Everest 2019: Weekend Update May 12

Update: Sherpas at South Col. Will fix to Balcony tomorrow and summit on Tuesday.

Let’s be clear. Climbing Everest is complicated. The press likes to characterize it as an easy “walk-up” or “short-roped to the summit” after paying $65,000, As I have said for years, this is lazy cut and paste journalism that disrespects the climbers and the Sherpas. In 2019, the storyline is the trash and bodies. I’ll address this later.

But for today, there is only word on the mind of most Everest’s climbers and followers today: ropes. Without the ropes, there will be few summits. The weather forecasters called for the jet stream to move off the summit this weekend so there was talk of summits starting as early as today, Sunday, but the latest is the ropes will be in later.

Each weekend during the season I’ll post a “Weekend Update” summarizing the main stories for the past week.


Wind and Wind

Of course the biggest headline for last week was the cyclone and the jet stream. Both caused delays and a few teams lost tents to the high winds. I find it interesting that many teams talk about not losing tents but cite others as having lost some. I guess it’s all in the “eye of the beholder” or simple old-fashion spin!

But the bottom line was the cyclone was not that big of an impact on Everest, on either side, but the jet stream parked on the summit was. It delayed the rope teams by several days.


Can Everest be summited not using ropes? Of course, and it has many times. This season Cory Richards and Topo Mena will eschew the safety of nylon for a clean, alpine climb on their proposed new route, at least for the first 6,000-foot gulley.

But part of the commercial guiding formula on both sides of Everest is for a dedicated team of climbers, Sherpas on the Nepal side and Chinese/Tibetans on the Tibet side, to “fix” the route to the summit. Usually called a “fixed line” but also called a “safety line” it’s really just a thin nylon rope that’s secured every couple of hundred feet to an aluminum stake aka “picket” driven into the snow aka an “anchor.” If the climbers slips and begins to fall down a steep or slick slope, they will, in theory, be stopped at the next anchor. Of course, what is more likely is that they will fall into another climber close on their heels. Bottom line: don’t fall!

So, given the limited experience of many people of Everest these days, no operator would let their team ascend before the fixed ropes are in. On the Chinese side, it is simply not allowed.

Jet Stream

Back to a subject I’ve hit on often this past week, the jet stream. Various reports say the winds have calmed down. This is a good site to watch the movement of the jet. It shows low winds for Sunday. But as I always advise, using internet forecast is no substitute for paying a human for a professional forecast.

MeteoStar Jet Stream Forecast May 12 2019

Chris Tomer of Tomer Weather Solutions commented on the jet stream situation:

Jet stayed locked on summit this past week but should weaken significantly May 12-15. That would be first summit window of season. The jet is then forecasted to return on May 16-18. After that it’s a bit unclear but I not sold on a drop on the 19th.

So the Ropes????

I asked Garrett Madison on the fixing status on the Nepal side. He is hosting and managing the rope fixing.

No ropes to the summit on the 12, maybe 13/14

Garrett with a decade of experience on Everest told me that today, Sunday, May 12 at 10:00 am:

rope fixers heading up to the south col today…winds seem reasonable. Looks calm up there now, they are reaching south col. We just didn’t want to send them up previously in high winds and waste time / energy…would rather wait for reasonable conditions and get it done right.  Will try to fix 13 & 14, hope to finish the route and have open by then!! Looks like good weather on 15 and maybe 16 also for summit attempts. We are seeing a window 21-25


IMG gave an excellent update on their Sherpas reaching the South Col Saturday in brisk conditions.

It was windy again on the Lhotse Face, but the weather was “just good enough” for both our Team 3 climbers and our 30 person Sherpa Team to be successful today! Our Sherpa were first out the door at Camp 2, carrying oxygen to the South Col, with Adam Clark and Team 3 following shortly behind. The Sherpa called down on the radios that it was windy on the Lhotse Face but manageable. IMG Senior Guide Adam Clark confirmed this message when he and Team 3 crossed the Bergschrund at 3am and began climbing the icy slopes to Camp 3. Higher up, as the Sherpa Team climbed up the Face, crossing over the Geneva Spur and into the South Col, they checked in with Base Camp again to report that the winds were getting stronger but that they were going to be able to reach the South Col.

Climbers on the upper Lhotse Face with the Geneva Spur, South Col and upper Everest to their left (photo: Josh McDowell Courtesy of IMG)


Tim Mosedale is on a different kind of mission. He wants to summit Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse then move to the Tibet side and summit Everest again. He was last reported on Nuptse Camp 3 at 6,855-meters/22,500-feet with two climbing Sherpas. The summit is 7,861-meters/25,791 feet.

Another ambitious climber is Sergi Mingote and his  3×8000 Solidary Project. Last summer he climbed K2, Broad Peak and Manaslu. Now he is aiming for Everest, Lhotse and Kanchenjunga this Spring – all without Os. If he does summit he will beat the current record holder, Silvio Mondinelli, who climbed the three highest mountains in 3 years and 64 days.

Nirmal Purja Purja Purja who summited Annapurna is now on Dhaulagiri and is asking for funding as he has failed to secure enough sponsors for his project to summit all fourteen 8000ers in 7 months, and break the current record of 7+ years.

David Göttler is looking for a no Os summit of Everest. Yesterday, he turned back just before the South Col around 7,900-meters/25,920-feet on an acclimatization rotation. He reported it was a warm, sunny day with alight breeze. He is back in EBC now. David has scaled five 800ers without Os: Gasherbrum II, Broad Peak, Dhaulagiri, Lhotse and Makalu. He has attempted Everest twice before but stopped for reasons other than his own.


Adrian Ballinger posted today on their gamble to go higher with a select team:

Well it’s gonna be cold, a bit windy, there’s no ropes above 7200m, and packs will be huge since none of the upper mtn camps are yet established. But it is time for me and the first of our @alpenglowexpeditions teams to go play up high on the big hill! #everest

I reached out to AB around 11:00 am Tibet time and he added:

“I would not try this window with clients – no way. Jet is super close and a low wind day could turn into a high wind day really easily”

Note that Adrian is going to attempt K2 with no Os after this Everest experience.

Adventure Peaks on their trip to the North Col:

The weather gods looked down on us favourably yesterday as we made the journey to the North Col.  Not too hot but not too cold, and no wind. Having not been able to touch the North Col previously, due to various reasons, we all knew it was going to be a hard day.  It didn’t disappoint and it was nice to be on some climbing terrain on the fixed ropes – no ladders this season.

North col is a beautiful place, far above ABC at about 7200m according to Nick’s altimeter.  The Sherpas had set up 4 tents for us and we were all safety tucked up in our sleeping bags by about 1500. Phurba, Pemba and Persemba didn’t want to miss out on the fun so they remained high with us.  Dawa, Nurbu and Phuringee preferred the load drop and return to ABC.

New Route Update

However, based on Adrian’s comments, I’m not sure Cory Richards and Topo Mena are going higher. They have returned to ABC preparing to start their new route as soon as conditions allow. They have climbed as high as 7,300-meters scouting out the route and for acclimatization. Sunday, they left to tag 8000-meters for acclimatization. They will see first hand where the ropes are and what the fixers are doing on the Tibet side.

The “Other” 8000ers

This is what is happening on the other 8,000-meter peaks in Nepal and Tibet.

Annapurna – “Last Chance?”

On the other side of Annapurna from the normal route which climbers finished up last week, Felix Berg and Adam Bielecki are attempting a new route on the Northwest Face. They were acclimatizing on Langtang Lirung and posted they know the time has come for them to summit and move to Annapurna or its over for this time:

Last few days we spent bouldering and hiking in the area, due to weather: mostly sunny but very windy – around 100 km/h on the ridge (supposedly cyclone effect). Time is passing by and we can’t do anything about it. However, we do not surrender yet. In the mean time we are ripping off the skin out of our fingertips on the surrounding boulders and analyse the weather forecasts with hope. Hopefully we will try the summit push on Langtang Lirung the day after tomorrow. If we want to go to Annapurna (we want! ) this is the proverbial “last chance”. Keep your fingers crossed for the weather, the rest we would manage ourselves

Dhaulagiri – Summit Bid Underway
Horia Colibasanu along with Marius Gane and Peter Hamor were last reported at Camp 2 around 6,000-meters but felt they had climbed the most difficult sections.  There have been only 5 member climbing permits issued for this season. This update from Hamor:

We finally finished the first, but technically most difficult part of our first ascent. We climbed the wall and the chimney of the ridge’s entry tower (difficulty V+, A1, M5). So far it’s been a bit of a maze, but we’ll try to find the safest route forward. We’re slightly bruised from the falling stones and pieces of ice, but with no serious injuries. I hope we’ll remain without any health issues, and if the weather gets better, I believe we could reach the summit in the upcoming days.

Lhotse – South Face Climbing
Sung Taek Hong team last reported in that they had returned to Camp 2 at 7,200m. On their last rotation, they reported a lot of avalanches. No strong update on conditions at the moment.  I assume if conditions allow, they will push for the summit. This is his sixth attempt to scale the face.

Makalu – Summit Bid Underway
Altitude Junkies have been to their Camp 2 at 6655 meters / 21,834 feet. On another team, Tracee Metcalfe is on her summit push. Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali Sadpara (43), is working with the Seven Summit Treks’ Sherpas who are fixing the route. They establish Camp 4. There have been 53 permits issued for four teams. It is 8,463-meters/27,765-feet high. No updates thus far.

Sadly, Peruvian Climber Richard Hidalgo was found dead in his Camp 2 tent after climbing with the rope fixing team the previous day. His body was recovered and return to Kathmandu.

Kanchanjunga – Summit Bid Underway

Maya Sherpa has left on her Kanchanjunga summit attempt. This will be her 3rd attempt, previously stopped by weather and conditions. There have been 34 member permits issued.

Cho Oyu – Cancelled

The Summit Climb team canceled their climb after the death of Phujung Bhote who fell in a crevasse.

Next Week

It all about the weather. We could see a lot of summits or a few. It’s a risk determination by the expedition leaders. The down side is that this year is shaping up to see only a few summit days as the jet stream seems to like the summit Everest. Perhaps a good cyclone in the Bay of Bengal would shake things up!!.

As the saying goes, if you must predict the future, do it often. I will do my best this next week.

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.

Climb On!
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.
donate to Alzheimers

Ida Arnette 1926-2009

Previous #Everest2019 posts:

Everest 2019: Team Locations and Headlines

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4 thoughts on “Everest 2019: Weekend Update May 12

  1. Dear Alan,

    As always, your comments and weekend update are fascinating.

    Recently, you discussed the rope fixing on both sides.

    Questions: who decides who is in charge of the rope fixing on Nepal side…..on Tibet side?

    Do the appointed rope fixers get paid for this service? Where does the money come from?

    What was the first year that ropes were fixed all the way to the top?

    Why is climbing wth fixed ropes SO important……everything I’ve read points to lack of O and cold being the biggest dangers…..do that many people slip and fall?

    1. Questions: who decides who is in charge of the rope fixing on Nepal side…..on Tibet side?

      The Chinese have control over the Tibet side and an organization called the Expedition Operators Association control who fixes on the Nepal side.

      Do the appointed rope fixers get paid for this service? Where does the money come from?

      Yes they get paid from the permits fees

      What was the first year that ropes were fixed all the way to the top?

      Not sure but probably in the early 1990s

      Why is climbing with fixed ropes SO important……everything I’ve read points to lack of O and cold being the biggest dangers…..do that many people slip and fall?

      Yes, if you slip you fall .. that is the reason for fixed ropes….

  2. Hi Alan,
    Greetings from Liverpool, UK.
    I just wanted to say that I’m really enjoying your coverage of the 2019 Everest season.
    It was only after recently finishing a book called ‘Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest’ that I know you exist!
    Anyway, keep up the good work and best of luck to all those looking to get up that big hill.

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