This last week was big, especially on the Nepal side with the ropes fixed to the summit by the innovative Gurkha team along with first summits form that side. However, this upcoming week could be the biggest of the 2017 season.
With the weather on the south side still the big story, team after team have moved into position to attempt the summit over this weekend. Meanwhile last week (and even last night) a few teams took risks – some succeeded, others didn’t.
While there have been a few sporadic reports of frostbite, and reports of helicopter evacuations; thankfully no further deaths have been made public, if they have occurred at all. That said, as late as Saturday morning 20 May Nepal time, summit reports noted very cold still air temperatures, add in a bit of wind and …
update: Long line helicopter rescue for climber above C3 (Nepal side) failed Saturday afternoon 20 May
update: Kilian Jornet begins his run from the Tibet side to the summit of Everest.
Not to dwell on the weather too much, at least in this post, it bears repeating what Michael Fagin with Everest Weather told me this week:
I have been forecasting here since 2003 and never seen a season like this with forecast model runs changing every 12 hours.
Another trusted weather advisor, meteorologist Chris Tomer agreed and suggested that there will be a few days each on either side of 22 May: 18-21 or 23-25. He further suggest a “wind plume” arriving quickly on the 22nd so climbers need to be down or not headed up during that period. Thanks for this big picture Chris, his members and those of other avoid services more details.
Summit Sweet Spot
Please forgive me for repeating this but it bears it given the siren of complaints about the delays in base camp, fixing ropes and “late” summits. Please take a close look at this chart I use all the time. It shows we are in the sweet spot of Everest summits 17-23 May. In other words, right on schedule!!
North Summits Continue
On the north side, 7 Summits Club’s Alexander Abramov claimed victory with summits on Friday morning.
One of the happiest moments last week must have been for 26 year-old Mollie Hughes who became the youngest British to summit from both sides of Everest. She was with Jon Gupta and Sherpas Lhakpa and Lila.
The young Transcend Indian team continued their success with four more teenagers on top along with six Sherpas.
While not finished, noted German Alpinist Ralf Dujmovits is trying to get Everest without supplemental oxygen on the north side to finish his 14 without Os.
South Summits Began
On the South it was a mixed bag once again as the weather continued to play with the climbers. As I have detailed ad nauseum, the weather forecasters are as frustrated as the climbers this season on the south side.
It appears that high pressure was playing favorites this year by keeping the clouds, wind and moisture sequestered on the Nepal side while occasionally leaking over to the Tibet side just to keep teams honest.
The end result has been a steady stream of summits on the north and occasional summits on the south – sometimes with a bold gamble by leaders on both sides. Again, thus far this has been a relatively safe season.
Perhaps the lessons from last year, or the last 50 years have sunk in with new expedition leaders. On 19 May, a few teams took off from the South Col intending to summit in difficult weather. Thankfully, they turned back to try another day.
Hard to Turn Back
One of the more poignant post came from Larry Daugherty climbing with Adventure Ascents who turned back at the South Summit due to winds. Also with him was Thomas Wilkinson and Brandon Fisher. Larry posted:
Mountain clearly in charge Our team turned around at the south summit due to building wind – disappointed but safe at C4
However, one of their members, David Snow stayed back for another attempt. Not willing to give up, David found that elusive balance between giving it everything he could without giving himself to the mountain. Well done, well done David.
He posted early Saturday morning:
After being in Nepal for over a month I’ve discovered a few things.
For years, you can plan, ponder, prepare every last detail, and stand where no other mountain is higher and still not reach your goal. After 7 hours of climbing in the wind our guides made a choice to turn us around at the South Summit. Disappointment and discouragement were higher than we were. But we were also reminded just a few feet off our route why this is the world’s highest graveyard and why there’s wisdom in listening to those who have been where you have not.
Refusing to be done with the climb, I discovered mother nature controls summiting big mountains and not once but twice was crushed by attempts that would not happen.
The majesty of the Himalaya has changed my DNA.
I’ve made eternal friendships from the trek to base camp and with mountain guides that could have formed in no other way. My wife continues to elevate her rock star status. I’ve realized once again across all 7 continents and all the experiences this wonderful world affords, what really matters is what’s back home.
Ascent Himalayas aka Ireland to Everest had a big week with 17 total summits including several first. See this post for details. Adventures Global put two on Everest from Nepal. Horia Colibasanu summited without Os.
Satori Adventures put 5 members and 5 Sherpas on the summit early Saturday morning, 20 May. This is one of the teams that tried the earlier day but bad weather forced them to stay at the South Col and extra night. They had prepared for this contingency with extra oxygen.
Kuntal Joisher reported in for their team:
When they started from South col it was quite windy. However once they were on the mountain the winds subsided and 5 of the climbers reached summit at 6.45 nepali time. One japanese climber reached at 7.15. They all descended together. They reported of a very cold summit day. But as far as I know all climbers are in good condition.
The large Indian Navy team was supposed to start their summit push late Friday night but reports are in that they have returned to the South Col citing high winds at 100kph/60mph. Their Twitter feed posted: Tomorrow the team is likely 2 climb 2 SouthCol & enter the death zone (8000m). Likely summit push early morning 21May
And my Colorado climbing buddy Jim Davidson is on a life long quest to summit Everest. He arrived at Camp 3 early Saturday morning and is expected to summit early Monday morning Nepal time.
Nobukazu Kuriki announced a major change in plans. He had been on the north side aiming to climb via the Supercouloir but will switch to the south and attempt to summit via the West Ridge to the Hornbein Couloir, the same route that almost took his life in 2012.
Big Changes at the Hillary Step!
Tim Mosedale confirmed what was rumored last year – that the rock formation that defined the legendary feature called the Hillary Step had changed either by the 2015 earthquake or by the way mountains have forever- wind, rain and erosion.
It’s official – The Hillary Step is no more. Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate.
As regular readers may remember in 2016, it was reported the Hillary Step was “gone”. Speculation ranged from the rocks that defined the 50 foot high crack had collapsed in the earthquake to it was just covered in snow. Now we know.
It does appear the a large boulder to the climbers left is missing. But you and count on thousands of suggests on which rock, how far, when, by whom 🙂 .. If you want to explore this further a good start is with Mark Horrell‘s investigative report on his blog from last year.
Regardless of the what, how and when we can see the one of the most famous features in mountaineering has changed. Time will tell what impact this has on climbing to and from the summit.
Lhotse, the close neighbor of Everest saw summits this past week and will get a few more next. As I detailed last week, coordinating rope fixing was a bit of a challenge. Iranian climber Azim Gheychisaz claimed to have finished all 14 without supplement Os with his summit of Lhotse.
We are safely back in Base Camp now, and we are discussing whether to attempt the summit again on May 23 or 24. That will depend on a lot of factors, especially the weather. Physically, we are feeling very good, and could definitely go for another attempt. This year, no one has been able to climb Kanchenjunga yet, and some of the climbers are beginning to leave Base Camp and head back to Kathmandu.
The main reason for the turnaround was the depth of snow, and how far we had to continue to climb above 8,000 meters. After 12 hours of climb from Camp IV through deep snow, we had reached all the way to 8,175 meters. But there was another six hours of climb, about 400 meters of vertical ascend, and it seemed very risky to continue, especially due to the deep snow, and the fact that the climb was all above 8,000 meters, essentially the death zone. Unlike most of the other 8,000 meter mountains, Kanchenjunga requires a lot of horizontal climb within the death zone.
For another perspective, Chris Burke’s post “How could a summit push go so wrong” is a good read. Finally on Kang, Traverse team, Simone Moro, Tamara Lunger and Arjun Vajpa are still reported to go for their attempt starting in a few days.
Over on Annapurna, the summit bid has started on the NW Face but has ended for the only team this spring on Cho Oyu
Big Week Ahead
It’s a big week for the majority of the remaining climbers on both sides. Many will summit this weekend or early next week. A few will lag waiting for the crowds to clear or gambling for better weather.
It’s been a safe season thus far in spite of the wild weather on the south. The number of climbers have not been an issue on either side as there have been just enough tiny windows to spread everyone out.
The next few days could help define the 2017 season as a normal, albeit windy, season where hundreds of climbers from around the world achieved their dreams.
Best of luck to all and I wish them a positive experience regardless of the result.
Memories are Everything
P.S. I will be doing one-liner updates on the location table page and creating stand alone short posts several times a day as we get into the height of the activity. If you depend on Facebook to be notified be aware they don’t show every subscriber every post (don’t ask!) so the best way to be updated is to subscribe to email notifications. Your email will never be used for anything else and you can unsubscribe at any time.
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, Ida, 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.
This Weeks Posts: