This was a busy week on Everest with the first summits for the 2010season along with a risky gamble. And several accidents and, sadly, areported death on nearby Lhotse.
A team of nine Sherpas fixed the ropes to the summit on the southside. They included Sherpas from IMG, Alpine Ascents and Himex. Onewestern guide who was doing route work high on the mountain also joinedthem to the summit.
These are some of the largest teams on the south side thus have theresources to fix the route. Other smaller teams carried some of theropes up the mountain or contributed in other ways. And for the firsttime on the south, each climber was formally asked to contribute $100for the route preparation supplies.
Two climbers were hot on the Sherpa's heels following their work byone day with the hopes of making a summit bid in a very narrow weatherwindow. Domnhall O’Doughartaigh, an independent climber, and LucilledeBeaudrap with Peak Freaks pushed the envelope and won.
The risk was known as mentioned on the Peak Freaks site a few days earlier:
The anxious climbers are scooting up in hope that allwill work for them just as soon as the route is fixed. There may be avery small one or two day window, but it is not certain. We now need topay close attention to the weather. It's bitter cold up there if thereare high winds. It may feel okay at base camp, but you add a chillfactor to -35c and it equals- a not so good combination. Especially ifsomething goes wrong.
And it was a close call according to Lucille's most recent dispatch now down at base camp:
So I took off my oxygen mask and within, we were stillpretty high we were about the South Summit. It didn't take very longthat I didn't have any energy at all: I didn't want to stand up. So, wehad a lot of fresh snow which made the climb up kind of difficult andlong but so what I started doing was sliding down, and I've kind oftorn up my seat. My poor sherpa Tshering didn't really know what to do.Tried to mount up a rescue but I was still talking, coherent, justdidn't have much energy, and so eventually I put the oxygen mask backon and started walking down.
Lucille's summit report is the Blog of the Day.While they summited in calm conditions, I believe they dodged a hugebullet as high winds started up during their descent to camp 2.Congratulations to all the Sherpas and western climbers for the firstsummits of this young summit period.
As we approach the end of the week, there are reports of injuriesand a death. Altitude Junkies and the Sky Climber's both report a deathof a Russian climber on the descent on Lhotse. I will provide the nameonce it is public. My condolences to the family, friends and teammates.
Also, there was an injured Sherpa on nearby Pumori. Another Sherpawas injured in the Icefall when an anchor holding a vertical ladderfailed. He suffered a broken arm and was helped back to base camp.
Over on the north, it is an entirely different story. Throughoutmost of the last decade, Russel Brice's Himex Sherpa team set the ropesto the summit and often had them in well before the south in even themost difficult weather conditions. However, with the turmoil in Chinaand the restrictions on Everest from the Chinese, Brice moved hisoperations to the Nepal side. This left the door open for the ChinaTibet Mountaineering Association to take over the rope management.
According to teams, the ropes are currently fixed only to camp 3 orabout 27,300', far short of the summit and thus stopping most summitattempts. The weather has been difficult this year. As usual, the northreceives more snow and wind than the south and increases thedifficultly of climbing on that side.
Layered on top of this is more high winds in the forecast for thesummit of Everest. It appears no summits attempts until May 11th whenthe winds could begin to ease but more likely it will be a few dayslater than that.
Almost every report this past week mentioned the weather but this is the good news from IMG:
Greg said that the recent snowfall has actually improvedthe conditions on the route to camp 3, with steps starting to form(where it was very icy last week). Coming down the Western Cwm, Gregsaid there was a foot of fresh snow at Camp 1 that has fallen recently.
Earlier this season, we kept hearing for how dry Everest was on the south. Well Adrian Ballinger with Himex who summited with the Sherpas fixing rope this week gave us a real-time report:
As far as the route is concerned, Adrian thinks that itis slightly easier than last year, especially higher up. “There is moresnow, which makes the summit ridge and the triangle face easier than in2009. There is certainly less rock to climb over,”
This is excellent news.
A must see is the videofrom Leif Whitaker and Dave Hahn climbing the Lhotse Face. It hasexcellent audio and HD video of them climbing the Lhotse Face to camp 3.
Teams on the south have competed their acclimatization climbs tocamp 3 and are back at base camp or even lower in the villages of theKhumbu resting up for the summit bids. Similarly on the north, teamsare at the Chinese Base Camp or lower not only waiting for weather butalso the ropes.
It is now almost standard practice for teams to descend to the lowervillages before their summit bids. I believe it was Anatoli Boukreevwho made the notion popular on Everest by saying something along thelines of "Touching the green grass before the summit." But not everyoneagrees. The Himex team with their "pleasure dome" (they hate that termand call it the White Pod) complete with big screen TV, espressomakers, sofas and ... will stay in their BC to avoid any potentialcontamination by interacting with the locals or trekkers.
The AAI teams seems to be having some serous health issues. Theystruggled to reach camp 3 but now it looks like 3 members have healthissues and 3 more have taken a helicopter back to Kathmandu for theirpre-summit rest. However, in his blog, Victor Vescovo, speculates they may not return. This is six of their eight total climbers.
Finally, young Jordan Romero is back at the Chinese Base Camp aftertagging 7500, his personal best. The team has been unusually quietafter their recent media blitz from the mountain, however otherclimbers reports multiple cameras continuously surrounding them. Theirnext move is to the summit so it is good to take some time to getfocused on the huge task ahead of time.
Some side action stirred everyone up inbase camp this week. Nepal Telecom's network coverage now reaches basecamp. Dispatch after dispatch reported happy Sherpas phoning homealbeit with the Nepalese version of "can you hear me now?" It seems thecoverage is still a bit spotty and requires standing on a rock, pointedin the correct direction, holding your arm up .. anyway, this is greatfor the Sherpas who previously borrowed sat phones to call familymembers. Don't look for this to replace sat phones because they aremore reliable, transmit data faster and can cost less per minutes,especially for roaming charges.
The Extreme Ice Survey is setting up cameras to monitor Khumbu Icefall according the the blog of Apa Sherpa written by Joshau Choate
The cameras will take a photo every half hour when thereis sufficient light. Armed with a 32 gigabyte card and solar batterypower, they can go for six months before they need to be changed out.Adam said that some of their cameras in other locations have gone aslong as one year. So every six months, someone will make the scrambleup to the cameras and change out the cards. Then EIS will compile itall after removing bad shots and attempting to smooth out the lighting.
On some good news, the strikes that have locked down Kathmandu have ended but the struggles there continue.
On a not so good note, Maoists are now roaming the Khumbu areaasking for "donations". They have even arrived at Everest Base Camp buthave now left. Usually these are small gangs of young boys armed withpowerful rifles. They usually take a few hundred rupees and are gone.But have been know to covet trekker's cameras and electronics in theMakalu area.
Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. You can read more on his site