Everest 2013: The Lonely Mountain

DHahn Everest13 ABC dining tent

Since I last posted an update on the Everest climbing season, nearly everyone has departed the mountain. Most of the Sherpa teams have now descended, carrying gear, supplies and garbage back to Base Camp, where it will be packed, secured and carried back to Kathmandu. Everest is quickly becoming a deserted place once again and even the trekking groups have stopped for now as the impending summer monsoons loom literally and figuratively on the horizon.

That all said, there is at least one expedition still climbing the mountain. 81-year old Nepali climber Min Bahadur Sherchan is still holding out hope of reaching the summit sometime this week. Alan Arnette reports that Sherchan is determined to reclaim his record as the oldest to summit Everest after Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura took the title last week at the age of 80. After struggling with a stomach bug a few weeks back, Sherchan is said to be feeling good, climbing strong and ready to top out. Alan says that he has five Sherpas climbing with him, providing plenty of support. The final deciding factor in whether or not he reaches the summit will probably be the weather. The forecasts this time of year are subject to change very quickly and with the Monsoon approaching, the mountaintop may be put out of reach at any day. We’ll just have to wait to see if Sherchan can bring the record back home to Nepal.

Either way, getting back off the mountain could be a real challenge for anyone still there. Over the weekend, a major section of the Khumbu Icefall collapsed, taking the route that is used to cross it down. That is not uncommon this time of year as warming temperatures make the area very unstable. In fact, the Ice Doctors would normally be wrapping up their efforts for the season and closing the route anyway. Since there is still a team attempting the summit, it is unclear at this time of they are rebuilding the route or simply closing it off. It is possible that after Sherchan’s team completes their climb, they will be shuttled off the mountain via helicopter. Time is certainly of the essence in any case however.

Finally, Chad Kellogg has posted a long and detailed account of his summit bid last week. You may recall that he was hoping to attempt a speed record and it sounds like things were actually going well until high winds forced him to abandon the attempt just 1800 feet (548 meters) below the summit. When the winds picked up, the temperatures dropped, and since Chad was climbing without bottled oxygen, that greatly increased his chances of contracting frostbite. He was above the Balcony when he made his decision to turn back, dejectedly returning to Camp 4.

According to his report, Chad said that he was moving well and feeling great. In fact, when he turned back, he still had seven hours to go to complete those last 1800 feet, which can be agonizingly difficult and slow. Despite the disappointment of being denied the summit again, Chad says that he learned a lot from the climb and feels good about his efforts. He is happy to be heading home, healthy and with all of his limbs intact.

I’ll continue to monitor activity on Everest over the next few days to see if there are any more summits or news to share. For the most part, the mountain is all but closed for spring, but it seems we’ll get at least one or two more updates over the next few days.

Kraig Becker