Himalaya Spring 2017: Ice Docs Open Khumbu Route on Everest and Personal Stories From The Mountain

Base camp

Now that April is finally here, the spring climbing season in the Himalaya is officially underway. Sure, there were a few teams that had already arrived in Kathmandu, with some even already en route to Base Camp, but the flood of climbers will now truly begin as hundreds flock to Nepal in preparation for the season ahead. Soon, we’ll have regular updates from Everest and other big peaks in the region as we follow the progress of the various teams as they move up and down the mountains. But before that begins to happen, I thought we’d take a look at some of the more personal stories that will be shaping up in the week ahead.

The Himalayan Times has posted an update on progress at Everest Base Camp and it seems that the tent city that is built there each year is now beginning to form. While the mountaineers themselves are still trekking through the Khumbu Valley to reach their temporary home, Sherpa support staff and porters have been there for a couple of weeks getting everything ready. By the time the first squads begin to trickle in, they’ll find some surprisingly comfortable and modern accommodations waiting for them.

The other big news from the article is that the route through the Khumbu Icefall has been established. A special squad of Sherpas known as the Ice Doctors are charged with building and maintaining the route each spring, and the team has already completed that work, providing a safe passage through the icefall for the teams climbing on the Nepali side of the mountain. This section of the climb is often viewed as the most treacherous of the entire climb, and it falls just above Base Camp. To cross through it, the Ice Docs place ladders and ropes across open chasms that regular shift and move throughout the season. They’ll maintain that route through the end of May, fixing it and updating it as needed.

According to the THT article, this year’s route requires just 21 ladders and uses a path designed to keep climbers out of the way of potentially dangerous avalanches brought on by collapsing seracs. Such an accident occurred in 2014, claiming the lives of 16 porters. This years route reportedly takes about an extra hour to cross through the icefall, but it safer than alternatives.

Next up, ExWeb has an interview with Ryan Waters, who is a guide for Mountain Professionals. Ryan, who has an illustrious career in the world of outdoor adventure, will be leading a team on Everest this year and he discusses the logistics of the expedition, the potential for record setting numbers on the mountain, and more. He also weighs in on the challenges of skiing to the North Pole. Ryan completed that journey back in 2014 with Eric Larsen, the last team to make the full distance trek to the top of the world.

Outside magazine has a profile of Manal Rostom, a female mountaineer from Egypt who will attempt Everest this spring. She’s been slowly knocking off the Seven Summits, having topped out on Kilimanjaro and Elbrus, but was turned back on Aconcagua a few months back due to a storm. Now, she’ll head to Nepal for the biggest summit of them all. In the article, we’ll learn about how some of the particular challenges a Muslim woman faces in such endeavors, including the fact that she wears a special Hijab designed for athletes by Nike.

As always, Alan Arnette is doing a great job of keeping all of us informed about the current news from Everest. Over the weekend he posted a story with a number of updates on the current situation, including photos and quotes from climbers who are trekking in the Khumbu right now and general updates on the state of affairs at the moment. Eventually Alan will also provide ongoing status updates from the various teams too, allowing us to stay abreast of where everyone is at on the mountain.

Finally, we have a story from adventure sports writer Stefan Nestler about the ongoing efforts to remove trash from Everest. This has been a continuing story for a number of years now, but every spring we get an update on it once again. In the past, the teams weren’t responsible for cleaning up after themselves and as a result, trash built up on the mountain – especially at the various campsites. But, progress is being made, even as melting glaciers continue to reveal more trash that needs to be brought down.

Kraig Becker