The Everest 2022 season is about to get started in earnest. Climber after climber and team after team are leaving home. In many cases, scores of Sherpas are on their way to Everest Base Camp to begin the arduous process of establishing a home for over 500 people this spring season. The Icefall Doctors are already at work.
April 1 marks the arrival of many Everest climbers to Kathmandu. The city gets busy, especially in Thamel. Restaurants a full of tourists, and the domestic terminal at Tribhuvan is full of trekkers and climbers waiting for their flight to Lukla. These days, many teams take helicopters directly to Namache Bazzar, which I think is a mistake because the trek from Lulka is very rewarding in my experience.
Multiple reports say more than 100 domestic and foreign tourists visit the Khumbu area daily, and up to 20 helicopters and 35 air flights fly into Lukla daily. The Ministry of Tourism has published a report on the current permit count. It’s still early so the numbers are low.
The Icefall Doctors have been at Everest Base Camp for over a week and have the fixed rope halfway through the Khumbu Icefall. Next, another team from Seven Summits Treks will set the line from Camp 2 to the summit. They hope to complete the work by late April.
Meanwhile, French Alpisinst Marc Batard, who set a speed record in 1988 of 22:29 from EBC to the summit without supplemental oxygen, wants to prove an alternative route to the Khumbu Icefall on the flanks of Lhotse. He told the Kathmandu Post. “The new route follows a rocky spur below the flank of Mt Nuptse. The rocky spur, a vertical cliff, is a bit difficult. But after it is climbed, the route from there becomes easy to navigate. This will completely bypass the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. There is no danger of an avalanche in the Nuptse ridge.” I have serious doubts this will emerge as a widely used alternative.
Thankfully, COVID has calmed down with the Omicron variant this year, but with war raging in Ukraine, many Europeans and Russians will not be climbing Everest this spring. Also, the Chinese have imposed tight travel restrictions; thus, there will be fewer, if any, Chinese nationals on Everest.
Then there are the Indians. The Indian Army will not field a team for the first time in many years. Overall with fewer Chinese, Indian, and Eastern European members, the Nepali companies, who cater to those markets, are seeing significantly fewer customers than in pre-pandemic times.
Pemba Sherpa of 8K Expeditions tells me he has 25 clients thus far from Morocco, Canadia, France, India, Mexico, Nigeria, USA, and Mongolia. And he tells me that the dominant guide on 8000ers, Seven Summits Treks has less than 50, half their usual 100+ in regular times. Western guides tell me they are around 75% of their regular customers. So, all in all, it looks like Everest will be quieter this year, and I think that is good.
So taking all of this into account, I’m lowering my expectation to less than 350 permits issued by Nepal to foreign climbers and maybe significantly less to under 300. There were 408 foreigner permits issued in 2021.
This past week, a few climbers flew to Kathmandu, but most were taking care of last-minute business at home. In the last five years, it’s popular to arrive later and later in Nepal to reduce the time spent in Kathmandu. Also, some teams now fly directly to Namche Bazaar instead of Lukla from Kathmandu to minimize the time trekking to EBC, believing it minimizes the risk of getting sick.
The increased use of home-altitude tents to “pre-acclimitize” has allowed many climbers to reduce their overall expedition from eight to as little as four weeks, and in some rare cases like Roxanne Vogel in 2019, two weeks home to the summit to home!
Teams with many members, like IMG, usually split into sub-teams and stagger their arrival. IMG has already had one group arrive. On the other hand, Altitude Junkies tend to arrive at what most consider very late, around April 5th, or even 10th. But both methods work, with 80% of the summits occurring between May 18th and 23rd.
I’m expecting between 20 and 30 teams on Everest this spring. The US-based guides, including Altitude Junkies, Alpine Ascents International (AAI), International Mountain Guides (IMG), Madison Mountaineering, Mountain Professionals, and Summit Climb, are running teams. Out of Australia is Climbing the Seven Summits.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created havoc for many Eastern European climbers. The Ukraine Embassy in India called on Nepal to “ban Russian mountaineering teams until the end of the russian invasion into Ukraine.” Thus far, there has been no public reaction from Nepal on the request.
Meanwhile, the Russian-based 7 Summits Club usually climbs on the north side, but this year has 17 participants, 4 guides, and 20 high-altitude Sherpa porters for Everest and Lhotse. Austrian-based Furtenbach Adventures has a solid group on the Nepal side. Another Austrian outfit, Kobler & Parter will be on Dhaulagiri.
Nepali companies include 8K Expeditions, Asian Trekking, Elite Expeditions, Imagine Nepal, Peak Promotion, Pioneer Adventure, Seven Summits Treks, and many more.
Not Climbing Everest in 2021
A few foreign companies have chosen to sit out climbing Everest this season either due to China closing the Tibet side or lack of confidence in how Nepal is managing the mountain. Those usually there but not this spring include Adventure Consultants and Mountain Trip. Alpenglow, who usually climbs on the Tibet side, will be on Makalu instead. I’ve not seen reports of any Nepali company canceling their season.
COVID Quarantine Requirements
As reported by the Kathmandu Post, the Ministry of Tourism has removed all pre-arrival testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers. Upon arrival, they need to show their vaccination card, and those not vaccinated or having received only one shot will need to produce a negative RT-PCR test not older than 72 hours. All visitors will still have to fill out the travelers form issued by the Covid-19 Crisis Management Coordination Centre (CCMCC) at the entry point.
Of the fourteen peaks higher than 26,000-feet or 8,000-meters, eight are entirely in Nepal or straddle the border with either India or Tibet: Everest, Cho Oyu, Annapurna, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Lhotse, and Kanchenjunga will all see Climbers this spring. Cho Oyu might be quiet since the standard route is from Tibet, not Nepal. In addition, Nepali companies are planning experimental commercial climbs this Autumn from the Nepal side. See this post for details.
As we officially begin April next week, arrival will increase, and many will be on the trail trekking to Goyko or Everest Base Camp. Some will tag EBC then go on to Lobocuhe, Island Peak, or other destinations, while some will settle in at camp, making it their home for the next two months. As the season progresses, I’ll take a look at all these scenarios and a typical day in the life of your Everest climber.
Memories are Everything
I use the Himalayan Database as my primary source of Everest summit statistics. If you are climbing in 2022, they ask you to fill in an electronic web-based survey, replacing the time-consuming process of visiting each team in their hotel before the climb. In addition, you can now download the HDB for free at their site.
I’m updating my annual team location table and track 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. Likewise, please contact me if you prefer not to be mentioned. Finally, if you would like to see anything special this year, post a comment or drop me an email.
Here’s the video version of this weekend update:
The Podcast on alanarnette.com
You can listen to #everest2022 podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Anchor, and more. Just search for “alan arnette” on your favorite podcast platform.
If you dream of climbing mountains but are not sure how to start or reach your next level from a Colorado 14er to Rainier, Everest, or even K2, we can help. Summit Coach is a consulting service that helps aspiring climbers throughout the world achieve their goals through a personalized set of consulting services based on Alan Arnette’s 25 years of high altitude mountain experience, including summits of Everest, K2, and Manaslu, and 30 years as a business executive.