Himalaya Spring 2018: Ice Doctors Head to Everest, China Adds Rules to North Side

We’re still a couple of weeks away from the 2018 spring climbing season in the Himalaya truly ramping up, but logistically speaking things are already being set in motion. In Kathmandu a number of operators are collecting gear and supplies in anticipation of their clients arriving soon, while climbers around the world are at home putting the finishing touches on their planning.

As usual, we’ll be watching the proceedings closely over the next couple of months as the new season unfolds.

On the South Side of Everest in Nepal things officially got underway late last week when a 10 person team set out from Namche Bazaar for Base Camp. Eight of those individuals make up the famed Ice Doctors, whose job it is to create and maintain a safe route through the Khumbu Icefall, while the remaining two serve as cooking staff for the team.

The Ice Doctors are expected to arrive in BC early this week and begin their survey of the area. Their first task will be to scout the icefall itself and look for the best route to cross it. They will install ropes and ladders that the climbing teams will eventually use to pass through this dangerous and unstable section of the climb which is amongst the most treacherous sections of the entire route.

Once established, the docs will stay on the mountain until the end of May ensuring that the route remains open and is safe for the entire season. They’ll also fix the ropes all the way to Camp 2 in preparation for the arrival of the commercial teams in a few weeks time.

Meanwhile, over in Tibet the Chinese government is anticipating a growing number of climbers attempting Everest from the North Side in the years to come. Because of this, officials are now introducing important new regulations to help maintain the environment on that side of the mountain.

There has been a major clean-up effort underway on the South Side for nearly ten years, but in Tibet so such efforts have existed so far. But as the Chinese prepare to invest millions of dollars to develop Everest as both a climbing and tourist destination, they are also looking to improve the conditions there as well.

According to Alan Arnette, the new regulations in Tibet require a $5000 trash deposit – similar to the $4000 deposit that Nepal uses – and all climbers are required to bring down 8kg (17.6 pounds) of trash. Alan is quick to point out that Nepal has a similar rule as well, but it is seldom enforced, but in Tibet the liaison system is much better, meaning there is likely to be strict oversight for these rules. Hopefully it will mean decreasing trash on the mountain over the next few years.

The Chinese are also clamping down on who will be allowed on the mountain as well. Moving forward, all climbers will be required to show a health certificate as part of their permit application.

The point will be to ensure that anyone attempting to climb Everest from the North will be in reasonably good physical condition before setting out. Alan also indicates that there are rumors of stricter rules coming in the future too.

Of course, this is just the start of the 2018 season and there will be lots to talk about in the weeks ahead. For now, just know that things are ramping up on schedule and by early April, it will start to get very interesting in Kathmandu and beyond.

Kraig Becker