It has been a long, strange season on the world’s highest peak this spring, and we’re far from finished yet. The weather has been widely unpredictable throughout April and May, with the jet stream setting over the summit for length periods, preventing climbers from going to the top. As a result, it is now late May and the main summit push has yet to begin. But, it appears that conditions are stabilizing at long last and tomorrow –– Wednesday, May 22, –– will be an incredibly busy day on both the North and South Sides of the mountain.
On the Nepali side of Everest the teams have been lining up for the past few days, climbing to Camp 3 and 4 today to get into position. It appears that a predicted drop in the winds hasn’t completely materialized, with cold temperatures and big gusts still buffeting the summit. That has caused some of the squads to hold in place, waiting for better conditions tomorrow. Because of this, it now appears that more than 300 climbers will launch their summit bid early on Wednesday with an eye on topping out amidst a large crowd.
Amongst those now staged for the final push tomorrow are the Adventure Consultants and Madison Mountaineering, both of which report a lot of traffic in Camp 3. The latter of those squads was set to summit today, but held back when the wind didn’t die down as expected. Now, they’ll all go up together tomorrow in what promises to be a long, difficult day with plenty of standing in line waiting for others.
Nirmal Purja is also poised to head to the summit of Everest in the next day or two. He and his team are currently in Camp 2 on the mountain and eyeing a fast push to the top. His current plans now include grabbing the Everest summit, then descending back to Camp 4 for a rest. From there, he’ll traverse the ridge to Lhotse, summit that mountain the following day, before descending back to Base Camp. If all goes according to plan and schedule, he’ll then board a helicopter and fly to Makalu, where he hopes to summit that peak on the third day of his push. That would break his previous record of climbing those three mountains in a five day span.
Over on the North Side, the teams are still waiting for the ropes to be installed to the summit. The rope fixing team hasn’t had much good luck so far this year, and that includes favorable weather. They now expect to finish fixing the lines tomorrow, with a large group of teams also staged to follow along soon thereafter. It is likely that once the ropes are in place, we’ll see a rush of summits shortly thereafter as well. The North Side teams have been incredibly patient so far this season, but this looks like it could be a narrow weather window so everyone is looking to take advantage of the situation. That could mean as many as another 180-200 summits from that side of the hill tomorrow as well.
Wednesday won’t be the only busy day on Everest, as teams are expected to be very active today and Thursday as well. But with the high winds continuing today, it is expected to be a bit less crowded on the top, and Thursday looks to be the day for those who waited out the main push. After that, the weather details get a bit sketchy and the window could close or stay open for another day or two. That uncertainty is part of what is fueling a summit frenzy for tomorrow.
Good luck to everyone who is heading up over the next few days. Stay safe, climb high, and get back down in one piece.
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