As quoted from the heights – a restless pause on Everest

As the jet stream flirts with the top of the world, teams finalize their plans and head for the heights.

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Camp 3, hopefully no more than a quick over night and on to the heights. There is a reason that Sherpas so seldom sleep there, the snow slopes above and below prone to loading up with every passing storm.  

The anticipation can be energizing, unnerving, or just plain annoying. Or you can just relax, eat well and do laundry, as Jagged Globe head-lined their latest post.

The importance of patience is not so subtle in Mingote’s quote, as they await the weather for the ever more popular two-fer of Everest and Lhotse.

“I’ve seen too often how Alpinists eventually lose respect for big mountains and pay for it with death.”

It will be interesting to see how many people will be attempting both peaks and when the question asked on your return is,

“Just Everest then?”

Experienced guide Harry Taylor, climbing with Russell Brice and whom I once shared a high Camp with on the North Ridge commented simply, There will be a “disaster” if safety standards are left to decline. Harry was flying a paraglider off the mountain that year, one of my first introductions to the far preferable and fun means of descent from the heights. It also keeps you from focusing too much on the hardness of up when down will be accomplished so quickly.

No matter how you choose to pass the time, the mountain is always looming and Juan Pablo Sarjonovich quotes from Kanchenjunga the words of Dostoevsky:

“I fear only one thing, not to be worthy of my sufferings.”

Makalu, Everest, Cho Oyu
Makalu, left, Everest, center with plume, Cho Oyu, right. From the Pang La, Tibet

Over on the north side, patience levels are wearing thin as teams await the final fixing of the ropes. The North being traditionally a bit colder and windier, it isn’t uncommon to see later summits.

With the rope fixing 100% in the hands of a select group of Chinese climbers, and no one allowed past them, a bit of nervousness as the season advances is well understood.

As Stephen Venables used to remind us before kicking us all out of the bed and up the Kangshung Face,

“What do you think this is, a poncy California climbing holiday?”

Stephen Venables and Paul Teare, who does just happen to live in California. Photo: Joe Blackburn