Everest 2023: Icefall Problems Delay Climbers

Kami at ladder in Everest 2016 Icefall

Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering is reporting that problems halfway up the Icefall are delaying climbers from going up from EBC and coming down from their summit pushes.

After an alpine start to their day, the team is back in Everest Base Camp (EBC) due to a collapse in the icefall. Our team is all safe and back to their beds, with hopes that the route gets reopened soon, so that they can move up the mountain tomorrow. Expedition leader, Garrett Madison checks in with this brief update from EBC:

Hello! This is Garrett calling in for the Mount Everest (8848m/29,032ft) expedition team. Today is May 18th, it’s about 2:30 in the morning here at Everest Base Camp (5364m/17,598ft). We set out two or three hours ago for our first rotation to move up to Camp 2 (6500m/21,325ft), but after leaving base camp and just about getting into the icefall, we encountered some climbers coming back down who had tried to go up, and had encountered a collapse in the icefall where the route was broken about half the way up.

So, we’re going to rest today and hopefully the icefall doctors can get up there and repair that section of the route that’s broken, and then our plan is to go again tomorrow. So, one day behind our anticipated schedule, but everyone’s doing well here! Good practice, good dry run this morning, looking forward to getting some sleep and then going for it again tomorrow!

Earlier in the season, the upper part of the Icefall had some kind of collapse, taking the lives of three Sherpas. This one sounds like it’s more in the middle or lower around a flat section called the Football Field. Climbers take breaks there because they as protected from serac releases of Everest’s West Shoulder as much as there is protection in the Icefall.

For those still in EBC, this is more of an annoyance, but for those on their descent from the summit, it’s keeping them from a celebratory beverage!!

There’s still a lot of time left on the summit clock for the estimated 500 to 600 Sherpas and clients combined. While the winds seem calm now and will remain good through May 20, they pick up on the 21st and steadily increase as we near the end of May. The weather station from National Geographic reports the temperature at the South Col as 0F/-18C.

The season will officially end when the Icefall Doctors declare they will stop maintaining the route from EBC to C2, including in the Icefall and remove the ladders. They stored the ladders in Gorak Shep and reused them the next year or in Autumn or winter if there are expeditions. Most of the fixed ropes will stay on the mountain for the last climber. Some are removed each year to attempt to keep it tidy.

Os or No O’s

People often underestimate the impact of extreme altitude and romanticize their capacity to climb the 8000ers without supplemental oxygen. Only 2.9% of all Everest summiteers didn’t use Os. This year there have only been two climbers to summit Everest without the benefits of supplemental oxygen: Pakistani Sajid Sadpara and Colombian Mateo Isaza.

Stuck No O’s Climber on Makalu

And over on Makalu, Indian female climber Piyali Basak,  climbing without supplemental oxygen, has gotten into trouble, according to the Himalayan Times:

“Piyali was very slow and couldn’t move when she arrived at around 7,400m after reaching the summit point,” sources said, adding that she was with two Sherpa guides.

Carlos Soria Update

The 84-year-old, on his fourteenth attempt of Dhaulagiri, broke his leg on his summit attempt. A Sherpa fell, causing other to fall. Desnvile has these details:

The accident occurred last night on the crossing, at approximately 7700 meters. The fall of a Sherpa, who coincided with Carlos and Sito on a section of fixed rope, in a section of the crossing, caused the three of them to fall several meters, until they tightened a rope that had a lot of slack. In the fall Carlos broke his leg. The descent to Camp III, together with the Sherpa team, has been especially hard, due to the complexity of the terrain.”

Sherpas were getting him lower for a helicopter evacuation on Thursday.

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