Nothing But Blue Sky. Climbers Gallop Up Everest and Paraglider Flies Down

You see it in one Everest summit photograph after the next. Blue sky and more blue sky, to the point it is hard to even find a cloud in the photo.

Climbers have been taking advantage of this weather to summit in one picture perfect day after the next.

Lucy Westlake, youngest American to summit Everest at 18, arriving Base Camp under skies that foretold a record breaking season for many. Photo: Instagram

From the youngest American, Lucy Westlake, at 18, to the youngest Australian, Gabby Kanizay, at 19, who summited together with her mother.

Just for good measure, Gabby went on to ascend Lhotse the next day, perhaps the youngest to accomplish the double as well, and certainly one of the very few Australians.

Gabby Kinazay, youngest Australian to ascend Everest. “It was the most amazing feeling just to know you’re literally on top of the world.”

Kenton Cool has also just completed his 16th ascent, following on from Kami Rita’s 26th ascent, and Lhakpa Sherpas 10th ascent earlier in the season.

A number of Sherpas will also have climbed twice this year – probably too many to count at this point. And the support they have been providing most teams is at its highest level ever, with often 2/1 or more.

Blue skies do help, but with an extra Sherpa or two to carry your things, you can climb faster, be more confident and have them helping out every step of the way, with a back-up if anything goes wrong, certainly a big contributor to this years stream of successes.

Women climbers continue to set records, now including Emirati Nayla Nasir A Albaloushi, to Vietnamese Nguyên Thi Thanh Nha (Céline), who have become the first women from their respective countries to the top.

Magdalena Madej atop Lhotse, her first 8,000 meter peak, with Everest directly behind. Perhaps a cloud on the horizon if you look closely?

A host of climbers have also been throwing Lhotse into the mix, dropping down to the South Col after climbing Everest, taking little more than a deep breathe it seems, and then ascending the Couloir direct to the top of Lhotse.

The route up Lhotse – simply head back down off the South Col, and where the snowy trail in photo cuts down the face to the right, take a hard left and shoot straight up into the Lhotse Couloir and on to the summit. Viola, two 8,000 meter peaks in two days. Photo: Robert Anderson

Norwegian Kristin Harila, who has done both Everest and Lhotse in under 12 hours, will be back shortly as part of her attempt to do all 14 – 8,000 meter peaks in 6 months. Let’s hope the weather holds for her as well.

Kenton Cool making it #Everest16, under the seemingly eternal blue sky this year.

The weather also proved stable enough for South African Pierre Carter to fly his Nova paraglider from the South Col down to below Base Camp, dropping nearly 3,000 vertical meters and landing in Gorak Shep a mere 20 minutes after take off. A highly experienced paragliding competitor and high altitude pilot, he is close to ticking off ascents and descents from all the Seven Summits.

We are awaiting updates on Australian Ken Hutt, who also is carrying his paraglider along with him.

South African Pierre Carter in the air on his 20-minute flight from the South Col on Everest, to Gorak Shep below Base Camp. By noon a least a few clouds were building and he snuck quickly down the Khumbu between them.

Also in the air over on the North Side of Everest, where Chinese climbers have also been summiting for the past few weeks, there is an airship high up in the sky, flying along the Himalaya and conducting scientific research.

The airship looks both surreal and a whole lot of fun at the same time. At least its carbon footprint should be well under what a helicopters is.

Hmm. Perhaps a new way to the top of Everest?

With the season wrapping up, there will undoubtably be more climbers and more records being broken in a final race to the top.

Several commercial expeditions have yet to summit, having let the earlier crowds clear away and with the confidence the weather will continue to hold.

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