As the Himalayan climbing season gets underway—and the first death of the season is reported—we take a look back at Everest in 2012, a year marked by hazardous conditions, epic crowds, and tragic accidents.
Shots From the City
On the way up to Everest and the Khumbu, everybody has at least a day to kill in Kathmandu. These three iconic spots can be visited in one morning.
Trekking to Base Camp
Editor Grayson Schaffer hiked from the town of Lukla toward Everest Base Camp, meeting a Himalayan ultramarathoner, Everest's chief tailor, and crowds of yaks along the way.
Ueli Steck and Freddie Wilkinson
Top alpinists Ueli Steck and Freddie Wilkinson talk about their frustration with Nepal’s restrictive permitting system. "Climbers should just be able to come here and do all of these mountains," Wilkinson says.
The Route and the Team
Outside senior editor Grayson Schaffer embedded with the Eddie Bauer team to attempt the West Ridge of Mount Everest. Meet the team and see the route they planned to take.
The First Death of the Season
Experienced mountaineer and Everest climber Karsang Namgyal Sherpa died suddenly in Base Camp. Karsang was the son of the legendary "Snow Leopard" Ang Rita Sherpa, who's summited Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen.
The First Obstacle
The Khumbu Icefall - a chaotic tumble of ice blocks, towers, and crevasses between the Western Cwm and Base Camp - is always among the most dangerous obstacles climbers face on Everest.
Teams and Sherpas Prepare for the Climb
As teams began their acclimatization stints, climbing Sherpas stocked their camps with everything from kerosene stoves and mess tents to pick axes used to excavate tent platforms.
The First Graduate of the Sherpa Education Fund
Tsiring Sherpa, 22, is the first graduate of a non-profit scholarship that pays for local children from the Khumbu region to study at a boarding school and go to college in Kathmandu. "Sherpas don’t want their sons to become mountaineers,” he says. “They want them to be engineers and move out to the Western world."
Tsiring is the son of a climbing Sherpa and also happens to be the first graduate of the Sherpa Education Fund, a non-profit scholarship that pays for local children from the Khumbu region to study at a boarding school and then go to college in Kathmandu. Currently, the scholarship supports 13 kids. The fund was launched by Seattle-based Everest outfitter Alpine Ascents International and administered by AAI's owner Todd Burleson and his Nepalese counterpart Jiban Ghimire.
Avalanche on Everest
On the morning of April 27, 2012, a major avalanche swept down the shoulder of Nuptse and crossed the Everest route between Camps I and II. Several climbers were injured but everyone survived.
West Ridge Team, Post-Climb
Schaffer photographed the West Ridge team after they came down from an acclimatizing climb up the West shoulder. "They looked tired but not beat," he says.
Heading to Camp III
After three days of rest, the Eddie Bauer team headed back into the Khumbu Icefall. Their next goal: to establish Camp III on the shoulder of the West Ridge.
Rockfalls and Injuries Pile Up
Drought and melting ice unleashed a torrent of rockfall on Everest's west shoulder, making 2012 one of the most dangerous years in recent history. One man suffered traumatic brain injury after being struck by a rock and had to be airlifted to a hospital.
Behind the Photos
How exactly did Grayson Schaffer capture those professionally-lit photos? Turns out it took the help of "climbers, camp cooks, Sherpas, and anyone else unlucky enough to wander by."
Alpinist, Helicopter Rescue Pilot, Everest Kingpin
For his second act, Italian climber Simone Moro has become a helicopter rescue pilot, and one of the central figures at Everest Base Camp. Though he only got his pilot's license in 2009, he's already racked up 1,000 hours of flight time.
Biking Up Everest?
Aydan Irmak, a 46-year-old Turkish New Yorker, wanted to carry his beloved 33-pound, steel-frame singlespeed to the top of the world. His bike didn’t make it, but he did.
Aydin and Nadev
Israeli climber Nadev gave up his own summit bid to help Aydin Irmak down Everest. He had hoped to become the youngest Israeli to summit. "You made a great bridge between the Turkish and the Israeli people," Irmak said to him.
An Everest Souvenir
Nadev’s hands were blistered with frostbite when he and Irmak finally reached the helipad in order to be lifted from the mountain.
The Youngest Woman to Climb Everest
In the confusion of the climbing crowds, sixteen-year-old Nima Chhamzi Sherpa and her father, Dendi, 39, a climbing guide who'd already summited three times, were for a time thought lost to the mountain. "There were just bad rumors," she says.
The "Non-Sherpa" With the Most Summits
The record for most Everest summits by a "non-Sherpa" goes to this man, Dave Hahn. When not guiding for Rainier Mountaineering Inc. and International Mountain Guides, Hahn works as a ski patroller in Taos, New Mexico.
Weather Hampers Climbing Conditions
Unseasonably dry conditions on the mountain made many expeditions call off their summit bids in 2012. While other teams waited for more favorable weather, Dave Hahn expressed optimism in a post on RMI’s blog.
A Queen Among Kings
Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner is the only woman who has climbed all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. Of her 2011 climb up K2’s North Pillar, she says, “Most people told me that what I was doing was completely stupid. But I just followed my gut.”
Photos Reveal Route Difficulties
Simone Moro and Jake Norton expressed concern while looking at photos taken by David Breashears from a helicopter the morning of May 14, 2012. The photos revealed a route that were in bad shape and didn’t have any protection.
Speed Climbing to Stand Still
Chad Kellogg lost his wife, brother and climbing partners, and was diagnosed with colon cancer, in the span of five years. During 2012’s climbing season, he made his second attempt to break the speed record on Mount Everest.
Eddie Bauer Expedition Calls It Quits
The National Geographic-North Face Expedition had already thrown in the towel when the climbers of the West Ridge expedition decided to do the same. “Conditions were not technically that difficult,” said David Morton, “but we couldn’t cimb more than 50 meters without having to belay something.”
A Second Wave of Climbers Prepares
Not to be stopped by four deaths the weekend before, between 80 and 150 climbers headed for the summit on the morning of May 24, 2012. Experienced climber Moro decided not to summit without oxygen due to the crowds. “If it’s like this, there will be tragedy,” he told Schaffer.
Why Did So Many Die?
2012 was one of the deadliest years on Everest in recent history, with 10 deaths total. After living at the Base Camp for a month, Schaffer discussed the unusual amount of deaths, and the possibility of more disaster in the future.
Everest Climbing Season 2012 Ends On a High Note
On Saturday, May 24, a final wave of over 200 climbers reached the summit safely and the season on Everest effectively came to a close. And after five weeks reporting from Base Camp, Schaffer headed back to Kathmandu.
Find more stories from the 2012 Everest season on our Everest page.