A team of nine Nepalese Sherpa guides became the first climbers in two years to summit Everest via the Khumbu Icefall. The south side of the mountain was effectively shuttered in the wake of 2014’s Icefall avalanche, in which 16 local high altitude workers were killed. And last year’s powerful earthquake, which killed at least 18 and injured 61 others at Base Camp, resulted in no summit attempts from either the south or north sides of the peak.
“Sherra Gyalgen Sherpa reached the top of Sagarmatha at 5:05 p.m. (local time)," Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told Australia’s ABC News. (Sagarmatha is Everest’s Nepali name.)
The Sherpa team topped out after fixing ropes up the 29,035-foot peak via the mountain’s South Col route, the most heavily trafficked and guided side of the mountain. Typically, ascent parties begin climbing after a Sherpa team lines out the route on the upper parts of the mountain. “Many teams are on their #everest2016 summit push today,” tweeted Alan Arnette, the veteran Everest climber and blogger. There are roughly 300 climbers on the mountain this year. Veteran guide, Dave Hahn, of Rainier Mountaineering, who has stood atop Everest 15 times, told Outside that some are aiming for a weather window between May 14 and May 16.
To some, this ascent by a strong Sherpa party demonstrates the region’s resilience in the face of the back-to-back tragedies. The 2014 avalanche caused many to not only to evaluate the safety of the South Col route, but the ethics of using Sherpa guides to climb the mountain at all. Last year’s 7.8 magnitude temblor caused the death of about 9,000 people, injured about 20,000, and displaced nearly 3 million. The series of aftershocks rippled through the Everest region and caused devastation throughout the Khumbu region, which is home to many Sherpas.
To Hahn, this year represents a return to normalcy on the world's highest peak. “I don’t think the mountain was unclimbable in past years,” he said, “but circumstances were absolutely not right. I’m happy for the team that was up there today. Many people were counting on this for the path to their own climbs.”