Himalaya Spring 2019: Here We Go!

For climbers heading to the Himalaya this spring the magical date of April 1 has finally arrived. Today is the day that things really start to ramp up in Kathmandu as scores of climbers start to pour in. Over the next two weeks, things in the crowded Nepali capital will become even more hectic, with alpinists from around the globe coming and going. Most will spend a few days in the city collecting their gear, connecting with their team, and running last minute errands before he set off for the mountain. If they are climbing from the South Side, that means an eight to ten day trek to Base Camp. If they’re crossing the border into Tibet, they’ll have to wait a bit longer before setting out, but can eventually drive to directly to BC itself.

There will be a lot of stories to follow over the next two months as the season full gets underway, the teams acclimate to the altitude, and eventually launch summit bids. That won’t happen until mid-May or so, but until then there will be plenty of work to get done, including honing their rope skills, visiting the high camps and stocking them with gear and supplies, and learning to move at altitude. If all goes well, all of that effort will pay off with an eventual push to the top along once the spring weather has improved.

Speaking of weather, conditions are currently cold, windy, and wet in the Khumbu Valley heading to Everest. That’s pretty normal for this time of year, but things will start to warm up as the season progresses. The climbers already en route to Base Camp will find even the trek to be a challenging one right now, although warmer days and sunshine are just around the corner. Of course, mid-May is generally when things are at their best, which is why most climbers attempt Everest at the time of year. By June, the annual monsoon is typically in full swing, making the mountain an unpleasant place to be until the autumn.

As mentioned last week, we expect Everest to be especially busy this season, with the potential to reach more than one thousand summits. Personally, I think it may be a long shot to hit that number, but it seems highly likely that we’ll see last year’s record of 803 summits broken. There will be a lot of people on the mountain this year, and if a long weather window arrives the success rate will be high. But if the weather window is short and narrow, things could get very crowded when it comes time to make the push to the top. Last year, we had an unprecedented 11-day weather window, which seems unlikely to happen again. Typically, there is a three or four day window instead, with the possibility of a second one opening at a later date.

This season there will be at least two teams of scientists on Everest and working in the Himalaya in general. One of those is sponsored by National Geographic, which hopes to make a documentary film about the expedition. Both squads will monitor the health of the region and look for signs of how climate change –– and man himself –– is impacting the the mountains. Both teams plan on reaching the summit of Everest, while one will send climbers to the top of Lhotse as well.

Right now, it is the calm before the storm in Kathmandu and the Khumbu Valley, although climbers have already started arriving on Annapurna. That mountain has become a popular destination for early season summits, so most of the teams heading there are already in BC or will reach that point soon. On Everest, the Sherpa support teams are quickly readying the tent-city for the arrival of clients as well, with the first climbers most likely set to arrive sometime next week. Until then, we’ll keep an eye on any important news that might arise and share updates on progress in the days and weeks ahead.

Kraig Becker