Himalaya Spring 2015: Heavy Snows Hit Everest Delaying Acclimatization Rotations

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We continue to have a steady stream of news and information coming from the Himalaya this spring, as regular updates are keeping us well informed of the happenings there thus far this season. At the moment, the teams continue to arrive in Base Camp on Everest, where they are being greeted by some unusually poor weather conditions that are delaying the start of the actual climbs.

According to a report from the Himalayan Times, about 900 people are now in EBC. That number represents 60% of the climbers and their support staff, so a large number of people are yet to arrive on the mountain. Most began trickling in this past weekend, although there are still some larger teams yet to reach the mountain. With so many climbers, porters, and support crew now onsite, Base Camp has transformed into a hive of activity, with the squads undertaking training exercises, making acclimatization hikes, and resting, while preparing for their first opportunity to go up to higher altitude.

Some of those efforts may be delayed now however, as two feet (60 cm) of snow has fallen on Base Camp since yesterday. That weather has blanketed the tents and ground in fresh powder, which will certainly have an impact on schedules for the next day or two. But perhaps more troubling is the fact that this unusual snowstorm continues a trend of bad weather in the Khumbu that has been plaguing the area all spring. Typically the conditions have started to improve by now, with clear skies settling in. That hasn’t been the case so far however, and as a result, it has been anything but a typical year so far.

The poor weather continues to be blamed for the unusually high number of climbers and trekkers who have been contracting altitude sickness as well. I reported last week about this trend, and it seems to continue now. According to the Himalayan Times article, more than 205 patients have been treated thus far this season, and 17 have had to be evacuated back to Kathmandu for further attention. If the weather continues to be bad, we could see dangerous bouts with Acute Mountain Sickness when the climb actually gets underway.

The Times is also reporting that Min Bahadur Serchan is returning to Everest this season in an attempt to regain his record as the oldest person to climb the mountain. Now 84, Sherchan lost the title to a Japanese climber by the name of Yoichiro Miura, who reached the summit at the age of 80 back in 2013. He’ll be headed to the Khumbu Valley soon to start his acclimatization.

Over on Annapurna, conditions remain the same. Heavy snow is falling on the mountain, and once again delaying the start of summit bids there. Earlier today, Alex Barber climbed up to Camp 1 on an acclimatization trek and gear run. He had hoped to climb up to C2, but visibility was almost non-existent, and it appeared that the weather was further deteriorating, so he elected to turn around and go back down to BC instead. On his climb, Alex reported that he witnessed a great deal of avalanche activity, which he hopes is not a sign of things to come. Annapurna is notorious for its dangerous avalanches, and with all of the snow that has been falling there lately, the chance of a major slide only increases.

That’s the update for today. It is hurry up and wait in the Himalaya, where the weather is dictating the schedule as usual.

Kraig Becker