Everest 2023: Himalayan Update and “Records”

A few teams have reached Everest Base Camp, but most are still trekking or acclimatizing on Trekking Peaks like Lobuche, Mera or Island Peak. Camps are being established in the Western Cwm. Traditionally, EBC starts to fill up around April 15. Look for the first 8000 meters summit of the season in a few days.

Big Picture

There have been the usual weather delays in and out of Lukla and Kathmandu, so a few flights have been diverted to Ramechhap, requiring an additional five-hour drive. I’m getting first-hand reports that the Khubmu is incredibly crowded this year. It appears tourism has recovered in Nepal.

Teams are starting to build their camps in the Western Cwm. International Mountain Guides, IMG, noted:

IMG guides Max and Phunuru report from Everest Base Camp that Dawa Tenzing and Gyalzen Dorje went up to C2 this morning to claim our C1 and C2 campsites. Upon returning to EBC they said that the Icefall route is a little longer than last year but easier and in good shape. We are sending 8 Sherpas up to C1 tomorrow to drop off loads.

As of April 10, the Ministry of Tourism has issued 243 Everest permits to twenty-four teams. I expect around 400 total foreign permits to be issued. Some sources are suggesting 500, which would set a record. Note that China has not issued Everest Spring foreigner permits to climb from the Tibet side. Given the requirement of an 8000-meter climb from Chinese Nationals, many Chinese climb on the Nepal side. Now, with relaxed travel policies, I expect to see a large Chinese presence on the Nepal side this year.

Lhotse has sixty-one permits, followed by Annapurna with fifty-four. Climbers from the U.S. led the country list at fifty-one, with China at thirty-nine and India at twenty-five. 

Over on Annapurna, when climbing stopped due to heavy snow and avalanche conditions, better weather forecasts have teams looking at April 15 for a potential summit date. Pakistani Sajid Ali Sadpara is there hoping to summit, not using O’s. Dhaulagiri is also experiencing tough conditions. We’ll see what it’s like on Everest once the rope team heads up the Lhotse Face.

Looking forward to Autumn, operators are marketing Cho Oyu, and Shishapangma climbs for this Autumn. Everest is usually only climbed from Tibet in the Spring and should reopen in 2024.


This season, many individuals seek to set “records” with their climbs. Some are first from their nation, some with a disability and others pushing the limits by climbing multiple 8000 meters peaks as quickly as possible. In this last category comes Norweigian Kristin Harila. She, along with her filmmaker Matias Myklebust, plus Mexican climber Viridiana Alvarez Chavez and Swiss climber Sophie Lavaud are in Tibet for Cho-Oyu (8,201m) and Shishapangma (8,027m.). They are supported by Climbalaya’s Mingma Sherpa and five Sherpa guides – Pemba Tenjin Sherpa, Pemba Tenjing Sherpa, Chhiring Wanchu Sherpa, Ngima Rita Sherpa, and Tenjen Sherpa.

Last year, Harila made headlines when she summited (with O’s) twelve of the fourteen 8000ers in under six months, but China would not make an exception for her to enter Tibet for her remaining two peaks. With China relaxing its COVID policies, they are now reissuing tourist visas and are allowing the Climbalaya team to enter Tibet. However, Harila has changed her plans and is now targeting to summit all fourteen TWICE, once not using supplemental oxygen. This means she will climb Cho and Shish two times while in China– and all 14 in under six months.

Harila was skunked on Manaslu due to deep snow last month. Brit, Adri Brownlee, striving to be the youngest female to get all fourteen, also bailed and says she’s stepping back from the 8000ers for a while, citing, “I think I will take a break now from 8000m peaks, the culture seems to be changing so much on these mountains, it’s all about the records, the fame, the money.” An interesting shift of attitude from the once-driven 23-year-old.

When is a Record, not a Record?

Excellent mountain journalist Stefan Nestler recently made a post about setting records. His basic premise is that mountain climbing records cannot be compared due to vastly different conditions each season, along with technological advances. He references the use of helicopters, massive Sherpa support and supplemental oxygen. Nestler says, provocatively, “The conditions under which they are achieved make all the difference – and as a rule, they cannot be compared.”

He compares Harila’s potential summit for the 8000ers in six months, using every modern-day advantage to the thirteen-year quest of Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. By the way, Kaltenbrunner became the first woman to scale all 8,000-meter peaks without the use of supplementary oxygen when she topped out on K2 in 2011.

The website FastestKnownTime.com tracks projects of athletes from runners, hikers, and climbers and on their FNT projects. They have guidelines to help participants make viable comparisons but also recognize sometimes it’s not possible such as removing the “Pacific Crest Trail, CA, OR, WA – Wildfires are closing sections of this great trail every summer, making year-year comparisons overly problematic.”

The mountain runner, Killian Jornet, has gained global fame for his running feats. In fact, he’s on Everest this Spring, attempting Everest and Lhotse without O’s. Many of his records are set during competitions with strict rules and oversight. In 2017, he claimed a double summit within six days on Everest’s Tibet side.  But he never provided a GPS track or photographs and said he summited alone at midnight. Jornet made a documentary; however, questions remained, as explored in this Outside article.

I’m reminded of the controversy surrounding Colin O’Brady in 2019 when he declared, “… the first person in history to traverse the continent of Antarctica coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided.” There were many issues with his claim, but foremost was his claim that he began his traverse where the land began, not the sea ice as all of his predecessors had. This significantly shortened his crossing significantly.

In Explorer’sWeb, a comprehensive article explored O’Brady’s claim, summed up with this, “Normally, in any field, if someone wants to claim a first, they do so on a track of similar length, and in the same style as their predecessors. You do not contrive a route that is both geographically shorter and artificially easier, thereby choosing just the rules that suit you.”

So, do we accept any claim as to a summit or a record? Some high-profile people in the climbing community have an unequivocal answer, “No,” mentioning Manaslu as a widely calimed summit, where many only reached the fore-summit. They want proof – GPS track, witnesses, photos – something other than the person’s word. But back to Nestler’s point, even if a “record” is set, is it comparable to the previous one, the one before it and on and on?

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