Everest 2024 – The North Go Up and the South Go Sideways

In a surprising twist, Tibet, which just opened on 7 May for foreigners, also saw the North Ridge route fixed to the summit on the same day by a local Chinese team.

Traditionally the North Ridge has seen high winds and the season starting a bit later than on the South side.

The upper reaches of Everest North Face with the North-East ridge on the left horizon. This shot taken from climbing along the West Ridge, tracks of our route just below the crest ahead of us lower center. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson. 

So while teams from Alpenglow and Furtenbach Adventures had been waiting impatiently to get into China, suddenly their way is clear to drive up to Base Camp and start climbing immediately.

Meanwhile, back on the South Side, early season challenges in the Khumbu Icefall slowed the rope fixing team, and the route through has proved more troublesome and time c0nsuming than usual.

Every extra minute spent in the Icefall heightens chances of something happening, and with people already seen backed up in line there, it doesn’t bode well for even an early morning start. Comparing photographs from earlier years, the Icefall looks like the ice is rounded and melting, the sharp angularity of cold ice melted away. And under crampon, it soon turns to slush in the lower regions.

Heat and the Icefall don’t mix well together.

Looking down from the Lho La in Tibet, Paul Teare surveys the Khumbu Icefall, Camp 1 and Nuptse behind. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

Recent winds have also taken out tents in the higher camps on the South Side in both camps 2 and 3, causing additional loads to be brought up to resupply. And while the ropes are now as far as the South Col, they have yet to reach the top. However, with a good forecast now in the offing, predictions are for a wave of climbers to rush for the top soon.

As ever, let’s hope they don’t all go at once, or they will be facing one of the biggest dangers on Everest today, waiting in line. A number of teams have already stated they will be in the second round, waiting for the weather to settle and warm and the steps to be well and truly stomped in, often a strategy for the experienced Western Guides with a focus on safety.

With a dry and windy winter with little spring snow to date, the ever fearsome Lhotse face is not only brick hard ice, but also being swept by rocks from higher up on Lhotse. While the ice is simply a climbing challenge, that will soon be eased as steps are stomped in.

The greater fear is the falling rocks, whistling if they are small and sounding more like rockets if they are larger, ricocheting down the Lhotse face. All you can do is duck low, hide and pray to as many gods as you can think of when you hear them coming.

Early season on the Lhotse Face. Brick hard ice, nowhere to hide, and the rocks of the upper face a 1,000 metres above that the rocks launch from. Photo: Borge Ousland.

Those advocating for the more direct approach on the North side, who have held out to get in this year, will be going by vehicle to Base Camp, then will hike high on the mountain to Advance Base before they even put on crampons. Their true launching point up the ridge starts from 7,000 metres at the North Col.

This may make it a year when the difficult wait may soon prove advantageous. And with so few climbing on the North Side, the lines and numbers of people clambering about will be much reduced.

Climbing over the Hillary Step on the Summit Ridge of Everest. The summit a 100 people and an hour away, if you are lucky. Thankfully, we were already headed down.  Photo: Robert Mads Anderson