Himalaya Spring 2009 Update: Go Time On Everest and Beyond

Update: I was just finishing up this story when the reports began to trickle in of a massive avalanche on the South Side of Everest, that swept down into the Khumbu Ice Fall. Apparently it was a big one, and there has been at fatality. Two climbers were caught up in the slide, one survived, while another was sent down into a crevasse. Early indications are that it was one of the Sherpas, but who he was climbing with hasn’t been revealed yet. We’ll have to wait to see if this avalanche will have any effect on the climbing schedules, as from what I can gather, part of the Ice Fall route has been damaged and will need to be rebuilt. Stay tuned!!

Earlier this week we heard that the ropes were fixed to the summit of Everest and that five Sherpas topped out, followed closely by David Tait, pictured here. With that minor detail out of the way, the rest of the teams are now waiting, watching the weather, and scheduling their summit bids. Throughout the Himalaya, on a variety of mountains, other climbers are doing the same.

ExWeb is reporting that there is action all over the region, with Edurne Pasaban is finishing her acclimatization process on Kangchenjunga, just as Nives Meroi and Romano Benet arrive in base camp. The two women are locked in a race to see who will be the first to claim all 14 800 meter peaks.

Over on Makalu, ExWeb says that the Korean team has already summitted along the “normal” route, topping out on the first of May. But the team of lberto Iñurrategi, Mikel Zabalza and Juan Vallejo have set out along the mountains daunting West Pillar, hoping to make an alpine style ascent over the next 4 to 5 days, in one single push, without Sherpa support or established camps. Good luck guys!

Despite the activity on these other big peaks, all eyes are on Everest at the moment, where teams are getting ready to start the summit push beginning tomorrow. Alan Arnette reported on his Everest 2009 page yesterday that on the North Side of the mountain ropes were fixed up to the North Col, but high winds were stalling out efforts to reach the summit. The teams there are waiting just as anxiously as their counterparts to the South. Today there are reports of a large avalanche on the North that swept ropes off the mountain, which will further delay efforts to summit from that side.

But on the South Side, it is definitely time to go, and go they will, starting tomorrow. The First Ascent Team has their plans in place, and Ed Viesturs is happy to share them with us all in the video below. The latest video is a nice recap of the expedition so far, and does a nice job of laying out their attempt at the summit. Ed hasn’t been on Everest in a few years, but by all accounts, he hasn’t missed a beat and is as strong as ever. He’s a great spokesman for the team, and the video is great for those unfamiliar with the climbing tactics.

First Ascent isn’t the only team heading up the South Col. The Discovery Channel blog indicates that they are about to begin their push as well. The latest entry is an excellent read, that discusses the climb, the logistics, and weighing the risks. Of course, if Discovery is going up, that means that IMG and Himex are beginning their assaults, since they are the two teams who are being filmed for the next season of Everest: Beyond the Limit, although Billi Bierling indicates that the team is in Gorak Shep resting, as Russell Brice didn’t think the weather window looked right just yet.

It should be noted that the climbing schedule seems to be a ahead of what is considered normal at the moment. The weather has been great for most of the season so far, and traditionally on the South Side, teams have until about the first of June to reach the summit. After that, the ice doctors tend to quit maintaining the route through the Ice Fall, and everyone packs up and goes home. On the North Side, teams don’t have deal with the Ice Fall so they can go a bit longer into June, but by mid-way through the month, the weather changes, and the monsoon moves in, cutting off the summit until Fall. That said, there are still three weeks of opportunities for teams to climb, and summit reports will be coming in throughout that period. It should be very busy starting tomorrow, with summits beginning on the 12th.

Kraig Becker

Comments are closed.