It was a busy weekend on the world’s tallest peak as the first teams started their acclimatization rotations on the South Side of Everest. The all-important first steps towards eventual summit bids begins with getting your body accustomed to the thinner air, which means adhering to the old adage of “climb high, sleep low” or in some cases, just go ahead and sleep up high too. Either way, it is all about preparing to go even higher in the days ahead with the hopes of reaching the top sometime in early May.
Of course, climbing up to Camp 1 on the South Side means passing through the Khumbu Icefall for the first time as well. That can be a terrifying section of the climb, particularly on the first go round. Once they reach the other side however, it is a relatively short hike up C1, where most will take a short break, perhaps grabs some lunch and enjoy the view, before heading back to Base Camp. Others will skip the return trip however, and just stay at the new campsite, preferring instead to sleep there as a way to start the acclimatization process. Over the weekend we saw the first teams do just that, with several spending the night up high for the first time.
Amongst those who enjoyed a stay at Camp 1 was the Madison Mountaineering team, who trekked up to that point on Saturday, then climbed to Camp 2 yesterday. They report good weather, a calm night, and a bright moon that nearly eliminated the need for headlamps altogether. The Adventure Consultants followed suit and headed ups o C1 today, reporting that light snow was falling on that section of the mountain as they approached it for the first time. Tomorrow, they’ll go a little further up the mountain, before descending back to Camp 1 for another night.
The IMG team skipped their stay in C1 altogether and passed through on the way up to Camp 2. They reached that point following an early morning start, and after a brief rest at Camp 1, they pushed on. They’ll spend a few nights up high before descending all the way back to BC, where their bodies will be given a chance to rest and recover before starting the entire process over again. Most of the teams will go through at least three rotations before they feel adequately prepared for the summit push. That’s still several week away of course, so there is plenty of work to be done yet.
Speaking of work to be done, the Sherpa team that installs the fixed ropes on the South Side is now well above Camp 2 and working on getting the lines into place. Until they have completed their work you won’t see any teams going above C2 for now. It will likely take another week or so for that work to be completed, so look for the summit to officially open the first week of May. After that, the teams will begin looking at the weather forecast, searching for the inevitable weather window to open.
The final Everest news for this round-up is that Nepal has issued a few more last-season permits for 2019. The number foreign climbers approaching from the South Side has now risen to 374, which is a record for single year. Whether or not that leads to a new record for the number of summits remains to be seen, as there will be a lot of factors to take into consideration once the summit push begins.
Over on Annapurna, the large team led by Seven Summit Treks moved up to Camp 3 yesterday and are looking to make the first summits of the spring season in the next few days. Amongst them is Nirmal Purja, who is attempting to summit all 14 8000-meter peaks over a seven month period. This would be the first of those summits, with the plan to acclimatize on the mountain, then move to the other Himalayan giants in Nepal throughout the rest of the spring. Apparently, the weather was challenging yesterday, with heavy snow falling. This slowed down the team some and tired them out as well. But, if the conditions warrant it, they’ll move up to Camp 4 today and try to fix the ropes to the summit tomorrow or shortly there after. Purja is helping with that rope fixing process, so he should be amongst the first to top out if things go according to plan.
We’ll keep a close eye on how things are developing on Annapurna. In recent years it has been the first 8-thousander to see spring summits simply because climbers hope to reach the top before warmer weather increases the avalanche danger. That looks to be the case again this year, but nothing is certain yet.
Stay tuned for updates.
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