The National Geographic-North Face Everest expedition, led by Conrad Anker, called off its plans on Wednesday to summit via the West Ridge due to unstable conditions in the Hornbein Couloir. Drought and high winds have scoured the mountain of the fresh snow that normally gives climbers good protection. "But what we have now is that that surface layer of snow has been stripped away, leaving bare ice," Anker wrote on the expedition's blog. "It's very ancient ice that's difficult to climb on." Anker noted that, while Hornbein and Unsoeld encountered knee-deep snow on their original 1963 climb of the route, he would face blue ice followed by two pitches of nothing but scree and bed rock. He also cited the great risk of rockfall in the couloir. Anker is now working to change his permit to the South Col. "It's the sensible thing to do from an experienced alpinist's perspective," Anker said. Eddie Bauer's First Ascent team has not yet announced whether they'll attempt to summit the West Ridge.
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