As we close out the third full week of the 2019 season, all is well on both sides of Everest. No major incidents and all systems, except for EverestLink, seems to be up and running, but they seem to have their links worked out.
Each weekend during the season I’ll post a “Weekend Update” summarizing the main stories for the past week. Also, now that the season is well underway, I’ll strive to post my daily updates for all #everest2019 each day before noon, Mountain Daylight Time, GMT -7.
A quick rundown on who is where. For a complete list see the Tracker Table which is updated often and with the latest headlines.
As predicted, it appears there are a record number of climbers this year. Nepal has issued a record 374 climbing permits to foreigners as of 16 April and, while not confirmed, the Tibet side has 364 total people made up of 144 foreigners, 12 Chinese and 208 Nepalese Sherpa. An additional 73 are reported to be visiting or working at base camp. source
The weather is acceptable. The forecast suggests a few nights of heavy snow this upcoming week so those already at High Camps will just wait it out. It’s not the snow but the wind that usually creates issues. Tuesday night could be “breezy.”
Cleaning the Mountain
Before I go into details on what happened this week, I wanted to highlight the efforts on both sides of Everest to remove the accumulated trash from decades of climbing. In the early days, no one envisioned that there would be hundreds, if not over a thousand people on Everest each season. Knowing they might never come back, and no one would ever know, they left a lot of trash, tents and oxygen bottles on the mountain.
Fast forward to the early 1990’s when Adventure Consultants pioneered commercial guiding on Everest, more care was taken to remove the trash. And this trend accelerated but the efforts were dwarfed by the volume of expeditions. The Chinese side around 2010 was filled with shredded tents, empty oxygen bottles and general trash mostly above the North Col.
The pivotal moment for the Nepal side was in 2015 when the earthquake hit. With the Icefall thought to be impassable, helicopters rescued over 150 people in one day and the leaders were forced to leave all the tents, food, stoves – everything – behind. With the harsh winter winds, the tents became shredded, exposing the supplies and spreading them over the Camp 2 area in the Western Cwm. When I was there in 2016, I was appalled.
Sadly, this combination of a natural disaster and human arrogance lead to a couple of teams actually cutting their logos off their tents and leaving them at Camp 2 to become shredded pieces of nylon the last few years making the problem even worse. Now, today in 2019, climbers will see a very disturbing scene as they arrive at Camp 2. And for those who reach 8,000-meters on either side, will find a wasteland, literally as human feces does not degrade, it merely blows “away” or becomes stuck in the rocks. These highest camps need to use “blue bags” where the solid waste is brought down by each donor.
For every problem, there is an opportunity. As I will develop in this weekend update, Madison Mountaineering, Garrett Madison, took advantage of a helicopter flying back for C2 to ABC and Luka to bring down some of the rubbish. Kailash Helicopter pilot Maurizio Folini commanded the effort. They retrieved 187kg/412-pounds of rubbish.
And there are more formal efforts. Multiple Nepal Ministries, the army and other organizations have set a goal to take down 5,000kg/11,000-pounds from both Everest and the area respectively. Impressively this is a public-private effort with Coca-Cola Company and WWF Nepal providing significant financial support. There will be a 12 person team paid to collect the trash and bring it down plus cash-for-trash for others. Asian Trekking has been doing similarly program for years but it takes more than one team.
With all this, I’m encouraged that a report said on its first day, 1,200kg (2,600lbs) of waste was flown from Lukla airport to Kathmandu for recycling. I’m not clear where all of this was collected.
Over on Tibet, a similar effort is underway driven by the Chinese Government. A highly publicized announcement that China would limit the number of climbers this season was used to promote their efforts to remove the trash. In June 2018, it was reported that a team of 30 people had cleared 8.5 tonnes of rubbish, feces, and equipment from the peak that had accumulated since April. Most likely that was not from high on the peak but in the areas leading up to CBC and at base camp.
They also now prohibit anyone not with a climbing team to stop well below Chinese Base Camp due to the lack of facilities. It’s noted that China has set up stations to sort, recycle and break down garbage from the mountain, which includes cans, plastic bags, stove equipment, tents and, oxygen tanks.
They also set a $1,500 trash deposit per climber for 2019.
Perhaps no other topic than the dead bodies on Everest attracts more attention. 295 people (175 westerners and 118 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to January 2019. Of those, the Nepal side had 185 deaths and on Tibet, 108 deaths.
Almost all of the recent deaths, for example the 16 in 2014 and 17 in 2015 due to the earthquake have been removed from the mountain. However, with the vast majority now out of site, it’s rare to see climber who died years ago but you may see someone who died in your season.
At least 200 bodies still remain spread across the mountain on various routes with many buried in deep crevasses or now in different places due to moving glaciers. And some have been moved. For example in 2o14, the Chinese moved Tsewang Paljor, aka Green Boots, off the trail, downslope. I’m told he is still visible but difficult to locate.
Both Nepal and China have said they will remove more bodies this year. This is extremely physically work as over time the bodies have frozen into the mountain side. Also, it remains controversial since, in my observations and experience, most climbers who discuss dying on any climb would prefer to have their body left on the peak, out of sight.
Often, but not always, families want a recovery for closure. Recovering bodies touches many aspects of tradition and beliefs. In 2010, an effort was made by one Nepali guiding company to remove bodies from the South side at the request of the local Sherpa and Lama communities because they considered leaving the dead on Everest disrespectful to the Mountain Gods. Two bodies were removed but the families intervened and other familes requested they stay where they died per the climber’s wishes.
A plan to spread Sir Edmund Hillary’s ashes on the summit in 2010 was halted when both the Nepal government and local Lama’s interceded stopping the plan saying that Everest is holy and should not be used for publicity.
What is making this more of an issue today is with a warming planet, the glaciers are thinning exposing long buried bodies. The same thing is happening all over the world’s mountains as show on Mexico’s Orizaba in 2015.
Similar to what Nepal has been doing for years, Tibet now requires climbers to retrieve 8kg/17 pounds of rubbish or face fines. However, this has never been enforced. The organization responsible for keeping the Nepal side of Everest clean the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), manages the $4,000 trash deposit required from each commercial team, but again the enforcement is not effective, especially for those teams who leave trash at the high camps.
Historically, neither China or Nepal have addressed the growing problem of trash in their mountains and trails. It has been left to the operators, guides, Sherpas/Tibetans and visitors. Hopefully, this year will raise awareness that keeping our pristine mountains, pristine is everyone responsibility.
Nepal – Into the Western Cwm
There are multiple teams at Camp 1 this weekend on their first acclimatization rotation. The trip through the Icefall was a bit difficult for some with a couple of steep vertical ladders and some steep sections with no ladders. So our members needed to use good footwear techniques while using the jumar i.e. mechanical ascender, to overcome the obstacle.
Most will spend one night at C1 before moving to Camp2 which is also known as Advanced Base Cap on the Nepal side.
Madison Mountaineering, Garrett Madison, along with Himalayan Guides, Iswari Paudel, were awarded the responsibility by the Expedition Operator’s Association Nepal – EOAThe ropes to fix the route from C2 to the summit was helicoptered to Camp 2 on Saturday morning by outstanding pilot Maurizio Folini.
Maurizio made a reported five trips carrying an impressive amount of gear, totaling 700kg/1,542 pounds according to Garrett:
- 10,000-meters/32,800-feet of semi-static rope:
-6000-meters/19,685-feet of 10mm line
-4000-meters/13.123-feet of 9mm line
- 36 bottles O2
96 ice screws
Snow stake (pickets) 100 pieces
While this is impressive, it’s what it takes to fix the route from C2 at 6,400-meters/21,000-feet to the summit at 8,850-meters/29,035-feet. A dedicated team of Sherpas working with the Madison team will begin to fix the route early next week. It usually takes a couple of weeks depending on weather and is in around May 5-10. A few pictures Garrett sent me from the operation. Note a large amount of snow on the Lhotse Face:
I also received several nice videos from Elia Saikaly on the Nepal side. This award-winning, talented young filmmaker is documenting four Arab women attempting to summit Everest. They are with Madison Mountaineering. Check out The Dream of Everest for several short and impressive videos he has posted thus far. This one was partially well done:
Tibet – Glamping before Heading to ABC
Base Camp continues to be built on the North side. Given that everything comes in on huge trucks, it seems unlimited the amount of luxury offered on that side. Traditionally, the Tibet side was cold, windy and dusty at base camp compared to the Nepal EBC, but while still windy and dusty, the huge gathering tents, explosion of so-called box tents where you can stand up in your two-room cabana compete with work desk, cot with think mattress and duvet plus a three prong electrical outlet … things have changed.
7 Summits Climb went wild the last few years, now Furtenbach is pushing unapologetically to overtake him. Not sure what this race is all about, who it attracts or the true pure with respect to mountaineering. That said, there is absolutely a market for it. On the Nepal side, Climbing The Seven Summits is also offering these perks, but it all has to brought in by yak, porter or perhaps chopper, but that’s expensive.
The “Other” 8000ers
While everyone gets focused on Everest, there are serious efforts underway on several of the other 8,000-meter peaks.
Annapurna – Both Sides
Nirmal Purja with his project to summit all 14 of the 8000ers in seven months, is working on Annapurna. He reports they have established Camp 3:
This will be my 4th rotation heading up the fixing team on this mountains. We aim to complete this task at this rotation. Leading a fixing team on the World’s most dangerous mountain amongst 8000ers isn’t a joke. The amount of risk you have to take here are unavoidable. The only way to avoid is if you don’t climb.
This video doesn’t do the justice to the task however, I hope this clip will give you a glimpse of what it takes to carry out this kind of task on extreme high altitude.
The snow conditions were miserable and knee deep, had few danger close avalanches, the new route with variation on Dutch rib that has never been repeated since 1977 and this list goes on..& ..Yet my team are determined to complete this fixing task despite of those challenges on this rotation.
At last we can see our first goal – Langtang Lirung 7227 m. The local people, when they hear we want to climb it, react with laughter or disbelief. When we talk with them we slowly realize how serious our aclimatisation summit is. The mountain is having bad opinion and the last ascent took place in 1995. The owner of our hotel promised that if we climb it, we can drink for free all the alcohol he has in his restaurant.
Dhaulagiri – New Route
Horia Colibasanu along with Marius Gane and Peter Hamor are reported to be at Japanese Base Camp. They are attempting the unclimbed Northwest Ridge to the summit at 8,167-meters/26,794 feet. Their summit bid is planned for the May 15th-25th window.
After three almost ten days of trekking, Horia and his team finally arrived in the Dhaulagiri Japanese basecamp, at 4200m. They need rest before they start climbing toward upper intermediate camps.
Lhotse – South Face
Sung Taek Hong team is now at base camp. No word on his progress. This is his sixth attempt to scale the face. Looking at the other side and the normal route, 66 permits have been issued for this spring for this 8,516-meters/27,939-feet summit. Not an 8,000er but close, Nuptse at 7,861-meters/25,790-feet has 27 permits issued.
Altitude Junkies, fed up with Everest politics switched over to Makalu this spring. They begin on April 14. They won’t be done as there have been 53 permits issued for four teams. It is 8,463-meters/27,765-feet high. No updates thus far.
At last count 32 permits had been issued also on four teams for this 8,586-meters/28,169-foot peak that straddles the Nepal and India border. Monterosa Treks was scheduled to run a trip this spring. No updates thus far.
Standing alone in Tibet at 8,027-meters/26,335-feet, Monterosa Treks was scheduled to run a trip this spring. No updates thus far.
This next week, its crunch time. This is the serious beginning of the acclimatization process. No time for shortcuts or slacking off. Their bodies will be tested like never before, and for someone rotation will be enough and return home.
As I often say, there are a thousand reason to stop and only One to on. I hope each person can find their One.
Several times a day, I’m updating the team location table and tracking climber’s blogs (see sidebar). If you have a team not listed, please let me know and I will add them if I can track them. If you prefer not to be mentioned, please contact me. You can sign up for (and cancel) notifications on the lower right sidebar or check the site frequently.
Memories are Everything
Why this coverage?
I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I’m just one person who loves climbing. With 37 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 Arnette, 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 ever to me.
Previous #Everest2019 posts:
- Everest 2019: Sleeping In The Cwm!
- Everest 2019: Climbing!!
- Everest 2019: First Impressions
- Everest 2019: Before the First Steps into the Icefall
- Everest 2019: Training Before Climbing
- Everest 2019: Deadly Crash at Lukla
- Everest 2019: Weekend Update April 14
- Everest 2019: Prayers Before Climbing
- Everest 2019: Avoiding the Icefall
- Everest 2019: First Days in Base Camp
- Everest 2019: Everest Base Camp!
- Everest 2019: The Trekker’s Summit
- Everest 2019: Leaving the Grass
- Everest 2019: Weekend Update April 7
- Everest 2019: When is a Rest day, a Rest Day?
- Everest 2019: Morning View and Prayers at the Monastery
- Everest 2019: Trek to Tengboche Monastery
- Everest 2019: Namche and Everest View
- Everest 2019: The Namche Hill
- Everest 2019: The Trek to EBC Begins
- Everest 2019: Weekend Update March 31
- Everest 2019: Kathmandu Gets Busy
- Everest 2019: Interview with Garrett Madison – A Leader on Everest
- Everest 2019: Stories to Watch This Season
- Everest 2019: Climbers to Watch
- Everest 2019: New Route Attempt on Everest
- Everest 2019: Welcome to Everest 2019 Coverage