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.
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.