Himalaya Spring 2019: Will We See a Thousand Summits of Everest?

Last week I shared a story that estimated that more than 300 foreign climbers will attempt Everest from the South Side in Nepal this spring. That number is based on a story from The Himalayan Times, which reached out to the main operators on the mountain to determine how many clients they would be bringing to Base Camp. That number is on par with last season’s record setting pace, although when you factor in the support teams that will be assisting those mountaineers, not to mention a large contingent of climbers from the North Side, and it soon becomes evident that we could see a signifiant jump in the number of summits this year. In fact, it could easily top last year’s numbers by a wide margin.

Himalayan climbing blogger Alan Arnette has run his own tabulation for the number of climbers heading to Everest this year and if accurate, the amount is staggering. According to Alan, more than 350 people will now be attempt to summit the world’s highest peak from the South Side, with another 185 giving the North Side in Tibet a go. That alone brings our total to 535 foreign climbers. When you add in their Sherpa support teams –– 340 in Nepal and 150 in Tibet –– and that number climbs to 1025. But, chances are those numbers aren’t the actual totals just yet. Alan adds that he expects those numbers to climb from 10-25% by the time the spring season truly gets rolling in mid-April. That could push the numbers to more 1200 by then.

Obviously not all of those climbers will be successful in their bid to reach the top. Some will take ill and have to turn back, while others just won’t be able to complete the arduous push to the summit. Attrition in some form or another ensures that not everyone makes it. Still, with a high level of success in recent years, it seems likely that we’ll get a new record for summits in a single season this year. The current record –– set in 2018 –– stands at 802, but unless something goes terribly wrong, it is probably a safe bet that we’ll see even more summits this season.

Which brings up the question about overcrowding and slow summit bids. Alan says that he doesn’t believe that will be a problem because the teams on the South Side in particular have learned to stagger their attempts better. It is true that last year everyone spread out their summit pushes to allow for a large number of climbers to get up and down safely. But in 2018, we also had an unprecedented weather window that lasted for more than 11 days. That seems unlikely to happen again and if the weather is bad this year traffic jams could certainly occur. A three-day weather window would mean that things would get much more crowded, which could increase the level of danger too.

We’re now about a week away from the influx of climbers to Kathmandu picking up significantly. By the start of April teams will begin to gather and organize in Nepal’s capital city before starting their trek to BC or heading across the border to Tibet. After that, things will start to get really interesting, as this is already shaping up to be an intriguing season to follow. Stay tuned!

Kraig Becker