As we enter May, let’s look at the Everest season thus far and what to expect. Overall if there is one word for the season it might be “boring” 🙂 OK, not exactly for those who are doing the work. Actually “no bad surprises” might be a more accurate phrase
On both sides of the world’s highest peak, climbers are going through their acclimatization rotations and the support staff is busy setting the safety ropes and stocking the high camps. Each day someone mentions what great shape the mountain is in, meaning good snow, little avalanche danger and the normal movement in the Icefall. The weather has been good thus far but slightly on the windy side. However, nothing like the ferocious winds that stalled activity on the Nepal side last year for days at a time. I’ve seen comments saying it has been both colder than usual and warmer than usual – usual comments about the weather! It has been a good April as Everest goes – no large scale events, only one serious injury and no deaths. The route is in nearly to the South Col on the Nepal side, just about 8,000 meters, and above Camp 2 at 8300 meters on the North.
This season progress is swift and mostly uneventful. There was one incident involving an injury in the Icefall. Two Sherpas were hit when a serac collapsed and had to be evacuated by helicopter. There have been many small events both in the Icefall and at the other camps involving illness and minor injuries like twisted ankles. There have been a few helicopter evacuations from the Western Cwm as high as Camp 2. EverestER has been busy with well over 200 patients and assisting in several evacuations for patients with High Altitude Pulmonary or Cerebral Edema (HAPE/HACE). Overall, this is normal for Everest and in fact a bit calmer than most seasons where by now a death would have occurred.
Kuntal Joisher climbing Lhotse with Satori Adventures gave a nice update today that could suffice for most of the teams: Also see this interview I did with Kuntal last month on why he climbs and his support for the Sunsar Maya (@sunsarmaya) organization!
I’m back at the base camp after completing a long acclimatization rotation high up the mountain. Our team touched 7000 meters on the Lhotse face and we are now all resting and recovering for the next few days at the base camp and also waiting for an appropriate weather window to make our summit bids!
The route through ice fall is quite a bit safe and straightforward compared to 2015 and 2016. Hardly any ladders, however one does spend quite a bit of time walking under the western shoulder of Everest – scary! The biggest challenge though is between camp one and two where a climber needs to ascend a huge wall of easily about 50-60 feet with one of fixed lines having a slight overhang!
After reaching camp two, we spent a few nights there building extra red blood cells that help carry all that extra oxygen! While there, we did a day trip up the Lhotse face while facing strong winds, snow and near white out conditions. And then earlier today morning we started our descent in extreme cold. Takeshi – who’s on Everest team and myself went all the way from camp two to base camp in about 3 hour 15 minutes or so! We hardly took any breaks and zipped through the section under Western shoulder. Good to be back in thicker and warmer air!
While descending through the ice fall I had this thought about education system in this part of the world. Most of the time the standard of education is to teach rote memorization. There’s not much room for different approaches to learning, let alone, progressive education. We know the more ways and opportunities kids have to learn, the better the chances of success. That’s where programs like Sunsar Maya after-school come in. We try to expose our students to new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new ways of learning, through creative, hands-on projects. Not only do the kids learn how to think critically, they also have fun! In coming weeks, I’m looking forward to standing on top of Lhotse (mountain and weather permitting of course) and looking forward to representing the awesome Sunsar Maya (@sunsarmaya) organization!
Another good read is from Simon Thomasson. It’s a long summary of his last rotation and well worth a read including this money quote:
It’s hard to describe the Khumbu Icefall, mainly because at this time of day it’s dark with the only illumination provided by our head torches which is instantly swallowed by the vastness of it. The other reason is that your headtorch is constantly pointed at your feet so as to see the hundreds of small crevasses that you step over as you climb higher and higher. The sounds on the other hand are easily describable, creaking, moaning, snapping, plate smashing, tile cracking. Some as you place a foot down, others from the towering ice formations that surround you. Thankfully non of the cracking led to a thwump followed by a rumbling whooshing sound, there would be plenty of them in the coming days.
Their team is loosing members as are other teams. Unfortunately this again is normal and often occurs at the mid point in the season.
It’s a similar story on the north side with teams spread out from the Chinese Base Camp to the North Col on their acclimatization rotations. Many, many comments on how windy it is at base camp and a bit of snow each day. Again climbing on the North side means cold and wind so from that perspective all is as it should be. Since there is no Icefall to deal with, teams are making good progress as are the Tibetans who are fixing the rope to the summit. I will not be surprised to them summit this week.
May is crunch time on Everest. The ropes need to make it to the summit. Oxygen bottles must be cached at the high camps and each member must be acclimatized. Then a period of good weather must materialize. Most teams prefer 5 days of winds under 30 mph/48 kph and little to no snowfall. As I discussed in an earlier post on When Will They Summit?, 80% of all Everest summits occur between the 15th and the 27th of May. Slicing even finer, May 21st is THE day when climbing from Tibet as is May 19th on the Nepal side. In 2017, the first Everest summits were on the North side on 13th May and on 15th May on the South side. In 2016, 11th May on Nepal side.
As always, hoping for a boring May with lots of safe summits and smiles.
Memories are Everything