Everest 2013: It’s All About The Weather

EV13 20 B

Reports from Everest Base Camp on both sides of the mountain are starting to sound a bit like a broken record. Everyone is sitting and waiting at the moment as they watch the skies for a break in the weather. As expected, high winds have moved over the summit, making it impossible for teams to go up and a snow storm moved through this weekend, depositing fresh powder across all of the camps on the South Side. The next few days look to be touch-and-go and there is a potential weather window opening late the week, but a tropical storm in the Bay of Bengal could have a major impact on when the teams will be on the move once again.

As we all know by now, the ropes were fixed all the way to the summit on both the North and South Sides last Friday. That allowed a couple of experienced and daring climbers to nab the first summits of the season behind the Sherpa teams themselves. David Tait was one of those climbers, arriving at the top of Everest not long after the rope fixing was complete. On Saturday, Spanish climber David Liaño also topped out, nabbing what he hopes is the first of two summits this year. He’ll now head to Tibet to attempt to climb the mountain from that side as well, which would mark the first time that anyone has climbed from both sides of the mountain in the same year.

While these early summits were encouraging for everyone, most of the other climbers can only sit and wait at this point. A few teams sent their climbers up to Camp 1 and 2 over the weekend with the hopes of having them in position in case the weather changed, but all of them descended back to Base Camp when it became apparent that a weather window wasn’t forthcoming. The forecasts say that the first opportunities to move up could come late this week, although if that tropical storm moves north out of the Bay of Bengal it’ll bring substantial amounts of snow with it. That would be bad news for the climbers and would further delay any summit bids.

On the North Side, the Altitude Junkies have moved up to Advanced Base Camp. They report high winds are still an issue further up the slopes, but for now they are safe and ready for their first summit window when it comes. Each of the team’s high camps are stocked with gear and supplies, so the stage is set for their first push. Now, it is just a matter of when Mother Nature will let them go up.

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Edita Nichols, who is climbing with the AJ squad, checked in with her home team this morning to let them know that she was on the move once again and headed toward the North Col. They must feel very confident in their weather forecasts, as they will begin their summit push today with an eye on topping out on Thursday of this week. We’ll just have to wait and see if they are successful in this push as there seems to be a lot of weather variables still in play.

It isn’t often that the teams on the North summit ahead of their counterparts on the South. The past few years it has been common for the climbers on the Tibetan side to lag behind by a day or two. But this year could possibly be different if the teams really do get a shot at the summit on Thursday.

Good luck to everyone as they wait for their opportunity to proceed. Hopefully that tropical storm won’t shift to the north and the weather window set for later this week opens as expected. I’m sure the anticipation of getting things underway is making the Base Camps on both sides of Everest jump with electricity. Soon the climbers will be left off the leash and they can start the final stage of the expedition at last. This is what they’ve spent their lives preparing for, not to mention the last six weeks acclimatizing for. The finish line is almost in sight.

Before I post this update I want to acknowledge the Sherpas who fixed the ropes to the summit of the South Side on Friday, becoming the first to climb Everest this spring. That group included the following:  Kami Rita Sherpa (Adventure Consultants); Pemba Tshering Sherpa and Sera Gyalzen Sherpa (Asian Trekking); Pemba Tshering Sherpa and Sera Gyalzen Sherpa (Astrek); Kami Rita Sherpa and Phurba Kancha Sherpa (Alpine Ascents); Gyalzen Dorji Sherpa, Nawang Tenzing Sherpa, Phurba Tashi Sherpa and Nima Tenzing Sherpa (Himex) and Pasang Kami Sherpa and Tsheten Dorjee Sherpa (IMG).

Additionally, David Tait was accompanied to the summit by Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa.

Congratulations to them all and a tip of the cap for a job well done. Without their efforts, very few climbers would be heading to the summit later this week.

Kraig Becker