Himalaya Spring 2019: Climbers Begin Acclimatizing on Everest

Over the weekend more teams streamed into Everest Base Camp, which has now grown from a small outpost to a bustling tent city filled with hundreds of climbers. The 2019 spring climbing season is well underway at this point, as most of the teams have now arrived in BC or will be there shortly. Of course, that means that the real work is just about to begin as each of the squads begins the long, slow process of acclimatizing to the altitude.

Last week the Ice Doctors completed the route from Base Camp up to Camp 2 on the South Side of Everest, clearing the way for the teams to start heading up as soon as they are ready. After reaching BC most take some time to get settled and rest up from the 8-10 day trek just to get to the starting point of their climb. During those early days of the expedition they will also take short hikes to work out their cardiovascular system and focus on improving their rope skills. Once they’ve completed their puja ceremony however, they can start heading up the mountain itself, which typically means hiking up to Camp 1 to not only stretch their legs, but their lungs too. They’ll make that trip a number of times over the course of the coming weeks, usually going to successively higher camps at part of the acclimation process. That way, by the time they reach C4, they’ll be accustomed to the thinner air and ready to make their summit push. That’s still roughly a month away however and there is a lot of work to be done before that happens.

On the South Side in Nepal, many of the teams have chosen to avoid crossing through the Khumbu Icefall too many times, so they first acclimatize on another nearby peak before going to EBC. One of the more popular mountains for doing that is the 6119-meter (20,075 ft) Lobuche. The International Mountain Guides and the Climbing the Seven Summits teams have already put their first climbers on top of that mountain and will soon turn their attention to Everest. In fact, in the case of the IMG team, they’ll rest a day or two in BC before they begin their first rotation.

On the North Side of Everest in Tibet the teams are just starting to get settled in there are well. China makes climbers wait a bit longer before crossing the border into Tibet from Nepal, but because the teams can drive to Base Camp the schedule ends up being very similar. When climbing from the north, the teams don’t have to deal with the Khumbu Icefall, which is why some prefer it to the Nepali side of the mountain. The process is the same there however, as the climbers still have to acclimate to the altitude and make numerous trips up and down the mountain before they are ready for their eventual summit pushes, which will likely come sometime around the second week of May, weather permitting.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be getting a steady stream of updates on the positions of some of the more prominent teams on Everest. We’ll be able to follow the climbers as they go up and down the mountain at least three times as they prepare their bodies for the challenge. Currently, the number of foreign climbers who will be attempting Everest from the South Side has risen to more than 350, with more yet to come. When you add in their support teams and climbing guides, it now appears that we could see more than 800 people climbing in Nepal alone this spring. That means we could be in line for another record setting year on the Big Hill.

Of course, Everest isn’t the only major peak that will be seeing plenty of action this spring. In the next day or two, we’ll take a look at what is happening elsewhere too and get updates on the progress of climbers heading to some of the other big mountain in the region. Right now, most are on a similar trajectory as their friends on Everest, namely heading to Base Camp, getting settled, and preparing to head up for the first time. The process of climbing these Himalayan giants is fairly tedious, but it has a proven track record that has been successful for decades.

More to come soon.

Kraig Becker