This past weekend brought another round of surprises for climbers in the Himalaya this spring, particularly on Everest. Conditions on the mountain caused one of the largest commercial expeditions to call it quits for the year while others have decided to proceed up the mountain, where we’re told that things are starting to improve some.
The biggest news from the weekend, which was confirmed today, is that Himalayan Experience, better known as Himex, has elected to call off their expeditions for the year due to dangerous conditions throughout the region. Team leader Russell Brice made the decision on Saturday after meeting with the guides, Sherpas and Icefall Doctors. He then had the difficult task of letting the climbers know that he felt it was simply too unsafe to go up Everest this spring. Brice told the team that while he felt that the poor conditions on the Lhotse Face could improve with snowfall and warm weather, he was unwilling to risk his guides, Sherpas or clients going through the unsteady Khumbu Icefall once again. Russell feels that the icefall could collapse at any time and as a result he has decided that it is best that everyone goes home instead of risking a tragic end of the season. The decision to cancel the expedition means that not only will clients looking to climb Everest will go home, but so will those hoping to summit Lhotse and Nuptse as well.
I was surprised to hear that Himex decided to pull the plug. I respect that Russell is making the hard decision to go home, as that obviously means that conditions must be very unsafe. I do feel bad for the climbers however, as they have obviously trained so hard for the opportunity to climb in the Himalaya and have spent a lot of time and money to follow their dream. They must be devastated by the news that they won’t be going up this year, although in the long run they may be a lot safer.
The decision to end the expedition must have resulted in one last blow-out party as the National Geographic/North Face expedition, led by Conrad Anker, reports that the famous Himex white dome turned into a night club/disco over the weekend. The party that ensued allowed everyone to blow off some steam, although the ration of fifty men to seven women didn’t make for the best of odds. Still, it sounds like it was a good time and probably was just what those in attendance needed.
Not everyone was enjoying some RnR in Base Camp over the weekend. The IMG team actually climbed up to Camp 3 where they spent the night acclimatizing and preparing for the challenges ahead. They report that conditions have stabilized somewhat thanks to recent snow storms and as a result there is a lot less rock fall higher on the mountain. If the current weather pattern holds, the Sherpa teams will begin carrying gear up to Camp 4 as early as tomorrow and the overall mood is one of optimism heading into this week.
The Peak Freaks have gone the absolutely opposite direction and are now currently resting and relaxing down the valley in Pheriche. The climbers are waiting and watching the weather to see if conditions will continue to improve, and when they do they’ll be ready to head back-up to Everest Base Camp to getting ready for the summit bid.
On the North Side, the Altitude Junkies have spent their time going up and down from ABC to Camp 1 and back again. This does help the acclimatization process but everyone is eager to go higher up the slopes to reach Camp 2. High winds and poor weather have prevented that thus far, although things have improved in the past few days. There are some indications that Sherpas will once again start work on the fixed lines above 7800 meters while gear and oxygen bottles are carried up to C2 in preparation for the route opening to higher locations on the mountain. The forecast is good at the moment and you can bet everyone is eager to take advantage of that.
It seems this week will be a big one in determining when summit bids could potentially begin. If the weather does hold out and remains good, the Sherpa team will be able to finish fixing ropes to the summit, but if high winds return then everyone will be waiting and watching once again.
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