Looking Back at Everest, 2012

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.

Everest 2012

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.

Yaks Along the Route to Base Camp
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

(Grayson Schaffer)

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 Death of the Season
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

camp 3 west ridge eddie bauer t
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Giving Everest the Bird
(Grayson Schaffer)

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."

Making the Sausage
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Simone Moro
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Biking Up Everest?
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Aydin and Nadev
(Grayson Schaffer)

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 Youngest Woman to Climb Everest
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Dave Hahn
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.”

Austrain mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Chad Kellogg
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.”

everest camp jake norton brent
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Climbers' Headlamps on Everest
(Grayson 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 West Ridge
(Grayson Schaffer)

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.

Photographer Grayson Schaffer
(Grayson Schaffer)

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