Breaking Sunday 30 April: Ueli Steck dies on Nuptse acclimatising for Everest-Lhotse traverse
Posted on Saturday 29 April:
It has been another good week on both sides for Everest. The emerging headlines for Everest 2017 can be summed up in one word: wind.
As I will develop in this update, the winds across the Himalaya this spring are making progress towards the summits from Everest to Dhaulagiri challenging.
There are a few stories that are capturing my attention: Climbers discussing why they are climbing, others with big goals acknowledging the risks, and the ones who perhaps should not be there at all.
But again, the word of the day is : wind!
This post today from IMG Climber James Brooman captures it all:
Overall the season continues in good form, in spite of these winds. There are a few delays and we will have to wait to see how the next week unfolds with respect to how the winds impact the ropes getting fixed to the summit.
Coughs, Sprains and Diarrhea
Let’s start with a report from EverestER, the volunteer medical clinic on the Nepal side. Looks to be busy, in other words… “normal”:
Busy Busy! We have seen well over 200 patients so far, 130 of those have been Nepali. We have sent 8 patients down for further care by helicopter plus a number who have walked down for faster recovery (these walking patients mostly suffering from lower respiratory infections.) The most frequent visits have been for respiratory issues (viral infections, sore throats, pneumonia.)
We are seeing increasing numbers of high altitude cough since the climbers are climbing and sleeping higher now. Most recently evacuations have included patients with icefall trauma, suspected intestinal bleeding, high altitude pulmonary edema. We’ve been called for home/tent visits for patients with back pain and a few with severe diarrhea and dehydration.
There have been several injuries from broken wrists, to fractured ankles to broken legs. Most of these from slipping or falling on slick surfaces – not from avalanches or serac releases. This is part of climbing Everest and not all that unusual. As I well know, accidents do happen in the mountains! 🙂
South Side Winds
The winds are stalling some teams. It is smart to hold up and not put yourself in harsh environments when you know the forecast. These high winds seem to have been forecasted by the services thus far. There is stratification of winds based on altitude – normal – so it is common to have no winds at base camp, mild winds at C2 and gusting to 70 mph at C3, only 2,000 feet higher. I got caught in this kind of scenario in 2011 making for an extremely uncomfortable night for Kami and I.
The wind is ripping across the Himalayas today. Winds tearing through south side Everest basecamp with gusts at 20 to 50 mph for 2 days. april 17.
And yesterday, Friday 28 April, Jim posted on Facebook about their delay to start a rotation to Camp 3:
UPDATE : Winds up high expected to be 50 to 60 knots by time we get there. So, for safety sake our departure is now DELAYED. Standing by in basecamp to see what weather does. Tough to take, but it’s part of the high altitude climbing world. Thanks everyone.
A fun blog to follow is that of James Brooman with IMG. He is climbing without supplemental oxygen which is a bit unusual for a member of a commercial team. I have been reading his blogs and am extremely impressed with his strength. He is climbing at “Sherpa Speed”, similar to David Tait with the Himex team. James posted on his climb from C2 to C3, that took a swift 2:45.
It was awkward climbing but we made steady, uncomfortable progress to lower Camp 3 at 7,000m / 21,000ft. A group of our team’s Sherpa were carrying loads to our camp, and we climbed alongside them, almost maintaining their speed! We reached lower Camp 3 in 2h 45 mins. I felt happy with that effort as another team (carrying tents etc I will admit) took 10+ hours to reach that spot the previous day. It gave me a positive benchmark of my abilities for the first time, and left me optimistic. Some of the Sherpa even nicknamed me ‘Khumbu Dorje’ – translated as ‘Khumbu Strong!’ That was a genuine honor!!
In any event, James’s blog is the Blog of the Day for his recent Q&A about his attempt. Well done, candid, confident with a bit of humility, which I always admire. Here is an excerpt on if he will have oxygen with him, just in case:
Definitely. Plus a mask and all I need to get me back down with it. Also emergency medicines, color coded so we don’t mess up when we are hypoxic. I also carry a radio so we are in permanent contact with base camp (and we check in during each climb). So there are multiple safety nets.
Climbing with a Purpose
Speaking of David Tait, he is one of the few members, aka members, aka foreigners to reach C3 this year. In his usual eloquent style, David writes about climb and fighting the harsh 2017 winds. He also touches on his reason for climbing – child abuse of which David was a victim. This post is a must read this weekend. An except:
The winds were brutal and attacked me from my left. I tried covering my ears and face, but despite my best efforts the blow-torch burn of intense cold penetrated the smallest of gaps, apparently leaving me with a touch of “frost-nip” on my cheekbone. The skin has gone an attractive deathly white colour in a precise strip where the blowtorch cold gained access. This delightful new look will test even Vanessa’s love!
I went through what no child should but too many do. Many children go through so much more than I – a fact that is hard for even me to comprehend. There is not one day that I do not somehow relive the events of so long ago, my personal mood surging and plunging in concert. Some probably think, “how can an 8 month period in ones childhood have such a long lasting and devastating impact”?
North Side Winds
Adventure Peaks made the climb to the North Col and reported on the winds this past week:
After an exhilarating 6 days at ABC, 6400m the team are back at base camp. The winds coming over the North Col were like a freight train but they had an amazing time walking on the glacier, practising rope techniques and on a clear day getting to the North Col at 7100m. Our Sherpas have been busy carrying loads of oxygen and tents and in 4 days the team will return and try to tag 7800m before the final summit push in mid May.
Continuing with the wind theme, Jon Gupta posted about their night at ABC on the north side with perhaps a bit TMI 🙂 :
Our second night at ABC 6400m & we both slept well. I slept really well except waking twice – the 1 time I was genuinely concerned that the tent was going to blow away with me inside it & the other when I was bursting for a pee & filled 900ml of my 1L plastic pee bottle in one go! For the past 3-4 days it has been super windy on the North Side. Plumes of cloud are constantly ripping off the summit of the mountain & massive gusts come cantering down the glacier into ABC! I’m surprised that I’ve only seen 1 tent physically fly away!
Also on the North side, George Kashouh returned from a good climb to the North Col. His comments on weight loss are interesting and 100% normal. Almost everyone loses weight on Everest – men more than women. My rule of thumb is if you lose more than 10% of your body weight before the summit push, you may lose too much strength to summit thus keeping weight on is critical. If anyone on Everest were to ask my advice for what to do right now, I say: eat, eat, eat!
George’s posts on Facebook have been some of the best and most complete from the Tibet side. Also his website is pretty interesting. He attempted the south last year and got turned back by weather so this has become personal for him! He is with SummitClimb. Click the link to see his excellent posts and photos:
The 15 mile hike from base camp to ABC starts off in a gentle valley and eventually goes over some annoying scree trails. The frozen lake and goat were found right outside of base camp. There were some amazing views of the Mt. Everest as well ice formations on the three day trek. Once at ABC, we started some ice climbing training until we actually went up the North Col to 23,000 feet. I’m feeling exceptionally well both here at base camp and when I was at high altitude. I probably lost about 5lbs on that rotation and if I can limit the next rotation to no more than 5lbs as well I’ll be looking pretty good. If we get a chance to attempt to summit this year, it would be within four weeks now!
I really like this brief interview with Transcend Adventures member Aparna Prabhudesai where at the 1:00 minute mark she talks about her thoughts on being on Everest, it really captures the mood for me.
On a rather concerning subject that I continue to touch on this year, inexperienced climbers on Everest. Tim Mosedale, out of the UK, posted on Facebook his observations of a somewhat large team who was struggling with basic kit aka gear at the base of the Lhotse Face. An excerpt but I invite you to read the entire post:
Even worse … at ‘crampon point’ we saw members having their harnesses being put on for them by their Sherpa staff and crampons being applied for the first ever time (or in one case crampons being removed to then be put on the right feet). When you overlay this with the knowledge that of a team of 14, 10 are trying to summit without oxygen it all adds up to a potentially toxic mix.
Jon Gupta weighs in on the inexperience on the north side as he and Mollie Hughes who summited from the south is looking to be the youngest Brit to summit from both sides. While he and Mollie were headed towards the North Col, Jon observed member with only Sherpa support and limited altitude experience:
For advise I am only to happy, but for guiding & safety this is not my duty to anyone other than Mollie, Lhakpa & Lila. I will not go into this anymore right now – other than I had to tell a few of the team that I am not responsible for them & that they need to make a their own decisions with their own Sherpas…tough when all you have to draw on is Stok Kangri (think Kili).
An Early Summit?
So, in spite of the wids, climbers on both sides continue to reach almost 7000 meters for acclimatization. Some are spending more time that they planned at a camp when the winds delay a climb up or down but that is part of climbing an 8000 meter mountain. As I noted yesterday, winds are playing havoc throughout Nepal this spring with climbing ambitions.
The big question is whether the high winds will delay the fixing of the ropes to the summit. It was appearing that they might be fixed by the end of April on both sides but now it might be a few days later. Not a huge issue either way as teams have more acclimatizing to compete.
I always smile when I read on someone’s post talk of “an early summit this year”. Every year after a period of good weather and fast rope fixing progress, climbers get excited and project an early summit … and as history has shown most summits occur between May 17 to 22 year in, year out.
A Windy Forecast?
Most of the small talk on both sides, all camps is when will the wind stop? High winds on the north are especially cold, but thus far that has not seemed to be an issue this year.
This chart from Meteoexploration is a computer generated wind forecast so I would not make any decisions from it as compared to a professional forecaster however it does show how the winds differ from different elevation. You can see in the next to the bottom chart, that winds near base camp are between 5 to 25 km/h and on the summit gust to over 55 km/hr. There does appear to be a small window around the 30 April, Sunday into Monday, but we will see what the real conditions are on Everest this weekend.
Adventure Consultants Nepal team gives a hint on when the ropes to the summit might be fixed:
Meanwhile our Sherpa team continue to work hard, and some of them will be involved in fixing ropes from the South Col to the summit, beginning in a few days. This is one of the key parts of the season, and Adventure Consultants are proud to have our Sherpa team involved.
In the meantime, best wishes to all the climbers on all the routes. Stay warm when the winds gusts!
I want to thank my readers this season for their thoughtful and polite comments. Each year since 2002 when I started writing about Everest, I have been gratified by the response. I do this out of a love for mountaineering, and to raise Alzheimer’s awareness, not for a personal profit.
Each year 2 million people read my site and during Everest coverage it explodes to over 50,000 a day. My readers – you – include climbers themselves plus their partners, spouse, families and friends. Some of you have no desire to climb Everest or any mountain but have a love of adventure that this coverage helps quench.
My promise has always been to be honest and candid in my writing and factual in my reporting. I try hard to not sensationalize the occasional crazy or tragic event. Sometimes I mess something up, but you understand the concept of the “fog of climbing”.
Please keep the comments and questions coming and thanks again for being a mature following.
Memories are Everything
This Weeks Posts:
Why this coverage?
I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I am just one guy who loves climbing. With 35 serious climbing expeditions including four Everest trips under my belt and a summit in 2011, I use my site to share those experiences, demystify Everest each year and bring awareness to Alzheimer’s Disease. My mom died from this disease in 2009 as have four of my aunts. It was a heartbreaking experience that I never want anyone to go through thus my ask for donations to non-profits where 100% goes to them, and nothing to me.