Everest 2012: Himex Explains Base Camp Departure

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Earlier today Himalayan Experience (Himex) posted a new newsletter to their site explaining their decision to pull the plug on their 2012 Everest season. The article, which I encourage you to read for yourself here, breaks down the reasons that team leader Russell Brice decided that Everest was just too unsafe for his guides, Sherpas and clients this spring.

The dispatch says that the Sherpas were already reporting that conditions were just too warm on the mountain from the earliest days in Base Camp. It also notes that there were a number of hazards that came into play, including increased challenges in the icefall and overhanging seracs that threatened to break off and tumble down the route that climbers will use to go to the summit. Worse yet, the clients were averaging 45 minutes to an hour in the shadow of those seracs, which is far too much time to be exposed to the danger of a collapse.

That’s just the start of Brice’s concerns however. He also notes that a crack along the ice of the West Ridge was quite small upon arrival in BC last month, but now it has grown to 5-7 meters in thickness. That means the pressure is only increasing on the block and that it could splinter and fall at any moment.

Increased temperatures in the Khumbu Icefall have Russell most concerned however. He notes that when the Sherpa teams set out through that area at 2 AM there have been very few days when the temperature has been below -10ºC/14ºF. That’s not particularly cold by Himalayan standards and it means that the ice probably isn’t as stable as it should be. Worse yet, the Himex newsletter says that lakes from ice melt are already forming in Base Camp, and that doesn’t typically happen until the end of the season. That warmer weather isn’t just a concern for today or tomorrow but the weeks ahead as well. Considering that it appears the teams will be on the mountain for awhile yet, the icefall is likely to only erode further as the season goes along.

The continued dropping of ice and rock from Nuptse and the Lhotse Face were also a major issue moving forward. Two clients were nearly hit by massive chunks while in Camp 1 on Nuptse and despite some snow hitting the mountain, the rocks continue to rain down from the Lhotse Face as well. Russell doesn’t seem to believe that things will stabilize for the long term either, and that a few warm days will only make matters worse.

The Himex team is already looking ahead to next year and have communicated some thoughts on a safer route through the icefall with the Sherpas that prepare that route. The dispatch makes it clear that anyone on the team this year who wants to return next year will receive a discount, but they will not be getting a refund on their money. Most of the $55,000 that they paid has already been spent on logistics, supplies, salaries and so on. It is a sad reality that these climbers won’t get their money back, but it is also part of the risk of making a climb on Everest.

So, there you have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth. The reasons why Russell Brice made the decisions he made. They all sound like legitimate concerns to me. I just hope that all of the other teams get up and down safel and there is no cause to second guess any decisions either way.

Kraig Becker