Himalaya Spring 2016: Climbing Everest – North vs. South Sides

1920px Mount Everest

We are now less than two weeks away from the start of the spring climbing season in the Himalaya. As the first of April arrives, climbers will begin arriving in Kathmandu where they’ll join their teams, organize their gear, and finish their last minute planning before heading out to their specific Base Camps. As usual, Everest will take center stage, with the majority of climbers heading to the highest mountain on the planet.

Most of those teams will head to the South Side of Everest in Nepal, while some will head north into Tibet. Each route is very different, with unique challenges depending on which side you’re climbing on. For instance, on the South Side climbers must overcome the difficult Khumbu Icefall, which is considered the most dangerous point on the mountain, while on the North Side climbers must overcome the difficult Second Step. So which side is the best to climb from? Everyone has a different opinion on that, and as you’ll learn in the latest installment of Alan Arnette’s look at the changing face of Everest, the answer to that question is now in flux too.

In this article, Alan takes a good long look at the differences between climbing from the Nepali side of the mountain vs. the Tibetan side. He provides readers with good details on the route, and clarifies why someone would climb from one side as opposed to the other. Alan even asks some of the more high profile guides on Everest to weigh in on the topic.

But, since this series of articles is about how the climbing environment on Everest is changing, the article also takes a look at some elements off the mountain that could have an impact on which side of the mountain climbers choose to visit in the future. For instance, the South Side has been decided unstable the past couple of years, and the Nepali government hasn’t helped the situation. Officials there have released a series of increasingly confusing set of rules and regulations, which may or may not be enforced at any given time. On top of that, there has been growing tensions between the Sherpa guides and the government as well.

This has prompted some to believe that there could be a massive shift in teams heading to the North Side instead. As things continue to be challenging in Nepal, more climbers could opt for the North Side instead, which some argue is not only a more stable environment (who would have thought that a few years ago?) but it is a safer route too.

The North Side isn’t without its challenges though. China has shut down the Tibetan border on more than one occasion, and it has historically been a bit of a wild west scene in Base Camp at times too. Before a major shift would happen, some of these issues would have to be resolved as well.

Either way, we all know that Everest is only continuing to become more popular, with more climbers looking to summit each year. That means that things will probably continue to shake out in the years ahead before we see any type of stability return.

Kraig Becker