Himalaya Spring 2019: Summit Talk Begins and the Highest Rugby Match in the World

The winds continue to howl over the summit of Everest and some of the other 8000-meter peaks, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The jet stream settled firmly into place late last week and has remained there ever since, preventing the rope fixing teams from finishing their work. The hurricane-force winds have also kept climbers below 7000 meters (22,965 ft) as they continue their acclimatization process. With little else to do but wait, some have even gone down the Khumbu Valley to rest and recuperate ahead of the upcoming summit season. But now, it looks like things are about to change and that even has some teams chattering about potential summit bids this weekend.

On Everest, there is still a lot of work to be done and it seems unlikely that the lines will be fixed before Sunday or Monday of next week. But, the rope fixing team on the South Side is heading back up the mountain and getting ready to resume their duties. Right now, the forecasts say the winds will die down on May 12 (Sunday) and it will probably take them a few days after that before the ropes to the summit are in place. That will mark the first successful summits of the season and clear the way for the other teams to follow.

On the North Side, the situation is similar although it seems the rope team may be a bit further behind. The teams on that side of the mountain seem unconcerned however, as it is reportedly not crowded at all. A later start to the summit push shouldn’t have much of an impact there, unlike on the Nepali side where a narrower weather window and delayed start could be an issue.

With the forecast set to improve over the next few days, several teams are now lining up to take advantage of the shift in the winds. We’ve already mentioned that Nirmal Purja is getting ready to go for the second of his six 8000-meter peaks this spring alone. He hopes to summit Dhaulagiri this weekend or on Monday at the latest. Also on Dhaulagiri, Horia Colibasanu, Peter Hamor, and Marius Gane are looking for a weather window that will allow them to summit too. They’ve completed the most technical section of their new route up the mountain and are now standing by to make an alpine style push to the top. Meanwhile, several teams on Lhotse are also looking to top out this weekend too. The Imagine team is on the move already today, heading up from BC to Camp 2. They hope to be in position at C4 by Sunday for a push to the top then or early next week.

While all of the climbers have been focused on jet stream reports and weather forecasts, another group of athletes recently set a new record for the highest altitude rugby match ever played. The match took place on the East Rongbuk Glacier near Advanced Base Camp, which happens to fall at about 6331 meters (20,771 ft.) Two teams played a seven-aside match as part of a charity fund-raising event with the hopes of collecting £250,000 ($325,300) for Wooden Spoon –– an organization that uses rugby to support disabled and disadvantaged children in the U.K.

As you can imagine, playing an intense sport like rugby at such an altitude wasn’t easy. The players reportedly suffered through altitude sickness, fatigue, and unique weather conditions to pull off the match. Shane Williams, a former pro player who served as captain for one of the teams, is quoted as saying “If you ran during the match it took 10 minutes to recover.” Still, everyone gave it their all and it looks like it was a fun event in general. It was also done for a great cause, which makes all of the suffering at altitude worth it. Well done to everyone who took part in the match and bringing the charity event together.

That’s it for this week. It looks like there will be a lot more to report next week as we start eyeing potential summit dates on Everest and beyond.

Kraig Becker