By Alan Arnette
Best news of the season, no winds on Thursday May 17 allowing the rope fixers to set lines high on both the North and the South! This is extremely exciting because it shows 1) progress and 2) the weather forecast was spot on!
With the winds cooperating and teams on both sides pushing according to their respective schedules, look for summits as early as Friday mid morning, May 18 Nepal time. I expect the vast majority of climbers to summit over the weekend in the morning on May 19 and 20, again Nepal time.
Ropes Nearing Summit on South
Alpine Ascents (AAI) posted progress on the fixed lines today:
The winds were completely calm all afternoon and it can really heat up with the sun reflecting off all sides of the Western Cwm.Lakpa Rita has been coordinating Summit fixing for all teams on the mountain. Lakpa’s brother and Assistant Sirdar Kami Rita is on the fixing team and just called in saying the lines are fixed to the Balcony. All the ropes, ice screws and pickets are in place at the Balconey to complete the Summit Fixing. This means Everest should see its first summit of the season tomorrow and that the path will be laid for our climbers to make their push on Saturday night!
But some seem to be on the heels or even ahead of the Sherpas. It is not clear if they are trying to be the first team to summit this season but if so, best of luck and safe climbing. The Chilean team posted (translated):
During this day (early morning in Chile) the issue has made it to Camp 4 and hope that if they go out tonight (late in Chile) and arrive in the morning, after midnight in Chile, would be doing summit tomorrow. As time comes along.
Ever Higher on the North, Summits May 19 and 20
While most North teams are not updating their sites, I believe it is a safe assumption they almost all are moving on the same schedule and I have updated the location table.
Alex Abramov of 7 Summits Club posted this today:
The summit bid for the first group is scheduled for 19th of May, for the second – on the 20th of May. The weather forecast is good enough. Almost everyone who is on the north side, plans to climb the summit of Everest for these days.
Altitude Junkies continues to keep us updated. Phil Crampton, who returned to the North after a few years on the South, posted his team is at Camp 2 moving to Camp 3 on May 18 and going for the summit that night. That would also have them on top of the world on Saturday, May 19.
Grant Rawlinson aka Axe, expressed the sentiments of many as he reached one of the highest camps on the planet:
I’m now lying in Camp 2 ( 7900m) breathing oxygen at a flow rate of half a litre per minute. Feel great. Changed from a dead donkey this morning into a superman after some terrible sleep. I climbed to 7300m, and then turned on the O2 at a 1.5 litre per minute flow – made me into a superman! Never felt so strong on a hill as the last 4 hours heading up. We need the people wo are fixing the summit route ropes to finish by tomorrow or I might have to do it myself. Even our sherpas are tired after getting to 7900m with their loads. Hoping for an hour or two of sleep. Tomorrow , we hit Camp3; and then we leave for the summit on the night of May 18th. God, let tomorrow be the night.
Asian Trekking provided this information:
Asian Trekking’s International Everest Exp.2012 – Japanese Leader Tamae Watanabe (73yrs) and Muraguch and their climbing sherpas Mingma Sherpa, Phura Nuru Sherpa and Phurba Sherpa are on their way to camp 2 ( 7700m). They plan to move to camp 3 (8300m) tomorrow, the 18th May for the summit push. Bill Burke, Ryszard Jan Pawlowski, Paul P.Kepczynski and Iwona Z. Wingert are at advance base camp planning their summit push.
Accident on Lhotse Face
Jagged Globe reported one of their Sherpas was hit by falling ice. This should not be confused with all the rock fall experienced earlier in the season. Falling ice on the Face is not-uncommon.
This morning, one of our Sherpas, Pem Chirri, was hit by falling ice at Camp 3. Apparently the ice came off a serac above and broke Pem’s arm and leg. He was airlifted from the Western Cwm and is now back in Kathmandu being treated in hospital. Pem is a quiet, unassuming man, with a slight build that belies his formidable strength in the mountains. Our thoughts are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery. The rest of the Jagged Globe team are currently in Camp 2. This accident has put their attempt back by 24 hours, which David thinks may put them outside of the weather window. We will update when we hear more news.
Along those lines, I keep seeing reports about all the deaths on Everest this season. Clearly any accident or death is a huge tragedy. There have been 4 deaths I know of: 40 year-old Karsang Namgyal Sherpa climbing with Prestige Adventures related to alcohol at base camp; Peak Freaks’ Namgyal Tshering Sherpa fell from a ladder into a crevasse near C1; Dawa Tenzing with Himex from stroke and died in Kathmandu; 33 year-old Indian, Ramesh Gulve, climbing with the Pune team suffered a stroke around Camp2 and died back in India.
We often hear about Sherpas who spring to action to save a fallen climber, well they need to be trained like everyone else. Everest+ER, the medical clinic at base camp on the south posted this great article on some of this year’s hands-on training on prevention and treatment of common mountaineering medical issues. A nice read with good pictures
Unique Climbs Update
Meanwhile helicopter pilot/alpinist Simone Moro is still looking to attempt his Everest summit plus a traverse to Lhotse. Interviewed in this article on the excellent Italian website, Planet Mountain, Moro says:
I reckon it’ll be difficult, really difficult indeed. But I’m neither stressed out nor under pressure to perform. I’ll set off around 23 or 24 May. I’ll give it my best and hopefully I’ll be lucky and succeed. The aim though is to return home safe and sound, regardless of whether I win or lose, as this is simply a different term used to describe someone for short while after a climb.
There are a few other ambitious climbers including Chad Kellogg, Ueli Steck and the remaining West Ridge team lead by Jake Norton. No word on any of these but I would assume they are waiting for the second window around May 25, which is looking better and better by the way. This way they can avoid the crowds somewhat. Given some of these attempts are without supplemental oxygen it is critical they keep moving, fast, throughout their climb to avoid hypothermia.
The Summit Push
We are on the cusp of Everest 2012 summits. The climbers are experience a confusing sense of emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety to disbelief. After working so hard to get the chance, it is now only hours away. Many are using supplemental oxygen for the first time. The constant rhythm of their own breathing is a reminder of their humanity and what is back home. They will draw strength from those thoughts, those memories, and drift in and out of sleep passing the time until the next leg.
Teams at Camp 3 are enjoying one of the most unique views on earth – the full Western Cwm, top of the Icefall, Cho Oyu, the 6th highest, off in Tibet. Those at Camp 4, the South Col, are on Mars – a landscape of shale plates dusted with recent snow but arranged by the hurricane winds that have claimed this spot for eons. The climbers are momentary visitors.
But all the climbers on North and South lie in their down bags, wiggling toes, taking the occasional drink, eating what they can. They visualize each step, some have been there before – they know the drill, understand their chances, feel that knot deep down. For the first time climbers; they review the books, the pictures, the stories in their head; they don’t know what they don’t know. They feel that knot deep down.
2012 has been an “interesting” season as a fortune cookie might say, but overall it has not been that unusual. Yes, there was more rockfall than normal, a new route on the Lhotse Face and a large avalanche but overall it looks like a good season for most everyone. The drama will occupy the headlines so a 2012 summit might be a bit sweeter.
We are now in the end game and anything can happen; and will. The leaders are extra-sensitive this year and seem to be trading safety for summits – a good thing. As we go through this first window, which is looking better and better and look at the next window, which is also improving; we could have a solid end to a uncertain season.
My best thoughts for a safe and successful climb for every climber, guide and Sherpa on both sides.