Everest 2013: First Rotations Set To Begin

if ladder jaroslaw hawrylewicz

The climbing season on Everest is progressing at a solid and methodical pace at the moment. Now that the last teams are arriving in Base Camp on both sides of the mountain, they’ll start to go to work with their first rotations up to Camp 1. As usual, the teams on the South Side are slightly ahead of their counterparts on the North, but it will all even out in the weeks ahead. For now, everyone is eager to get started as the begin to acclimatize for the tough climb that awaits.

One of the things we’ve been hearing a lot about this spring is how different the weather has been compared to last year. Numerous teams have reported that it is colder this time out and that more snow and ice is on the mountain. But Tim Rippel, team leader of the Peak Freaks, says that the reports of increased safety due to these conditions sounded a lot more encouraging in Kathmandu than it does while actually in BC and observing the conditions first hand. He indicated that a section of the route that was particularly tough last season due to falling rocks looks just as treacherous this year too. It remains to be seen if that will be the case, but it is interesting to note that this is a different report than we’ve been getting elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the RMI team is getting ready to make their first rotation up to Camp 1, which should happen in the next few days. Team leader Dave Hahn went up the route yesterday to inspect the campsite for himself and now he’s preparing to take the rest of his group up shortly. They’ve already had some solid training time in the Khumbu Icefall and now they are ready to pass through that section and step onto the mountain itself.

Speaking of the icefall, it is reportedly in good condition so far this season, with no overly large crevasses or unstable ice pillars forming just yet. The Ice Docs are doing a good job of maintaining the route, although the real challenge will come as the temperatures warm up. At the moment, it is a stable route through one of the most challenging sections of the climb, which makes it easier for the climbers as they pass through that section for the first time.

The IMG team is continuing with their acclimatization plan by putting a second group of climbers on top of nearby Labuche Peak. That squad reached the summit yesterday and are now en route to BC to join their companions. The IMG Sherpas have been hard at work on Everest itself however, where they continue to shuttle gear and supplies up to Camp 2. Even the cooks got into the action, climbing up to C2 to set up the mess tents there. Other members of the team will be making their first foray into the icefall today as they begin their ropes and ladders training there.

The Adventure Consultants are also doing ropes and ladder training as they get their group prepared for the icefall as well. They used a small ropes course that has been set-up near Base Camp to assist in their prep work, which gives the climbers a chance to get accustomed to walking in crampons, particularly across the ladders. This will help them immensely in the days ahead as they enter the more challenging icefall.

That’s about it for today. We’re in a bit of a holding pattern just before the real work gets underway. That should happen in the next few days as the rotations begin. I also expect the team leaders will be holding another meeting to work out the logistics of fixing the ropes as well, which will give us an idea of how the next few weeks will shape out. The weather conditions are expected to improve starting tomorrow, which means more sun and less snow. All of that should signal a start to a lot more activity on the mountain.

Kraig Becker