A Season of Civilized Summits on Everest?

With a full week of good weather forecast and surprisingly low winds; and for Everest, warm temperatures (0 farenheight, -17 Celsius), teams are departing Base Camp and moving quickly up the mountain, with some headed for the summit right now.

With just over 300 climbers registered, it is also a year lower in numbers than the past, so the crowding, lines and general disarray should be minimized, with teams able to pick the day of their choosing and hopefully not all stack up on top of each other.

Everest, Lhotse Face, Camp 3
Follow the Congo line. Climbers headed out from Camp 3, lower right, and over to cross the Yellow Band upper left. Hopefully this year the traffic jams will be minimized. Photo: Robert Anderson – 300 mm tele. from Camp 2

Some teams are reporting planned later summit departures, with comfortably civilized times that both provides some rest before, and more climbing in the daylight hours. The traditional need to grab just a few hours rest at the South Col after a steep climb up from Camp 3, then taking off the same day for the top at 9 p.m., a physically enervating endeavor at the best of times, just won’t be so important this year.

Just below the South Summit at top, climbers can just be seen ascending the snowy ridge. The actual summit is behind the South Summit and not visible. Climbers, bottom left, are rounding the corner leading onto the South Col. Photo: Robert Anderson

Last year, both Mountain Professionals and Madison Mountaineering took advantage of their very precise weather forecasts and left much later than usual, both enjoying success, and the views on their way to the summit.

The first Western member to summit this year, the very fit and fast, Pedro Queiros, followed close on the heels of the rope fixing team. They summited Monday morning, with just himself and Mingma Sherpa, a rare occurrence these days and certainly a great way to reach the top of the world.

A host of other teams are targeting summits over the week, from the Full Circle Everest team of All Black climbers, to a whole range of commercial expeditions, some in their own mini-waves.

Mixed into all this, will be a host of even smaller teams, as there are 37 in total this year, many we will never know of and will simply be climbing for themselves. Humility on Everest is certainly not unheard of.

Sibusisu Vilane, first Black African to summit Everest, on the summit ridge taking the final steps to the top. Photo: David Hamilton

The National Geographic/Rolex team is also hard at work on their weather stations, getting some back in operation and perhaps adding a higher one into the mix. Their current stations are operational and provide virtually live weather data throughout the year.

Current weather data, link direct to the Nat Geo site for the latest. You can see Base Camp and Camp 2, with temperature, wind, pressure and humidity. Right now they are working on repairing the South Col and Balcony stations.

For those who are taking the opportunity to climb Everest and then make the quick dash up Lhotse, this could be the ideal year for that.

Without having to go back to Base Camp, climbers can stay high, cut over to the Lhotse Couloir and pick that off as well. It’s a favorite with Guides, offering a new challenge and more technical climbing. And as a business, it offers an additional revenue stream for both guide companies and Sherpas, always welcome in the short Himalayan season.

The route to Lhotsebottom right, the trail down from the South Col, heading for Camp 3. If you want to do Lhotse, take a left and head straight up the snow and into the obvious and very well defined Lhotse Couloir. As Guide Rob Smith pointed out to me after completing the double, at least it is not nearly as high as Everest, though the climbing can be a bit more interesting! Photo: Robert Anderson, taken from the Geneva Spur descending from the South Col.
A few more Everest stories in my latest book, Nine Lives – Expeditions to Everest. And in French, Neuf vies – Expeditions A L’Everest, both available in print and for immediate reading, digitally. Photo: Alexander Hillary