Everest 2014: Success on the Big Hill at Last!

800px Everest North Face toward Base Camp Tibet Luca Galuzzi 2006

Due to the holiday here in the U.S. yesterday, this report on activity in the Himalaya is a bit delayed, but I wanted to update everyone on what has been happening in the mountains over the past few days. The spring season is starting to wind down now, and soon all of the teams will be heading home. The monsoon looms large on the horizon, and the Himalaya will be closed to climbing in just a few short days. With that in mind, there were a number of major summit pushes underway, and success was found on several mountains, including Everest.

We’ll start on the world’s highest peak, where it has been another very unusual season indeed. If you follow my Twitter feed, you probably already know that the first summits of the year on Everest came from the South Side, where Chinese climber Jing Wang, along with her five Sherpas, topped out at 6:20 PM on Friday, May 23. Thanks to all of the teams leaving that side of the mountain following the horrific avalanche that claimed the lives of 16 Sherpas in April, these six climbers will be the only summits from Nepal this year.

As others have pointed out, the 6:20 PM summit time is incredibly late in the day. Most summits come in late morning, or early afternoon at the latest, as no one wants to get caught high on Everest after nightfall. I don’t have many details of Jing Wang’s summit, but I do know she got up and down the mountain, and took a helicopter back to Namche Bazaar a day or two later. She is safe, and proceeding on with her attempt to complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam (7 Summits, 2 Poles) in record time. It is clear that her ambitions, and deep pockets, know no bounds, so she may have taken advantage of the good weather window, and pushed the envelope further than she should have, but thankfully everything wen well, and she topped out, and returned safely. Now it is up to Ms. Elizabeth Hawley to decide if this was an official summit or not.

Alan Arnette has been posting updates on the Everest summits, and he indicates that Jing’s helicopter flight up to Camp 2 was authorized by the Nepali government, which is contradictory to stories that we heard just a few weeks back. Alan also says that she donated $30,000 to local hospitals in honor of the fallen Sherpas. Those are important elements to this story that everyone should know.

Jumping over to the North Side, there were a number teams that topped out over the weekend, despite reports of strong winds and blowing snow. Amongst he first to reach the top were the Asian Trekking squad, who summited on Friday as well. They were joined by the Maltese Team, the first from that country to ever climb Everest, on Sunday, as well as the two squads from the 7 Summits Club, which topped out on Saturday and Sunday as well.

Conditions on the North Side were not easy however, as it has been widely reported that not a single climber managed to summit without the use of supplemental oxygen, despite numerous attempts by some high profile mountaineers. There were a variety of reasons for this, but for the most part, it speaks volumes for just how difficult it is to climb Everest that to go without bottled oxygen is still a significant challenge.

There were some noteworthy summits from the North however, not the least of which is Malavath Poorna, a young Indian girl who has set a new record for the youngest summit at the age of 13 years, 11 months. She topped out along with countrymen Anand Kumar Sadhanapally and Kishor Dhankude. Also reaching the top was 72 year old American Bill Burke, who is an inspiration to all of us to stay active even as we age. Congratulations to Bill and Poorna, who are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

As of now, I haven’t heard of any fatalities during this summit push. It seems that everyone has gotten up and down the mountain successfully, despite some challenging conditions. The weather window has reportedly closed, and right now high winds have returned to the summit. It is unclear at this time whether or not there will be another window before the season ends and the monsoon returns. I know of at least one more team that would like to take a crack at the summit this season, but we’ll have to wait to see if it is in the cards.

More updates to follow soon.

Kraig Becker