Most climbing teams are now back in the Khumbu Valley or in Kathmandu, having evacuated Base Camp. According to Adrian Ballinger, who was leading an expedition on Everest’s north side, the Chinese government has shut down the climbing season in all of Tibet. But the southern side of the mountain, in Nepal, technically remains open—even after the earthquake killed more than 5,000 people, including 18 at Everest Base Camp.
Today, Russell Brice confirmed that New Zealand-based Himalayan Experience, one of the largest teams on the mountain each year, is still hoping to climb from that side of the mountain. Brice posted this message on the Himex website:
Our Himex team will stay at Everest BC for the next few days and we will then decide if we will continue or not. Talking to Phurba [Brice’s Sherpa sirdar and 21-time Everest summiter] he tells me that the Sherpas are ready to go back to BC and to assess the conditions in a few days time and will then make a collective decision. This morning when I was at the airport I had a meeting with the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the [Minister of Tourism] and he gave us permission to fly loads to C1, but only after the helicopters come free from rescue operations which we of course totally agree with.
Brice has discussed his desire to fly gear to Camp I for several years, motivated in part by a hope to mitigate some of the risks presented by the notoriously dangerous Icefall. In recent months, a debate over the use of helicopters on the mountain has grown in intensity, but this year it is the only way for teams to continue. The route through the Icefall was destroyed in the initial earthquake, which killed three of the Icefall Doctors who traditionally set the route; attempts to reestablish a way through were thwarted by frequent and severe aftershocks.
This would be the third difficult season out of four for Brice, who pulled his expedition off the mountain in 2012 for fear of avalanches in the Icefall. Last year’s season was cancelled after an avalanche killed 16 local workers.