Everest continue to challenge teams on both sides with high winds and snow squalls. Some teams continue to push while others are content to stay put.
I finally have solid information on the number of climbers on Everest for 2017 – about 1,100 total on both sides, This includes foreigners and support staff climbing. You can add in another 10% who stay at the base camps to prepare meals and support the climbers.
The helicopter companies are busy once again ferrying climbers (and sightseers) to and from EBC on the Nepal side. China does not allow helicopters – yet. We are seeing individuals with health issues evacuated while others are starting to take choppers down valley to rest up and “touch grass” before their summit bids.
Bottom line: as we near the end of the first week of May, progress is about normal, the fixed lines will end up going to the summit a few days later than in recent years and the word of the season continues to be: wind.
Les Misérables – Everest Style
Jim Davidson who reached Camp 3 around 23,000 feet on the Lhotse Face yesterday mid day is dealing with tough conditions:
Safe at C 3 raging winds for hours. Brutal. 20 to 40 Mph gusts higher
Jim later messaged me to add that it was also very cold.
I recall a similar night in 2011. Kami Sherpa and I reached C3 in perfect weather but then the winds picked up and got stronger and stronger and when thought they couldn’t blow harder, they doubled!
We hunkered down inside the tent occasionally using our hands to keep it from imploding. Sitting in our sleeping bags, we were silent, the sound of the wind blocked our attempts to talk.
As the afternoon wore on, I noticed it was getting darker and darker even though the sun was still up. The wind was piling the snow around our tent, slowly blocking all the sunlight. Taking turns, we would put on our down suits and brave the gale to clear the snow from the outside tent walls.
It was a long night.
Everest Climber Totals
One of the biggest challenges in reporting on Everest is getting accurate numbers for foreigners, Sherpas, Tibetans on the mountain. The Nepal Department of Tourism publishes their stats, albeit with adjustments throughout the season, but the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA), does not – at least not that I have found. If anyone knows of a good source, please let me know.
I was taken to task by the Alpenglow guide, Zeb Blais, for making the north seem crowded. While it has appeared the north side had more climbers this year, getting accurate numbers has always been tough given the secrecy of the Chinese. In any event, I always try to be accurate and thanks to Zeb, I finally have some accurate numbers, at least according to his sources 🙂 :
I just talked to 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.” A difference of 30 climbers may not be huge on the South side, but that is significant on the North. Please do your best to research this properly before you publish. Your blogs make it seem like there isn’t a huge difference in numbers on the South vs North, which is not true.
I have tried to be diligent to talk about the differences in total humans on both sides using the rough estimates of 1,000 on south and 200 on the north, so with Zeb’s help, I now have something a bit more concrete.
Update: Zeb corrected his correction of my numbers with more accurate figures from the CTMA. These are now reflected below.
For the north the total human number appears to be about 306 and helps frame the difference. Everest south now appears to have 373 Everest permits plus about the same number of Sherpas for 746 nearly double the north. I’ll be using these numbers henceforth:
Bob’s your Uncle 🙂
The news that the Nepal Department of Tourism has been refusing to issue summit permits to the Sherpas (see yesterday’s post) generated a lot of outrage expressed in the comments – rightfully so. However, please understand that 99.999% of all climbers and teams respect the hard work performed by the Sherpas. Adventure Consultants Mike Robert sad it well today:
Twenty of our strong Climbing Sherpa headed to Camp 2 today, for an extended stay. The plan is to carry oxygen, tents and supplies to Camp 4 on the South Col in preparation for summit attempts. The effort of climbing from C2-C4 and back in a day is superhuman and without this staunch ‘behind the scenes’ work, simply put, there would be no summit bids.
The Indian team, Transcend, made this post on the difficult weather on the Tibet side along with another good view of climbers on the North Wall below the North Col:
our Sherpas could not establish Camp 2&3 today due to snow fall during night and have returned to ABC. Sherpa team will go again after 2 days. Meanwhile, our climbers went to a height of 7500m before returning to camp 1 and finally descended to ABC today.
As we approach the first summit window that I discussed in yesterday’s post, one of the more serious concerns revolve around slow climbers or worse entire teams that are slow. This mass of humanity clogs the route and jams everyone up. Often it is difficult, dangerous or even impossible to pass them on some terrain. I have used XXXX instead of the team name.
Alex Abramov owner and lead guide of 7 Summits Club made this remark about teams on the north side in a post:
And then the XXXX started: 35 members and 45 Sherpas. The picture is not for the faint of heart. Some XXXX go so slow that doing about one step per 30 seconds. And then stand, breathe. You know what’s even more amazing… they will reach the top.
Still on the north side, Ricky Munday with SummitClimb made this observation as they headed towards the North Col:
Heading up, we had to stop for 10 minutes as a large group of XXXX descended – some of them could hardly stand and needed Sherpa to detach and re-attach their safety line.
To say the obvious, climbing Everest is tough – even before you get to the summit!
Positive Attitude at Altitude
I really like a post by Ricky Munday as they reached the North Col, his personal highest. He discusses the difficulty and doubts. This line says it all:
I now have a growing sense of confidence that I can do this, I just need to hang in there and keep believing.
Coughs, Asthma and more
I am seeing several reports of people with upper respiratory problems. The infamous Khumbu Cough seems to get everyone from time to time. Most recover but it becomes a problem for some.
Also asthma can be a problem for some climbers. Last year I succumbed to “exercised induced asthma” at Camp 2 and ended my Lhotse attempt because I couldn’t breath when I moved – a minor detail 😕
Some climbers will retreat to a village at a lower altitude where the is more available oxygen in the air. This helps aid in recovery, but not always. For others, it is the end of their climb.
No matter, breathing difficulties are tough not only on the body, but also on the mind.
I am always amazed at how climbers can overcome their personal challenges, Sean Swarmer summited Everest after losing a lung to cancer in 2002. He was told he had two weeks to live at one point in his cancer journey.
But not everyone stays away once they leave, Amazingly, Blake Penson, climbing with Tim Mosedale, broke his foot and returned to Spain. Well he saw his Doc, got treated and returned to Everest!! He is at Cmap 1 now! I need to get the name of his Doctor!!!
An Extra Challenge
Chris Bombardier, who has hemophilia, is attempting to summit Everest but requires regular “infusions” He is back at EBC after a successful rotation to C3. He is with Mountain Professionals. Chris made this poignant post:
After almost two full days back in basecamp, and after our second rotation, our team is feeling rested and strong. The last rotation was full of firsts for me and this image captures my highest infusion so far at over 20,000ft/6,400m.
It’s hard to see from this picture (it’s actually a screen grab from the video Ryan Waters shot!) but outside the door is a view of the massive Lhotse Face. I was really struggling to motivate to infuse that day. It was a rest day and I just wanted to chill like everyone else, but as I looked at our climb we were headed to the next morning I knew I had to do it.
The infusion wasn’t the smoothest, the vein rolled and I initially missed, but then I recovered. I felt incredibly proud of this infusion and I realize how lucky I am to be able to choose this adventure and journey and have the access to the treatment I need to let me chase this dream.
When I reached basecamp I also heard the great news that Adam Tyler, a fellow person with hemophilia, has generously offered to sponsor a child through Save One Life, Inc. for ever two sponsors we find! I encourage you all to check out saveonelife.net and sponsor a child if you can. I would love to have every child waiting for a sponsor to have one by the time we summit Mt. Everest!!! I’m not sure when that will happen so let’s get started now!
No Os, all the 8000ers
Let’s wrap today with a shout out to Ferran Latorre who is try to get his 14th 8000er and to Yannick Graziani who wanted to attempt to summit Everest via the Hornbein Couloir but has changed his plans to join with Ferran for a no O’s summit via the Southeast Ridge normal route
Yannick just completed a rotation to C3 on the Lhotse Face. His home team tells me they are both at EBC and plan to return to the South Col on 8th May for their final acclimatization rotation. They added
… that Yannick was with Ueli the day before his accident. They went together to the bergschrund of Nuptse near C1. Ueli asked Yannick to come with him the day after on Nuptse north face for acclimatizing. But Yannick could’nt due to his commitment with Ferran. So with Ferran, the 3 guys had a quick diner on C2.
Finally I was told that Yannick said the south side was not so crowded. but he hoped the climbers using supplemental oxygen would work with them in terms of pace and passing, etc. on their summit bid. But “at this elevation, you never can tell what could happen.”
Finally, Ferran made a post regarding Ueli. I suggest you read it all, but this is an excerpt:
So far, honestly, I did not feel like writing. This is the second day of rest at the Base Camp and it seems that as with many things in life, everything is resuming its course from incredulous denial to painful acceptance. Melancholy then becomes a state that dominates the atmosphere, the spirit, a mixture of sadness, mystery, useless rage, and some smile of homage.
As you know a few days ago Ueli Steck had an accident while climbing the East face of the Nuptse without strings, what we call Solo Integral. A mistake of its own, a diabolically capricious stone … who knows?
The fact is that Ueli is no longer among us.
Ueli was cremated at the Tengboche Monastery today. Ten visitors including family from Switzerland attended the three hour ceremony performed by nine Buddhist monks.
First 8000er Summits
Briefly, the first summit of an 8000er has occurred this spring season. Mingma Sherpa, Destinations Dreamer, summited Dhaulagiri on 30 April. Congratulation to the team: Mingma Sherpa Nga Tashi Sherpa, Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa, Liu Yong Zhong and Dong Hong Juan.
It appears there may be summits soon on Kanchenjunga as well.
Best of luck to all.
Memories are Everything