Himalaya Spring 2019: Potential Summits Despite the High Winds

Despite the fact that high winds remain in the forecast for Everest and other major Himalayan peaks, some climbers are already looking ahead for their opportunity to summit. Right now, it appears the jet stream could remain locked in place until Sunday, May 12, preventing anyone from going to the top until after that. But that doesn’t mean the teams can’t project potential dates for when they’ll go up, as several high profile climbers are already doing.

High winds continue to stymie any opportunities to approach the summit on Everest, which is in turn preventing the rope fixing teams from completing their work. Right now, the teams on both the North and South Side indicate that conditions are calm enough for them to climb and acclimatize on the lower sections of the mountain, which allows them to do something, but isn’t completely useful in preparing their bodies for the summit push.

On the South Side, the teams are shuttling gear back up to the higher camps and repairing the damage done by Cyclone Fani. They indicate that things are just fine up to a certain point. In fact, the sun is quite warm there, which brings its own set of challenges. Yesterday, the IMG squad sent some Sherpas up the hill to begin working on their Camp 4 site. They indicated that the winds were calm all the way up the Lhotse Face, but things took a turn for the worse above the famed Yellow Band. By the time they reached the South Col, the gusts were strong and difficult, preventing them from going any higher. Still, many members of the team reached C3 and spent some time there before going back down, which is good progress towards their acclimatization.

If the forecasts are correct, and the winds do stay in place until May 12, that means it will potentially be mid-week before the rope fixing team finishes its work installing the lines to the top. That will mark the first successful summits of the season on Everest and will spur the teams waiting in the wings to begin to line up for their turn on the mountain. Catalonian climber Sergi Mingote is counting on that as he has already predicted that he will summit on May 17. As you may recall from my previous coverage of Mingote’s efforts this year, he’s hoping to summit Everest and Lhotse this spring in an effort to knock off the three (actually four!) highest mountains in the world without oxygen in a 12 month span. He already has K2 and Kangchenjunga under his belt and will go for the double-header as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Nirmal “Nims” Purja can hear the clock ticking on his lofty aspirations too. His goal is to summit all 14 8000-meter peaks over the course of a seven month period. So far, he’s only managed to knock off Annapurna and he’s going to need not only some good weather, but good luck too. He is predicting that he’ll summit Dhaulagiri –– where he is currently in Base Camp –– this weekend. In fact, he things he’ll top out on May 12, the day the jet stream is predicted to move. Conditions on Dhaulagiri haven’t been nearly as bad as they have been on Everest, but despite that there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the top. And even if he does knock off this mountain as expected, he’ll still have Everest, Lhotse, Manaslu, and Kangchenjunga on his schedule for the spring. That’s a tall order, particularly with time starting to slip away.

That’s the latest news for today. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on how things are unfolding. It’s about to get very busy, but we have to get through a few more days of rough weather first.

Kraig Becker