Himalaya Spring 2019: Climbers Eye Summit After Winds Subside at Last

With the jet stream firmly locked into place for the past week and a half, most of the Himalayan climbing teams have been relegated to staying in Base Camp or actually heading to lower altitudes for some much-needed rest and recuperation. But yesterday the predicted shift in the winds came at long last, bringing much calmer conditions along with it. Now, the commercial squads have started to check the forecast more closely and are eyeing some potential summit dates as we move into the final phase of the spring climbing season in Nepal and Tibet.

Before anyone can go to the summit of Everest the rope fixing teams will need to complete their work. On the South Side there are indications that the lines could be fixed today or tomorrow, with the Sherpas who complete that work achieving the first summits of the season. Over on the North Side, the team seems to be still a few days further back, so expect a mid- to late-week completion of the work there. Once those ropes are in place, the only thing keeping the commercial squads from launching their summit bids will be the weather and their own level of preparation. If they are full acclimatized, and a weather window opens, we could see teams striking out for the top later this week.

Updates from the various teams on Everest from this past weekend indicate that the teams are preparing to go. Some of the climbers headed down the Khumbu Valley to lower altitude to rest, but are now streaming back to BC to be in position for when the window opens. The Adventure Consultants for instance went all the way back to Namche Bazaar, but are now reconvening in Base Camp. Similarly, the Madison Mountaineering team headed back to the mountain on Saturday as well, with the first members of the team even climbing up to Camp 2 to wait for the lines to be installed. They hope to be amongst the fist to summit this year, heading up not long after the rope fixing team finishes its work.

Elsewhere, the teams are back on the move as well. Nirmal Purja had hoped to summit Dhaulagiri yesterday, but there has been no word on his success as of yet. The plan is to wrap up there and immediately head to Kangchenjunga to try to summit on Thursday. That’s a tight, busy schedule although he is well acclimatized at this point, particularly after summiting Annapurna a few weeks back.

Speaking of Annapurna, Felix Berg and Adam Bielecki are attempting a new route on that mountain this spring, but haven’t wrapped up their acclimatization climb on Langtang Lirung as of yet. Poor weather has kept them at lower altitudes, although they have been climbing and bouldering to keep active. They hope to summit today or tomorrow, than immediately head to Annapurna to focus on their main objective.

Alan Arnette is reporting that summit bids are underway on  Makalu and Kangchenjunga as well. Teams on those two mountains set off for the top over the weekend and if everything holds to plan should complete their climbs by Wednesday of this week. Meanwhile, ExWeb says that not only has Kami Rita Sherpa moved up on Everest to attempt his 23rd summit of the mountain, but Spanish climber Sergi Mingote, along with Chilean alpinist Juan Pablo Mohr and Brazilian Moesses Fiamoncini have left for Camp 2 to make their attempt on Lhotse without bottled oxygen. All are hoping to avoid the crowds that come with the larger summit wave, which is why they’re making a move prior to the ropes being installed.

As you can see, the stage is being set for what could be a busy week. However, just because the jet stream has shifted and the ropes are lines are about to be fixed, we could still be several days away from the true summit season. The larger, slower commercial teams will need plenty of time to get up and down the mountain safely, so even though things are coming together at last, there could still be some delays. Still, we’re very close to things getting very busy, so stay tuned for more updates to follow.

Kraig Becker