May 19/20 on Everest has been difficult one with high winds, medical and canceled or aborted summit attempts. But we also have summits. Now we hold our breath as they descend in difficult conditions.
Update 3 – Summits
There are reports of small independent teams summiting around 6:00AM Nepal time but only spending a few minutes due to the high winds, cold temps and frostbite risk. Also I have received reports of other teams turning back in mid climb between the South Col ad Summit due to the conditions.
The team has reached the top of the world!! Climbers Rob Sobecki, Laurence Clark, Mark Shuttleworth, Leanna Shuttleworth, and Marc Hester reached the summit of Mt. Everest along with Guides Garrett Madison, Lakpa Rita and Jose Louis Peralvo. The climbing was tough with gusting winds and some driving snow, we could not have done it without are amazing Sherpa Team. Joining us on the Summit are Kami Rita Sherpa, Karma Sarkee Sherpa, Ang Passang Sherpa, Ningma Tsheri Sherpa, Pemba Tenzing Sherpa and Ang Nuru Sherpa. No one climbs Mt. Everest alone and we are especially thankful to all the family and friends who have supported us day in and day out over the last two months. We could not have done it with out you.
Unfortunately, not all of our climbers were able to make it to the summit on this attempt. They gave their all and worked hard, but were forced to turn back due to various reasons along the way.
I can also report there are summits on nearby Lhotse, the 4th highest peak in the world. It was questionable if anyone would summit this rocky peak given the route is rockfall prone in good years much less in low snow years like 2012. AAI reported that Ben Jones reached the summit of Lhotse at 11:11am on May 18th yesterday morning!
There are other teams climbing to the summit on the North side , including 70 year-old Bill Burke and SummitClimb. No word on any of these thus far. But regardless of their result, this was a very difficult day to attempt the summit of Everest.
Now the descent will be grueling as the climbers are exhausted. But taking their time and with the warmth of the sunlight, they will have a long but hopefully safe journey back to the South Col.
Congratulations to all.
Update 2 – AAI still Climbing
Alpine Ascents just posted their team is above the Balcony going slowly. I confirmed this with AAI’s home team. Other teams including SummitClimb should be on their push but have not posted any updates. This is kind of surprising but obviously their weather forecast showed the window continuing and worth the risk. From AAI:
The team has made it above the Balcony. The winds have kicked up and the going is a bit slow, but the weather is clear and the team is pushing on. The South East Ridge is not as steep as the Triangular Face although it can be a fairly exposed at times and there are still several more hours of climbing from the Balcony to the South Summit. There are nearly two more hours until the first rays of sunlight begin to reach Mt. Everest. Our climbers are doing some great work up there, so let’s wish them the through these final hours of the night.
You can follow them on their GPS tracker on their site and on Leanna Shuttleworth’s.
Update 1 – Summits Canceled
The high winds appeared to have not let up and even intensified. Gusts were predicted at over 40 mph – very dangerous. Most teams will not climb above 30 mph. Thus is sounds like most if not all the teams are pulling their climbers off their bids. I assume they will descend to Camp 2 or even base camp and try again around May 25th.
Adventure Consultants just posted:
Due to poor weather on the upper mountain tonight’s summit bid has been postponed. Strong winds, cloud and snow have meant that our team have decided not to go up. The few other climbers that had already departed the Col for the summit have already turned around.
Climbers are leaving the South Col now (10PM Nepal time) and Camp 3 on the North trying to squeeze in the last summits of the first weather window. Reports are coming from the South Col of high winds so this one may be pushing the climber’s limits.
I don’t expect the same crowds like last night because these winds were expected and helped create the rush last night. Hopefully this will allow these climbers to maintain progress and not get too cold just standing in place.
High altitude climbers wear multiple layers to protect them from the extreme wind and cold. It starts with a base layer, most often merino wool, then another thicker wool mid layer, perhaps yet another wool shirt before using a full down suit. This should keep them warm but still allow for venting moisture that comes from sweating – yes you actually sweat when climbing in the dark at -20F!
Their feet are protected by double boots that are heavy, perhaps 2.5 lbs each. Most climbers wear two wool socks but you have to be very careful because feet swell at altitude and can cut off blood flow resulting in frostbite. Some climber use foot bed warmers such as from Hotronic
Obviously hands are critical so most people use several gloves starting with a thin base layer of wool again, then a thicker glove and finally mittens. Again it is critical to allow for blood circulation. The most important factor with hands is the ability to manipulate the technical equipment required to attach a harness to the fixed ropes. The technical gear, carabiners and jumars, are somewhat small and need to be held, opened and worked. Some climbers prefer only gloves and not mittens due to the extra dexterity. It takes a lot of practice and climbers need to know their system inside and out to keep fingers warm through the climb. Most frostbite happens when climbers take their hand systems off to work gear.
Finally head and face are protected with a full wool Balaclava, then the down hood from the suit. It is important there are no gaps in all of this that might allow the wind to seep inside. Full goggles are used, especially in windy conditions. Some climbers use clear lens at night and switch to colored as the sun rises. Other use high quality sunglasses.
All of this comes down to “systems” and knowing your gear very well so in oxygen deprived environments or extreme fatigue, the climbers know what they have and how to use it.
I have a full list of the gear I use on my main site if you want more information.
Eric Simonson, IMG, just posted after putting 22 on the summit this morning:
Right now the climbers on the Col report that the winds are picking up, so they are glad to be back in camp, all tucked in for the night. They will all be heading for Camp 2 in the morning. The weather for the next few days does not sound too good with higher winds back in the forecast. By the 25th, however, it is supposed to get calmer again, so the Classic climbers are getting geared up to hit this next favorable window. They will be heading up in the next day or two to get in position for their summit bids.
Alpine Ascents posted:
It is time! It is 9pm and our climbers are just waking up to “breakfast” and hot drinks before departing on their summit push. They will check in with me periodically through the night as they make there way up the mountain and I will be checking in with you.
And from Adventure Consultants:
Tonight will see Adventure Consultants second summit bid on Mount Everest for the 2012 season. The wind has picked up somewhat since our first team summitted this morning but at this stage we are ‘all go’. Victor, Jakob and Mikaela will be having a final cup of tea and be starting to don their summit gear ready for the climb ahead. Victor and our Sherpa team are monitoring the wind levels and will make a final call at 10pm regarding whether they will attempt the summit tonight. Here in Base Camp it is a still night but reports are that it is blustery at the Col. Here’s hoping for a drop in wind speed and another successful summit for the AC team. We have certainly done our bit here in BC, burning juniper, throwing rice and chanting prayers around the Puja chorten.
I previously reported that Peak Freaks pulled their second team from this window due to increasing winds:
High wind reported by various members at the South Col so Tim is turning everyone around to Camp 2 this morning to wait for the next window on the 23rd/24th. This is the same scenario how it played out last season. We have plenty of oxygen in our contingency plan offer two attempts if need be and this is a need be situation in avoiding the potential for frostbite.
On the North, 70 year-old Bill Burke is leaving for the summit as well. He will have some company, maybe another 50 attempting that cold and windy side tonight.
Best of luck to all!
Memories are Everything