The Himalaya’s spring climbing season is just now starting to unfold as teams move in and out of Kathmandu on their way to their respective base camps. There isn’t a lot to report just yet, as very few teams have actually begun climbing operations, except for early expeditions on Annapurna. But one thing is becoming obvious: it shapes up to be a quiet season on Everest, with fewer climbers than in recent memory.
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According to a report from The Himalayan Times, 71 climbers, spread out across 10 teams, have applied for permits to attempt the world’s highest mountain. Of those, 33 are reusing permits canceled last year when the earthquake hit on April 25. Additionally, 31 climbers from 7 other teams have applied for permits to climb Mt Lhotse, Mt Nuptse, and Mt Dhaulagiri as well, with two permits issued for Annapurna and Mt Scribing.
How does this compare to last year? The same article says that in 2015 44 companies were guiding 103 expeditions, with 801 climbers. So, as you can tell, there has been a dramatic drop for this year, although that shouldn’t necessarily come as a big surprise.
After disturbing expeditions in both 2014 and 2015, it seems likely that more than a few people have elected to stay away from the Himalayas to let things settle out and wait for a sense of normalcy to return to the region.
It could be a few years before things begin to pick up again, which means that it’ll be a very lean time for operators in the Himalaya. We’ve already heard that some will abandon Everest altogether, while others will likely struggle to stay afloat while they wait for climbers to return in larger numbers. That will happen eventually, but it could take a bit of time.
Keep in mind, there will be some climbers on the North Side of Everest this season as well, and there will probably be some late requests for permits that will bump these numbers up a bit. But for the most part, it seems like Base Camp on Everest will be very quiet this year.
It also means we won’t see massive traffic jams on summit day either, which should make it a safer place to be this spring.
Hopefully, we won’t see any more disruptions of climbing operations this season, nor any massive tragedies like the past two years. If that happens, we’re likely to have more climbers return next year.
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