Everest 2013: Lines Fixed To The South Col, High Winds On The North Side

everest wind swept plume

The furor over the recent fracas on Everest’s South Side is starting to die down at last and everyone is turning their attention back to the work at hand. Most of the teams are on the move right now as they continue to acclimatize for the challenges ahead. Meanwhile, the Sherpas have been busy fixing lines and establishing high camps. Most have been shuttling gear and erecting tents at Camp 3, which seems to be the focal point of most of the climbers at the moment.

Yesterday was a big day in terms of progress for this season. The Sherpas reportedly worked for 17.5 hours on fixing the ropes and now have installed the lines all the way up to the South Col. That means that Camp 4 will soon be established and the way will be cleared for getting the ropes in place all the way to the summit. Lhotse climbers will be glad to hear that lines are now in place to C4 on that peak as well, which means they can begin their final rounds of preparation too. It appears that things are moving right on schedule and the summit will be accessible sometime early next week. After that, the wait begins as the teams will watch the weather for a good window to proceed. 
After a successful rotation up to Camp 3, the Peak Freaks have now completed their acclimatization. They climbers returned to Base Camp yesterday where they were able to rest some. Now they’ll head down the Khumbu Valley to even lower altitude, where they can take some deep breaths, but literally and figuratively, before the final summit push. They’ll be following the rope fixing schedule closely and watching the weather, with the hopes that they can be amongst the first teams to top out in a couple of weeks. The work is done and now they wait. 
Other teams are on the move up high as well. The RMI team went up the Lhotse Face but stopped just short of where their Camp 3 will actually be. Their leader Dave Hahn remarked on how remarkable it was to be on the mountain yesterday, exactly 50 years after Jim Whittaker became the first American to climb Everest. The Jagged Globe squad has completed a rotation in Camp 2 and will be returning to BC today. They arrived a few days behind he lead teams, so their schedule is just a bit off. If the weather holds, they’ll catch-up next week and be ready for the summit push the following week. Similarly, the Adventure Consultants are heading up today to start their final round of acclimatization. They’ll go all the way up to C3, spending a night there as well as several in Camp 2 as they wrap up their prep work. 
With all of this talk of moving higher up the mountain and visiting various camps, it’s easy to forget how challenging the start of the climb on the South Side actually is. Remember, with each of these rotations the teams must pass through the nasty Khumbu Icefall. The latest dispatch from the Himex team reminds us of just how challenging that portion of the climb can be. A few days back, members of the team were passing through the icefall when several seracs began to collapse. That brought on some pandemonium for a short time, but fortunately no one was seriously hurt. David Tait did acknowledge that the helmet he was wearing at the time probably saved his life, as large chunks of ice were flying everywhere. It sounds like it was another harrowing experience in the most dangerous section of the mountain. 
On the North Side of the mountain things have come to a bit of a standstill for now. High winds have forced most of the teams back down to BC where they are waiting for the weather to improve. That might take a few days, but in the meantime the Altitude Junkies actually had their Sherpas collapse their tents for fear that they would be damaged or swept away by those winds. For now, they’ll wait to see how things progress and when the winds will drop to safe levels once again.
Everything seems to be proceeding according to schedule at the moment and there is no reason to believe hat summit bids won’t begin by mid-May, if not sooner. The teams are getting close to ready, the ropes are nearly fixed and the wait is about to commence. In another week, things will be getting really serious. Stay tuned!
Kraig Becker