Welcome to the 2021 edition of Alan Arnette’s annual coverage of the Everest climbing season. I try to provide insight and interpretation of the activities ranging from routes to weather to the challenge and reward of climbing Everest. It’s based on my own three Everest attempts and my 2011 summit plus my climbing experiences of a K2 summit in 2014, Manaslu in 2013 and 30+ more peaks around the world. My reporting uses my own research, sources, and public information.
Satire sprinkled with a few annoying facts.
As I sat down to write a recap of the 2021 spring season on Everest, these words came to mind: COVID, coverup, lies, misdirection, personal attacks, denials. Oh, and cyclones, wind, waiting, risk, and yes, summits. But, oh my, at what a cost? If 2019 was the year Everest broke, 2021 was the year Nepal broke Everest.
A reported 41 people (22 members with 19 Sherpa) summited on Tuesday, June 1 ending the season. Others canceled for various reasons from health to conditions. Heavy snow stopped additional Lhotse summits. By my count: 195 members with 339 Sheras thus far, for a total of 534 summits. The season should be over now with the Icefall Doctors closing the route on June 3.
A reported 16 people (6 members with 10 Sherpas) took a gamble and summited on Monday, May 31 at 7:00 am. They evaluated the risky avalanche conditions after feet on fresh snow and used their powerful Sherpa resources to break the trail for their clients to the top. Well done by all and congratulations on dodging the ball.
Heavy snow has finally ended but there is talk of avalanches, stolen oxygen and the Icefall Doctors extending maintaining the route a few more days. Dan Mazur of Summit Climb made news with a dramatic post telling that Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face was destroyed by an avalanche. His source was an unnamed Sherpa: 28 May – Challenging Weather + Team Dynamics – Storm intensifies; all 20 of us remain pinned down in basecamp by driving wind blowing horizontal curtains of blasted snow chunks/flakes, steady drumroll of whipping prayer flags + flapping nylon. We may feel nervous here in bc, continue reading
Heavy snow continues on Everest, but a couple of teams at C2 hoping for a summit window from May 29-31.
Garrett Madison tells me from Base Camp around 10 am Friday, May 28, “Snowing hard here in EBC..climbers worried now about too much snow & avalanche danger on the Lhotse face…SPCC closing the icefall May 31, if climbers stay longer up high they might need to helicopter out from C2”
Heavy snow was reported on Everest, but some teams are reporting low winds. Once again, the truth is opaque on Everest. The gag order by the Nepal government has had a dramatic impact on teams’ willingness to share any information that could be construed as negative, thus all the happy talk. A handful of teams are still eyeing the end of the month for one last try.
Cyclone Yaas is expected to touch Everest for another 24 to 48 hours or until May 29, thus leaving an opening as early as Saturday but more likely Sunday and Monday. No doubt any team trying to make this last chance will be met with deep snow. It will take a strong group of many Sherpas to break trail. Avalanche risk may be present especially since the teams will not have the choice to wait a day or two for the layers to bond.
Meanwhile, in a press release, Nepal’s home ministry calls expedition agencies and tourism officials ‘to make an immediate return of climbers from mountains.” Most computer-based weather forecasts call for winds to decrease to under 15 mph starting on Sunday, May 30.
If it’s not COVID, it’s the winds. two more teams end their expedition early telling climbers, “it’s over.” A handful are still eyeing the end of the week for one last try.
With Cyclone Yaas making landfall in India, the winds are touching Everest. Nepal’s Meteorological Forecasting Division said the storm is now in the process of ‘weakening’, but will impact the weather in Nepal till Saturday. Not good news for those holding for it to pass. The Icefall Docs said they will shut down the route on May 31, Saturday. However, they might be talked into another extension.