The First Ascent West Ridge team—Jake Norton, David Morton, Brent Bishop, and Charley Mace—finished their first rotation acclimatizing and shuttling gear to Camp 2 (21,000 feet) and returned safely to Base Camp on April 22. Meanwhile, the South Col team—Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot, Leif Whittaker, and cameraman Kent Harvey—began their first rotation up to Camp 1, before moving on to a two-day acclimatization stint at Camp 2.
From Left: Leif Whittaker, Dave Hahn, and Melissa Arnot the afternoon before they departed for Camp.
Shortly after passing the descending West Ridge team, Arnot and Hahn came upon the scene of a tragedy. A few minutes before they arrived, a climbing Sherpa working for Peak Freaks had been crossing a ladder over a crevasse while unclipped from any safety lines. He slipped and fell about 90 feet to his death. Arnot, who is a paramedic, rappelled into the crevasse to attempt a rescue, but there was nothing to be done besides recovering the body. (Reports on this have already trickled out online. We'll have more later.)
From now until summit bids begin in May, climbing Sherpas for the teams attempting the West Ridge, South Col, as well as Lhotse and Nuptse will be stocking Camp 2 (Advanced Base Camp) with everything from kerosene stoves and mess tents to the pick axes used to excavate tent platforms. Amazingly fit, the Sherpas can carry a 50-pound load from Base Camp to Camp 2 and return in a total of less than five hours. (Commercial clients typically require more than twice that.) But after this most recent incident, there's a renewed push to get the Sherpas to clip into the safety lines that protect many of the hazards along the route.
Most teams will make two or three rotations before their summit attempts. With the jet stream hanging around the Himalayas until April 25 or 26, the climbers are expecting sunny but windy weather. After that, things should calm down in the mornings with afternoon snow showers.