Monday, May 16, 2011

Himalaya 2011: A New Weather Window Opens


The weekend was a slow one on the South Side of Everest, with high winds slamming the weather window shut. All told, some 40 climber reached the summit last week, but plenty more spent the weekend in Base Camp, where they anxiously watched the weather reports and waited for good news. That good news came last night in the form of a second projected weather window for the end of this week. It now looks like we can expect another round so summit bids on Thursday and Friday, and teams are now on the move to take advantage of that opportunity.

Amongst the climbers who have begun the ascent are Alan Arnette, who sent an audio dispatch this morning from Camp 1. He reports that the conditions on the  mountain are favorable right now, and that he and the entire IMG team he is climbing with, made the climb up to C1 in rapid time. Normally, a lot of teams would push on to Camp 2, but they have elected to spend the day in Camp 1 and conserve their energy for the final push. The plan is to go up to C2 tomorrow, then on to C3 on Wednesday. Thursday, the team will climb to the South Col and Camp 4, where they'll rest for a few hours before leaving for the summit at around 3 AM Friday morning local time. If everything goes as planned, they should arrive at the summit sometime Friday morning. For Alan, who sounds in great spirits on the dispatch, this would be a major milestone in his 7 Summits For Alzheimer's campaign.

David Tait has started back up the mountain as well and will be checking in from Camp 2 later in the day via sat phone. In his latest update, he talks about facing the Khumbu Icefall yet again and the toll that the climb is having on his body, having lost a considerable amount of weight. You may recall that David was on his summit push last week when winds picked up on the mountain, causing Himex boss Russell Brice to pull the plug mid-ascent. Tait, and others, were forced to descend all the way back to BC, where they had a short rest before turning around again. The entire Himex squad is hoping to top out during this new weather window later in the week.

There was sad news to report from Everest this weekend, when it was revealed that Japanese climber Takashi Ozaki died on the mountain. ExWeb says that it was apparently a result of HAPE, and notes the particular injustice of Ozaki dying on the normal route of Everest after he helped pioneer some of the more challenging, and little used, other routes on the mountain. Ozaki, who was 58, had plenty of success in high altitude mountaineer, as he had successfully climbed six of the 8000 meter peaks. My condolences to his friends, family, and teammates.

That's all for now. Expect lots more news later in the week, when it appears there will be another round of summit bids. It is possible that this could be the final weather window of the season, as June is looming, and the monsoon won't be far behind.

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