After a false start on Saturday night when the winds did notcooperate, teams huddled at the South Col, some spending an extra nightwhich is usually avoided. But Sunday night, the winds still between 40and 50 mph at the Col, let up enough and they were off. Multiplereports came in of crowds and slow progress especially above theBalcony but no mention of high winds. However, they did comment onextreme cold this year.
Most teams are reporting their climbers down to at least camp 2 or Base Camp at this point. With the next window estimated to start soon, teams are alreadyleaving base camps on both sides to be in position for summits on May22nd through the 24th.
Being in Base Camp is quite exciting during a summit night andmorning. Many of the Sherpas and climbers monitor radios of the otherteams. Then you hear one word over the crackling radio, usually from aSherpa, who draws out the word for at least 10 seconds "Summittttttt!"
The kitchen staff begins banging pots together and word spreadsthroughout the 1,000 person community and ends a while later withsmiles, hugs, handshakes and back slaps. Everyone is happy regardlessof who made the summit.
As the weekend summiters return to base camp on the south, moredetails are coming in of summits. Of note on climbers many people were following, these summited: Carina Räihä (first Finnish woman) Kenton Cool (8th summit) and Bonita Norris (youngest British woman) plus Jamie Clark from the Hanesbrands trying out the new Aerogel technology.
On the north, JulioBird's wife Maribel sent me this email:
I just talked to Julio. He reached the top on May 17that 7:00 am. He is now resting at Camp 2 and will move to BC soon. Ittook them 14 hours from Camp 2 to the summit. Apparently he was thefirst Westerner to summit from the North. I don't have the details buthe said "I was the first". Our connection was not the best.
He climbed with Sherpas, Lhakpa Gelu and Lhopsang and the large ropefixing team. His climbing partners, Bill Fischer and 70 year-oldJapanese Hoshino Kohei both had left the expedition earlier with minorhealth issues.
To add an international flavor to my coverage, I want to highlightclimbers from countries who do not usually receive a lot of westernmedia coverage:
- The Indian team of Mountaineering Association of Krishnagar (MAK)reported in with some interesting news about the weather on thedescent. Apparently they made their summit from C3, not the South Col:
... 17th May at 7.45 am, their summitteers being ShriBasanta Singha Roy (aged 47 years) and Shri Debasish Biswas They hadbeen guided by Pemba Sherpa and Pasan Sherpa who had summitted MountEverest several times before. They had made the ascent from the Nepalside and had started from camp no. 3 towards the summit at 9 pm on thenight of 16th May and finally reached summit at 7.45 am on 17th May,2010. While on their descent to camp no.3 yesterday, the duo had runinto a terrible blizzard.
- Nepalese cyclist Pushkar Shah summitted Mount Everest onMonday(18th May, 2010) morning. On his expedition, Shah had takenalong flags of 150 countries he had visited. He had cycled through allthe countries.
- Two Colombians, Nelson Cardona and Rafael Avila, toped out onMonday morning. Of note, Cardona had wanted to climb in 2007, but losthis right leg while training for the climb thus used a prosthesis onhis successful summit this year. Talk about determination!!
- Basanta Singha Roy and Debabrata Biswas, two members of the firstcivilian expedition from West Bengal by 'Mountaineers Association ofKrishnanagar', also summitted.
Looking forward, excitement is building once again for more summits as team afterteam left Base Camp for camp 2 on the south and ABC on the north. Theirenthusiasm, however, was tempered by talk of monsoons in India; more onthat in a moment. There were talks of additional summits for Tuesday,May 18th, but nothing has been reported.
Adventure Consultants' Mike Roberts has a very informative updatedescribing their climb to C2 on the south. he noted about 150 peopleheading higher and the recent warm temps are melting out the lowerIcefall and heating up the Western Cwm. They left base camp at 2:00 AMto minimize danger:
Today's early morning wakeup ritual was fairlytypical: sleep deprivation; grunting rather than talking; bad humor;suppressed appetite; Ang Tsering praying with his Tibetan rosary beads;hugging the heater for all it's worth; icefall and summit nerveskicking in; chuck in the odd throw-up for good measure (Tony, you gotto hate that); and by 2.00am everyone was rolling clockwise around ourpuja altar and throwing rice three times for success, safety and luck.Caroline, thanks for getting up at that ghastly hour to see us off andfor your wicked summit success art work!
As climbers leave for their summit bid, the Sherpas lightjuniper boughs that produce a thick smoke. On mornings like today withso many teams leaving, base camp has a cloud of smoke. You walk up tothe alter with the smoke, and wave the smoke over yourself three times.Standing still for a moment, you go deep in thought about the upcomingeffort - it is a very private personal moment. And then you swiftlyleave your base camp home knowing the next week will be the toughestphysical, and perhaps mental, challenge of your life.
North teams are also in full motion with Adventure Dynamics and thefirst wave of 7 Summits Club already to the North Col. Young JordanRomero has been there a couple of days now.
The world's media has caught on to this year's search for theMallory & Irvine camera from 1924. Multiple reports are quoting Duncan Chessell.
"I was at North Col (7050m) last week and the wind was150kp/h and it was stripping snow off the mountain which has been therefor many years," he said in his latest message from Everest base campon Tuesday. There is now bare rock exposed which has been deeplycovered for decades in the most likely areas where Andrew Irvine's bodymay be. It is my intention to search those areas en route to the summitand take this rare opportunity to find him and, perhaps, the missingcameras. I have studied this matter very closely and am now veryfamiliar with Mt Everest. I believe we have a good chance of findingsomething."
As regular Everest followers know, this has become an annual eventand this year there is a mystery team making a serious effort to lookfor the camera and Ivine's body building on previous years, if notdecades, of work. Most keep their effort low key and avoid publicity.
Of course weather is a huge factor in any summit attempt and by noweveryone knows it is primarily high winds that cause problems. And thelocation of the Jet Stream is the main culprit. However, heavy snowfallcan stop things as well and this is driven by monsoonal rain coming upfrom India. Weather monitors are watching for this activity startingwith disturbances in the Bay of Bengal. One of the reason Everestclimbs stop in early June is due to the rain and snow starting up; andnot stopping until August thus the Spring and Fall climbing seasons.
TA Loeffler made this post as she has decided to end her effort this year:
According to our weather reports the weather during thatwindow looks highly variable, and also it appears a monsoon is startingto form over the bay of Bengal so it may be that time is running outfor this season on Everest.
And Altitude Junkies is taking a broad look at the overall conditions:
We will continue to check our daily weather forecastfrom our meteorological service and compare with our friends Europeanservice to decide on what day will be best for our summit attempt. Thepredictions are looking good for a May 22-24 window but we need toasses the wind speeds for our evening at the South Col.
Another factor to take into consideration is the two large guidedexpeditions left on the mountain and their summit plans. We have beentold the good days to avoid the crowds so we will decide and try toavoid any possible bottlenecks that were supposedly reported from abovethe South Summit on May 17th. We are hoping that there will be tworopes on the Hiliary Step, for for ascent and descent, and thishopefully will avoid the problems that I have experienced there in thepast.
The talk of 'large teams' often dominates pre-climb dispatches dueto the concern of too many people on the route. However, almost all theteams with 10 or more climbers (plus an equal number of climbingSherpas) split into sub teams and ascend on different schedules. It isvery difficult to support much more than that at the high camps on bothsides. IMG said:
The tentative plan for the IMG is to split the team intotwo waves, with the first group of summit climbers starting uptomorrow, and the second group starting up the next day.
The effort to return Everest to a pristine state continues with theExtreme Everest effort. Working with the Fishtail Air high altitudehelicopter,
After four days of strenuous attempt, we finally removedthe Russian boxer Duganov Sergey’s body from the South Col. He wasairlifted off the mountain today and is heading homewards to Russia.
Finally, an informative videofrom Robert Hill, NGNG team, with a tour of his base camp operations onthe south. It is very representative of all operations at base camp.
OK, lot's of activity going on with climbers moving all over Everest. I bet it looks like an ant hill from the Space Station!
Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site