Himalaya Spring 2017: High Winds on Everest Turning Early Summit Bids Back

IMG 4416

All week long we’ve been closely watching the evolving situation and weather on Everest with the expectation that teams would launch their summit bids over the weekend, provided the weather window holds. But, a few teams have attempted to go up in dicey weather, and now it sounds like they may be headed back down without ever reaching the top.

Alan Arnette has been following the summit pushes closely and as always, he has the best info on where everyone is at on the mountain at any given time. He’s posted an update of the “second summit wave” which got underway late last night Nepali time, and has been continuing throughout the day there. But, an update from the Summit Club team indicates that they have received a radio call that says high winds on the summit are turning teams back without success. That means that the teams that launched an early bid, including the 7 Summits Club, are heading back down the mountain. How far they’ll descend and whether or not they’ll be ready to make a second push over the weekend remains to be seen.

Considering that a large number of teams, including IMG, are now heading to higher camps for summit attempts over the weekend, you can bet that all eyes are now on the weather forecast. If high winds continue, a lot of squads will be forced to delay their final push to the top, and the next weather window isn’t expected to open until the early part of next week. Hopefully conditions will settle down and allow these teams to get up and down safely, but nothing is certain at this point. In fact, the weather has been so strange and unpredictable this season that it is possible that some climbers will miss out on the summit altogether due to bad timing, a narrow window, or because conditions simply just aren’t right. The forecasts continue to look positive for the next couple of days, but for now you can bet there are a lot of climbers and expedition leaders holding their breath and crossing their fingers.

In other news, Summit Club has also reported that it has put three climbers on the summit of Lhotse today. Those climbers included two clients and a guide, who topped out in better weather on that mountain. They have already begun the descent and should be back at high camp safely by now.

On the North Side of Everest in Tibet, the situation is pretty much the same. Teams are on the move, but high winds are blasting the summit. Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards have actually descended to a lower altitude to rest up some before launching their summit bids without oxygen. Yesterday, the Alpenglow squad went on an acclimatization hike and did some skiing, but for the most part they are remaining patient and biding their time. Everyone is ready to go, they’re just waiting on the weather.

Finally, in a blog post yesterday, Alan also indicated that some climbers have been caught down valley in the Khumbu where they went to rest and recover before the summit push ahead. Many of those climbers flew down to places like Namche Bazaar to enjoy a few luxuries, but are now paying for it. Heavy fog grounded the helicopters, preventing them from flying back to BC. Hopefully that weather has improved now and they are headed back to the mountain, but it is another indication of how fickle Mother Nature has been this year.

Stay tuned for further updates. The stage is set for some big summit pushes this weekend, but until teams are actually standing on top, all plans should be considered in flux.

Kraig Becker