby Lobuche peaks and minimize their exposure to the Icefall. Team member Christophe Vandaele said:
This means we reduce the passages throughout the icefall by 4 times. The first time will now be to Camp 2 where i'll sleep one night, then upwards to Camp 3 were i'll sleep for another 2 nights, then come back down.
Meanwhile there are teams still headed to base camp including Peak Freaks, Mountain Link, Jagged Globe and others. The teams already there are starting to get used to the routine and view their tiny tent as home. Their duffels line one side and their sleeping bag the other. Perhaps a picture is in the mesh net on the roof so when they lie down they can look at it. The iPod plays their favorite song. Yes it is their home but they are so far away.
April 10, 2009
You plan for months or even years. You look at the pictures, videos and even the movies. Then you see Everest Base Camp from several miles away as you trek in but in spite of all of this you are still not quite prepared for the real thing.
Climbers are now establishing what will be their home away from home for the next six weeks - a small four by six foot tent in the middle of hundreds of tents just like theirs. The occasional large green tent or dome establishes one team from another but they all look alike.
This is how my favorite blogger, David Tait, describes the Himex BC:
The camp itself is a logistical miracle. Carved
into the ever-moving moraine, the sherpas have surpassed themselves,
chiseling flat base after flat base for the multitude of tents. The
White-Pod, a geometric framed dome, sits on a huge wood frame, in itself
a stunning feat of improvised engineering. One third of the dome is
transparent PVC, the "window" facing the icefall and the
The teams will take anywhere form two to three days to rest now that they are at BC. Before they touch the Icefall they will have their Puja and then take a stroll halfway up the Icefall to the first set of ladders or even to the Popcorn. But until then it is time to rest, acclimatize to 17,500 and look at the Icefall and wonder.
Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
April 9, 2009
Great news, finally, for the few north side teams - the border is open for climbers and climbing permits are now in the final approval process. Adventure Peaks who has been trekking in Nepal's Khumbu region said
Back at the Namaste Lodge we were greeted with the news that the Tibetan border has been open. A few phone calls were made, then a big ( and probably first serious) discussion took place. We've decided to head down and will drive to the border early next week.
And from SummitClimb's Arnold Coster:
Yesterday we finally got the got news from Lhasa that our Everest permit is approved. Now we only have to see how fast they can wrap up the paperwork.
It will take them over a week to get back to Kathmandu then to drive to BC in Tibet so a little late start by normal schedules but all in all OK. The north climbing season goes into June since there is no Icefall to maintain. On the south, the Icefall Doctors stop maintaining the ladders on May 31 effectively closing that side. The limiting factor on the north has usually been the arrival of the monsoons which is in early to mid June.
April 9, 2009
Leave it Russell Brice not to follow the herd. First Russell has established his base camp about an hour from the start of the Khumbu Icefall whereas the rest of the teams are within 20 minutes. He has done this to provide ample room for his expansive camp which include an amazing number of tents plus access to their 'training' peak. They are next the base of nearby Pumori just off the main trekking path between Lobuche village and Everest Base Camp.
But it is his strategy to get his climber's acclimatized that caught my attention. As many of you know, the standard formula used by almost every expedition for the past twenty years is to make multiple trips through the Icefall and spend ever higher nights at camps 1, 2 and ultimately Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. This 'climb high, sleep low' approach has worked well with climbers spending at least 7 nights well above base camp and up to 23,500' before climbing to the South Col and on to the summit.
The downside to the formula is that it requires a minimum of three round trips through the Icefall and perhaps ten for the Sherpas. The Icefall is now the most dangerous section of a climb from Nepal with more deaths occurring there than anywhere on the south side of the mountain in recent years. In 2004, 1 climber died and in 2006 3 Sherpas were lost after a serac collapsed on them. However to keep this in perspective, there are literally hundreds of safe trips through the Icefall each season. I have been through it 22 times myself without incident.
However, taking no chances, Brice will use the nearby trekking peak of Lobuche at 20,300' for the primary acclimatization climbs for his clients. Of course his Sherpas will still have to established camps at the normal spots in the Western Cwm, Lhotse Face and South Col for the summit bid so this approach does not reduce their exposure as much as it does for the clients.
While the rest of the climbers head towards the Icefall, Himex will be going back down valley to Lobuche Peak. All in all this will somewhat reduce the crowds in the Icefall but not by much. And his clients will only reach the equivalent of Camp 1 which is around 19,500' at the top of the Icefall so they will still have to climb the Icefall several times. But this is a good strategy to minimize the dangers as as much as one can.
Lance Fox with Himex summarizes it this way:
We will come back to Lobuche to train on fixed ropes as well as allow our bodies to further acclimatize before we gain the upper slopes of Everest. By utilizing Lobuche we avoid too many trips through the Khumbu Icefall on the lower South Col route of Sagarmatha. Lobuche is a 6100+ meter (just over 20,000') mountain so we continue to work hard for our goal of reaching the top of the world.
The Icefall Doctors have the fixed ropes and ladders through the Football Field in the Icefall - about 2/3rds of the way. The final section is the steepest and requires the most time but they are on a good pace and should not create any delays for the climbers.
In another update from Ang Tshering Sherpa this morning he notes a slightly different approach for the Icefall based on the expected overcrowding:
This year there will be two routes in the Khumbu Icefall: one route for climbers going up the mountain and the other for those coming down. It is expected that this will avoid "traffic jams" in the notorious Khumbu ice fall. There will be seven climbing Sherpas in the "Ice Fall Doctors" team this year. I want to commend the SPCC's efforts and in recognizing the need for a stronger team during this busier-than-usual climbing season.OK, the climbing is about to begin for real. The Icefall is a lot of fun and a spectacular site - 2000 feet of falling ice - it is simply amazing to get the opportunity to climb through it yet as in many beautiful places in nature, there is a dark side. Be safe climbers.
April 8, 2009 - updated
And you thought arriving at Heath row without your bags was bad. Well a couple of teams are finding that the poor weather and flight delays into Lukla have put them on one schedule and their bags on another.
First the First Ascent team thinks, thinks, they have 22 bags still in Kathmandu and then Mountain Link became so frustrated by the fixed wing flight delays that they chartered a helicopter to take them to Lukla. However, their gear stayed in Kathmandu.
An Everest expedition requires a lot of gear. IMG says they have over 20,000 pounds alone. In general each climber has two 50 pound duffle bags plus a day pack. But it is the group gear that creates the huge loads. You have base camp tents - sleeping, cooking, dining, communication, storage, toilet, and shower and then the climbing gear, ropes, anchors and more. Plus the cooking apparatus including pots, pans, dishes, tables, chairs, tablecloths, fuel.
These days the "required" items include solar panels, storage batteries, generators, laptops, DVD players and in some case, big screen televisions .. I am not kidding. So with literally hundreds of duffels, barrels, cases and boxes, determining what is in the missing 22 becomes a little bit of a challenge!
Meanwhile Damien Benegas, twin brother of Willie, who is guiding for Mountain Madness this season notes the changes in the Khumbu valley as they trek to base camp:
I have been walking this valley for about 10 years and so much has change. Now I can see every porter and sherpas talking on their cell phones, lodges are been build as fast as the local rock can be cut and chip in to rock blocks, the trails are been converted in to mini hiking freeways. Namche, is slowly becoming a small town more than a mountain village.
So the teams continue to make steady progress some, some without their bags. But somehow everything shows up, eventually, and the climbers make do until then.
Alzheimer's Startling Fact:
April 7, 2009
This is a strange headline. But multiple reports are coming in that Everest is in fact quite dry this year. A growing concern for the past several years has been that climate change or global warming is causing the glaciers to melt faster and less snowfall as the earth warms.
Last year Asian Trekking had an exhibit set up at base camp with pictures from decades ago and then current versions of nearby glaciers. I was simply shocked at the dramatic changes the images revealed. The glaciers had receded significantly.
This is a serious issue for all the Sherpa people as well as all Nepalese and Indians in that much of their electricity is generated through hydroelectric power. In addition there is the issue of clean drinking water, always a concern in third world countries.
Becky Rippel of Peak Freaks reports that:
Some Sherpas who live in Kunde have reached base camp and are in shock as a dry Everest stands boldly in front of them. The article that Tim recently wrote for Hemisphere- the United Airlines inflight magazine couldn't be more fitting for what is being uncovered this year. What is the future of climbing big mountains? I think the desire will always be there but the way it will be approached, will have to change to keep it safe. New routes for sure, and possibly more winter ascents.
and then from Dave Hahn with the First Ascent team as he approached the high village of Lobuche:
There was virtually no ice and no snow on the hills forming the moraine. Just as many Sherpas had already explained, the winter was strangely devoid of precipitation and we were seeing confirmation of that.
This is also an issue for the climbers. Deep snow is a double-edged sword in climbing the big Hills. While slowing things down, it provides a cushion and establishes bridges over otherwise impassable crevasses. But without that snow or as a thin layer, the snow bridges become trap doors. I know this personally after falling into a crevasse in 2002 when a snow bridge collapsed underneath me. Also, the snow helps keep towering seracs in the Khumbu Icefall from falling. So while it may be counterintuitive, deep snow is actually an asset to climbers.
To this point, once again Becky Rippel notes late last night from an email she received from Nepal that:
... no one has managed to climb Island Peak so far this spring because word has it that the crevasse which is near the summit is gapping wide-open. Normally there would be a snow bridge
Meanwhile, our intrepid south side climbers are making their way to BC or are settling into their tents that will serve as home for the next six weeks. The north teams are still in limbo given that the border is open but permits have not been issued. But at least three teams are still in transit to Nepal so it is early. However I expect them to get their permits albeit for a mid to late April entry to north BC.
April 6, 2009
Many of the large teams have now arrived at base camp including IMG and Himalayan Experience (Himex). The first order of business is to have the Puja. As I have described in previous years, this is a very important ceremony that touches almost every climber.
A puja starts with a Lama from a local village who travels to base camp and performs a ceremony where he asks the mountain Gods for permission to climb and for the safety of the climbers. He also asks for forgiveness for the damage caused to the mountain from the climbers.
The ceremony starts with the Sherpas building a rock alter and a small fire of juniper branches. The climbing tools - crampons, ice axes - are placed by the alter. On top is a picture of the Dalai Lama. The Lama chants prayers from a several hundred year-old Tibetan prayer book - the pages so fragile, you hope the wind does not blow too hard.
The ceremony can last several hours with all the Sherpas, climbers and staff participating. Everyone sips chang (a potent rice wine), rice is thrown three times into the air, tsampa (flour) is used to mark your face, and finally a khata, a white scarf, now blessed by the Lama is placed around your neck along with a red string that is not to be removed until you get home. The final part of the ceremony is the raising of the prayer flags to cover the entire camp.
This is how Dave Hahn describes their puja with Lama Geshi:
Lama Geshi greeted us -basically in his living room and got right down to giving each one of us a friendly head-butt as he tied a specially blessed and knotted gold string around our necks. I felt immediately happy to watch him go through a brief prayer ceremony for us. Although I tend to be slightly cynical about such things, that is a hard attitude to maintain around Lama Geshi as he always seems to take such a genuine interest in the climbers that visit him.
The First Ascent crew has a nice video showing their puja with Lama Geshi at his home in Pangboche. They will have another puja at base camp. It is common to have several pujas before ever touching the Icefall.
April 5, 2009
The luck of the draw determined who is close to base camp today and who in still in Kathmandu after the flight delays to Lukla this week. The Tenzing-Hillary airport in Lukla is ranked as one the most dangerous airports in the world due to a very short and steep runway perched on the side of a 2,000' hill. Oh and it is surrounded by 12,000' mountains on three sides. And let me mention that low clouds and fog frequently reduce the visibility to near zero after the flights have departed from Kathmandu. All in all it is a miracle anyone ever lands in Lukla!
There have been numerous accidents over the years including the tragic death of 18 trekkers in October 2008 when the Yeti Twin Otter snagged its wheels on a security fence and crashed at the airport.
So with this as background it is understandable that both pilots and passengers are quite happy to spend another night in the relative luxury of Kathmandu waiting for good weather.
But teams have made it and some are now at base camp including a large Korean team plus Altitude Junkies' leader Phil Crampton and his Sherpas and cooks. Most teams are in mid trek spending the nights in the teahouses along the way. Only the most economical (or purists) spend the nights in tents since the teahouses are quite comfortable, safe and clean. In fact that is part of the experiences of trekking the Khumbu and one I would not want to miss.
The climbers and trekkers have been rewarded this week with clear views of Ama Dablam, Katanga and Everest. Of note are the comments that the Dablam on Ama Dablam is visibly smaller after recent collapses. Meanwhile the climbers have been quite the tourists visiting the highest bakery in the world at Khumchung, near Namche Bazaar, and the Tengboche Monastery one of the only Monasteries I know of with their own website!
This next week should bring more climbers into Lukla, visitors to the bakeries and Monasteries. Plus some teams will have a Puja with Lama Geshe - more on that then. Meanwhile climbers, keep those dispatches and emails coming, we are all enjoying the journey.
April 4, 2009
Altitude Junkies' Phil Crampton and Phurba Sarki have arrived at Everest Base Camp. Phil reports
This morning the Icefall Doctors held their Puja ceremony and quickly got to the task of setting the route through the icefall. This must be much to the delight of the Korean Expedition who seem as if they are the only team in full attendance at base camp at the moment. We are expecting to see more teams arrive at base camp over the next few days. We finally have our two Mountain Hardwear domes set up as well as our kitchen, storage and communication tents erected.
This is good news that the Doctors are working on the Icefall. They are the Sherpas who carry all the ladders into the 2,000' glacier and lay them across the deep crevasses. Without these ladders, Everest would revert back to the 1920's. Last year the Doctors were delayed due to politics and created much angst amongst the climbers anxious to get started. It seems that the situation is much more rational this year.
The fog has lifted briefly from Lukla allowing some flights to resume. Adventure Consultants reports their team is now starting the trek to base camp but AAI is still stuck in Kathmandu. At least they are at the 5 Star Yak and Yeti hotel!
April 3, 2009
As they say, best laid plans ... poor visibility has closed the airport at Lukla creating delays for some teams trying to start their trek to base camp. Becky Rippel who does a great job with the site of Peak Freaks reports on the weather as well as the crowds in Kathmandu:
Fog at Lukla didn't clear so the team remains
in Kathmandu. They were well taken of though. Our buddy Kiran waited
at the airport all morning with the truck loaded with the teams gear
while they all waited in the comfort of the hotel garden for a call
to say "it's a go". But by early afternoon it was apparent
that it was not going to happen. All flights were cancelled to Lukla
Climber Wendy Booker is with Mountain Link on a two client team. Wendy has MS and is looking to complete the 7 Summits with Everest. People often ask why anyone would spend the time, money and effort to climb difficult mountains. Each person has their own reasons but I like what Wendy had to say:
Why climb mountains? Not just because she has multiple sclerosis, although her disease does motivate her. As do her children. In fact, as do ALL children. "I use mountains as metaphors for the obstacles we all encounter in life," says Wendy. "And, I want to inspire others - especially young people - not to see obstacles as mountains in their way, but more as challenges to 'climb' over and around. We all have such 'mountains' in our lives and we cannot let them stop us!"
Another climber I have added to the list is Michael Morales from Panama. He is climbing with AAI. He hopes to take the Panamanian flag to the summit.
If you know of a climber or team not on the list, please send me an email. Or just send me a note with any suggestions on how the coverage could be improved or just to say hello!
OK, it should be relatively quiet until the teams reach base camp. Look for the regular weekly recap on Sunday. meanwhile to all the climbers but especially Windy and Michael - Climb On!!
April 2, 2009
All the teams are now well on their way to base camp. One common mention is of the Everest View Hotel. This is a somewhat infamous spot which is located less than an hour's walk from Namche Bazaar. Almost everyone takes the walk for exercise and acclimatization during their rest day at Namche. The hotel has a fantastic terrace where on a clear day climbers and trekkers are rewarded with absolutely stunning views of Mt. Everest and Ama Dablam. For some trekkers this is their destination.
The hotel is run by Japanese owners and was quite popular with Japanese tourist when it opened in 1973. All was well except that guest had a tendency to die ...
The problem was that they would fly from Kathmandu to a nearby airstrip in Shyangboche. The sudden change from sea level in Japan to 4500' in Kathmandu to almost 13,000' at the hotel was too much for the body. Today they still accept guest but now they have to trek in from Lukla, 9300', to acclimatize. However at $250 a night each room is outfitted with oxygen masks! Now that's room service.
What do you think?
If you want to see what British readers think, take a look at the polls on Mount Everest: The British Story where 26% of the voters would prefer to get frostbite someplace other than their fingers, toes or face ... umm, I wonder what body part they are thinking of? Seriously, this is a great site following the Brits on the Big E.
April 1, 2009
I am now looking at over 60 websites each day to distill what is happening with our Everest climbers. It is safe to say there is a lot of repetition and at the same time a lot of uniqueness to each report. Some call them blogs, others call them dispatches. I prefer the term 'dispatch' since it harkens of days gone by with the Shackleton and Mallory's of the world hand writing letters back home and sending them off with couriers hoping they actually make it in a year or so!
But times are different and so are the reports. Climbers see different things. Some see Kathmandu as a dirty, poverty ridden environment others see the spiritual nature of a beautiful and gentle people. Trekking into Namche, some feel the 2,000' climb up Namche Hill is a nice warm up for things to come while others report on being dead tired, hot and sweaty. All are valid, all are right.
One site I always enjoy reading is from David Tait. His style is clear and convincing. It is a pleasure to read his dispatches. Today he updates us on his travel from his home in the UK to his current location in the Khumbu - nice stuff.
Also, video has become much more popular. The well funded Ed Viesturs/Dave Hahn First Ascent Clothing expedition sponsored by Eddie Bauer (now that's a mouthful) is using YouTube to post short video dispatches. They are quite well done This takes a lot of effort since there is the actual filming, editing on a computer (with power) and then the upload via satellite to the home server. I have done this in prior climbs and can attest to the degree of difficulty. But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
On a completely different note, I was curious where in the world was Willie Benegas since he is an icon on the south side of Everest. He has guided for Mountain Madness for years and has established himself as the prominent western climber to fix ropes and lead the way to the summit over the past few years. Well here is an update I received from him:
Damian is going to be running a trip via Mountain Madness Nepal with 3 climbers. You can follow us a www.patagonianbrothers.com I will guiding for Jagged Globe.
Finally, China has officially reopened the border with Nepal thus allowing foreigners to enter Tibet. I assume climbing permits for Everest, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma are now available but that is yet to be proven.
So the Sulu Khumbu region of Nepal is swarming with Sherpas, porters, climbers, trekkers, yaks and zos. The teahouses are full and the local economy is booming. Climbers are getting closer and closer to base camp each day. I wonder what they think of each night as they drift off to sleep?
March 31, 2009
Asian Trekking (AT) is reporting that many of their teams are now in Kathmandu. AT is quite different from many of the operators in that they provide logistics services for many teams where as the others run a single climb for a single team. Thus the list Ang Tshering Sherpa sent today:
Eco Everest Expedition 2009,
Also of note is the Eco Everest expedition which this year is led by legendary Apa Sherpa. And this year he will not be alone!
Apa Sherpa, World record of 18 time Mt.Everest Summiteer arrived in Kathmandu today from USA to join the Eco Everest Expedition 2009 as Climbing Leader. In the past Apa used to come alone to climb Mt.Everest but this time his wife Yangin acompanied him to show her support for Apa's effort to climb Mt.Everest for the 19th time.
Billi Bierling blogged yesterday that the Himex team has mostly arrived and includes 28 clients from all over the world, seven “western” guides, a doctor, 30 climbing Sherpas, 10 base camp staff, two cooks and a few more. That is a total of 78+ people! To compare this with one of the smaller teams, Altitude Junkies, they have 7 climbers, 6 Sherpas and 6 base camp staff for a total of 21.
The saga of Alaskan Alec Turner continues. The good news is that he is in Kathmandu. The bad new - his Himex team already flew to Lukla! He will catch a flight on Thursday. With so many teams trying to get there, it is sometimes difficult to reschedule. Also the weather plays havoc with Yeti Airlines and the other flights resulting in some serious hurry up and wait scenarios.
Once in Kathmandu all teams must receive their permits from the Ministry of Tourism before flying to Lukla to begin the trek. But this is invisible to many since the leaders tend to be the only one who actually go to the Ministry. So the others spend time strolling the dusty streets of Thamel and enjoying a vast array of incredible food. They are meeting one another for the first time which is amazing given that many will become life long friends in a few weeks. Have fun!
March 30, 2009
Well the crazy Russians are back at! Actually they are not that crazy just courageous and ambitious beyond belief when it comes to climbing. The Kazakhstan team left Almaty today for Kathmandu according to Russianclimb. They will be attempting the never before completed Lhotse to Everest traverse.
Only the most strong climbers will go to traverse: Maxut Zhumayev, Vassily Pivtsov, Serguey Samoilv and Eugeny Shutov. Their mates will help them. The coach Ervand Iljinsky said that there're two problematic parts of the route - the descent route from Lhotse and the descent route from Everest via Yjugoslavian/American route, because there're no fresh info about them.
So basically this is climbing Lhotse, the 4th highest mountain in the world at 27,940' then taking the connecting ridge down to the South Col then up the standard route to the summit of Everest. Finally they will descend the Yugoslavian/American route (west ridge) all in one shot.
This is one of the most coveted routes in mountaineering. It has been attempted several times without success. World class climbers such as Simon Moro and Denis Urubko have attempted it as well as previous Russian teams. It was a long time dream of the late Anatoli Boukreev.
This is no ordinary team. Their coach Ervand Iljinsky is a world class mountaineer himself. I enjoyed watching another Russian team successful summit the North Face of Everest in 2004.
The Czech team will be climbing the same west ridge but starting from the north side, if they can get in!
Best of luck guys. Climb Safe, Climb High, Climb On!
March 29, 2009
After weeks, months or years of planning, the Everest 2009 teams are now on their way! IMG appears to be the first major team to arrive in Kathmandu, fly to Lukla and begin the trek to base camp. The trek takes about a week in order to begin the acclimatization process.
AAI, Adventure Consultants, Himex, Altitude Junkies and others all report that they have shipped tons of gear and their teams are in transit. I even received an email from infamous Henry Todd's confirming their 2009 south side climb is underway. Also heard from Dave Hahn with Ed Viesturs that he is Kathmandu enjoying the warmth.
We are getting a few dispatches from climbers saying the weather is a bit cloudy and misty, normal for early spring in the Himalaya. But when it clears they will be rewarded with incredible views of Ama Dablam and even the tip of Everest from outside Namche Bazaar. Manny Pizarro has a nice, quick video showing the trek to Namche and other first of many pujas. Check out his site, and all the others, via the link on the table above.
Nigma Sherpa of Peak Freaks reports to his home team via sat phone
There isn't hardly any snow on Everest, it has been warmer than normal, some wind but not very strong. Ngima also says, "In the past 24 hours we are starting to get more snow now and the wind is picking up."
The north continues to be a bit of a mystery. A few teams have made a last minute switch to the south including the 7 Summits club, a regular on the north year in - year out. Some teams like the Canadian Mad Frogs are waiting a little longer than usual to see if the border opens up for their north side climb.
But it is certain that there will be few teams, maybe six compared to over 25 on the south, climbing the north side this year and as such the China Tibet Mountaineering Association, CTMA, will be fixing the ropes for these climbers. I suspect this is a turning point and we will never see private teams fixing ropes on the north. This is similar to how the Nepalese fix the ropes in the Khumbu Icefall. Not a bad model, if done well.
Over the next week expect to hear more from climbers as they arrive. April 4th seems to be a common arrival date for many people. But some may be late! Alec Turner is just having a hard time getting out of Alaska. He finally left Anchorage after a significant delay caused by the eruption of Mt. Redoubt.
Once again we are seeing that age is not a factor in attempting to climb Everest. There may be a battle for the oldest climber this year. Dawes Eddy, 66 years old is going for it with IMG. He lives near Mt. Rainier and has climbed on it 60 times with 37 summits. Meanwhile 67 year old Bill Burke posted his goodbyes on his site and says he will still go for a south to north traverse if the Chinese will allow it. And finally Bernd Wittman with Peak Freaks is trying to be the oldest Canadian to summit Everest 67.
I am always in admiration of these gentleman. They serve as a reminder that getting old doesn't mean sitting in a chair and reading War and Peace. Climb on gentlemen, climb on!
March 26, 2009
Now that teams are in Kathmandu, we are getting direct news from the teams themselves. I appreciate the emails guys. Bottom line is that some are on, some are off and some are still waiting. I am glad to hear directly from the Canadian Mad Frogs team which I listed previously as simply the Canadian Team on my north side list. Alex Pare kindly told me this morning:
I'm part of the Canadian Mad Frogs (the other
Canadian team) Manny Pizarro told you about. We are 3 independent climbers
from the Montreal area (myself, JP Roy and Marc Octeau). We are still
patiently waiting for the North side to open as South is definitely
NOT an option for us. We will be getting to KTM very late with respect
to the mass (April 9th), which leaves us with good hopes about the
North. In fact, South was never an option mostly because of the crowds.
It can't be any clearer now ;-). Our plan B is the Dhaulagiri, but
we still shoot at Everest North.
Very interesting that the CTMA will be fixing north ropes - a job previously owned by Russell Brice and his Himex Sherpas. Word was that Alex Abramov and the 7 Summits Club had that job but yesterday they switched to the south.
This is a major change for Everest climbing from the north. Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies told us a few weeks ago about his efforts with the CTMA in Lhasa to train Tibetans on mountaineering skills so now is the time to use them. Of course they had a lot of experience last year when they fixed the north for the torch relay but we really have no idea how that went. This year we might - might - get some first hand information from western climbers. As always, safe climbing to all climbers.
And just in from SummitClimb is that they are still planning on their Tibet climb:
Hi Alan, Good to hear from you, I hope you are
OK, there you have. The latest on the north. I really feel for these guys since I was in their shoes exactly 365 days ago. Getting on an airplane thinking you are going to one side but then having your plans totally up in the air. But you know we made the switch and had a great time.
Mountaineering is all about being flexible. Generally that means dealing with weather and mountain conditions not politics but in this modern era all things are in play. I am impressed with the flexibility shown by all these guys and their commitment to their goals. Climb On!
March 25, 2009
We knew this was coming. Asian Trekking announced they are doing a quick switch for the Seven Summits Club team via a press release:
The Seven Summits Club Mt. Everest Expedition 2009 from North is switched to South side. The advance team members including the expedition Leader Alex Abramov, Co-Leader Nikolai Cherney, Guide Max Bogatirev arrived in Kathmandu on 21 April. Most of the expedition cargoes are already ferried by helicopter to Shyangboche togather with two climbing Sherpas.
This will be the first time Seven Summits' Abramov has climbed from the south. Similar to Himalayan Experience, they have specialized on the north for years. This leaves SummitClimb, Adventure Peaks an Indian, Japanese and Czech team on the north but I expect to see at last one of them cancel or switch to the south as well.
The south will be even more crowded now - if that is possible. Climbers are already privately expressing serious concern about the crowds. Expedition leaders know this and are discussing contingency plans but we all know that once the summit window appears, all the planning in the world seems to fall on deaf ears. My best wishes to teams on both sides for a safe climb this year.
Disaster on K2 aired last night (March 25 in the US). The documentary style film showed some of my climbing friends, Wilco and Ger, on K2. It was nicely done but still leaves me contemplative about the tragedy. It will air again on March 26 and 27 on the Discovery Channel.
March 23, 2009
We are getting report after report of tired climbers arriving Kathmandu after their long journeys from Europe, South Africa, US and other far away places. Billi Bierling, who lives in Kathmandu, commented that the weather has finally cleared somewhat and the recently polluted skies are now clear but it is still a hot and humid spring.
On Saturday, the skies opened for about one hour and we had the long-awaited downpour. This has cleared the air a bit, got rid of the dust and eased the smog! We can finally see blue skies again and breathing is no longer painful!
A relatively new technology combines the location services of Global Positioning System (GPS) with email to allow travelers to notify followers of their exact location. And I mean exact. A small hand sized device from SPOT sends the user's location with a simple push of a button. Actually there are three buttons. One that says you are OK and logs your location including uploading it to Google Earth. Another button sends an email to subscribers asking for help and a third one one that calls 911 which I don't think will work on Everest!
Astronaut Scott Parazynski is using SPOT (one of his sponsors) and sent out an email via his blog and Tweeter accounts with his location as +27° 43' 11.28", +85° 19' 14.16" in Kathmandu. He plans on updating his location throughout his Everest climb.
Before you think this is only for NASA Astronauts, 12 year-old Jordan Romero is using SPOT during his 7 Summits quest (as well as Twitter). Um, yes, 12 years-old. How old do I feel! :)
Climbers are using technology and the new social media like never before. Climber, guide, photographer and Director of the Bradford Washburn Museum Jake Norton posted this on his Facebook account:
I'm off again to Mount Everest, my sixth expedition to the mountain. It is an exciting time, and I am looking forward to returning to this mountain which has been such a huge part of my life over the years...
Jake will also be the photographer for the First Ascent expedition with Ed Viesturs, Melissa Arnot and Dave Hahn.
So for the next few weeks, climbers will arrive in Kathmandu, fly to Lukla then start the week long trek to base camp. Expect to see many of the climbers update the FB pages while at Internet Cafes and via email from base camp.
March 23, 2009
Everest is no stranger to tough people. We have had climbers without legs, one arm, blind, diabetes and other disabilities summit against all odds. These people are always inspirational. Lori Schneider, who has MS, is one of the most inspirational climbers we have seen in a while. Her physical and mental courage and strength is amazing. But also her determination to make a difference. She recently embarked on a speaking career to inspire others to overcome their obstacles - both real and imagined. Lori takes her own advice quite literally as she recently told me:
Two weeks ago I spoke to a group of 300, and was moved to tears to see them standing and applauding when I was finished. I need to get better at asking for fees, because I took out a loan for $80,000 to pay for the Everest climb and the supplemental oxygen charge. I quit my 20 year teaching career back in 1999 when I was diagnosed, and have drained all of my savings from the sale of my house, so I decided to invest in myself.
Lori was very generous to answer a few quick questions as she is walking out the door to catch a flight to Kathmandu. Please meet Lori Schneider:
With only a week to go, what occupies your thoughts right now?
She is climbing with Alpine Ascents International and dispatches will be through their site. This will be her 7th of the seven summits. You can read more about Lori on her site. Lori - we are all pulling for you. Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
March 22, 2009
Ang Tshering Sherpa is the Chairman and Founder of Asian Trekking, one of the oldest expedition companies in Nepal. He is the current President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association and perhaps the most influential Nepali in mountaineering. He sends this letter to many companies and I am honored to receive it directly.
Of all his messages I would like to emphasize that the Eco Everest team, led by Apa Sherpa, will be bring down garbage from the high slopes of Lhotse and Everest once again as well as their use of human waste bags. I find Asian Trekking's commitment to a "green" Everest quite inspirational. Well done, well done and thank you all.
March 21, 2009
One of the most popular topics around Everest Base Camp is when will be best day for a summit bid. This can be quite complicated due to the weather, crowds and acclimatization schedules. Followers of Everest know that the jet stream sits on top of Everest for all but two weeks a year. Then it moves slightly north due to the monsoons off India thus creating a short window of low winds for summit bids.
However the Sherpas have another test, they just look for the full moon and say it is good to go. And then there are the Lamas who somehow divine and then declare a few "auspicious" days suitable for a summit.
However what is interesting about all this is that May 22st with 384 total summits since 1953 has been the most popular day for Everest summiteers according to 8000er.com's fantastic series of tables and statistics. 80% of all summits have occurred between May 11th and 25th. Recently they updated their official 2008 results:
All in all there were 422 ascents! There was a new record number on one route. The old record was in 2007, when there were 371 ascents from the North Col route, in 2008 there were 387 ascents from the South Col route.
OK, with all this as background, Astronaut (five Space Shuttle missions!) Scott Parazynski has published a schedule on his blog with May 14th as the summit day. To be fair, this is just a "notional" or preliminary schedule and who knows what day will be best but it is good see such optimism. Most teams simply say May 15-25 as a summit window and call it good. But then again, Scott is an astronaut and those guys schedule everything!
This will be Scott's second attempt on Everest with an aborted attempt last year due to a back injury. He will be climbing will IMG and posting dispatches on the OnOribit Blog. And for you Twitter fans, he will be tweeting as well. Best of luck Scott!
March 20, 2009
The traverse climbers of David Liano and Bill Burke have already cancelled their efforts due to the uncertainty on the north. Specifically they were concerned about adequate support on that side and the risk that the fixed lines may not be there for their descent. Now we hear that Manny Pizarro is looking to switch to the south. Finally the Czech team who was looking at climbing the Hornbein Couloir on the north face has posted this on their site:
China closed the border for the month of March - opening in April is uncertain - Just before leaving to create a replacement plan (Murphy's law in practice)
While we knew the border was closed through March, it now appears that it may extend into April. That said, Adventure Peaks is still reporting their intention is to climb on the north. Once again, the issue is that climbers need to get to base camp, fix ropes, acclimatize during the month of April and early May to be in a position to summit during the window in mid to late May.
March 18, 2009
Many Everest followers remember Fiona and Paul quite well. They were trying to be the first Australian married couple to summit Everest in 2006. Fiona made it and Paul did not. However he returned the following year to summit in style.
They shared all their experiences with us through excellent dispatches including some innovative technology. And they have not stopped since then. Fiona started a web business for word of mouth referrals in their hometown of Melbourne and beyond. Paul continues his competitive cycling and starting a couple of businesses of his own.
With that, here are the details:
Q: You and your wife Fiona are quite famous
in Australia for both having summited Everest. Do you get a lot of
questions about Everest this time of year?
By the way, two of my 2008 Everest partners used the MyEverest site for their dispatches - Scott Kress and Angus Murray. Take a visit to see how they did (hint they both made it!).
OK, now we see what an ambitious and energetic couple does AFTER climbing Mt. Everest. Congratulations on your new family, businesses and accomplishments. I am sure we will hear more from them.
March 16, 2009
In previously posted interviews with David Liano and Bill Burke, both climbers told us about their plans to attempt a traverse of Mount Everest starting from the south side in 2009. David was going for the double where he would then return back to the south. However, it now appears that neither will be going for the attempt. Both shared their updated plans with me. First David:
I want to give myself the best chance of completing
the double traverse and even if there are no climbing restrictions,
I need to be sure there will be fixed ropes coming down from the north
side. With Russell in Nepal, I’m guessing Alex Abramov will do
And from Bill
I will be posting an update on my website in a week or so announcing that I do not plan to traverse this year because of the situation with permits on the North side. If this changes, and it is not too late, I may reinstate the traverse plans.
I know this is somewhat disappointing for both climbers but not the end of the world. It does however cause me to wonder about the other team's plans to climb from the north. Remember that last year we were told the north was effectively closed only days before our arrival so still anything can happen.
March 16, 2009
Hmm, maybe I should change this title to something more specific. So much has been written about Everest ranging from geology to the folklore of the Sherpa people to the current day to day expedition details that you would think it as all been said. In fact a simple search on Google for Mount Everest returns almost 4 million hits. Of course a search for American Idol yields 47 million but that is beside the point.
One place to go to get a nice perspective of Everest's climbing history is Mount Everest: The British Story. Colin Wallace runs the site from his home in the Westcountry of the UK. Colin has a specific interest in the British climbers and reports on their climbs each season. So if you have a British passport, no matter where you live, contact him so he can include you on his British 2009 Dispatch page.
But no matter what your nationality, visit his site and especially the 1924 v 2007 page where he has some fascinating pictures and facts of how the climbing has changed over 83 years. Also he lists the names and dates of all 206 British summiteers plus some interesting historical facts by year. All in all a very nice job Colin!
March 13, 2009Climber Mini Interview - Megan Delehanty - Packed and Ready
What if it was you that was about to leave to climb Mt. Everest? What would you be thinking? Would you be relaxed, excited, confident, scared? Well with the clock ticking down to takeoff time for Himex climber Megan Delehanty, she was generous with her time to answer a couple of quick questions.
This will be Megan's second trip to Everest. She reached the Second Step on the north side in 2007. She was prepared to return last year but delayed until now. So this is one climber who epitomizes: ready, ready, ready, set, set and now - finally - GO!
You can follow Megan through her blog. Megan supports Room to Read, an organization that promotes education for children by building schools and libraries in developing countries. Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On Megan!
With only a couple of weeks to go, what occupies your thoughts right
March 11, 2009
from Kathmandu: 5 teams on the north
Alan, Thanks for your email. Yes we are still trying to climb from the North. We are in Katmandu right now and we are finding out as much info as possible. Today we got news that the Dalai Lama asked all his supporters to not demonstrate violently. Very few demonstration were seen here in Nepal on the 50th.
Word is from TMA that the North will open on April 1st but that is yet to be seen. An Indian Team, us, another Canadian team and 20 climbers from the Czech Republic. All in all I think there is only 5 teams waiting for the North which will be interesting to see who will fix ropes.
We are planning on 3 man alpine ascent not using fixed ropes as we think with the lack of manpower the North will not be fixed until late May. We are considering the South but finances may prevent us from doing it there.
The truth is the South is beginning to smell like 1996????? I hope not. Manny, Team Leader
His reference to 1996 is for the crowds. We already know this will be a record year for climbers on the south and team leaders like Eric Simonson, Russell Brice and Phil Crampton are anticipating this and are looking at extra fixed lines and coordinating summit attempts.
Manny's team is climbing for a great cause in the Lung Association of Quebec. Please take a look at their site. Let's hope that all goes well on both sides for all the climbers and staff.
March 11, 2009
with Phil Crampton - Altitude Junkies
Many emails I receive ask me who I suggest as a guide. My approach is to focus on the experience they are looking for and not necessarily the company. The big names provide great experiences but sometimes the teams will be quite large and you interact with the front office and not your specific guide or leader. This is not bad, just different than what the small companies like Altitude Junkies provides.
I met Phil Crampton while planning Everest 2008. He was scheduled to provide our logistics for our north side climb. But at the last minute as we switched to the south, Phil's expertise and contacts became invaluable as he made all the changes thus enabling our team to climb from the south.
Over the next few months, I got to know him very well and found a competent climber, leader and organizer with amazing contacts throughout Tibet and Nepal. Also a man of integrity and humor. Phil is the sole owner of Altitude Junkies. While he is a one man show, this is what he does for a living and he does it well.
Altitude Junkies is a relatively new company but you have years of
experience in running expeditions. What caused you to start your
Phil is taking 8 climbers to the south side again this spring. You can follow his progress on his site. As always Phil, Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
March 9, 2009
with Eric Simonson - International Mountain Group (IMG)
My first interaction with Eric was a kind of rescue. I had signed up for Cho Oyu with another company. However at the last minute they canceled and asked Eric to take us on. Eric made a few calls and within days I found myself in Kathmandu linked up with a Japanese team and on my way to Cho Oyu base camp.
This sense of adventure dominates Eric. In 1999, I found myself once again working with him to try to get my employer to sponsor his effort to find George Mallory's body on Everest. We never got to work on that together but he did find Mallory's body, something of a needle in a haystack event for mountaineering.
Eric has taken a slightly different tact to guiding Everest. He accepts rather large teams of competent climbers then matches each climber with a personal Sherpa for summit night. His base camp facilities have all the frills but he manages costs carefully and charges about 25% less than some of his competitors.
So what is his secret to safety, success and thoughts on the crowds these days? Read on!
IMG has become the dominant large company for Everest south side
climbs. What is the secret to your success?
IMG has 24 climbers for the 2009 spring climb. This includes two camera people from Tigress/Discovery. It will be interesting to see how the series is done from the south with dramatic footage of the Ice Fall, Western Cwm, Lhotse Face, South Col, Hillary Step and more. However knowing Eric, who knows what they might film! You can follow this years climb on the IMG Blog.
Thanks Eric for the interview. Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
March 8, 2009
As we enter March, the Everest 2009 season is starting to take shape. It has been a lot of fun interviewing climbers, operators, guides and service providers over the past couple of months. And there will be more with some interesting views coming up this week. This is what we have learned thus far:
All of this goes to the point that in spite of last year's difficulties, climbing Everest has never been more popular. Almost every operator has filled all their spots. And some have 25 or more climbers on their teams. The causalities thus far are mostly the Tibetan staff given the little activity that is taking place on the north side of Everest. They will have little to no business for the second year in a row. I wonder how their services will survive through this drought of business and what it will be like when the north side returns to normalcy.
Kathmandu seems ready for the tourist season with record number of trekkers and climbers arriving over the next few weeks. The changes in government appears not to have hurt this important money generator for this poor country. Flights are nearly sold out so if climbers have not made reservations by now, they may have some difficulty finding seats.
Many climbers are leaving their home country around March 25th - only two weeks from now. Their training is over, their reservations made, their bags are getting packed. This is when it begins to sink in to themselves and their families: They are going to climb Mt. Everest!
Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On - everyone.
March 6, 2009
the Climbers: Andrew Lock - the last 8000m plus Everest-solo
Andrew started climbing big mountains with Everest in 1991. True to his character he abandoned this climb to give aid to a fellow climber. However he returned two years later and once again gave up his summit to give aid. Not deterred, Andrew finally summited Everest not once but twice in 2000 and again in 2004. AND he has summited 13 of the 14 highest peaks on earth.
With Shishapangma eluding him a frustrating two times, he is retuning in the spring of 2009. But in addition he wants to go back to Everest and go for a solo, no O's climb for the Tibet side. So what drives this ambitious Australian? Read on to find out:
Given you have been to Shisha twice before, what will you do different
this time to attain the true summit?
Andrew you know we will be pulling for you on Shisha and Everest will be the bonus. Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
March 5, 2009
with Russell Brice - Himalayan Experience
UK based Tigress Productions actually films the series. The Discovery Channel distribute it in the U.S. and Sky in the U.K. Ed Wardell is the overall producer/ director and will be with Russell again in 2009. Also on the team are Mark Whetu, cameraman with 5 summits; Ken Sauls, cameraman 3 times at summit and Kirsty Mitchell, microwave technician according to team member Eugene Constant.
I first met Russell on Cho Oyu in1998. He was a personable yet quiet man who exudes confidence. For 2009 he takes his team from their comfort position of being the dominate north side team to climbing the Nepal side. Uncertainty with permits created by the Chinese have made almost all the spring teams shift south.
I asked Russell if he would do an interview for my site and in his characteristic brevity simply replied "You know I really hate doing these things, but as you have half of my people talking to you already I had best say something!!!" And with that here is my interview with Russell Brice:
Himex has become the dominate large company for Everest north side
climbs. How do you feel about climbing from the south this year?
Russell is one of the more controversial figures in guided climbing. Sometimes the criticism feels valid other times off base. Those who know him often become supporters for life. No matter what you think, you cannot argue with his track record of safety and success. Thanks Russell for sharing your thoughts with us and best of luck for a safe 2009 season.
March 3, 2009
Channel to Film IMG
Our 2009 IMG Everest team just got a few new members. IMG Himalayan Director Eric Simonson, and a film team featuring IMG on Discovery Channel's popular Everest TV series, will join the great group of climbers and trekkers already on board for IMG's 2009 Everest expedition.
March 3, 2009
Gingko or Viagra? An Interview with Dr. Hargrove of the IFAM
When you think about high altitude medicine the name Dr. Peter Hackett comes immediately to mind. His resume reads like a who's who of mountaineering locations and adventures. Among many responsibilities, he served from 1982-1996 as the Medical Director for the Denali National Park Mountaineering Rangers. Today he heads The Institute For Altitude Medicine (IFAM).
Now Dr. Jen and Dr. Hackett collaborate on researching the effects of altitude related illness, provide clinical care, consultation and education for health care providers and the public through their Telluride clinic. If you want to know anything about altitude related issues, take a look at their publication page or contact them.
I wanted to ask about altitude and the effect on climbers with Everest just around the corner. Here is my interview with Dr. Jenny Hargrove:
You moved from Palo Alto to join Dr. Peter Hacket in Telluride at
the IFAM. How is the change of location going?
Ok, there you have it - all you wanted to know about altitude but was afraid to ask. Visit the IFAM site to learn more. It is probably the best resource on the web on this subject. Thanks Jen!
March 2, 2009
Viesturs is still busy after all those summits
But that 's not all. Ed is also guiding on Everest this season. Along with Hahn, they are guiding a team to launch the new brand. From Viestur's site:
The First Ascent Guide Team is led by Peter Whittaker, son of acclaimed mountaineer Lou Whittaker and nephew of Jim Whittaker, who wore Eddie Bauer gear on his historic first American ascent of Everest. Also part of the team is Ed Viesturs, the only American to summit all fourteen 8000-meter peaks without bottled oxygen, and Dave Hahn, who has summited Everest ten times, more than any non-Sherpa. Joining Peter, Ed, and Dave are three accomplished guides from Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI), the largest guide company in the U.S.: Melissa Arnot, Seth Waterfall, and Chad Peele. Lou and Jim Whittaker have acted as advisors to the team.
According to an article in Outside Blog, the team will include a 17 year-old girl aspiring to be the youngest American to summit Everest. Hahn will guide her. And Melissa Arnot will climb without supplemental O's trying to be the first American woman to summit without extra O's.
March 1, 2009
the Climbers: Alec Turner: Alaskan 7 Summitter starting with Everest
So with the seed planted, he has set his sights on climbing the 7 Summits and starting with Everest! In 2007 and 2008, he has attempted Denali first but weather has stopped him so now he is off to Nepal with Himex.
Your dad is an avid outdoors man in Alaska. What does he think about
your Everest attempt ?
This former Alaskan winter crab fisherman has experience in tough environments so you can bet he will get to the top. You can follow Alec on his site. He will be joined by his wife Amanda on the trek to base camp. By the way, the picture of Alec is him proposing to Amanda via satellite phone from the 17K camp on Denali!! You can read her thoughts on her blog. Best of luck Alec with the first of seven! Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
February 25, 2009
the Climbers: Billi Bierling: Journalist/Climber
Born in the German ski village of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Billi has lived and worked in London and Switzerland. She has worked for the United Nations and CBS's 60 Minutes television program. A journalist by education and profession, in 2004 she wrote a letter to the Grand Dame of Himalayan climbing, Miss Elizabeth Hawley volunteering to help her interview mountaineering teams about their expeditions. I think this is filed under "be careful what you ask for" since Miss Hawley accepted her offer and Billi moved to Kathmandu in 2004 as one of Miss Hawley's assistants.
Today Billi writes for several mountaineering publications, compiles political reports for German radio and leads expeditions to the Nepal trekking peaks. Her climbing CV includes Aconcagua, Lhakpa Ri, Mera and Island Peaks and more.
Even though Billi is busy preparing for her climb, she took some time to talk with me about living in Kathmandu, the Himalayan Database and more. Please enjoy:
You have lived in Kathmandu since 2004. There have been many changes
since then. What is it like to live there and any advice for climbers
coming this spring?
As you can see, Billi epitomizes the climbing spirit. Her zest for her job, her home and her mountains come through in a sincere way. I wish her the best on her Everest climb. Please visit her excellent site. Also take a look at the Himalayan Database. Billi - Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
February 25, 2009
Teams Changing Plans
Early last summer there were already and again rumors that China is probably closing Everest on Tibet side this spring. Those rumors aren't disappeared and avoiding any further risk to cancel or postpone the expedition we have decided to move to Nepal's side. The change of plans was stretched until this but we have been doing serious preparations for this and everything is supposed to be ready.
It appears the Chinese will close access to Tibet for only the month of March but if there is violence similar to 2008 then the restrictions may last longer. Given the need to finalize expedition plans, switching to a more predictable south makes good sense. However look for amazing crowds this year. IMG alone has 24 climbers, Himex with 20 and on and on.
February 23, 2009
the Climbers: Bud Allen- Stunt Pilot/Climber
He fly's stunt planes and and lives only 200' above sea level yet he has climbed six of the 7 Summits and is on his way to Mt. Everest. After a year long delay, Bud Allen is excited about his opportunity to complete a life long dream. I love his attitude and have enjoyed getting to know Bud over the past year. Here is his story.
I believe you recently turned 50. How does it feel to be the youngster
given you are climbing with 67 years-young Bill Burke?
Bud's website is under development but take a visit to learn more about him and his climbs. Best of luck Bud - Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
February 19, 2009
Closed Indefinitely to Foreigners
February 17, 2009
Michael provides weather services for climbers all around the world including the Himalayas, Alps, Denali Caucasus, Karakorum and Andes. He will be providing daily summit conditions each day during the climbing season for this site. I interviewed Michael last year. This year, I wanted to explore some of the weather advances and history including the 1996 disaster.
You have been doing this a number of years, what are some of the
recent advances in techniques or tools used in forecasting Everest
Measuring Pollution at Attitude
Their primary mission is to measure and study pollution at the highest elevations on earth but they also have a good look at the weather even though last year, when asked for a forecast, they referred us to a real weatherman!
You can see a live cam from the laboratory as well as review real time data they collect.
Who is the oldest man to summit Everest? Well 76 year-old Nepali Min Bahadur Sherchan claimed that record when he summited in 2008 but 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. It seems that Mr. Sherchan did not have the records to prove his age.
February 15, 2009
The Russell Brice team has been the KIng of the North for years. However with all the uncertainty on that side he decided to take his huge 28 climber team to the south side for 2009. Megan Delehanty reports on her website that not only is the team huge but also they will not camp with the other teams.
Everest Base Camp is located at the base of the Khumbu Glacier and the Icefall. The teams that have been climbing from Nepal for years have their favorite spots and send Sherpas to stake out their claim weeks in advance. In 2008 IMG even built a three-foot high rock wall around their camp. I was never sure if it was to keep their climbers in or to keep everyone else out!
Seriously, there is a lot of traffic coming through base camp. Not only do you have the climbers but porters are making daily trips to ferry gear and food in then the waste out. Trekkers by the hundreds make the trip to visit base camp after a Kala Patar summit. So it can be quite crowded and there is a lot of foot traffic. Oh, and I didn't even mention the yak traffic!
So with all this as background Russell's team will be a full hour away from crampon point! This is where climbers put on their crampons as they start climbing the Icefall. In 2008, my camp was about 10 minutes away and I was quite thankful we had a great location given how tired we were coming out of the Icefall after a sortie' to the High Camps.
Brice will camp near the trail to Pumori. This is a nice area with awesome views of the Icefall and plenty of clean water. Plus it is on solid ground and not a melting glacier so it will be more like what he is used to on the north. Also it will be much quieter than the main camp with all the traffic and generators driving lights, computers, DVDs and the other comforts of life. So a great choice but another hour after returning from Camp 2 adds to a very long day.
February 12, 2009
Only a few climbers are mentioning climbs on the Tibetan side of Everest and long time north side expert Russell Brice's Himalayan Experience team has committed to climbing from Nepal. A few climbers are finishing plans to traverse Everest starting from Nepal so it seems there will be climbers on the north side in 2009.
A few commercial expeditions continue to accept applications to climb from the north. I have confirmed with Dan Mazur of SummitClimb that
We are going and just getting out permit now. We had a great expedition to Tibet in October 2008 for www.ChoOyuClimb.com with 13 members and 5 sherpas on the summit, so the Tibetans kindly invited us to come back for this spring's Everest season.
However, other operators are saying that the situation is still fluid and final decisions and permits have not been made or issued. One climber who said he was climbing from the north has now switched to the south. Remember that in 2008, I thought I was climbing from Tibet until 2 days before I left the US!
The Chinese continue to say Everest's north side needs "cleaning". While I am not sure I fully understand what they mean, if it is to remove used oxygen canisters and trash then this is an excellent environmental act. The north side has lagged quite a bit from the south with respect to removing trash over the years. So if it is for trash removal, I applaud the Chinese. A scenario may develop where the mountain is closed for a few weeks then made available to more climbers. I just hope the timing is sufficient to allow for safe acclimatization unlike the proposed 2008 schedule.
Many of the long time commercial operators are reporting they only have a few opening for their climbs so expect to see another crowded year on Everest. They are suggesting locking in flights now since they can already be booked in February for April flights. I think we will easily see a record 400 plus summits on the south side assuming the weather is good.
An interesting trend I am seeing is for climbers to climb through the Icefall to Camp 2 or maybe Camp 3 without making a summit attempt. Some guides offer this as an option and it makes sense for climbers who want to get to know what an Everest climb is like without the full permit expense of an 8,000 meter climb. This can reduce the costs by thousands of dollars. However, it still requires extensive logistics and training to be safe.
February 10, 2009
Andrew Lock - solo Everest Climb from Tibet
I was with Andrew in 2006 on his last Shishapangma attempt and can tell you he is not only an incredibly strong man but one of the true gentlemen I have ever met. I hope to post an in depth interview with him soon. You can read all about Andrew at his site. All the best, Andrew.
February 9, 2009
Elevations and times between camps
Typical US Schedule
February 3, 2009
the Climbers: Bill Burke - the south to north traverse
We are getting to know Bill well. The 67 years-young climber has only Everest remaining for the 7 summits (he actually has 7 including Kosciuszko and Carstensz's) and has attempted Everest twice. He made it to the South Summit in 2007 and returned in 2008 before HAPE forced him to cancel his summit bid for that year. So with a continued strong spirit, he will not only return in 2009 but, just to make it interesting for him, his goal is to summit from the south side and end on the north - the traverse.
Bill will be climbing with Asian Trekking and his Sherpa is Mingma Sherpa who was also going to be his Sherpa in 2008 before Bill left. Bill is also sponsoring Mingma for a trip the the United States after the expedition.
So what drives this ambitious man and what are his thoughts on the traverse. Please enjoy a few minutes with Bill Burke:
This will be your third attempt at the Big Hill. What keeps bringing
Bill's teammate, David Liaño, will be attempting the double traverse so it looks like Asian Trekking will have their hands full in 2009! See my interview with David below.
Bill will be filing expedition reports from the mountain on his website: eightsummits.com. If you subscribe to the website, you will receive e-mail notices when reports are posted. His dispatches have been very interesting in previous years and I am sure he will do a repeat performance.
I can relate to multiple attempts on Everest and will be pulling hard for Bill. All my best Bill. Climb High, Climb Safe and Climb On!
February 1, 2009
Everest Green - an Interview with Dawa Steven Sherpa of Asian Trekking
Dawa Steven Sherpa, Managing Director of Asian Trekking, is the son of legendary Ang Tshering Sherpa, the Chairman of Asian Trekking and the President of Nepal Mountaineering Association. Dawa Steven at 23 years old, is driving hard to protect his country and the land he loves. He is an experienced mountaineer with two summits of Mt. Everest completed. He holds an honors degree from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, Dawa Steven's father is Nepali and his mother is Belgian and he speaks five languages.
Dawa Steven, a Buddhist by religion, feels that businesses should not just run for a profit, but benefit everyone. Under his initiative, Asian Trekking supports cultural programs in the Himalayan villages, organizes sports competitions and promotes eco-friendly practices, such as the use of solar and wind power for expeditions’ electricity needs.
Dawa Steven is also an active campaigner in fighting climate change in the Himalayas. His Eco Everest Expedition 2008 was a prototype for green climbing with successful experiments in managing human waste, solar cooking and conservation techniques. They removed 67 empty oxygen canisters from the higher slopes of Everest's Nepal side. Also a very impressive 2,127 pounds - a ton!!!- of garbage from base camp plus another 661 pounds from camps 1,2 and 3.
I had the honor of interviewing Dawa Steven for my site and was quite touched by his passion and thoughtfulness on the subject of protecting the environment.
You and your Father, Ang Tshering Sherpa have operated on Everest
for a long time with your company Asian Trekking. How the climbing
community changed in your view?
You can download his full report of the 2008 Eco Everest expedition here. It contains very interesting information about green climbing, cooking and waste techniques with recommendations for future expeditions.
I want to thank Dawa Steven for his efforts and encourage all climbers around the world to carefully consider his recommendations. After all if we climbers don't take care of our own backyard, who will?
January 29, 2009
the Climbers: Tomsky Arnold- climbing the 7 Summits
Tomsky is an ambitious man and a popular climber in Germany. With four of the seven summits completed (Elbrus, Vinson, Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua), he will be climbing Everest with Laserer-Alpin from Austria lead by Walter Laserer.
You are climbing the 7 Summits. How is that going and what has been
the most difficult thus far?
Tomsky will be posting dispatches on his site. Success Tomsky! Climb High, Climb Safe, Climb On!
January 27, 2009
Back in 2003, Luanne Freer had an idea - provide medical support to the Everest climbing community by putting a clinic at base camp. She would charge the western climbers and trekkers but not the Sherpas, porters or anyone else in serious need. The clinic soon became a project of the Himalayan Rescue Association and the Nepal Rescue Association. It survives on donations from individuals and companies plus volunteer physicians staff the clinic each season.
In the "old" days - pre-2005, every serious expedition had their own expedition doctor as part of the team as well as fully stocked medicine kits. But the level of care varied greatly from team to team and often poorly staffed teams would look to the generosity of others to help with their medical problems. Finally, some expedition staff were unfamiliar with the unique problems of high-altitude physiology. Obviously this model cried out for change.
With Everest+ER (formally called base camp MD) now established, teams can now pay a one time fee for unlimited medical support from the clinic physicians. And the best part is that their Sherpas and staff get free health care. Today almost every team takes advantage of this excellent service.
2008 was a busy season. I estimated there were 500 permanent residents in base camp and the clinic interacted with almost everyone of us! Courtesy of the Everest+ER website, they treated:
With her seventh season upon her, she talks about how things have changed, her relationship with the Sherpas, some new ideas and what it takes to keep the hospital running.
Q: You have operated Everest+ER since
2003. Is the climbing community on Everest different than in 2003?
As I was working with Luanne on this interview we remembered our first meeting in 2003. I was going to the clinic just to say hello and tripped on a rock outside their tent! With a cut knee and a sheepish look on my face, Luanne treated my cut. Today she remembers that event as follows: "Believe it or not, I DO remember meeting you now and remember thinking at the time that it was ironic that you THINK the injuries will be more likely to occur up high, but it's the little rocks in base camp that end up tripping people up!"
Well it just goes to show that there is a Doctor when you need them - even on Everest! Thanks Luanne for all you and the other Docs do for the climbers and the Nepalese.
Now, readers, can anyone help get her that new tent?
January 27, 2009
Meet the Climbers: David Liano
- Double Traverse
David has summited Everest twice: 2005 and 2008 but now he is returning in 2009 to try something no one has ever accomplished - a double traverse from south to north to south. David Tait, interviewed on January 20, 2009 attempted a double starting from the north but stopped after completing the north - south leg (see the interview below for details) so a double is something only the most competent, strong and courageous even attempt.
At 26, he was the youngest Latin American to climb all 7 summits and continues to find a great passion in mountaineering. For his 2008 summit he joined Dawa Steven Sherpa on the Eco Everest climb and has a unique perspective on what it takes to climb in an environmental friendly style.
Q: On your 2008 Everest summit you spread
the ashes of the Highpointer Club founder, Jack "Guru Jakk" Longacre
on the summit. What was that like?
David will be climbing with Asian Trekking and posting dispatches in spanish on his site. And yes, David - please Climb High, Climb Safe and Climb On .. and best of luck on the double!
January 26, 2009
the Climbers: Eugène Constant - climbing for Alzheimer's
I first met Eugène in July 2007 when he sent me an email that started "My name is Eugene Constant. I am a French reader of your website." He went on to propose to meet on the summit of Everest - me from the south and he from the north to celebrate together and join forces in raising awareness and research funds for Alzheimer's disease. I immediately liked this 41 year old Frenchman!
However due to circumstances beyond both our control he did not climb in 2008 and I did not make the summit on my 2008 climb. But the dreams lives on with his return in 2009 as a member of Russell Brice's' Himex team.
As you will read, Eugène is an accomplished mountaineer with a CV filed with extensive climbing background in the French Alps. He has summited nearly all the peaks of the Massif des Ecrins, multiple traverses and the very difficult Tenailles de Mont Brison. But he has also seen his share of difficult mental challenges with the death of partners.
Yet his love of mountains, mountaineering and challenges in his own life bring him face to face with Everest:
Q: Can you tell us what it
is about mountain climbing that brings you to Everest?
Eugène, we will follow you closely. My best wish for a safe summit and return my friend. Climb High, Climb Safe Climb On!
January 25, 2009
Everest 2009 "Fully Booked"
Seattle-based Alpine Ascents International will take seven to 12 climbers on $65,000 expeditions up Everest this year, the same as in previous years, said program director Gordon Janow. But Janow said he expected to see a decline in less-demanding and less-expensive expeditions.
Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides, which offers Everest trips from $43,000 to $70,000, also said his company, based in Ashford, Washington, would be fully booked this year for Everest packages.
Simonson goes on to acknowledge that it is the "normal" person who goes on his climbs, not the rich and famous -
"There is a misconception that the people who do these trips are super-wealthy and can write a check without thinking about it," he said. "They are professionals, engineers -- normal people who aspire to goals."
Whoever they are all the best for 2009!
January 24, 2009
Sherpas Receive Specialized Training
Some Sherpas get the opportunity to go to mountaineering school. My Sherpa on Everest in 2008, Lam Babu with High Altitude Dreams, attend several courses in Chamonix France. Others get it though on the job training. But right now, January 2009, Asian Trekking in conjunction with Everest+ER are conducting a training class. From Asian Trekking:
Asian Trekking has started the first Climbing Refresher Course for its High Altitude Climbing Sherpas. There are 16 student in the first batch. Many of the Sherpas have come down from their homes in the Khumbu start the training. The training is being held at our very own ASTREK Climbing Wall, located on premises in Thamel. As well as for developing the skills of our own staff, the climbing wall is open to the public and hopes to promote the sport of climbing in Nepal. Some of the main topics that are being taught are rope handling and knot making, climbing techniques, mountain safety, self rescue, glacier rescue technique, high altitude medical and first aid knowledge.
I love the fact that they are helping to improve the skills of the Sherpa climbing community. While many have good skills, some are lacking or are never given the opportunity to lead. Also, with the local companies such as High Altitude Dreams (HAD) and Asian Trekking taking on more leadership roles and not depending on western guides there is a strong need for improved skills in all aspects of high-altitude mountaineering such as fixing rope, rescue skills and basic medical skills. Kudos to Asian Trekking for taking the lead on this one!
January 23, 2009
Fees for Everest
These prices were published on July 16, 2008 and are subject to change so contact an expedition operator to get the current prices. Note the the Spring fees are for the primary climbing season including April and May.
January 22, 2009
that is why I can't breath up there!
Everest climbers carrying portable ozone monitors in 2005, 2006 and 2008 took readings between 6,400 (C2) and 7,500m (C3). Studies of readings found ozone levels that were not safe for humans. A normally safe level for 8 hours is about 75 ppb as defined by the EPA. But on Everest they hit 100 in 2006 and 120 in 2008 - when I was there! Scientists have theory for these high levels:
When faster-than-average portions of the jet stream blast past the mountain, stratospheric air can spill over Everest in episodes lasting a couple of days, Moore notes. In 2006, during a similar event, another team of climbers measured ozone levels around 100 ppb.
The big problem is that the exposure is not for just a few hours but can be days given the time it takes to climb Everest. Also anyone with Asthma might be more sensitive to increased levels of ozone. Anybody have an ozone mask?
January 20, 2009
the Climbers: David Tait - No O's
David Tait is one ambitious Brit! A two time Everest summitter, he and Sherpa Phurba Tashi did a North Col - South Col Traverse in 2007. His first summit was from the North Col in 2005. His Traverse was to be a double - north-south-north but he stopped short as he explains below. David climbs with Himex as he will again in 2009. This year he will make a no O's attempt from the Nepal side.
David's climbing is not a selfish pursuit of glory but for his charity - NSPCC - to stop child abuse. This is intently personal for David and an incredibly worthy cause. Please take a moment to read about the NSPCC - it will hit your heart, and consider making a donation no matter how small. This is why David climbs.
Here is my January 2009 interview with David Tait:
Q: Can you summarize your key takeaways
from your ambitious Double Traverse attempt in 2007?
He will be doing regular updates on his website davidtait.com during the climb. Best of luck with the NCPCC and your climb David. Climb Safe, Climb High, Climb On!
January 19, 2009
Black Diamond on Everest's North side!
Interestingly, while China has agreed to let the ITBP team ski down Everest, it has denied permission to them to carry their own communication equipment, citing security reasons. Sources believe that since the ITBP’s communication equipment is encrypted, the Chinese authorities would have had no way to monitor it, and hence the denial of permission. The ITBP contingent will now use satellite phones for communication.
Best of luck to these guys!
top January 18, 2009
Much Does it Cost to Climb Mt. Everest?
The prices have not changed that much over the past few years with the exception that the local Nepalese companies have increased their prices to match the mid-range western companies. The largest western companies have now standardized on the 1996 era price of $65,000 for a South Col climb. A few years ago it was common to see prices in the low $50Ks. Finally climbing from Tibet is still less expensive than from Nepal primarily due to permit fees. However this may change since a strong rumor is that the Chinese will soon increase their fees to close the gap with Nepal.
top January 16, 2009
Channel to Film Russell Brice's 2009 Team
Our expedition is coming. All members are training hard and collect the gear. Russell Brice has recently announced that a documentary would surely be achieved this year by Tigress Productions for Discovery Channel.
The filming will be a bit different since there is no clear view
of the summit on the Nepal side like there is from the North Col on
the Tibet side. So while we will not see Brice spotting the climbers
through a telescope as they make their way to the summit, we will probably
see some amazing shots of the Khumbu Icefall, Lhotse Face, South Col,
Balcony, South Summit and Hillary Step through Sherpa Cams, all in
David Tait to Return to Everest
However, during the later part of the endless painful descent I realised two things. Firstly, I was not going to be able, in all seriousness to motivate both mind and body to turn around and do it all again, at least not in the time-scale allowed. There might be some supermen in this world, but I discovered that I am frankly not one of them. The men who are however, are people like Phurba Tashi, and his band of awesome cohorts, who day-in day-out climb, stock, rope and carry loads up and down Everest without the slightest hint of complaint - in fact they appear to accept it as a priviledge. The have an almost alien mindset, and a work-ethic, no-one in Britain can even imagine.
David is a generous man who is raising money and awareness of child abuse. He has written an extensive multi part story about his childhood and his 2007 Everest climb that you can find on his site at www.davidtait.com. A nice interview with David is on the well done Mount Everest: The British Story website. Best of luck David!
top January 13, 2009
Side Open for Business in 2009?
Primarily we are providing professional support for a number of self-guided teams, and also have a small team of climbers with Jamie. If Tibet opens Chomolungma with restrictions we can handle, then we will climb from the north. If it is closed/too complicated, we go south side.
Jamie is as well connected in Tibet as they come so he may know something that is not public yet. Of note, he charges a full $10,000 less for his north side expedition than for his south side which is at a reasonable rate of $37,500. The expedition companies of 7 Summits and Summit Climb are also offering north side climbs as of this date but the God Father of the north, Russell Brice, has moved his team to the south, as reported by some of his clients.
Of course all this could change dramatically since it only January. Remember that we only understood the full impact on the schedules in late April in 2008. Stay tuned!
top January 12, 2009
to North Traverse Attempt
I have decided to ratchet up the challenge a bit for my third attempt to climb Mt. Everest by completing a traverse of the mountain, ascending the South side in Nepal and descending the North side in Tibet. As far as I know, this has never been completed by anyone my age (67 in March). And, if I kiss the summit, I will be the oldest American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
The traverse is a complicated, dangerous and risky endeavor that requires significant logistics, permits and support to do it safely. I believe he is going with Asian Trekking.
Bill, all my positive energy is going towards you on this ambitious goal.
Another announcement from the climbing community is from Nancy Norris as she attempts to become the oldest US Female at age 66 to summit Mt. Everest this spring. She has competed 5 of the 7 Summits and her goal is to bring attention to obesity - from her website:
The recognition I will gain in reaching this goal
will not be used for my own glory, but instead to convey the message
of the importance of adults and children alike getting healthy and
being able to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. I want to inspire
the world to fitness. My goal is to climb the highest mountain on each
of the seven continents. With this accomplishment I will have the added
distinction of being the 'oldest person in the world' to do so. I not
only climb for myself but more importantly to bring attention to the
fact that American adults and children are among the most unhealthy
in the world, and that we need to make changes "today" to take responsibility
for our health.
I believe she will be climbing with IMG. All the best Nancy!
January 5, 2009
Looks bad for climbing in Tibet in 2009. Teams that are regulars on the north side of Everest like Project Himalaya, Altitude Junkies and Himalayan Experience are now saying they have or are considering moving to the south for 2009. As previously reported,the Chinese have announced that they will limit or restrict teams due to "cleaning the mountain" of all the trash from previous expeditions. Recently posted on Himex's site:
"Due to the uncertainty of access to Tibet during the 2009 season, we have decided to transfer our expedition to the Nepal side of the mountain."
By the way, his climb is already full! If Russell can't make it a go in Tibet, then it will be tough for everyone else. This will mean another year of crowded conditions on the South.
Tibet.cn posted this back in June but now it feels more real:
The Tibet Autonomous Regional Environmental Protection
Agency plans to cooperate with the Tibet Mountaineering School in the
first half of 2009 to to conduct a comprehensive clean-up of Everest,
according to Zhang Yongze, Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional
Environmental Protection Agency.
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