NEWSLETTERS - Everest South 2011

Newsletter 186 May 2011

First team reaches the top of the world this season

On 5 May 2011 at 4pm Nepali time, nine climbers reached the top of Mount Everest becoming the first team to reach the summit of the 8,848m (29,028ft) mountain this season. What is special about these summiteers is that they were not only braving the high altitude and difficult conditions above 8,000m, they were also fixing the ropes for the many expeditions that are currently preparing to reach the highest peak in the world.

Nine Sherpas (Phurba Tashi, Dorjee, Ang Rita, Tashi Tshering and Tshering Tashi from Himalayan Experience, Karma Gyalgen and Phu Tshering from International Mountain Guides (IMG) and Kami Rita from Adventure Consultants) left Camp II at 12.30am, each carrying a heavy load with rope fixing equipment. On their way up, they picked up Himalayan Experience guide Adrian Ballinger, who had been waiting at Camp III for the Sherpas to arrive as he had opted to stay up there to assist them in their rope fixing.

As the rope to the South Col at 8,000m (26,400ft) had already been fixed, the team made good progress despite their heavy loads of about 25kg each and arrived at the saddle at 5.20am. After an hour of rest and refueling, the hard-working team left the South Col one hour later, edging their way up towards the summit and fixing approximately 2,000m of rope. “We ran out at the very end and reused some of the old rope, which we will replace during our next trip up,” Himalayan Experience Sirdar Phurba Tashi, who has just completed his 18th summit, called from the top.

The cooperation of the various rope fixing teams of the different expeditions has improved significantly over the past few years, with the Sherpas taking more and more initiative. “It is certainly working a lot better compared to when we first came here in 2009. Nowadays, the loads are numbered and the load carrying is more organised than last year. Even the Sherpas say that,” Russell told me while waiting for the next radio call from his team. He said he was not worried about the team’s high altitude work as he knew that there were nine incredibly experienced climbers on the mountain. “However, I still want to know where they are and I won’t be able to rest until I know they are back at their camp.”

Reaching the top

After 15 and a half hours of hard work, difficult terrain and thin air, the team, who has been using supplementary oxygen from Camp III at 7,200m (23,700ft), reached the top at 4pm. “We are just burning incense,” Adrian, who is celebrating his fourth Everest summit, called down by radio. Despite its commercialisation, Mount Everest or Chomolungma as the Sherpas call it, is still a sacred mountain for the Sherpas and no matter how tired they are, they will always perform a little ceremony on the top. ‘There is a lot of snow and going down should be pretty quick. We might stay at Camp IV but knowing the Sherpas, they will probably want to go down to Camp II,” he continued.

There are 56 summits between Thursday’s summiteers, with Himalayan Experience’s Dorjee reaching the summit for the 14th time and Karma Rita from Adventure Consultants being a ten-time summitteer.

The team, who has probably performed one of the longest working days on Everest with 20 and a half hours on the mountain, arrived at Camp II at 9pm, where they are spending the night before coming down to base camp to recover – just in time to be ready again to go back up with the clients.

This is the third consecutive year that the rope fixing team has become the first team to reach the summit on 5 May, which seems to become an auspicious date for the Sherpas.

Facts and figures for rope fixing on Mount Everest
  • A total of 8,000m of fixing rope was brought to Everest this year
  • Around 52 loads were carried from base camp to Camp II
  • Around 40 loads were carried to the South Col
  • One load weighs around 25kg and is carried by one Sherpa
  • The following operators organised load carries from Base Camp to Camp II
  • Himalayan Experiennce (9), Peak Freaks (9), Himalayan Ascent (2), Mountain Trip (5), High Altitude Junkies (1), Jagged Globe (1), RMI (3), IMG (9), Patagonian Brothers’ Expeditions (2), Hiro (3), Asian Trekking (10), Canada West (2), Adventure Consultants (5), Endesa (2).
  • Various smaller operators were also involved in carrying loads, which shows how the cooperation has improved

Billi Bierling at Everest Base Camp