Everest 2024: Weekend Update April 14: Icefall Woes, Fewer Climbers

Welcome to the Everest 2024 Weekend Update in mid-April. This week’s headlines are a bit concerning. The fixed line that should already be at Camp 2 is only halfway through the Icefall. I’m not sure this is bad news for climbers, but Everest permits lag significantly from 2023, down 34%. However, we saw the first 8000er summits this past week, with many more to come. Base Camp at Everest is filling up. Trekkers are on the move, and mountains are seeing summits. Hello, spring 2024.

Happy New Year to all Nepalis, as April 13 was the start of 2081! Their calendar, Bikram Sambat, is an eternal calendar and runs synchronously with the Sun’s motion and state. Also known as Vikram Samvat, the Hindu calendar is about 57 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar used in the West.

Each weekend during the season, I’ll post a “Weekend Update” summarizing the main stories from the past week and what to expect next.

Big Picture

Let’s start with the Khumbu Icefall, the gateway to climbing to the Nepal summit. I’m getting first-hand reports from Everest Base Camp that “it’s only maybe 50% done. Apparently, the low snowfall this year has made the normal central routes unavailable at this point. They’re working on it, though,”

Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering tells me, “The black line shows the route they were aiming for but did not find a way through past where the black line ends.” Note: Alan drew the red line showing where the route is normally. Garret continued, “So, they are doing to regroup and try the other side, climbers left, closer to the west shoulder. That is how the route used to go about 10-15 years ago. They are also worried about a big leaning serac [in the Icefall, not on the West Shoulder like in 2014 or Autumn 2019]. They hope it will collapse soon before they resume work, then they can pass through that section without the fear of it collapsing.” Garret concludes with little concern, “Yes, no rush for us..”

2024 Khumbu Icefall route as of mid-May. Black is the current route per Garrett, and red shows the previous variation per Alan Courtesy of Garrett Madison.
2024 Khumbu Icefall route as of mid-May. Black is the current route per Garrett, and red shows the previous variation per Alan. Photo courtesy of Garrett Madison.

So, what does this do to the schedule? Well, not too much in theory. By April 15, many teams arrived at Base Camp and are settling in for a few days of rest and refresher training on an “ice obstacle” course built next to EBC. For many teams, their first foray into the Icefall is only to the halfway point, usually the Football Field, to get a feel for it. The real test comes on their first rotation to Camp 1 and sometimes to Camp 2 in the third week of April. The bottom line for me is that we can start being concerned if the Icefall Doctors can’t progress this upcoming week.

Another thought on the Icefall. Over the many years, since the early 1950s, the route has wandered all over the place, so this is not entirely new. What’s a bit unique about 2o24 is the lateness of getting the route to the Western Cwm. This might go down as one of the latest in history. The latest in modern times was April 16 in the 2010 spring season, using 24 ladders.

Khumbu Icefall routes Recent Khumbu Icefall routes

Summits

The season’s first 8000er summits came not on Annapurna as expected but on Makalu, followed by Annapurna, both by the rope-fixing teams. Of note, climbing with the rope team was Nima Rinji, 17, who got his eleventh 8,000er climbing without supplemental oxygen. He wants to be the youngest person to get all fourteen. Overall, SST put thirteen on Anna’s summit, and Pioneer had two. There were eight Sherpas on the Makalu summit. Altitude Junkies reported success on Anna but no details on the four-person team plus Sherpas. And Australian climber Allie Pepper, 48, got her summit not using supplemental oxygen. Mingtemba (Mikel) Sherpa and Ngima Wanadak Sherpa supported her. She’s quest to get fourteen and has three.

While not an 8000er, the popular Ama Dablam saw the rope team from 8K Expeditions summit clearing the way for the 66+ foreigners with permits to go higher.

As of April 10, 2024, Nepal has issued 512 climbing permits to 55 teams for 19 peaks, 209 of which are for Everest. I expected the 2023 record of 478 Everest permits to be broken this year, but we are off to a slower-than-expected start. As of April 16, 2023, Nepal had issued 743 climbing permits to 85 teams for 23 peaks, 319 of which were for Everest. Overall, Everest permits are down 34%. The trend in recent years is for teams to arrive much later than, let’s say, a decade ago, so we’ll see.

Last Week

On Annapurna, we saw the first client summits: four from Seven Summits Treks, one from Pioneer Adventures and perhaps as many as three from Altitude Junkies on Annapurna. The summiteers included Brit Samiur Rashid, Czech Klara Kolouchova, and Ukrainian climbers Iryna Karagan and Irina Galay. Three Sherpas, Lakpa Temba Sherpa, Pasang Sherpa, and Pemba Thenduk Sherpa, climbed in support. Galay climbed with Mingma Dorchi Sherpa.

EBC continues to see team after team arrives. Adventure Consultants was one of many teams to arrive at EBC:

So here we are at Everest Base Camp. Walking into a fully built camp is great for us, and so much work has been done to get to this stage. Our sherpa teams were at Base Camp in the first week of March, leveling tent platforms and making order out of the glacial rock-strewn chaos. Also, in the last week, our advance party has been setting up dining tents, sleeping tents, solar power systems, water filters, kitchen tents and lots more. Thank you to everyone who has made it easy for us to arrive, find a tent and settle in.

This will be our home when we’re not on the mountain, and a comfortable Base Camp makes a huge difference to how we prepare, rest and recover. We reunited with the Trekking group when we arrived at Base Camp, and we had a sociable lunch together before they headed back down the Khumbu Valley. Nathan managed a photo session with his family at the new Everest Base Camp sign and drew a lot of attention dressed in his down suit. Tomorrow is our first rest day since the start of the trip, and we will use the time to prepare our climbing equipment for Everest.

International Mountain Guides had their puja, a ceremony I’ll write more about a puja next week. They noted:

Phunuru reports from Base Camp that the Everest team had a nice puja yesterday.  The lama from Pangboche came up to officiate, and the weather was favorable. This ceremony is important to the Sherpas for good luck on the mountain, and for the foreign climbers, it’s a fun way to kick off the climbing season.  Next up for the team is training on the Khumbu Glacier, followed by an acclimatization climb of Lobuche Peak.

While some teams climb the 20,000-foot trekking peak, Lobuche, as they wend towards base camp, IMG goes to EBC and returns to Lobuche. Either method is valuable time at altitude and aids in their acclimatization. I received a report that Lobuche is playing tough this year, “I summited Lobouche with four others on my team, and 3 turned back (illness/fatigue). I don’t think most expected such a big day and somewhat technical climb.”

Next Week

On the Nepal side, many climbers and trekkers will continue their journey to base camp. There seems to be some unexplained delays entering Tibet. This seems to happen from time to time, and suddenly, it will open with no explanation or reasoning. This uncertainty is part of the reason many operators shun climbing in Tibet.  The latest word was the border would open on April 17. Again, we’ll see.

Some teams will have their Puja ceremony, where a Lama from a local Monastery performs a ceremony to ask the Mountain Gods permission to climb, forgiveness for damaging the mountain, and safety for all involved. This is a solemn ceremony that, for many, marks the beginning of the climb. I’ll discuss it more when they begin.

Notable Attempts

I still applaud any attempt on Everest, but some deserve a bit longer and more enthusiastic acknowledgment – those trying without using supplemental oxygen. Remember that of the close to 12,000 summits (by 6,664 people), only 224 climbers summited without supplemental oxygen through January 2024, about 1.9%, so it remains a rarity. This year, we have a few that will try.

Russian guide and mountaineer Valeri Babanov, 59, will make an attempt. He is extremely qualified, having summited the last of his fourteen 800ers last spring, Makalu. Babanov won the Oscar of mountaineering, the Piolets d’Or for his 2001 solo, first ascent of India’s Meru Shark Finn and in 2003, with Yuri Koshelenko opened a new route up Nuptse East. If successful, he would become the oldest person to ascend Everest without oxygen.

Bolivian Hugo Ayaviri, 45, will try the Everest-Lhotse combo sans O’s. The mountain, guide and rescuer. If successful, he would be his country’s first to do this double in this style. He has Broad Peak and K2 with no O’s so he knows what he getting into.

As I previously reported, Norwegian endurance athlete Frank Løke, 44, will try the Big E without O’s as will Turkish climber Tunc Findik, 52, who has completed all fourteen of the 8000ers, including Everest twice, and will now return to Everest for a no-O attempt.

Kami Rita Sherpa

While he will probably use supplemental oxygen, look for Kami Rita (Topke) Sherpa to continue his record seating summit spree by building his 29 Everest summits. Born in 1970, the now 54-year-old first summited Everest in 1994 with Alpine Ascents International, AAI.  It was quite a team of names that would become legends: Todd Burleson, Pete Athens, Kay Barber, Lee Burnett, Henry Todd, Paul Morrow, Jan Pawlowski, Jeff Lakes, Graham Kerr, Dieter Fischbeck, Bob Cedergree, Lhakpa Rita Sherpa (Kami Rita’s older brother), Chuwang Nima Sherpa, Dorje Sherpa and “Gopal” Man Bahadur Taming

This highlight of the 1994 AAI expedition from the Himalayan Database:

7th May one of Hall team’s Sherpas went up early on Lhotse Face, came back after dropping load and prepared tents collapsed and not possible to sleep in them. Members tured around after only an hour’s trek out of C2 (at bottom of W Face) and thus put back program by a day. Burleson Sherpas not turned around and found tents actually entirely usable.


Todd Burleson breathes supplemental oxygen on the Summit of Mount Everest (29,028′) in the perfect weather of 1994. At his feet is the laser-reflecting prism gear that lets Brad Washburn and associated scientists measure the movement of Everest from Nepali villages far below. Courtesy of MountainZone.com

So summit party reached C3 on 8th and C4 on 9th; on 9th winds became very strong in mid-afternoon. 10th in this party: Burleson, Athans, Pawlowski, Todd, Cedergreen, Morrow, Kerr, Fischbeck, Lakes and Sherpas Lhakpa Rita, Chuwang Nima, Kami Rita, Dorje and “Gopal” Man Bdr Tamang. Had to stay in C4 4 nights before able to go for top because of winds (may be 50-60 mph – could walk around col but could not have gotton clients to top) and would never have gotten clients back up to C4 if had gone down.

12th May afternoon winds died and all 15 climbers set out for summit at midnight. Todd frostbite and turned back at 8150m; Lakes suddenly took off oxygen, fell hours behind (had been helping Todd) but cannot account for reason he turned back 100m below South Summit. Fischbeck ran out of oxygen below South Summit and turned back, so his pal Kerr (who had summited before) also turned back. Fischbeck moving fairly slowly and would have difficult to get him to summit. All slept at C4 again and on 14th to C2.

Other 800ers

There has been a lot of activity in Annapurna, Makalu, and Dhaulagiri. This week, we can expect more summits.

Nepal Permit Update

As of April 10, 2024, Nepal has issued 264 climbing permits to 30 teams for 15 peaks. This is the current tally for the 8000ers:

8000er Teams Male Clients Female Clients Total
Annapurna I 3 14 11 25
Dhaulagiri 1 10 5 15
Everest 13 119 30 149
Kanchenjunga 3 20 11 31
Lhotse 5 49 6 55
Makalu 4 34 12 46
TOTALS 29 246 75 321

 

 

 

 

Here’s to a safe season for all on both sides.

Climb On!
Alan
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Here’s the video podcast version of this weekend’s update:

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Everest 2024: Weekend Update April 14

You can listen to #everest2024 podcasts on SpotifyApple Podcast, Breaker, YouTube, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Anchor, and more. Just search for “alan arnette” on your favorite podcast platform.


Previous Everest 2024 Season Coverage Posts


Why this coverage?

I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I’m just one guy who loves climbing. With 38 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 hope no other family will go through; thus, I asked for donations to non-profits, which 100% goes to them and nothing ever to me.
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3 thoughts on “Everest 2024: Weekend Update April 14: Icefall Woes, Fewer Climbers

  1. Hi Alan, thanks for your coverage. Have a look on Valery Babanov’s website. He has climbed six of the 8,000ers – five without oxygen.

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