This past weekend (May 18–20, 2012), during the first real weather window of the climbing season in Everest, an unprecedented number of climbers (300 all told), tried to reach the summit. It was a chaotic, bittersweet, and confusing couple of days. While the majority of people summited safely, four climbers involved in four separate incidents died, the result of traffic jams, poor decision making, and a bit of bad luck.
These shots were taken over the course of the weekend, beginning with the first wave of summiters and ending with a group of anonymous climbers that Grayson Schaffer literally shot as they were trudging back into Base Camp for the first time. They were all in such a hurry to get some real food and get out of their boots and spikes, Schaffer later told us, that he didn't feel like holding them up with any questions. Fair enough.
Lights on the North Col route Grayson Schaffer
Lights on the North Col route, from Pumori Camp I around 11 p.m. on May 18.
Predawn at Everest on summit day Grayson Schaffer
Predawn at Everest on summit day.
A climber heads into the shower after a long day.
A climber makes his way down the icefall on summit day.
Weary climbers descend to Base Camp after the summit push.
Nima Chhamzi Sherpa Grayson Schaffer
Sixteen-year-old Nima Chhamzi Sherpa was rumored to be among the dead on May 19th. Alive and well, she's the youngest woman to summit Everest.
After the climb.
Everest ER Grayson Schaffer
An unknown climber falls down on his way into the Everest ER.
Shriya Shah's summit photo on her phone Grayson Schaffer
Shriya Shah's summit photo on her phone, taken not long before she died on the way down on May 19th.
A climber stops for a photo near Base Camp after the climb.
The conga line up Everest Ralf Dujmovits
The conga line up Everest as 300 people attempt to summit.