Everest 2012: Other Climbs Of Note

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With the general Everest update out of the way, I wanted to take a moment to share some updates on other high profile summit attempts on the mountain that took place over the weekend or will be taking place in the next few days.

One of the first summits of the season was achieved by Ueli Steck, who happily reached the top without supplemental oxygen. You may recall that Ueli turned back from the summit last year less than 100 meters from the top because of cold feet. Rather than risk losing toes to frostbite he knew it was better to return and give it a go. His patience and good judgement were rewarded this season, as he climbed to the highest point on the planet alongside Tenzing Sherpa, a 21-year old friend who was more like a climbing partner than a guide. Congrats to Ueli on a job well done.

70-year old Bill Burke, climbing from the North Side, wasn’t so luck in his attempt. He went as high as the Second Step, located at 8580 meters (28,140ft) before turning back. Bill reported horrible weather, with high winds and blowing snow, and after passing a few bodies on the way up, he decided it wasn’t worth taking the chance of pushing his luck. He did say he felt strong and healthy, and if the weather had been better he would have gone for it, but this is another example of a climber making the right choice to turn back.

Kiwi Grant Rawlinson did top out on the North Side, but it sounds like it wasn’t an easy go. It took him 13 hours to go from Camp 3 to the top and back, and the weather took a turn while he was on the move. Grant says that it was very windy and cold at the summit, and those winds and cold temps (-20ºC/-4ºF) continue today. He’ll head down to ABC this morning then BC tomorrow, with an eye on heading for home on Wednesday. Congratulations to Grant as well.

Ian Ridley was set to climb to the summit this weekend, but the closing of the weather window sent him back down to Base Camp on the South Side for an extra couple of days. He reports a somber mood in BC, where everyone has heard about the deaths on the mountain this past weekend, which is a sobering reminder of the dangers that still lie ahead. Ian will join the second wave of climbers that hope to make an attempt on the summit later this week, and he now says that Friday looks to be the start of the next weather window.

Also preparing to go up late this week is Kenton Cool, who will be carrying the 1924 Olympic Gold Medal with him. Presently Kenton is in Camp 3 (7470 meters/24,500 ft) and is awaiting the opening of the next window as well. Considering this would be his 10th summit of the mountain, we al know he has plenty of experience. I would be willing to bet that he’ll be in position to make a quick climb to the top and back just as soon as the winds die down. The question is, will he Tweet, text or make a phone call from the summit?

The RMI team is prepared to have a go at the summit this week as well, which will be particularly noteworthy because it could mean that Dave Hahn will notch his 14th summit of Everest, which is the most of any non-Sherpa. Dave is one of the most experienced guides on the mountain and always seems to make good decisions on when to go up and when to retreat. I’m sure that will be the case this season as well.

The Nat Geo/North Face team left Base Camp this morning and is heading up to be in position for the May 25-26 weather window, which they expect to be the last of the season. Having given up on their attempt of the West Ridge (as has the First Ascent/Eddie Bauer team), the group, which is led by Conrad Anker, will now concentrate on the South Col route instead. This talented and experienced team will no doubt make a good accounting of itself later int he week as well.

Finally, Simone Moro should be heading up to get into place for his planned attempt at a double summit of Everest and Lhotse later this week as well. He plans to top out on the Big Hill first, then return to Camp 4 briefly before skirting across the ridge and heading to the summit of Lhotse as well. We’ll have to wait and see if the weather window will be open long enough for him to accomplish that feat.

I told you it was going to be another busy week!

Kraig Becker