Himalaya Spring 2018: Yet More Summits on Everest and Lhotse, Hillary Step Update, Death Toll Rises to 5

AAI 2018 Everest Summit 1

The summits just keep coming in the Himalaya where the unprecedented weather window remains open with teams continuing to stream towards the top. I’m not sure anyone can recall such an extended summit season on Everest in particular, where the summit total continues to rise as more and more teams complete the expedition. Meanwhile, next-door on Lhotse, the summits continue too.

Some of the more prominent teams that have wrapped up their summit bids include Alpine Ascents, who put 10 clients and 9 Sherpas on the summit earlier today. Similarly, Shangri-La Nepal Treks put a large group on top of Everest as well, as did Pioneer Adventure, who assisted Doma Sherpa Pinasa in becoming the first Sherpa female journalist to scale the mountain. Beyul Adventures completed their climb by putting at least five clients on the summit, and IMG had successful teams on both Everest and Lhotse.

One expedition to give an update on is Adrian Ballinger’s Alpenglow squad, which when we last checked in had elected to abandon their attempt on the mountain after 30% of the teams regulators stopped functioning at 8500 meters (27,887 ft). As you’ll probably recall, the squad had to turn around and descend to a safe altitude, and for awhile it looked like their expedition was over. That was true for Alpenglow’s group that had already summited Cho Oyu, but not it’s Rapid Ascent Team that was only focused on Everest. That group, which included Ballinger himself, went to the summit on Sunday and topped out at long last. That means that Adrian managed to nab his double-summit, getting both Cho Oyu and Everest in a matter of just a couple of weeks.

One of the stories that has continued to be of interest in the past couple of years is whether or not the Hillary Step still exists on the mountain. This prominent landmark was the last major hurdle on the way to the summit and was named for Edmund Hillary, the first man to overcome it back in 1953. But following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, there have been conflicting reports as to whether or not it is still there. Those reports can be put to bed thanks to a new photo posted by Alan Arnette. From that shot, it is clear that terrain has been altered in what Alan is now calling the “Hillary Stairs.” I’d vote for simply renaming it the “Hillary Steps” however, as it does not resemble a staircase on the way up. This should make it easier, safer, and faster to negotiate.

Finally, we have more sad news from Everest where it is reported that mountain guide Damai Sarki Sherpa has died after falling into a crevasse. At the time, he was in Camp 2 and was assisting a client to an evacuation helicopter when he slipped and fell. He was retrieved from the crevasse and was alive at the time, with rescuers carrying him down to Base Camp and then evacuating him to Namche Bazaar for treatment. He passed away there last night.

That brings the death toll on the world’s highest peak to five this season. Our condolences go out to the friends and family of everyone who passes away in pursuit of their Everest dreams.

Kraig Becker