Himalaya Spring 2019: Second Summit Push Begins on Everest

The past few days saw the return of high winds on the upper slopes of Mt. Everest, shutting off access to the summit for a time. But conditions seem to be improving heading into the week, which has opened the window for another wave of summit bids from the teams waiting below. And while most of those squads are now moving up the mountain to get into position, a few took advantage of the better conditions to nab a quick summit this morning ahead of the large wave of alpinists who will soon follow.

According to The Himalayan Times 14 climbers –– supported by Imagine Nepal Treks –– reached the summit of Everest from the South Side in Nepal this morning. The list of climbers who successfully topped out included Flampouri Christina and Archontidou Vasiliki from Greece, Pranay Bandbuch from India, Jia Lin Chang, Liu Yongzhong, Wang Xue Feng and Zeng Hui Wen from China, Kili Pemba Sherpa, Dawa Tenzin Sherpa, Tamting Sherpa, Lakpa Tamang, Dawa Gyalje Sherpa, Phurba Chhotar Sherpa and Dendi Sherpa. We’re told they are now descending back to Camp 4, so hopefully everyone makes it down safely.

This round of summits comes as a bit of surprise, since earlier today the Adventure Consultants reported that they expected -50ºC (-58ºF) windchills today higher on the mountain. Those are dangerous temperatures to be climbing in, particularly with depleted oxygen levels at altitude. Because of that, the AC squad is convening in Camp 2 today, then moving up to C3 tomorrow with eye on a potential summit bid on Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

The Madison Mountaineering team is a couple of days ahead of that schedule, moving up to Camp 3 today instead. That could put them into position to climb to the top of the world’s highest mountain tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on conditions and the team’s health and speed. They expect this current weather window to stay open for four or five days, which means it should run late into the week. If so, we can expect a large number of climbers to be on the move, although some may delay for one more weather window expected to come next weekend or into early next week. The season has a hard ending point however, as the Icefall Doctors have announced they will stop maintaining the route through the Khumbu Icefall on May 29.

Meanwhile, on the North Side the teams continue to wait and watch the forecasts. Conditions on the Tibetan side of the mountain haven’t been very good so far this season, and that has kept many of the teams from reaching the higher camps. In fact, as of now the ropes aren’t even fixed to the summit, although that work is expected to be completed in the next few days. The North Side has been quiet for much of the season so far, but there are roughy 170-180 foreign climbers on that side of the hill who are still waiting for their crack at the summit. If all goes according to plan, their patience should be rewarded in a few days time.

Other expeditions of note that we’ve been following this season include the attempt by Felix Berg and Adam Bielecki to summit Annapurna along a new route. The duo haven’t had the best of luck with the weather this season and as a result have scrapped their plans altogether. Heavy snow prevented them from acclimatizing properly on Langtang Lirung as planned, and we all know how dangerous Annapurna can be when the snow gets deep. They have pulled the plug and started the journey for home.

Similarly, Horia Colibasanu, Peter Hamor, and Marius Gane are  finding it tough going on Dhaulagiri. Wind, snow, and rain have made it tough to make much progress currently they are up at about 5600 meters (18,373 ft) waiting for conditions to improve. They will decide in the next day or two of they will continue upwards or end their expedition too.

Finally, Nirmal “Nims” Purja is moving on to Everest Base Camp where he hopes to climb that mountain, along with Lhotse in rapid succession this week. If that goes according to plan, he’ll then travel to Makalu to wrap up this attempt to summit six 8000-meter peaks this spring alone. He then hopes to move on to Pakistan in the summer to climb five 8000-meter peaks there and then return to the Himalaya in the fall for three big mountains in Tibet. He calls this ambitious plan Project Possible 14/7 to match his plans to climb all 14 8-thousanders in seven months. While it is becoming increasingly clear that he has the strength and endurance to make these climbs, he is also reportedly running low on funds and may have to cancel his planned expeditions as a result. We’ll keep an eye on his progress to see how things go.

That’s all for today. More to come very soon I’m sure.

Kraig Becker