Everest, summit, Lhotse, from Makalu

Climbers Sneak Through the ‘Keyhole’ to the Summit of Everest – and Garrett Madison Reports “Nicest Summit Day I’ve Had.”

The importance of weather forecasting has risen to the fore this year, as climbers dodge cyclones, high winds and snow storms on the heights of Everest.

Ryan Waters team from Mountain Professionals, with some very astute advice from Weather Guru Marc De Keyser, identified a ‘keyhole’ weather window during the day to climb in.

Afternoon at Everest South Col, the winds die down and the clouds come up.

In a rare move, they departed the South Col at 5 a.m. and climbed through the day in excellent conditions. What a great way to summit, getting a real nights rest and then being able to actually see and enjoy the route.

All that stumbling along in the dark, headlamp flickering, crawling up shadowed footsteps and seeing nothing, versus the grand views Everest affords, would be a much more rewarding and memorable experience.

Robert Anderson (left) and Ed Webster at the South Col, having completed the first ascent of the Kangshung Face without oxygen, headed out for the summit. Photo: Stephen Venables

Madison Mountaineering made their move in a more conventional time slot, though also delaying their departure until around midnight and climbing through the night.

“We had an amazing day. We left around midnight on the 23rd and summited Mount Everest this morning. It was a #beautiful day! It was clear, calm, and probably the nicest summit day I’ve had on Everest out of my 11 summits!” Madison Mountaineering from Instagram

They are back at the South Col and headed down the mountain tomorrow – hoping for a quick and safe descent ahead of the next approaching cyclone.

Climbing the Seven Summits, under the leadership of Mike Hamill, with their large mixed teams on varied schedules has also had multiple successes with teams to the top, and with a few climbers holding back at the South Col, perhaps even a few more climbers headed up tonight?

There is still the chance a few final groups still in Base Camp will wait out the next cyclone, and then return to the heights towards the end of May.

The challenge of waiting, of potentially deteriorating health or even catching Covid this year, increases by the day. It will be a determined climber indeed who will still be in Base Camp after this latest round of summits.

Adding Lhotse to Everest has also become far more common, usually after climbing Everest, but in some cases before.

Looking over the top of Lhotse on the descent from the top of Everest.

With the route in and fixed ropes on Lhotse, traversing across from the South Col, heading straight up into the Couloir and picking off a second 8,000 meter peak virtually the same day can be very tempting, particularly if you want to do all the tall peaks.

As Guide Rob Smith reported to me after completing it 2 years ago, if anything it is steeper and more technical than Everest, and you can see that in the unrelenting line of the infamous Lhotse Couloir.

Then again, it has been skied so how steep can it be right?

However, Lhotse is also 400 meters shorter than Everest, so in vertical little more than the equivalent of a climb to the balcony on Everest, so physically and psychologically an easier undertaking if you can come down from Everest feeling good.