Friday, May 02, 2014

Everest 2014: Acclimatization and Pujas on the North Side

With the South Side of Everest shut down, it is certainly a much quieter season on the Big Hill than anyone of us could have ever anticipated. Still, work continues on the North Side, where the teams are acclimatizing and preparing themselves for the challenges ahead.

The 7 Summits Club posted an update on their progress this morning, and all seems to be going according to plan. The team has been divided into two groups, with the first squad in Advanced Base Camp, and the other on their way there today. Tomorrow, the first members of the team will go to the Camp 1 at the North Col, and in anticipation of that, they have been working on their fixed rope skills. Once the entire team is together in ABC, they'll also hold their Puja ceremony, asking for the blessing from the mountain before beginning the climb.

Adventure Peaks posted an update a few days back, saying they were in day 3 of their 5 day rest period before they began their next rotation. That should mean that they are ready to proceed up again today, possibly with an eye on heading to the North Col as well. They report that the weather in Base Camp has been warm, and calm, although winds are blowing harder higher up on the mountain.

Similarly, the Asian Trekking squad appears to be on a the same trajectory as the teams mentioned above. They have climbers in ABC at the moment as well, so it looks like everyone is taking advantage of the current weather window to get in some time at altitude, to let their bodies acclimate to the conditions.


It is important to note that climbing on the North Side differs a bit from climbing on the South. In Nepal, the large commercial teams work together to fix the ropes and prepare the route to the summit. On the North Side, a special team of Sherpas, under the guidance of the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA), takes care of all of the work themselves. So, while the teams are busy prepping for their climb, the CTMA team is ensuring that they'll have a route to the top, including securing the ladder at the Second Step to grant them access.

Obviously the route is much different on this side of the mountain too. Climbers don't have to deal with the Khumbu Icefall, which makes the early portions of the climb safer. But once they near the summit, they are a bit more exposed, and some of the sections of the ascent are a bit more technical as well. The North Side may be a bit more challenging in that respect, although really the level of difficulty is about the same, the challenges are just different.

It appears that most of the teams that are still on the mountain will spend the weekend in Camp 1. I would expect them to drop back to BC next week, before heading higher again after that. Their current schedule has the rope fixing completed around May 15, weather permitting of course. After that, the teams will see when the first window will arrive before they start their summit pushes. With 100 climbers on the Tibetan side of the mountain this spring, there will be a steady stream of people heading up during that first push, but the North Side doesn't have the same issues with over crowding as the South Side does, so it should be a fairly orderly ascent.

Stay tuned for more updates in the days ahead. Lots more to come as the season unfolds.

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