Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Everest 2010: Outlook For The North Side


The Everest spring season is about a month off yet, but for the climbers and trekkers heading to the Himalaya this spring, it already looms large on the horizon. One of the burning questions for the past few years has been what kind of access would teams have from the North, or Tibetan, side of the mountain. In 2008, the Chinese closed off the peak in order to give their Olympic Torch Team full access for their run to the summit. Last year, a violent protest in Lhasa, and other parts of Tibet, forced them to close the borders of the entire country, allowing very few climbers to actually step foot on the North Side.

This year, most are expecting a return to normalcy on Everest, but as with all things in the region, you never know for sure. That's why Alan Arnette decided to bounce a few questions off of Jamie McGuinness, who lives in Nepal and owns Project Himalaya, a mountaineering and trekking company that frequently operates on the North Side of Everest.

In the interview, Jamie talks about the company, his love of photography/cameras, and the outlook for gaining access from Tibet to Everest this year. In short, he says that so far, everything is on track, and it seems like the process is going smooth. He expects to be operating from the North Side this spring, without any concerns at this point.

Of particular interest to those looking to learn about Everest are Jamie's thoughts on how climbing from the North and South differ. He has reached the summit along both routes, and says that they are equally challenging, but that the differences are many none the less. He mentions the obvious ice fall on the South Side of course, but also says that the rock fall, located between the South Col and the Balcony, is also quite dangerous. He points to similar dangers along the First and Second Steps on the North, but says the real difficulty on the Tibetan side is reaching High Camp, which is more of a challenge in high winds then it is on the South Side.

As is usual with his articles, Alan not only does a good job of explaining the issues, but he gets good, solid, and to the point answers from the people that he interviews. Jaime provides great insights on Everest and not only the challenges of climbing there, but the political climate as well.

Personally, I think we'll see more teams climbing from the North Side this year, but until they actually start arriving in base camp, you never know what is going to happen. The Chinese could quite literally pull the plug at any time. Hopefully that won't be the case in 2010.