Everest 2013: Sherpas Head Up, Ueli and Simone On The Move

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The activity in the Khumbu Valley is really starting to heat up now that the spring climbing season is in full swing. Everest Base Camp is slowly turning from a sleepy little tent-city to a full-blown expedition village filled with climbers, Sherpas and support staff. As more teams arrive, BC becomes a bustling place with a few hundred people making it their home for the next six weeks or so. With their mountain trek behind them, most are now preparing for the real work to begin.

Two of the big names that are still making their way to EBC on the South Side are Ueli Steck and Simone Moro, the dynamic duo of Everest that we’ll all be hearing a lot about this year. Their NO2 Limits expedition will attempt a “different” route up the mountain and while we still haven’t heard exactly what that route will be just yet, it will certainly be interesting to hear what they have planned. Ueli has made his first dispatch from Nepal and EpicTV, who are one of the expedition’s media partners, has posted the update. At the moment, the two men are still working their way up the Valley, with their entire team meeting in Namche Bazaar yesterday and moving up to Dingboche today. Tomorrow they’ll head to Lobuche and then on to Gorak Shep and Base Camp itself. They are taking their time, allowing for their bodies to acclimatize, but on their “rest days” Ueli has already been running the high altitude trails of the Himalaya as part of his preparation for the true start of the climb. Look for them to arrive in BC by the weekend, at which time they’ll start scouting the mountain for a possible new route to the top.

Denis Urubko and Alexei Bolotov are also looking to open a new route on Everest this spring. They are planning to go up the difficult South West Face, climbing without oxygen and in alpine style. They’re actually already on the mountain and sharing their dispatches via Russian Climb. Their most recent updates say they have crossed over the icefall and are already proceeding higher. As of yesterday, the two men have already been as high as 7000 meters (22,965 ft), which is an impressive height for so early in the season. The dispatches are light on details at the moment, but this is another high profile climb that will garner plenty of attention this spring.
Both the IMG team and RMI squad completed their Puja ceremonies yesterday and are now free to start climbing the mountain. Those climbing with IMG will now head to Lobuche Peak to begin an acclimatization climb on that mountain. It serves as a good practice ground while also lowering the number of times the climbers must go through the Khumbu Icefall. The RMI climbers will stay in BC but will spend a few days hiking on the glacier as they get use to their crampons and the thin air. Both teams are sending their Sherpas up the slopes today however as they begin the crucial step of building Camps 1 and 2.

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The Peak Freaks are a day behind the schedule of the above teams. They arrived in BC yesterday and will hold their Puja today. With that out of the way, their Sherpa teams should be moving up tomorrow.  The Himalayan Experience (Himex) team will arrive in BC tomorrow and a few other teams will likely stagger in over the next few days too. Soon they’ll be crawling all over Everest as they begin the long and arduous task of preparing for an eventual summit push. But that is still a number of weeks off and there is much to do before that happens.

Teams are now heading to the North Side of Everest as the border between Nepal and Tibet opens to climbers for the season. There is reportedly a shortage of vehicles to carry teams to the North Side Base Camp, so entry visas are being issued at a staggered rate so as to space everyone out properly. Amongst the first to cross over will be the Altitude Junkies, who will leave Kathmandu for Tibet tomorrow. They’ll soon be joined by the 7 Summits Club and others.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the death of Mingmar Sherpa on Everest this past weekend. The experienced climber was a part of the famed Ice Doctors who build and maintain the route through the Khumbu Icefall each year. That route was completed last Friday and Mingmar was helping shuttle gear up to C1 and C2 on the South Side. While descending between those camps he slipped and fell into a crevasse, perishing there before anyone could help him. This is a sad start to the season and lets hope that it isn’t an oman of more fatalities to come. My condolences to his friends, family and climbing team on the loss.

Kraig Becker