What can I say but 2016 continues to progress like the seasons of old – acclimatization rotations getting completed, ropes put up to the Cols and soon will be to the summits. Teams are eagerly awaiting that spat of calm winds that define the summit window.
The summit window is rumored to begin around May 11, but in my opinion, only the overly eager will push to summit at that time as it is still extremely cold near 9000 meters and frostbite risks are real. Waiting another week is not a big deal. With the good overall weather, there should be – should be – a long series of suitable weather windows this year thus crowding should not be an issue on the Nepal side of the mountain.
The Lhotse Face is reported to be hard packed causing some climbers a bit of leg fatigue as they need to occasionally kick their crampons into the hard surface.
Snow is reported at the South Col, a but unusual as this area is usually wind blown. However the Triangular Face between the Col and the Balcony should have a layer of snow keeping loose rocks in place. Climbers will still wear helmets.
On the South, team have spent nights as high as Camp 3 and on the North, the North Col.
Many teams on the Nepal side are keeping the helicopter companies very busy by chartering choppers to take them to the lower villages for a few nights of rest and recreation; some teams have gone as low as Kathmandu and stayed in 5 star hotels. The cost can range from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on destination – one way – and is usually split among 3 to 5 people
This has become quite common in the last 5 years. But it was Anatoli Boukreev who coined the phrase “touch grass” before the summit, and by that he meant walking down to one of the villages in the Khumbu, not flying 🙂
Family and friends back home are usually starting to worry about the summit push, and rightfully so. By now, each climber has seen how they perform at relatively high altitudes – Camps 2 to Camp 3 or near 7000 meters. The guide blogs only talk about “how impressed they are with the strength of their team”. This is part of the letterhead and a standard comment each season.
By reading the individual blogs you can get the real sense that the Lhotse Face is hard, the Icefall dangerous, and their bodies are fatigued. None of this is out of the ordinary. The real test is on summit night.
The doubts about health and skills are now amplified. But this is where all the training (and hopefully experience) will come into play. Now is the time.
Between now and then, the climbers need to rest, to recover from pushing themselves. They need to get their minds in the right place to push when needed and put all the small aches and pains behind them – to ignore the distractions and focus on the task at hand.
This is not easy. This is another point where the team dynamics begin to play a role. By selecting whom you spend time around may make or break your mental ability to deal with summit night – postive will beget positive, negative, well will kill you.
With the summit bids starting late next week, the next 7 days will be key.
Here is a recap that I have on my team location page:
- Season moves along nicely with no major issues
- Sherpas are ferrying oxygen and supplies to North and South Col
- Many teams have take a short trip back to Namche or even Kathmandu before the summit bid
- Rumors have ropes to summit by May 10, now to South Col on Nepal side
- More rumors have summit window on May 11
- Teams slept at North Col and completed their acclimitization
- Rope fixed on North side to 27,000 feet
Memories are Everything