We can summarize the week in one word: weather. After the excitementof summits on May 5th and 7th, teams on both sides watched this week asthe jet stream sat parked on the summit of Everest creating a hugeplume of ice crystals that provided second thoughts on going to thesummit. But first a quick update for today, Sunday, on Everest.
Teams are progressing higher with reports of acceptable winds forthe moment. There could be 50 or more climbers on the south and perhapsthe same number on the north since the ropes were fixed to the summityesterday.
In reviewing the week; almost every expedition has access to stateof the art weather forecasts, sometimes more than one. That is the goodnews. The bad news is they don't always agree with one another. Thuscomes into to play the experience and judgment of the climbers andexpeditions leaders.
Teams are always concerned about the crowds on Everest in thesemodern times, so they think through the best time to climb to avoidgetting stuck in a conga line of a hundred climbers and using upprecious oxygen while being exposed to harsh winds or cold. Some chooseto go early, some late. Large teams will sometimes coordinate to avoidthe large ques up high.
Against this backdrop, a brief but solid summit window was in theforecast starting on May 15. It looked to be about 48 hours long withwinds dropping sufficiently for a safe attempt. Another longer windowwas also visible to all the teams starting around May 22nd. So adecision was presented to the teams - now or then. Go for the shortwindow with a concern of it closing faster than anticipated or wait forthe longer one and risk that it not materialize or when it does, therush for the summit creates delays.
As is usual in life, there is no one answer so we saw teams select both windows.
Several small teams felt they could move quickly and positionedthemselves at camp 2 in still windy and difficult conditions. Teams onthe north, frustrated not only with the weather but also contended withno fixed ropes in place above camp 3. So, strong minded climbers, leftABC with the intent of climbing to the summit without fixed ropesutilizing a technique called a running belay which uses ropes andanchors that move along with the climbers.
Meanwhile most of the large commercial teams were content to waitfor the second window and relaxed down valley in tea houses or at theirbase camps.
In the middle of this weather discussion a mini-drama played outbetween two Finnish women climbers; both looking to be the firstFinnish woman to summit Everest. With intrigue and suspense, theyshadowed one another to camp 2, then to camp 3 before stopping thecompetition based on different interpretations of the weather forecast.One returned to BC waiting for the next window and one is currently onher summit bid.
By the time the window came, climbers were already at camp 3. Thenext move was to the South Col for a few hours and then for the summitbid which should take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours one way. Earlyreports from the Col showed cold and windy conditions but still teamssounded optimistic they were going for it.
However, one by one word came that they were delaying for 24 hoursas the wind picked up. This meant an extra night at the South Col forsome climbers. While not desired it is not too bad since they will stayon a low flow of supplemental oxygen almost all the time. Twice I spenttwo consecutive nights at the South Col and the worst part wassqueezing four grown men in a three person tent - up close and personalto be sure!
So today, Sunday night in Nepal, teams are on their summit attemptsthat would have them on top of the world, early Monday May 17th morning.
It is similar on the north with several climbers, now mostlyindividuals left for dwindling teams banded together to make a summitrun. It was reported that there were four north summits and the Chinesehave fixed the rope to the summit.
Checking in of one of the most followed climbing this year, 13year-old Jordan Romero; he and his small team are now on their summitbid and are at ABC. They expect to summit around the May 21/22.
We will hear the results of all the summit attempts soon since thisweather window was expected to close on late Monday as the winds pickback up implying the climbers would be back to at least the Cols forMonday night.
Looking into the next week, teams will begin moving up the mountainto be in position for the next window currently forecasted to beginaround May 22nd.
Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site