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By Alen Arrnet :alanarnette.com

2012 Lhotse Face and Camp 2 courtesy of Cian O'Brolchain

2012 Lhotse Face and Camp 2 courtesy of Cian O’Brolchain

In spite of the surprising news coming from Everest, climbers continue their march towards the top. There are reports of the fixed line now to Camp 4 on the South.

Lhotse Ice

While the wind and rock fall have dominated the news on climbing the Lhotse Face, one aspect has been under the radar – the ice. Normally, there is a layer of snow on the Face that allows for relatively easy foot placement; and I say this know that nothing is easy at 23,000′ on a 30 degree slope! But this year with the dry conditions, the Face has become an ice skating rink. The net result is an infinitely harder climb that requires solid foot placement with each step.

In a normal year, steps are eventually kicked in by the thousands of footsteps as climbers and Sherpas make the journey to the South Col but not this year, so these climbers are having some extra difficulty.

Ian Ridley, who can always be counted on for an update with humor posted from Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face and about the new route. He did not report any rock fall on his trip:

Our route up the glacier was initially the same as before but then it swung right beneath the the Lhotse face. After about fours hours we were directly underneath the start of the new route. No wonder the sherpas didn’t like it. It started with 30 m of 80 degree ice!!!

The route zig zagged it’s way up and we were just going slower and slower in the heat ( we’ll that’s what I like to blame – it wasn’ t). We just found it impossibly hard with the lack of oxygen. One foot up and a short rest. If I tried to take five or six consequetive paces I’d slouch over knees for three of four minutes – probably longer. This wasn’t a good advert for our suitability for a summit attempt!

For those readers wanting a more technical description, Colorado’s Jon Kedrowskiproved this on his site:

The bottom of the face is the toughest.  5 pitches X 100m sustained on 50 to 60 degree blue ice. Then we had some gentler snow ramps of 2 pitches of about 75 meters each, then 2 more steep 60 degree ice pitches of 100m each.  By 830 and 4 or 5 pitches in, the sun warmed us….

Eric Simonson, IMG, reported similar conditions plus a major step in establish Camp 4 on the South Col:

Greg and Jangbu report that today was a great day, and that the team is doing well. Today Eric Remza and most of the Classic climbers climbed up to Lower Camp 3 and reported zero rockfall up there. Apparently the combination of the recent snowfall and the sun today to cook the snow that had been plastered on, helped a lot. The team hung out at Camp 3 and it was so warm, some of them removed their down suits up there. Tomorrow we have a big Sherpa team headed up, hopefully to finish the route to the Col and start moving the first loads into Camp 4 for the summit bids!

It is possible the snowfall over the past few days has resulted in locking down some of the smaller loose rocks. If it snowed with light winds, melted in the hot sun of the day and froze solid at night; that would have been a perfect scenario.

Climb Updates

The Sherpas working with the RMI’s South Col team (Dave Hahn) went on a reconnaissance to Camp 2 and according to Mark Tucker reported:

Lam Babu and Pasang made a trip up to Camp 2 to check in on how things are holding up. Last thing you want is a big surprise when you arrive at an upper camp on a move day. He reports everything is in good shape. Sounds like there will be a push toward Camp 4 and the South Col tomorrow. A strong team will put the needed ropes in place to allow for safe travels to the final camp before the summit push.

And another excellent set of photographs from Kurt Wedberg after his night at Camp 3. It is the Blog of the Day. He reports:

Our four nights we spent in total at C2 were productive. We got noticeably stronger each day and stayed healthy the entire time living at 6495m/21,309′ and above. In spite of falling short of reaching C3 we feel that after our time up high followed by a few days rest at Base Camp we will be ready to make a summit attempt. Before trying for the summit though we also need a big change in the weather pattern. The upper reaches of Mt. Everest have been pummeled by 120+ mph winds for several weeks now. With conditions like this a summit bid isn’t realistic. We also need some fresh snowfall; preferably 1′-2′. This would offer some anchoring of the slopes containing loose rocks. Fortunately our forecast over the next dew days is calling for just that; decreased winds and snowfall through May 10. Let’s hope the weather forecast is correct!

West Ridge

Sorry but no solid updates on either NatGeo or Eddie Bauer on their teams. Last reports, over a week ago, had them tagging 23,000 on the Lhotse Face as part of their acclimatization program and there was one short mention that some ropes had been fixed on the Ridge but no details.

Himex

While there has been no official announcement of their climbs cancellation from Himex proper, many other teams and climbers are talking about their pullout and there are reports of them breaking down their Camp 2. Most mention that while they respect Brice’s decision and acknowledge the difficulty, they remain fully committed to a safe and hopefully successful summit attempt.

Other Mountains

While Everest takes center court, there are other mountains in the Himalaya ;) . However it appears they have stolen all the snow from Everest this year. Annapurna, while seeing some summits, has stopped most with avalanches and heavy snow. Manaslu appears to be on track for a shut out but teams are pushing hard. But climbers are topping out on Ama Dablam and on Cho Oyu. Check out Lance Metz’sblog climbing with South Africa’s Adventure Dynamics for details of his Cho Oyu yesterday. And finally the lowest of the 8000m mountains, Shishapangma, has some activity including Mark Hose who is keeping a nice blog going.