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May 142016
 
Everest and Lhotse from the Khumbu TrekEverest and Lhotse from the Khumbu Trek

Gambling that the current high winds will let up during the summit climb, multiple climbers and at least one team, Adventure Global are on their push to summit Everest. Most teams however are looking at topping out on the 18th or 19th of May.

Fast Start to the Season

After a fast start to the season with an impressive team of Sherpas fixing the ropes to the summit on May 11th, a couple of high profile climbers who were under the radar at base camp, made a stealth climb to summit on the heels of the Sherpas to claim first foreigner summit status.

What I called Summit Wave 1, on May 12th, the UK’s Kenton Cool got his 12th summit while guiding member Robert Richard Lucas. Sherpa Guides Pemba Bhote and Dorchi Gyalzen summited with them. 13 minutes later, Mexican climber David Liano Gonzalez and Pasang Rita Sherpa also summited. This was Liano’s fifth summit and he was planning on not using supplemental oxygen.

Next was Wave 2, when targeting a very short weather window, climbers from Himalayan Experience (Himex), Jagged Globe and Asian Trekking pushed thru high winds and some felt, deep snow, to put 25 people on the summit on May 13th. All climbers are reported to be back at either Camp 2 or Base Camp. Greg Paul with Himex, summited at age 61 with two artificial knees.

Today, Wave 3, May 14th more climbers are fighting high winds as they move towards the summit. I will post an update on their  status when more information is available.

Summit Conditions

It takes about seven days from Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side to reach the summit and back: climb to Camp 2 and spend 2 nights, climb to Camp 3 and spend a night, then climb to South Col and leave that same day for the summit, hopefully summit early the next morning and return to South Col or Camp 2 and finally return to base camp.

Climbers can tolerate poor weather on the first and last couple of days but for the summit push, they need winds lower than 30 mph/48 kph. Wind speeds higher than that can easily result in frostbite or worse. Lite snow is acceptable but when combined with high winds can create dangerous blizzard conditions and even following a fixed rope, can result in climbers getting lost or going too slowly to summit and using up all their supplemental oxygen.

Going too slowly and not turning around is one of the largest contributors to death while on the summit push.

Finally a condition called hoar frost can create dangerous conditions when the humidity from air, or even from climbers, crystallizes creating a thin layer of ice on surfaces, including a climber’s down suit, making everything look like an ice sculpture, obscuring visibility and creating cold conditions. This happened to several teams in 2012 on their summit push forcing most to re.

Most reputable teams a weather forecast from sources like Michael Fagin in Seattle, Meteotest in Switzerland or freelance sources like Chris Tomer in Denver. These provide guidance as to incoming fronts and wind speeds. Other teams “draft” off the larger well established teams saving a tiny amount of money relative to the overall expense but increasing their risks., not to mention poor style.

Tibet

As of this post, the ropes have not been set to the summit by the Chinese on the Tibet side. This has stalled most summit plans. Seven Summits Club made an attempt but stopped lacking fixed ropes and poor weather conditions a few days ago.

Meanwhile there are climbers above the North Col, mostly those acclimatizing while attempting to climb without supplemental oxygen, but there have been no summits in 2016 thus far. I expect to see a massive push once the ropes are in and a good weather window emerges, perhaps as soon as May 18/19, similar to the south.

Still Early

To state the obvious, it is still early for Everest. I have posted this chart before of the summits from Nepal but you will see a significant number of summits well into lateish May. And on the North where there is little worry about a melting Icefall that needs to be maintained by the Icefall Doctors, summits can regularly go into early June.

This is a time when the leadership of the teams must explain this and exercise patience. Joining the rush based on peer pressure can be a huge mistake.

Everest Summit Days

Everest Summit Days. Data from Himalayan Database

Normal Season

As I have been saying for a few weeks now, Everest 2016 continues to behave like a ‘normal’ season down to the weather conditions. Also as noted, there have been warm temps at base camp but these warm conditions have not had a serious impact on the upper mountain and in fact, the snow conditions are more like a cold season up high with a layer snow at the South Col which is usually barren rock.

With at least another 200 foreigners and that many Sherpas still waiting for their summit opportunity, the hope is for several days of low winds. This will allow teams to spread out and reduce potential crowds.

My sincere hopes for a continued safe season for all.

Climb On!

Alan

Memories are Everything

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  2 Responses to “Everest/Lhotse 2016: Fast Summit Start Slows with Wind”

  1.  

    Safe Journey for All members & Sherpa Teamz. Also Team Russell.

  2.  

    Safe Journey for All members & Sherpa Teamz. Also Team Russell.