Everest 2022 Season Summary: The Year of the Missing Jetstream

2022 brought even more stable weather windows than during the great Everest 2018. This May, a stalled high-pressure system made for horrendous temperatures in Northern India while paradoxically creating nearly ideal climbing conditions across much, but not all,  of the Himalayas. The net result was nearly 650 people summiting from Everest’s Nepal side and another 50 on the Tibet side.

Unlike previous seasons, this spring saw more experienced climbers resulting in fewer deaths, rescues, and an overall low drama environment. Despite this good news, there were periods of brutal weather and climbing conditions, and yes, there were rescues, close-calls, and, sadly, deaths.

This season, we saw the continued trend of a very high member to support ratio. A milestone reached with more Sherpas summiting than foreigners in total since Everest climbing began in the 1920s. We’ll dig into this later. All in all, it was a year like we saw a decade ago. But, unfortunately, it was not without deaths, three deaths on Everest and three more on the other 8000ers.

In the good news department, for the first time in many years, the Nepal Ministry of Tourism seemed content to stay out of the way and the headlines. But, this spring, significant changes appeared in the world of mountaineering. These changes will disrupt decades of climbing norms on the 8000-meter peaks.

Everest 2022: Weekend Update May 22 – The Season That Won’t End

This Everest season is like a runny nose that won’t stop. You blow hard, wipe it clean, and all of a sudden, there it goes again. Just as I thought base camp was empty, as well as the other 8000ers, people keep showing up at the South Col and summiting. I guess with winds so calm (relatively – there are still those moments) that leaders are demonstrating great patience and trust in the weather forecasters to let the route clear out before taking their peeps higher. And that’s how it’s supposed to be done. 

More Summits!

We have a few more summits to report as it seems the wind has picked back up but was still manageable last night. We’ll see how the week develops.

Pemba Sherpa of 8K Expeditions texted me that Norweigan Kristin Harila made the fastest link ever for males or females between Everest and Lhotse along with Dawa Ongju Sherpa. They summited Everest on May 22 at 8:45 am and then Lhotse at 5:50 pm – that’s 9:05 apart. Now she’s on to Makalu base camp by helicopter. She is trying to set a record for summiting all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks in the fastest time. Pemba tells me they will ask for an entry exception to climb Shishapangma in China. And they will climb Cho Oyu from Nepal. Thus far this season, she has summited Kanchenjunga on May 14, Dhaulagiri on May 8, and Annapurna I on April 28.

Another one we have been waiting for is German David Göttler, who summited Everest this morning. He climbed about as clean as possible these days with no O’s and no other human support other than using the fixed lines and ladders installed by the Sherpas. He summited on May 21.

Everest 2022: Weekend Update May 15 – Summits, Summits, Summits in Great Weather

We saw hundreds of people summit Mt. Everest with almost unprecedented weather this past week. And from all indications, summits will continue into next week, albeit at a slower rate, with the exception of Tuesday, May 17th, when the winds will spike over 30 mph/50kph. However, at this rate, this season could be over soon.

No on-mountain deaths or rescues were reported, but we may still learn of difficulties. Overall, the weather was ideal, with low winds and temperatures around 0F/-20C.

Big Picture

We have what I’d consider a ‘normal’ season for once in a long, long time. Of course, it’s mostly due to the lingering impact of COVID – the Chinese closed its border, and India was hesitant to sponsor the droves of young climbers who have filled the slopes for the last several years. But the big deal is the missing Jet Stream resulting in this period of low summit winds, thus allowing team after team to thoughtfully plan their attack.

So how to sum up the week and season thus far – two words – low drama. Well, at least what we know of. Sadly, today’s social-media-driven mountaineering has turned into a public relations game where no one will admit they messed up, from clients to guides to anyone. Thus it’s hard to know if a helicopter flight was a rescue or a resupply of oxygen at a high camp.

We have seen many summits. I estimate 341 from the Nepal side made up of 140 members supported by 201 Sherpas, or high-altitude workers of other ethnicities. And on the Tibet side, 50. There have been many, many people who fought a good fight but came up short. Sometimes due to lack of preparation, others from illness, personality conflicts, logistics miscues, or just bad luck. It’s all part of climbing an 8000-meter peak. Most will try again.

There have been a plethora of ‘records.’ Many of these are from a person who is the first from their country to the summit, and then others have a personal story that they view as a record. We’ve also seen an unusual linking of multiple 8000-meter peaks.

Again well done, but we need to look deeper into style. By that, I mean what most veteran climbers call “fair play.” Use of oxygen starting at what camp? Level of support to break trail? Use of helicopters to shortcut treks to base camp. Did they reach the true summit or a false one? All of these are fair questions in my mind. And, to be clear, they don’t invalidate a genuine summit but only put the achievement into perspective, especially if the climber claims a ‘record.’ Many of these claims are solid, and the individual deserves the praise they receive back home.

I’ll try to recap all the records in my annual season summary without comment. 🙂 However, records are not in my lane, so I leave it to Guinness and the Himalayan Database to vet these claims. But congratulations to those who made X summits in Y days or were the first from your universe. I’m sure that 2023 will be a record year on Everest, especially when (if) China reopens its side. 

So with all of this, teams are taking their time and spreading out their pushes so as to minimize but eliminate the ques in the traditional bottlenecks.

Rescue and Frostbite on Annapurna 2022: Tim Bogdanov

This is a special Podcast and YouTube interview with Tim Bogdanov, 37, who was rescued from Annapurna last month. He tells a chilling tale of getting lost and multiple mistakes he made during his no Os climb.

Tim has summits of Manaslu and Annapurna plus over 30 6,000-meters peaks around the world. His style is to climb alone and without supplemental oxygen. He summited Annapurna on April 28 alongside an Indian team that was climbing independently. Also on the summit, that day was Italian Alpinist Giampaolo Corona, who was climbing in a similar independent style.

They both got into serious trouble once descending, albeit separately. The rest of the story is in the video.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

Everest 2022: Weekend Update May 8 – Ropes to the Summit!

It was a busy week in the Himalayas with summits on multiple 8000ers, including Everest. On the Nepal side of the mountain, Kami Rita Sherpa led the rope team to the summit and at the same time extended his summit record to 26. Sadly, there were two more deaths of the season, one on Kangchenchunga and another on Everest. Still, thus far 2022 is a low-drama season. With the good weather emerging, the summit trolls will now allow everyone to make their attempts.

Big Picture

2022 is turning out to be an unusual season but in a good way. On Thursday, I did a podcast with three world-class meteorologists, Michael Fagen of Everest Weather, Chris Tomer of Tomer Weather Solutions, and Marc De Keyser of Weather4expeditions , about what we are seeing and can expect these last few weeks of the season. They all agreed that it is warmer than usual, drier than usual, and with less wind than usual. The culprit is the Jet Stream is not sitting on top of Everest like it usually does.

They even suggested that we may see another year like in 2018 when we had 11 consecutive days of low winds that allowed a record year for Everest summits with 802 summits on both sides. The Nepal side saw a total of 562 summits made up of 266 foreigners (aka members) and 296 High Altitude Workers (aka Sherpas). We won’t see anything like that number of summits in 2022, perhaps around 400, including support.

A wild card was a potential typhoon brewing in the Bay of Bengal but now it appears that  “ASANI” will track away from making landfall. Again, there are currently NO typhoons warnings issued by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center:

Everest 2022: Weekend Update May 1 – Summits, Rescues and Cimbing – A ‘Normal’ Season

It’s May Day on Everest and some teams are having a party, while others are focused on their acclimatization schedule, and some now eying the summit. But everyone needs to wait for the fixed ropes. The upper mountain may have some moderate winds that may delay the rope team. We saw summits on a few 8000ers but the conditions remain iffy. Still, thus far 2022 is a low-drama season. 

Big Picture

With so many climbers high on Everest, the news is scarce due to a lack of comms. Teams are doing their rotations on Everest to Camp 2 and sometimes a bit higher to Camp 3, few if any thus far are following the traditional model of sleeping at Camp 3, nearly 7,000-meters. Those who won’t be using Os will need to go to 8,000-meters before their summit attempt. But for now, several teams declared good enough and are settling in to wait for the summit weather window. It will be at least two weeks or so until the forecast shows a few days with the summit winds under 30mph/50kph. Some teams are now doing the fashionable “touch grass” down valley, ready to return at a moment’s notice for the summit push.

Everest 2022: Weekend Update April 24 – First Rotations Begin

As we enter the last week of April, the climbing on Everest is in the full program. Climbers are all over the lower mountain from EBC to Camps 1 and 2. Sherpas are incredibly busy stocking camps. Meanwhile, on the other 8000ers, progress was stalled by weather, but still climbing underway on some others. All in all a low-drama year thus far.

Everest 2022: Weekend Update April 17 – First Deaths, Carlos on his Way!

Activity is strong at Everest Base Camp, with more still on the trek. The permits increased as expected this past week and will top out fairly soon. They still lag behind last year by over 100 for Everest. The fixed lines are now to Camp 2 in the Western Cwm, ready for more teams to arrive at EBC this week. We saw the first 8000er deaths of the 2022 Spring season this past week. #everest2022

Big Picture

As of April 15, 2022, the Ministry of Tourism has issued 738 total climbing permits thus far, with 262 for Everest, with 56 female climbers. The United States represents the largest country on Everest this year with 58 climbers, a spot recently ceded to India and China, with only 21 and 9 climbers, respectively. The UK comes in at 33, with Canada at 14 and Australia at ten thus far. Russia has 16 climbers on Everest this season.

Everest Base Camp is rapidly filling up with most teams reviewing basic skills and preparing for their first walk into the Icefall, a big day ahead. See the tracking table for the latest team locations.

Climbers on Dhaulagiri and Annapurna are climbing with summit pushes expected soon. Also, climbing will soon begin on Kachchenunga and Makalu.

Everest 2022: Weekend Update April 10 – First 8000er Summits

Activity is picking up with climbers getting closer to Everest Base Camp plus many more have arrived in Kathmandu. The permits have increased as expected this past week but still lag behind last year. The fixed lines are now to Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. Teams will arrive at EBC this week. We saw the first 8000er summits of the 2022 Spring season this past week.