Poor Conditions Halt Second Summit Push on Everest

Another summit window has apparently slammed shut on Mt. Everest. The massive Cyclone Amphan that had been brewing for days in the Indian Ocean came ashore yesterday, bringing powerful winds and heavy rains along with it. The storm has since lessened in intensity as it has moved northward, although it is still strong enough to cause all kinds of destruction. Fortunately, Amphan won’t hit Everest directly, but even a glancing blow has been enough to cancel summit plans and send the two team’s on the mountain’s North Side scrambling back to Advanced Base Camp.

Back on Monday, the Chinese survey team that was sent to remeasure the height of Everest this season, set out from Base Camp on a summit push. Their plan was to be in Camp 4 by today, with the hopes of reaching the summit tomorrow. In order to do that, they need a few things to fall into place, namely a wide weather window that would allow them to get up and down safely and for the rope-fixing team to complete its work installing the lines to the summit. Unfortunately, neither of those things came together.

According to a report from China Daily, the rope-fixing team set off early today from Camp 3 with the goal of finishing installing the lines to the top. Last week, they had managed to reach an altitude of 8600 meters (28,215 ft), but were forced to turn back due to high winds. The goal was to complete that work and topping out at 8848 meters (29,029 ft). Unfortunately, the squad of Sherpas never made it above 8000 meters (26,246 ft) because the snow was too deep and falling rocks made proceeding upwards even more dangerous. The team then retreated back to C3 and waited until later in the day before gong back up. Once again, their efforts were thwarted due to heavy snowfall and the threat of avalanches.

Worse yet, the team also reports that they were unable to find the fixed ropes they had already put into place. It is unclear whether or not those ropes are buried under the snow or have been swept off the mountain due to high winds and avalanches. Either way, it now appears that there could be more work to do before any of the climbers can go up the mountain. This has caused the survey team to drop back down to ABC—located at 6500 meters (21,235 ft)—to wait for further instructions.

What is also unclear at the moment is the whereabouts of the lone commercial team on Everest this spring. With the mountain shutdown due to the coronavirus, only Chinese nationals are allowed on its slopes this year. That has made the 2020 Everest climbing season a strange one to say the least, with just one team of roughly 26 members, led by an operator called Yarla Shampo. Presumably, that group is still in Base Camp, as they were lagging behind the surveyors, although it is possible for them to be in ABC too.

Looking ahead, the clock is starting to tick down on the 2020 season. Right now, it is unclear as to when there will be a broad enough weather window for the teams to make another attempt on the summit. Worse yet, the end of May is now in sight, which means the seasonal monsoons aren’t far off. Right now, it seems that there may only be about another week or so left to climb, which is cutting it a bit short for these climbers, some of which have now been on the mountain for more than two months.

Hopefully the weather will improve soon and the teams will get a shot at the summit. Stay tuned for further updates.