High Winds Continue to Keep Everest Summit Closed

Bad weather continues to hamper plans on Everest, where two teams of climbers on the mountain’s North Side are anxiously waiting for conditions to improve. Yesterday, high winds forced the rope fixing team to turn back at 8600 meters (28,215 ft), leaving just 250 meters of work yet to be done. Their hope was to potentially complete that work today, but the winds have only gotten worse, forcing everyone to hold in place.

The spring 2020 climbing season has been an unusual one to say the least. With the coronavirus shutting down the mountain to all climbers, except Chinese nationals, it has been a very quiet two months on Everest. The South Side in Nepal has no climbers whatsoever, while the North Side in Tibet has just one commercial team—led by an operator called Yarla Shampo—and a government-sponsored survey team that is there to remeasure the height of the world’s tallest peak. Both of those teams have spent the past six weeks or more acclimating, gaining the necessary skills to climb at such a high altitude, and preparing for an eventual summit push.

Over the past two decades, most summits of Everest have come somewhere around the middle of May. Of course, the exact dates are dictated by the weather on any given year, and 2020 is no different. As of now, the climbers who will help measure the height of the mountain are standing by in Advanced Base Camp at 6500 meters (21,325 ft), waiting for the fixed ropes to be installed to the summit. They reportedly encountered deep snow on the way up to Camp 1 a few days back as well, which presented some serious avalanche dangers. The high winds should hopefully clear the route, making their ascent a safer one. Right now, they’re just waiting for the go ahead to launch their summit push at long last.

Meanwhile, the Yarla Shampo team are on their way back to Base Camp after making an acclimatization climb up nearby Lhakpa Ri. The group summited yesterday and returned to BC on that mountain, but will now return to Everest. They’ll likely spend a few days resting in Base Camp while they wait for improved weather. Right now, it is starting to look like it could be next week before they’ll get a chance to top out.

All told, there will likely be less than 40 or 50 climbers who summit Everest this season. The Yarlo Shampo team reportedly has somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 total climbers, while the survey squad consists of more than 50 people. Not all of that team will go to the summit however, as it will likely be just a handful of strong climbers who carry heavy equipment to the top.

As with the alpinists themselves, we’re patiently waiting for things to improve on the mountain. I’ll continue to keep a close eye on the progress there and post updates as they happen.