Heavy snow greeted climbers as they finished the trek to Everest Base Camp on Nepal’s side or started the drive to Chinese Base Camp on Tibet’s side. But there were no reported problems and teams will start their acclimatization rotations through the Khumbu Icefall this week.
This past week teams made steady progress through the Khumbu, medicine once they got to Lukla. There were multiple flight delays that forced some teams to drive to villages closers to Lukla then to take helicopters. This was more of an annoyance than a huge problem as they were soon on the trek and enjoying pastry in Namche.
The Nepal Ministry of Tourism has released the permit numbers showing 28 permits for Everest for 299 westerners from 41 countries. Remember that for 2014, there are still group permits whereas in 2015 single permits will be the norm. This year the permits ranged from three to 15 members. Large teams will obtain multiple permits.
In recent years, there have been 2.3 Sherpa for every western climber thus for 2014 this implies we will see about 1,000 climbers on the Southeast Ridge Route, about the same as in 2013 when there were 315 westerner climbers from 29 teams. Some of the largest western teams have a dedicated set of Sherpa who carry loads and establish the high camps while an additional set of Sherpa serve as “Personal Sherpa” only climbing with western members. So if a team has 30 western climbers, there may be a 60 or more Sherpa in support making for an overall team of 100 people including cooks and porters!
According to the Himalayan Database, since 1950, 20,732 people have been above base camp with 6,785 summiting or 40% success rate. Since 2000, the summit success rate increased to 52%, thus for 2014 we can expect well over 500 summits from both Sherpas and Westerners just from Nepal. In 2013, 308 of the 467 westerner climbers made the summit or 66% from both sides.
For 2014, there are 48 women climbing out of the 299 western climbers or 16%. Historically, women have represented 6% of the total summits. The oldest person attempting Everest this year is American Bill Burke at 72 from the north side and the youngest is Matt Moniz at 16 from the south.
The Ministry said that Everest represents US$ 2.9 million in income to Nepal this year. They continued their heavy handed threats about trash collection with this statement:
“There is no excuse and it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, what your physical abilities or inabilities, as a climber you must submit the rubbish at the Base Camp,” Madhusudan Burlakoti, Ministry Spokesperson said.
Every team has gone through a briefing educating them on the new rules this year. Also, the Ministry said a remote office has been established at base camp consisting of 16 Government officials.
As expected there are multiple movies being made about Everest this year with the dominate feature being filmed by the Discovery Channel of Joby Ogwyn’s wingsuit flight off the summit. This will be a live event and I expect it to occur in early May, before the summit push of the main teams. The event is produced by NBC’s Peacock Productions entitled ‘Everest Wingsuite Live’ and estimated to cost US $10 million.
Other films noted by the Ministry include:
- Julian Mocklinghoff’s documentary on blind Austrian climber Andy Holzer’s expedition titled ‘Andreas Osterreich to Everest’
- Google’s documentary ‘Everest Story Camp 2014’
- Andrew Awes, USA, filming Khumbu region for his documentary ‘America Unearthed, Bigfoot Captured’
- Russell Brice’s Himex is hosting a team shooting the documentary ‘Sherpa in the Shadow of the Mountains’
- Michael Roberts of New Zealand, shooting a documentary called ‘Everest’
- Emma Bernhard of UK, filming a documentary ‘One Planet Mountains’ in Everest region
Snow and Sickness
It snowed off and on all week plus was a bit cold – all absolutely normal for this time of year. Another normal occurrence is getting sick.
You will read reports that everyone is doing great but a few reports will reveal the reality that almost every person who makes the trek to base camp will get diarrhea, runny noses, or a mild cough. And a few will get some serious gastrointestinal problems, high fever or chest infections.
No team, no matter how good they are, how long they have been going to Everest or how much they charge are immune. Even those who fly in trying to skip the trek will experience some period of adjustment. All normal, all part of the deal and all recoverable with the right ments and attitude.
Once at Everest Base Camp, the climbers settled into their routines. One issue that has been widely noted, or not, has been communication problems. A new Base Camp communication system was established through Mercantile Communications. This was supposed to proved a wireless system allowing climbers to sit comfortably in their own tent or perhaps the dining tent and type away on their laptops or smartphones.
In previous years, only a few teams offered wireless technology and that was through the satellite carriers like Thuraya, Immarsat or Iridium – at a very high price. It is not clear what is going wrong for 2014, but something is amiss with the new systems, and the old systems. Ncell, the dominate local mobile company in Nepal had offered service to base camp but even that seems to offline. One short reported cited “maintenance” on the tower at Gorak Shep.
The only reports that seem to be getting through reliably from base camp are voice updates using sat phones. Again, don’t worry about your friend or family – no news is good news. One step forward and ten steps back for 2014. Hopefully it will all get sorted soon.
Dave Hahn, RMI, phoned in this short update that represents what most teams are currently experiencing:
Hey, this is Dave Hahn calling from Mount Everest. We’re still doing voice dispatches. We don’t have internet connectivity yet. There is hope that we’ll have it in the next couple of days if they fix the cell tower down valley.
Things are going well up here. Our Sherpa team and our guide team went through the Icefall yesterday. Some of the first to go through the Khumbu Icefall for this season. We went to Camp 1 and came back down yesterday morning. All was well. Today the climbing team, went to Pumori Camp 1. Pumori is one of the beautiful mountains around base camp. Of course we didn’t go for the summit of that; it would be pretty technical. But going up to Camp 1 was good exercise and got us up to some altitude.
It wasn’t the day for being out in the hills. It was kind of snowy and gray but we made a good outing out of it. And then had an easy afternoon back here at base camp, so everything’s going well. The base camp is filling up. Lots of teams coming in now. So it’s getting a little bit more like regular Everest season by now. All for today. We’ll keep in touch.
Almost every guide service takes their members through an obstacle course set up near the base of the icefall. The course includes ladders and a fixed line. This is a pure practice session to get climbers used to working with the hardware they will use in the Khumbu Icefall, on the Lhotse Face and beyond.
Speaking of IMG, Ang Jangbu reported from base camp that over 50 Sherpa made carries into the Western Cwm with loads to establish Camp 1 and Camp 2. This consist of tents, food, stoves, fuel and more. Camp 2 is sometimes referred to as Advanced Base Camp due to the permanent nature of the camp with a full kitchen, cooks and sleeping tents that stay for the entire expedition period.
Eric Simonson, IMG, posted this update on the state of the Khumbu Icefall:
The route in the Icefall was slower than normal for them yesterday, since it has yet to be well established. After a few more days of use, the “trail” will improve. Jangbu says that the route goes more up the center of the Icefall this year, so is less threatened from rocks and ice avalanche coming off the west shoulder than in some of the past years when climbers were forced to the side of the Icefall by unrelenting crevasses.
IMG has been consistent in posting daily updates primarily due to their daily phone calls from base camp back to their headquarters in the US.
OK, so other than the communication problems, Everest 2014 appears to be normal. The route condition on the lower mountain through Camp 2 looks good, the weather is normal and the climbers excited – at least from little we have heard from them!
Memories are Everything