Everest in real time? Tracking climbers to the summit

One of the hardest things about Everest is historically people went away on their expedition and the overriding question was “Where are they now?”

Now we can get data so frequent we are almost walking in a climbers footsteps – of course the question is do you really want that?

On the Garmin InReach, every blue dot provides a time and place. If you know the route, the visuals play out in your head. And getting up and down Everest is so much about timing – with oxygen there is a ticking clock on just how long you can spend up there.

So every little dot is movement, every stall in time or connection opens up a whole raft of questions.

Are climbers resting, changing tanks, waiting in line? Or turning around?

As the day goes on and then the summit is reached, the up questions, turn to down questions. Why aren’t they moving faster? If fast up is important, fast down is even more important.

Of course none of this is perfect, the trackers glitch and shoot out points right and left. Batteries are always hard, particularly at altitude and in the cold.

And releasing this data should anything go wrong or change is always hard – do we really want to watch somebody stranded and not moving as their geo-tracker battery slowly fades to zero? Or is it all just part of climbing Everest.

Right now it is the next best thing to being there.


Everest, South Col, South Summit, Kangshung Face
The slopes above the South Col. Bigger than you may expect. Following ropes makes it much easier, particularly if climbing in the dark. We were slow enough we didn’t have that challenge after finishing up our new route up the Kangshung Face. Photo: Ed Webster