Everest 2019: Big Snow, Now Calm

Well, there was a question if big snow would follow the big winds, and the answer is a big yes! I’ve spoken to people on both sides on Saturday May 4th, and it’s coming down hard, perhaps over 2-feet/60cm at the 7,000-meter/23,000-foot altitude! However as night fell on Everest, the skies cleared so the worse is probably over.

The high winds and snow came as the outer bands of Cyclone Fani came all the way inland to the border of Nepal and Tibet.


There was no movement on Saturday other than a team or two trying to descend and that’s even unclear. Most sheltered in place passing the day catching up on sleep or playing cards.

There were a lot of media headlines about this storm’s impact on Everest. Most were not completely overblown (pun intended) but some did create unnecessary concern with family. As you will read, there are different perspectives on the impact. I attribute this to the time of day the post was written. In some cases it was yesterday during the height of the wind storm or later when it had calmed. In any event, I know from live conversations that the wind blew and the snow fell on both sides of Everest the last two days – and that is news?

As to the impact on the rest of the season, there will be some but I don’t see it as huge issue. I’ll discuss this more in depth in tomorrow’s Weekend Update.

It all About the Weather!

I asked Mike Hamill of Climbing the Seven Summits for an update on what he was experienced at EBC:

Here’s a general synopsis from the south side of Everest. The overarching story the last few days, as you have touched upon, is Cyclone Fani. It materialized as expected and forecast with large amounts of snow fall and associated high winds. As I write we are getting hammered with snow here at EBC and the report from C2 is that they are getting much more snow up high. We’ve had 25cm/10in of snow here and counting, and C2 has reported over 2 ft (60 cm).

As the cyclone grew closer to making landfall in Odisha it became obvious that it would affect the Himalayas we decided to play it safe and pull our entire team down on the 2nd and drop our tents to protect our camps and gear. It’s a relief to have our team safe here at base camp and not exposed to the weather up above.

Direct communication from C2 indicates that at least 100 tents have been either destroyed or blown away from fierce winds, particularly on the night of the 2nd to the 3rd. It sounds like winds have been even stronger on the North side. I fear that the large amounts of snow combined with wind transport and loss of tents could be putting climbers at risk at C1 and C2. Our team was surprised to see other teams heading up the mountain with the gravity of the storm forecast, and the evacuation of nearly 1 million people in India happening at a similar time. We hope that everyone is ok up there.

The weather is due to subside here in the next 24 hours and I think we will see a lot of teams starting to head back up the mountain.

Snowfall on May 4 2019 at Everest Base Camp – Cyclone Fani – Photo Wayne Morris

On the Tibet side Furtenbach Adventures also reports snow. I spoke live to one of the climbers on that side early Saturday morning and was told there were low clouds and heavy snow but the winds had abated. Furtenbach reported:

Cyclone Fani brought 10cm/4in of snow and destroyed most of the tents on North col. This picture is from this morning at ABC. Both teams back in basecamp.

Snowfall on May 4 2019 at Chinese Base Camp – Cyclone Fani – Photo Furtenbach Adventures

Nepal – Hold then Climb

I also asked Mike if he could give a broad update on what his Climbing the Seven Summits team has been seeing on the Nepal side thus far:

The icefall continues to be relatively easy this season despite a few collapses. Lead guide Casey Grom reports that there are still significant objective hazards on the upper half of the route to C1. Crowds have been an issue in the icefall with the increased numbers this season. A few weeks ago there was a bottleneck about 2/3rds of the way to C1 on a vertical ladder section that has since been mostly resolved.

The last two weeks have seen teams leaving earlier to avoid bottlenecks and, as climbers have spread out, the crowds in the icefall have been mitigated. I do predict crowds being an issue on the Lhotse Face after this storm system subsides as teams are forced on to a similar schedule. I think that teams cooperating and talking to each other about schedules, combined with good rope and two lines on the Face, will make this much smoother.

We recently had a meeting in EBC regarding the rope fixing above C2. It seems like there is a solid team of Sherpa and equipment for the rope fixing this year and things have been progressing smoothly before this current weather system rolled in. Unfortunately, there isn’t much cooperation involved in rope fixing effort the last two years since the EOA has put the responsibility into the hands of just a few teams. Instead of it being a collaboration, which has always been the spirit of the South side teams as far back as I have been coming here starting in 2005, the majority of teams are now told what has transpired with the rope fixing after the fact. As one of the larger teams on the mountain this season, CTSS would love to be able to contribute more to the effort and see a return to working on the rope fixing as a joint goal which knits teams together into something we can all be proud to be a part of.

Chad Gaston with Madison Mountaineering gave this update on how he spent Saturday at Camp 2 that got hit hard. I’m a little disappointed he didn’t make another award winning video! 🙂 🙂  :

I quickly drifted off to sleep after the physical and mentally draining day, pushing up to camp no altitude was going to keep me awake. Apparently the mountain didn’t like that and whipped up a wind storm a day before the main storm was to hit. I woke about 2am with the side of the tent pressing down on my face. If not for the freight train sound of the wind, I would have thought someone was trying to smother me with a pillow. I realized the winds were very strong, looked around the tent to to assess the structural integrity, all looked good so I slid farther down into my sleeping bag, turned up my music, and chuckled to myself…well ya big idiot, you wanted more adventure!?

When I woke again, twilight had broke and the winds were as severe if not worse. I pulled on my different down layers and popped out of my tent. Camp was pretty beat up and I could see our cook tent was 60% collapsed along with several other tents. I thought, “there goes coffee for the morning!”

It was quite difficult to walk in the severe gusts and I estimate the winds were blowing around 40mph with gusts above 50mph. With camp in shambles and no coffee in the near future, I dove back in my tent and fell back to sleep. About 2 and a half hours later I was woke by Garrett saying, they were able to make some coffee and oatmeal. We all piled into the dinning tent but it was too loud to even talk. After eating we all retreated to our tents to wait out the wind storm. The winds calmed to a breeze from 3 pm to 6pm then started howling again, if not stronger this time. We ate dinner and then retreated once again to the safety of our -60 degree sleeping bags. The snow storm has not arrived yet, but Im sure it will come in the night. The temps and wind chills pierce the skin and in seconds exposed skin is numb. The best I can do is slide deep into my bag, crank some Frank Senatra, and wait for sunrise! – Chad Gaston

Tibet – A Bit Windy

Many reports of damage to things on the Tibet side but no reports of any injuries. This is a testament to the advances in weather forecasting. Most teams took heed and returned to base camp to wait out the storm.

Dave at Summit Climb reports being moved by the wind – literally:

Hi this is David O’Brien, we’re all back at base camp, after a nights rest at abc. The 20km walk at altitude never gets any shorter. We had a very windy night at the North Col 2 nights ago. Things got even wilder when the sun came up and one of several ferocious gust lifted my tent , turned it upside down and dumped me and the contents on the snow several meters away. Clearly I need to be putting on weight to keep my tent more stabilised.

Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow told me yesterday that many tents got destroyed on the Tibet side. An update from Saturday with a picture:

Yep…that’s all that’s left of our storage tent at 23,000 feet on #everest (when I left it 3 days ago it had ~$20,000 of equipment stored in it). Once again, the mountain sets straight who’s in control. Time to be patient, pick up the pieces, get creative, learn a lesson I have to relearn every so often, and be humble.

Destroyed tent on May 4 2019 at Chinese Base Camp – Cyclone Fani – Photo Adrian Ballinger Adventures

What Snow?

Arnold Coster of Seven Summits Treks painted a slightly different picture than many others as of 10:00 am on Saturday morning:

“My team is climbing to N-Col now, there is no rope fixed above N-Col, its little snowy but no winds. Day before yesterday it was too windy, few tents blew from N- Col, effected some climbers as well beside that not much happened, all are safe. My team will be attempting to the summit 16th onward if all goes proper.”

and they added:

It’s just rumor that many tents at basecamp are blown away due to the high wind (effect of Fani). According to our C2 manager Rinjee Sherpa: many tents above Camp II are damaged but rest of the part and Basecamp is in good condition and safe.

Based on the weather forecast and my experience I Instructed all team leader and Sherpa guide to descend asap to the basecamp, now all members of SST are in rest at basecamp !!!

And Dawa Steven Sherpa of Asian Trekking joined in the counter view as of nightfall at EBC:

To all our dear friends and well wishers . The sun is shining at Everest Base Camp again. Please don’t worry about us up here. The media always hypes things up.Yes, some tents were ripped up on the mountain and it looked pretty dramatic, but we prepare for such contingencies. High winds and snow are not an unusual part of big mountaineering expeditions. All is well and we are all safe and sound here.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything!

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