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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Memories are Everything