ExWeb has continued to follow the unfolding story of the Chinese closing the North Side of Everest for the 2008 season since they first broke the story a few days back. The story got even more interesting yesterday when rumors began to circulate that Nepal may hold climbers back from the summit until after May 10th as well.
When I wrote that post yesterday I speculated as to what was in it for Nepal. I even asked if China was going to be sending them a big economic package. Turns out, I might not be far off in that guess. Today ExWeb is reporting that China may be offering Nepal as much as 121 million Euros in “soft loans” if they hold back climbers until after the Olympic Torch summits the mountain. Thats nearly $190 million. Quite the economic care package I’d say, and if this story is true, then I can see why Nepal is so willing to go along with the plan.
Climbers on the South Side, that is to say the Nepalese side, of Everest will still be able to acclimatize on the mountain, build their high camps and do everything else they want to do there, except go for the summit. After May 10th, presuming the Torch has been up and down by then, climbers can make their own summit bids. However, the mass exodus to the top, along with over crowding, could make it an extremely slow and dangerous endeavor. If the weather conditions turn dicey, and the window narrows, it could make things far worse as well.
The South Side has another problem associated with it as well. The most dangerous place on Everest is the Khumbu Icefall. More people die there than on any other part of the mountain. And with overcrowding and more people moving through the Icefall I can just imagine who awful that will be. But, the other issue with the Icefall is that the ladders that are used to make your way through it have to be maintained on a daily basis by the “Icefall Doctors”. They usually stop maintaining the path by June 1st, which means all teams have to be up and down by then. On the North Side, where there is not equivalent to the Icefall, teams can stay and climb as long as they want, weather permitting. Perhaps that will be a boon to teams on the North who come late after acclimatizing elsewhere, but for teams moving to the South, it’s going to be an issue for the to deal with.
At this point, literally tons of gear and supplies have been shipped to Nepal and Tibet. Climbers are finishing up their last minute preparations, and will be setting out soon. I’m sure there is no small amount of trepidation amongst them, as they move ahed with plans, not really sure how things are going to work out. At this point, all you can do stay the course, and hope for the best. I wish them all the best of luck.
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