Himalaya Spring 2019: First Summits of the Season on Everest and Lhotse

A major milestone was reached today on both Everest and its neighbor Lhotse. After high winds kept everyone at lower altitudes for more than week, the jet stream shifted over the weekend to grant access to the tops of these two prominent peaks. That has allowed the rope fixing teams to complete their work at long last, installing lines all the way to the summit with the first climbers topping out on both mountains shortly there after.

The Himalayan Times is reporting that at least eight Nepali climbers reached the summit of Everest today after climbing as high as the Balcony yesterday. The Sherpas who reportedly topped out earlier in the day include Siddhi Bahadur Tamang, Pasdawa Sherpa, Dorji Gyaljen Sherpa, Pasang Dawa Sherpa, Ang Phurba Sherpa, Dawa Nurbu Sherpa, Ming Dorchi Sherpa, and Sangbu Bhote.

Despite the improved weather conditions, it was no easy walk to the top of the mountains. The final push to the summit took hours to complete with the rope fixing team pushing themselves to their limits in order to fix the lines. The topped out around 1:45 PM, shortly after finishing their work. After enjoying a few from the top, they then proceeded down the mountain with all reaching Camp 3 safely.

With the ropes now in place all the way to the top however, the first wave of climbers to launch their summit bids are expected to begin as early as tomorrow. Madison Mountaineering has two climbers in Camp 3 already who were just waiting on the rope fixing team. They’re expected to head up to Camp 4 tomorrow and then move on to the summit on Thursday, May 16. They’ll likely be amongst the first of the foreign climbers to summit Everest this year while the other commercial teams below begin to organize. Climbers from the Adventure Consultants are still in Namche Bazaar for instance, but are expected to head back to Base Camp tomorrow. Other teams that had dropped to lower altitudes to rest have now made their way back and if the forecast holds, we can expect the first climbers to begin heading up over the next few days.

Everest wasn’t the only mountain to see its first summits of the season today. THT is also reporting that 12 climbers have topped out on Lhotse as well. That group included five rope-fixing Sherpas, who were followed closely by seven commercial climbers. The group included Kili Pemba Sherpa, Tamting Sherpa, Pemba Chote Sherpa, Ang Jangbu Sherpa and Dendi Sherpa who opened the route to the summit. They were joined on top a short time later by Gao Li and Li Xiaolin from China, Christina Flampouri and Antonios Sykaris from Greece, and Sirbaz Khan from Pakistan. Dawa Gyalje Sherpa and Dawa Tenji Sherpa guided the commercial squad to the top.

As with Everest, there are other teams already assembling at lower altitudes to make a summit push on Lhotse as well. I would expect we’ll see more summits on the mountain tomorrow or Thursday. Right now, the good weather window looks like it will hold at least into the weekend, which means teams that are most prepared will be able to make a dash for the summit, potentially topping out before the first major wave can get organized and underway.

On the North Side of Everest things are moving a bit slower. The ropes have been installed up to 7620 meters (25,000 ft) and are expected to get to 8000 meters (26,246 ft) today. That still leaves a lot of work to be done, particularly with the strong winds still blowing. They’re expected to subside today or tomorrow, making things much easier. There are already several teams hanging close to the rope fixing squad with the hopes of going to the summit shortly after the lines are installed.

Finally, over on Dhaulagiri Nirmal Purja seems to be stalled out in Camp 3 and waiting for conditions to improve. High winds are still buffeting the summit there, preventing anyone from going up the mountain. He had hoped to reach the top on Sunday and then quickly move over to Kangchenjunga for another summit on Thursday. It doesn’t look like those plans are going to work out, but it is too early to tell what this means for his summit schedule.

As you may recall, “Nims” as he called is hoping to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks in a single year. So far he’s summited just Annapurna, but hopes to top out on Nepal’s five other 8000-meter peaks this spring before moving on to Pakistan’s high peaks this summer. Right now, things aren’t going his way, as the weather isn’t cooperating and he is running into funding issues too. Whether or not the ambitious project will continue remains to be seen.

That’s it for now. I would expect to hear news of lots more summits to come in the next few days.