Despite our early arrival to Base Camp and acclimatization on Pumori, the weather has not really played its part, and so it has turned out to be a long season, but this is not the first time, that is why we have a long program, and cater for this time here on the slopes of Everest, hence we will most likely return on the published dates. So many teams are coming with short programs, so they tend to push to the summit when the weather is not really correct. It has been an interesting season weather wise, and there has been a constant cold jet stream just north of us, not right on top of us, but not far enough north to make it easy for us. We were lucky when we went to the summit of Pumori, the forecast suggested that we would have reasonably strong wind, but we were sheltered by the upper slopes of Pumori, and there was not enough snow about to make an avalanche danger, hence we were able to acclimatize and climb in relatively calm and warm conditions. However at the same time the rope fixing was not progressing on Everest….although I suspect that it could have been achieved up to South Col. This constant jet stream was moved a little by typhoon Fani which moved up from the Bay of Bengal, but fortunately this veered away from the Himalaya and so we only experienced one day of snow that disrupted us a little.
We watched the rope fixing team from Himalayan Guides push the rope to the summit on a cold and windy day on 14 May, a superb effort from an experienced team who could withstand these severe conditions. Always a thankless task, not helped by the late start by the Expedition Operators Association (EOA) to purchase equipment and designate the operator to fix the ropes. Fortunately this was awarded to Himalayan Guides, but again more delays until the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Mountaineering (MoT) issued the helicopter permit to fly the rope fixing equipment to C2. These officials all sit in Kathmandu and do not realize that their lack of action is having such an important effect on the climbers that they are busy issuing Climbing Permits to, at $11,000 per person. The first time we were allowed to fly this equipment into C2 was on 10 Apr and the latest, up until this year was 14 Apr, and this year was 19 Apr. However the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) do recognize that the seasons are moving forward a little and that temperatures will rise earlier, so they do come early and fix the rope through the Ice Fall early, and this is appreciated by those teams that come early. So lost rope fixing days due mainly to poor organization.
Although a seasoned rope fixing team can go to the summit in less than favorable conditions, it is a different story for operators who take clients to the summit in similar conditions, but of course there was an immediate rush for teams to summit on 15 and 16 May. It has been of no surprise for us to see the number of helicopter rescues from C2 bringing people with frostbite, and the inevitable fatalities in these last few days.
This last week has been windy on the summit, but clear and warm down here at BC, which has been difficult for members to endure. However many teams are looking to go to the summit on 21 and 22, not ideal conditions, but maybe this is all that this constant jet stream will offer for this season. The wind is not at all settled so it is hard to decide which day will be best, still two days ago our team left BC for C2, and today they have their second rest day there, although our Sherpa team have been carrying loads to South Col. Tomorrow the team will move up to C3 and then on 22 to C4. With a bit of luck I hope that we will have a reasonable summit day on 23. Not ideal, but I hope the best day available as it appears that it will again become windy on 24 until early next month. The north side can wait for this next envelope, but here on the south side we need to finish by the end of the month as the SPCC will be clearing the ropes and ladders out of the Ice Fall on 29. Here is hoping for a safe and successful summit day.