AdventureClimbing

New Photos of West Ridge Reveal Difficulties

Simone Moro and Jake Norton go over the photos that David Breashears shot from a helicopter, hovering at above 27,000 feet, this morning. (Photo: Grayson Schaffer)

This morning, helicopter pilot and climber Simone Moro lifted off from Base Camp with filmmaker David Breashears riding shotgun. Moro circled up to 27,000 feet—well above the Eurocopter B3's recommended flight ceiling—allowing his passenger to snap clear photos of the West Ridge, the Hornbein Couloir, and the upper sections of the summit pyramid above the Yellow Band.

Heading toward the West Ridge.

Breashears's photos revealed a route that's in similarly bad shape as parts of the one seen below the West Shoulder by members of the First Ascent West Ridge expedition. "It was like frozen scree that didn't take any protection," said David Morton in a radio call on May 8. So far, it's taken the First Ascent team six days of hard climbing just to get within striking distance of the shoulder.

"If the route above the shoulder were as bad as the route below," says First Ascent expedition leader Jake Norton, "it would be virtually impossible to climb the route the year while still retaining a margin of safety."

Moro seemed to share the sentiment. At a meeting in Moro's camp—Cho Oyu Trekking—Moro told Norton that while his sponsors were still working on changing his permit to allow him to climb the West Ridge with fellow North Face athlete Conrad Anker, he was now leaning toward saving them the $20,000 (and possibly his life).

After the meeting, Moro had planned to hustle up through the Icefall to Camp II, where Anker was waiting. With news like this, both teams attempting the West Ridge this year will no doubt have some soul searching to do.

"We'll still have to go up to the ridge and see it with our own eyes," says Norton. "Then we'll make a call."

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Mountaineering
Lead Photo: Grayson Schaffer
More Adventure