Monday, March 28, 2016

Himalaya Spring 2016: It's Departure Week!

Despite the fact that some teams are already climbing on Annapurna, this week will actually mark the official start of the spring climbing season in the Himalaya. As I write this, hundreds of climbers from across the globe are putting the last minute touches on their planning, packing, and organizing. For them, it is a busy, exiting time during which they are saying goodbye to friends and family, with the next stop being Kathmandu!

Most people don't realize it, but from the time they leave home, until they return post expedition, an Everest climb takes about two months to complete. This week, the the mountaineers will start arriving in Kathmandu, where they'll most likely spend a couple of days getting to know the other members of their team, organizing their gear, and preparing to head out to the Khumbu, or other regions of Nepal or Tibet. They'll probably go shopping in the Thamel district to get some last minute items, and they'll enjoy a few good meals before they depart for their respective mountains.

For those climbing Everest on the South Side, that means flying to Lukla, where they'll begin the trek to Base Camp. That trek alone will probably take them anywhere from 8-10 days depending on their objectives and how well they'll begin acclimatizing to the altitude.

Mountaineers heading to the Tibetan side of the mountain, the expedition will begin with a flight to Lhasa or a drive across the border. On the North Side of Everest it is possible to drive to Base Camp, although it still takes a few days to do so, as the gain in altitude is significant.

BC will be their home for the next 5-6 weeks as they start the acclimatization process in preparation for an eventual summit bid. But first, they'll make several rotations up to the higher camps, letting their bodies slowly become accustomed to the thin air. Once that process is complete, which typically comes around early to mid-May, they'll wait for a proper weather window to open that will give them access to the summit, which is when all of their hard work, patience, and persistence pays off at long last.

But that point is still along way off, and there is much to be done before anyone can think about going to the summit. As the last two years on Everest have shown us, a lot of unexpected things can happen over the course of the season. Hopefully this year things will be different however, and the climbers will see a sense of normalcy return to the world's highest peak.

To all my friends preparing to set off for Kathmandu this week, I'd just like to say good luck, stay safe, and enjoy the ride. This will no doubt be one of the most memorable and challenging times in your lives, but the rewards will be immeasurable. We'll be watching and following along closely in the weeks ahead, and we can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Let the new Himalaya climbing season begin!

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