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May 032017
 

With the winds finally calming, teams are making serious progress reaching 7000 meters for acclimatization, meanwhile the Sherpas staged a protest at Everest Base Camp.

There is massive movements on both sides of Everest today with teams scrambling to get their acclimatization rotations competed in anticipation of an emerging summit window.

As I covered in my recent post How to Manage the Everest Crowds, there are four basic strategies:

  • Get out early
  • Go Late
  • Goldilocks Timing
  • Break into Small Sub Teams and Go Fast and Nimble

Not to be repetitive but this chart shows the historical summits days with 16-22 May being the sweet spot.

Everest Summit Days

Everest Summit Days. Data from Himalayan Database

An Extremely COLD Summit Window Near?

The word of the season has been wind but that looks to be relaxing a bit with a summit window nearing. I reached out to Chris Tomer of Tomer Weather Solutions for his thoughts on what we can expect. Chris provides weather forecasts to climbers around the world. He told me today:

Big summit window opening up next week. Before that happens we’ll see a surge of high summit wind Thursday-Friday

Climbers may get blasted at Camp 3 then winds decrease significantly starting on Sunday and stay exceptionally light most of next week.

Why? A large ridge of high pressure builds in and the jet stream retreats. We’re talking 1-2 standard deviations above normal – that’s strong enough to hold the summit window open for 5 days straight, May 8-12.

Is there a fly in the ointment? There are a couple chances for light snow during that timeframe. But, the real overriding issue is the cold. Summit air temps are currently running minus 40 Fahrenheit. Wind chill is even colder.

Do summit temps warm at all next week? Yes but only a small amount. I’m forecasting summit air temps between minus 30 and minus 35. Climbers will be walking the razor’s edge with gear limits.

Crowd Discussion

Crowds are always a popular subject during the Everest season. This year, the Nepal Government issued a record 371 permits to foreigners. If you add in a 1:1 support of Sherpas that has around 742 people on Everest’s south side this spring, a record.

These numbers have driven me to make more than one comment on crowds and now the mainstream press are writing articles about it

With the season halfway completed, an estimated 10% of foreigners, aka members aka members have left the mountain – normal attrition. Global Rescue says they have taken 35 climber off the mountain with various health issues.

So considering the total the members who have left plus their support staff also not climbing, we can reduce the climbers attempting the summit into the 600s and we can further reduce that by another 10% who will not try once their summit window emerges thus look for 2017 to be similar to the previous record year in 2013 at 537 summits, perhaps a bit higher but not 1,000 humans attempting the summit as I previously imagined.

However, the big issue that remains is if there are only a few summit days, say under five, compared to the historical average of 11 suitable weather days for a summit. If you have hundreds of people trying to squeeze into a few days, that is when trouble emerges. 2012 was the case study for this scenario

So have the crowds been a problem thus far on the south? Not according to Ben Jones with Alpine Ascents:

Another crowd free great climb up to Camp 1 today. The team did great and made good time. We are resting in Camp 1 now and will head up to Camp 2 tomorrow.

Khumbu Icefall 2017. courtesy of Ben Jones

Khumbu Icefall 2017. courtesy of Ben Jones

On the north side, they have a larger than usual number of climbers around 200 – not all that big especially on a mountain like Everest. Update: Zeb Blais, lead guide for Alpenglow provided these figures for the Tibet side:

I just talked to Emma, one of the top CTMA agents on the Tibet side. Here’s what she said: “the climbers are less than before (2016). There are 170 climbers and 180 sherpas to climb Mt. Everest this year

I will be using 350 total humans on the north side henceforth.

Adrian Ballinger, who is attempting to summit from the north without supplemental oxygen made a post using the attached photo showing “crowds” on the north:

This photo is from the North Side today. Only 200 climbers total will attempt this side this season. That’s hundreds or thousands less than other popular mountains (Rainer, Denali, Mt. Blanc, Matterhorn, etc.). The photo – a coincidence that 1/3 of this year’s climbers chose to climb to 23k today. Our solution? Wait until tomorrow. The route will be empty. As experienced climbers we could also choose to climb an alternative route, or just leave the fixed lines and climb as an independent roped team. No drama.

North Col Wall 2017. courtesy of Adrian Ballinger

North Col Wall 2017. courtesy of Adrian Ballinger

But more to Adrian’s Point is that it is not the crowds but the experience of the climbers, a subject I have hit hard this season based on too many reports to cite of “climbers” with Kili as their highest, not knowing how to attach crampons or put on harnesses. This is the real threat on Everest in modern times. Adrian notes:

The real but harder to visualize issue is whether some of these climbers are too inexperienced for the route. This is what slows things down and adds risk to all. Logistics companies (often locally based and managed) taking inexperienced climbers on mountains they are not ready for is an issue worldwide. As an industry we need to take responsibility for ourselves if nations will not, and create standards for 8000m peak guiding. Most important – experience and training requirements for members (previous 6,7 and 8k peaks), high altitude workers (@khumbuclimbingschool) and guides (@amga_1979 and @ifmga).

OK, moving on ….

South Summits?

David Tait though climbing with Himex, often goes alone posted his intentions to leave EBC on 4th May:

Hi – I leave Base Camp at 2am tomorrow morning initially for C2, then C3, C4 and hopefully summit over the next few days. I will be without comms bar Satellite Phone for the duration so Vanessa will be providing updates. Thanks for all the support so far – the kids, Nspcc and I appreciate it very much.

North Update:

Ricky Munday with SummitClimb talked about picking up trash around the North side base camp and preparing to go higher:

It was a day of eating, resting & packing kit for the move to north Col 7,010m tomorrow morning. We also cleared 10 rice sacks of trash from previous expeditions from around our camp. We’ll sleep at north Col for a night and will try to climb a little higher the following day. We’ve negotiated a deal with group Sherpas to carry 5kgs up to north Col and then subsequent camps. This will significantly help our energy expenditure. A full oxygen cylinder weighs 4kgs, and we’ll start using oxygen on our summit rotation from the north Col. After this rotation, most of us will leave BC to spend a few days at a village at 4,300m to try to recover in a more oxygen-rich environment before our summit rotation. If I reach the north Col, it will be the highest I’ve ever been, and the highest I’ve ever slept.

Japanese Climber Nobukazu Kuriki  posted a nice video from ABC on the north side. While I have no idea what they are saying (it’s in Japanese), it is a great example of what life is like for both the climber and their base camp support team – plus some awesome views of Everest’s North Face: He posted:

Today, I reached the altitude of 7,300m. I’ve got to the advanced base camp of the Normal Route at the Tibetan side, a little while ago.I get tired out, but I’m fine. Today I went to a point of the altitude of 7,300m, and I could check the route of Japanese Couloir of the North Wall side. I’ve checked a considerable amount of blue ice, so I’m going to climb cautiously.

Last night at North Col, my SpO2 was 55, but it recovered till 69 in this morning. During the acclimatizing, it was 75, which is quite good. Now I’m at Advanced Base Camp and my SpO2 is 87, so it means the acclimatizing was successful. I’m going take more time to keep improving my condition.

Sherpa Protest

In one of the more inexplicable decisions by the Nepal Department of Tourism, Sherpas are no longer receiving summit certificates.

Even though they summit, according to the outdated, “Climbing Regulations” that states in Section 32:

The Ministry shall provide a certificate of mountaineering expedition to the mountaineering expedition team and the member of such team for successful mountaineering expedition in the format as prescribed in schedule

Apparently this clause has been interpreted to not include Sherpas!

This was first reported in the Himalayan Times in July 2016 and Laxman Sharma, Director at DoT’s Mountaineering Section said then:

“Not only on Mt Everest, other Sherpas who guided climbers to all peaks above 6,500 metres, can’t be given summit certificates,” Sharma said. According to him, the department has initiated the process to amend the regulation. “The amendment may ensure the Sherpas’ right to government certificates for their successful summit,” he said.

However, nothing has changed in almost a year.

Sherpa protest at EBC 2017. courtesy of Mingma Sherpa

Sherpa protest at EBC 2017. courtesy of Mingma Sherpa

Yesterday, 3 May 2017, several hundred Sherpa gathered at Everest Base Camp (Nepal side) to raise awareness around this silly rule in hopes to receive certificates from last year and of course this year.

This brings back memories of when the Sherpas protested life and medical insurance coverage in 2014. That protest, along with the deaths of 16 in the Icefall, brought an abrupt end to the season.

The Himalayan Times reported yesterday’s protest may have been successful:

Dinesh Bhattarai, director general at the DoT, said he also received a call from the base camp today demanding summit certificates. “The ministry will expedite its process to amend the regulation,” he said. The government was committed to addressing the genuine concerns of sherpa climbers, he added. According to him, the new amendment to the regulation will recognise high-altitude workers as a part of the expedition to get certificates. Though 256 sherpas scaled Everest last spring season, DoT only issued certificates to expeditions and their members. Not only on Mt Everest, other sherpas who guided climbers to all peaks above 6,500 metres since 2016, have not been given summit certificates.

We will see if this happens or not.

Not only is this a silly rule, it shows absolutely no respect for the contributions of the Sherpas. There is no justification for not giving any person who stands on a summit, a summit certificate, regardless of their role on the expedition.

Language Barrier

I always enjoy climbing on an international team. I get exposed to new thoughts, different cultures, new foods and the odd expression! I am still trying to master the phrase “Bob’s your uncle”!

In any event, this comment on a recent Adventure Consultants post made me smile. AC is on both Everest and Dhaulagiri this spring and doing well:

Today’s light moment in the icefall, which can often seem demanding and serious, came when I asked Lionel if a rope was ‘knot free’ for a rappell or abseil. Lionel replied the rope was free, and I again asked him if it was ‘knot free’, and he again replied the rope was free. Realising the confusion with our trans-Atlantic English I changed approach, and we laughed about it afterwards. For the record, the rope was free of knots and good for a rappell.

Double Back your Harness!

OK, get ready for a lot of activity on both sides starting soon. The Sherpas might get the ropes to the summit by the end of the week, the teams will rest at base camps waiting for the window and some will push to be in the first wave – even in marginal weather.

Sending my best to all for a positive and safe experience regardless of the results.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

  16 Responses to “Everest 2017: Sherpa Unrest while Climbers Rush to Acclimatize”

  1.  

    As always, thank you for the great explanation!??

  2.  

    Hi Alan,
    Can you not plug Global Rescue in your blog please? I’m one of the HRA docs at Pheriche this season and we’ve had multiple issues with the way Global Rescue treat Nepali patients. Happy to discuss privately, but probably best not too on your blog.
    Cheers

    •  

      HI Brent, thanks for your input. I have used GR successfully in the past and know many guide companies who recommend them along with TravelEx. Both are business so my experience is you need to follow their rules precisely to be covered.

  3.  

    Just to clarify Alan, and being English: Bob’s your uncle is a catch phrase dating back to 1887, when, in a blatant case of favoritism, British Prime Minister Robert Cecil (a.k.a. Lord Salisbury) decided to appoint his nephew Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of Chief Secretary for Ireland.

    So “Bob’s your uncle” is another way of saying “your success is guaranteed.”
    I know I sound a bit geeky here 🙂 Just for your info Alan, Fanny does not mean your bum or backside in Britain, unfortunately, its something else….

  4.  

    Bobs your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt, Must have been a Brit, Love the blog and your website is a great source of info, Only been to EBC/Kala Pattar and next year Mera, Good luck and look forward to reading both yours and others progress

  5.  

    Great post Alan. Only in Nepal would the Sherpa be denied a summit certificate. You can almost see the tiny wheels trying to spin inside the bureaucrat’s brain who came up with that nonsense.

    I prefer “Robert is your father’s brother” over “Bob’s your uncle”!

  6.  

    Stop all the talk about inexperienced people as the root of all evil. You guys make it sound like some secret club only YOU can belong to. You’re a team. Help your teammates.

    •  

      So you’d give up your chance to scale the highest mountain in the world, which you may have saved for all your life, trained the hardest in your life for over a year, put your family and business on hold for this time, so you can maybe give up your dream and risk your life to help someone that isn’t fully prepared or taken shortcuts and ended up in difficulties, then get accused of not doing enough to help a dying person (not the fact that everybody is dying above 8000m),

      •  

        It’s called humanity.

        •  

          Yes, it is called humanity, but there is also reality. When people try to climb Everest without proper training, they put others at risk. They have then placed their needs ahead of the common good and then they are the ones who are lacking humanity.

        •  

          It is, but saving yourself should come first, do you give up your life to help someone who if they done their research properly would’ve known to get experience to know how to deal with most issue that can happen on big mountains?

    •  

      Thanks for the feedback Marcus. For me this is not about exclusivity, it is 100% about safety – both the climber and their teammates. In the past few years, there have been avoidable deaths of inexperienced climbers – alone and isolated by their own decision making. Everest is not the place to learn how to climb, nor the place to see how your body performs at extreme altitude.

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