After months of planning, weeks of acclimatizing and days of watching the weather, it is finally time for the summit season on Everest to truly get underway. The weather forecasts have improved and teams are now on the move, which means we should see the first summits of year from the commercial teams over the next few days.
But the big news of the day isn’t about the weather but the shocking death of Alexey Bolotov. The news is still breaking, but it seems that he fell in the Khumbu Icefall this morning and died immediately upon impact. His body was found by a Sherpa who indicated that Alexey’s rope broke at 5600 meters (18,372 ft), sending him tumbling into the Icefall. You may recall that Alexey and his climbing partner Denis Urubko were planning on climbing a new route along the Southwest Face. The two had just wrapped up the acclimatization efforts and were heading up to begin their climb today.
Denis, in a translated message, had this to say: “I do not know how to convey this … today May 15 at 5:00, Alexey Bolotov going to descend on a rope … on the edge of a sharp rock has frayed, and Alexei fell 300m down a ravine filled rock … death was instantaneous.”
Sad news for the entire mountaineering community. Alexey was amongst the best climbers in the world and he will certainly be missed. Condolences to his friends and family. What a rough year it has been in the Himalaya.
While this news is tragic, the other teams will proceed according to schedule. The Everest forecast now indicates that the jet stream will move north, taking the high winds with it. For nearly a week now those winds have been blowing steadily on the summit, keeping anyone from reaching that point. But now the meteorologists believe that those winds are about to die down, granting access to the upper slopes at long last. Additionally, the cyclone that is currently causing problems in the Bay of Bengal is now moving off to the east. It looks like it will have little or no effect on Nepal, which means the climbers don’t have to worry about that storm bringing cold rains or heavy snows to the mountain. All told, this stretch of good weather is expected to last from May 18 through May 21, giving the teams a great opportunity to get up and down safely.
With the weather window now open the teams have begun to reveal their plans. The IMG team has already move up to Camp 2, which would put them in position to summit as early as Friday. The Jagged Globe squad intends to set out from Base Camp tomorrow on their summit push and the Peak Freaks are now looking at standing on the summit on Sunday. They moved up to Camp 2 yesterday and are spending a rest day there today. It’ll be on to Camp 3 tomorrow, Camp 4 on Friday, where they’ll take another rest day and sleep with bottled oxygen. Late on Saturday they’ll begin the final push with the hopes of being on top for the sunrise on Sunday morning.
Other teams, such as RMI, are content to stay in BC for now and let the big crowds make heir push to the summit early. The group have been staying busy with short hikes around the area, including heading over to Kalapathar yesterday. It appears that they’ll watch the weather forecasts closely and try to catch a second window next week. Himex is taking a similar wait-and-see approach, as team leader Russell Brice is never keen on sending his clients up the mountain when the crowds are still thick. It is likely that they’ll look for an opportunity to go up next week as well.
On the North Side of the mountain we know that the teams are standing by, waiting for the winds to drop as well. As reported yesterday, the Altitude Junkies are sitting in ABC and watching the weather too. They know the change is coming as well and expected to take advantage of the shift in the weather to summit sometime around May 20, which would be early next week.
If you want to know what it’ll be like for these climbers as they head up, particularly from the South Side, you’ll want to read David Tait’s gripping account of his summit last week. David went up with the Sherpas who were finishing the rope fixing and he moved along behind them, reaching the top just minutes after they completed their work. It was his fifth successful summit of the mountain, but even with all of his time at altitude, the challenges and wonder of the climb remain. Excellent read for sure.
Chad Kellogg is putting the work that will eventually allow him to make a speed attempt on the summit as well. In his latest dispatch he shares his experience with carrying gear and supplies up to Camp 3 and then going beyond to the South Col itself. Chad will wait until nearly everyone has finished their summit bids and most have left the mountain before he’ll start his final push. He wants everyone out of the way before he begins so that he won’t get caught up in the crowds. He’s looking for a straight shot at the summit and he’s hoping to go as fast as absolutely possible along the way.
That’s all for today. The summit push is now on, so expect news of all kinds of movement again tomorrow, with the first real summit opportunities starting on Friday. Good luck to everyone as they move up. Be safe!
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