Hundreds of Everest Climbers Pushing Hard

May 21, 2010
Outside Magazine

Everest_2002_797 A huge wave of climbers on both sides of Everest have moved to theirrespective Advanced Base Camps and are on their summit bids starting Friday night, Nepal time.They are not only dealing with the extreme altitude of Everest but also an impending cyclone that could bring heavy snows and winds to the area.

This season is beginning to look identical to 2009 when bad weatherbasically shut Everest down around May 23rd and eventually delayeddepartures from base camps by almost week due to the heavy snow.Leaders who were there last year want to avoid a repeat, especially onsummit night.

Looking at the weather that is playing a huge role in summit plans;IMG's Eric Simonson posted this update on their blog that a monsoon inthe Bay of Bengal is forming and moving north towards Everest. Ericposted:

We are tracking tropical cyclone Laila in the Bay of Bengal. Our longtime IMG weather forecaster Michael Fagin ( forwards us this satellite photo (courtesy of Meteorological Forecasting Division, Government of Nepal).

As this storm moves north, we are hoping it will be pushed east by the jet stream, missing the Everest area!

So we are seeing a rush to the top similar to last year, 2009.Regular followers will remember that Himex actually sent their team upa bit before schedule to miss the heavy stuff. Summit night of May 22,2009 was a tough one with stiff winds and snowfall.

Dave Hahn commented last year on his summit night as the cyclone brought huge changes to Everest (remember this was 2009, not this year):

We passed the other climbing teams, one by one, as wewent up the face in the night and just as dawn was beginning to theEast we overtook a final team at 28,000 ft and felt fully in control ofour pace and destiny as we took on the South Summit.  As daylight cameon, I knew it was one of the prettiest mornings I’d seen from up high. But I didn’t reach for my camera.  The morning was pretty because therewere clouds at many levels and in many directions.  I didn’t takepictures for the same reason I wouldn’t if I saw a large tiger comingmy way with fangs barred.

It was clear that our good weather window was closing and we neededto move fast and hard if we wanted to squeeze in a summit.  We felt thefull force of the winds as we crested the South Summit, but all werestrong and all nodded their heads when I pointed across the crazytraverse topping the Kangshung and Southwest Faces and leading to theHillary Step and the summit.  We went for it, but even before we’dscrambled up the Hillary Step, clouds had covered the mountaintop. Visibility was poor at 6:45 AM when we stepped up to the summit.  Mostof us kept our packs on, knowing our stay would be short.  It was not aday for photos and flags… just a few handshakes and hugs and we wereout of there.  We made quick time back down through the storm to highcamp.  Lucky.

You can read Dave's excellent description of how the cyclone's impact hit Base Camp last year.

Of course it can snow all it wants once the climbers are down!

But as of Friday night, the good news is the winds had calmed somewhat as reported byseveral teams at the South Col and Camp 2/3 on the north side. I knowmany people are following Jordan Romero, the 13 year-old on the northand from his SPOT tracking unit, they appear to have left camp 2 goinghigher. This would put them on the summit Saturday morning.

You can follow them real time at this link.A caveat, I have rarely seen or experienced any of these satelliteunits function 100% perfectly throughout a climb. Batteries die, it isturned off accidentally, the signal bounces off rock walls or is completely lost; so if the track looks strange it is more than likelythe technology, not the climbers.

Some reports from teams over the past 24 hours:

This in from 7 Summits Club:

Today, 21 May, as previously predicted, wind wasdecreased. It allowed the first group to climb to the camp at analtitude of 7700 meters (camp 2). The second group climbed up to NorthCol (7000 m). Sherpas continued carry goods to upper camps. So, theexpedition is going up with a lag of one day. And now dates of summitassault are defined, respectively, for 23 and 24 May. Most ofexpeditions from the north and south moved to high-altitude camps. Thesummit wave on the south will be 22 May. On the north most of climbersare behind for about a day.

Apa Sherpa's BC updated us hours ago from the North Col:

Everybody is at Camp 4. There was a possibility of somevery high winds, maybe up to 60 mph, but the team reports that all iscalm. They will be leaving for their summit attempt in about 4 and halfhours.

These next reports show that many teams hit the wall on Thursday,May 20th battling the weather and will be looking at an actual summitattempt on Saturday night with a Sunday morning summit.

Alpine Ascents joined the teams that tried to move to C3 and retreated as the winds hit harder:

We were planning on going early this morning upto Camp 3. However, with the wind and the snow blasting away we decidedthat our best option was to take another rest day. It certainly wasagonizing, making that decision, but we think we made a good one. Thewind has now been roaring all day long as well and we prefer for peopleto stay warm and keep all of their digits.

We've had a restful day, although it's been pretty emotionallytaxing. A lot of people were having moments of doubt while trying todecide how committed they were to this mountain. It happens often on adays when it is this windy and nasty, people start thinking about backhome and all their loved ones. But, with a lot of good open discussion,we've become a new stronger better team and we're excited about gettingup early tomorrow morning and moving on to Camp 3.

Once again Gabriel Filippi gives us insight into the conditions on the north:

I am still at camp 1: the weather winning over myefforts.  I just saw something quite amazing: two flying tents!  Whatis even more spectacular, is that the first one was still occupied by aclimber.  Fortunately, his flight was only a few centimeters long, andhe is fine.  The other tent literally disappeared with all its content:clothing, sleeping bag, food, oxygen.  We still don't know who owed it,but it is safe to say that his expedition is seriously compromised bythe loss of his equipment.  Lhakpa and I evaluated the winds at140km/h.  I will leave for camp 2 tomorrow... until then, I amstreching the soup!

As I have mentioned throughout this season, the First Ascentsite has excellent video and outstanding writing from Leif Whittakerand now Melissa Arnot. I previously mentioned, via my Twitter feed,this videofrom Dave Hahn on the conditions. Dave has summited Everest 11 timesand knows his stuff so when he says they will be "lucky" to summit,that says a lot. Take a look at the video for his full report.

It is difficult to know who will go for the summit tonight, giventhe variable conditions. Bottom line however: there are climbers climbing towards the top ofthe world right now and will be throughout this weekend.

Climb On!


Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site

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