Monday, April 11, 2016

Himalaya Spring 2016: Icefall Route Now Complete on Everest

It was a busy weekend in Nepal, where scores of climbers are continuing to make their way to various base camps throughout the Himalaya. Many of those alpinists are currently trekking in the Khumbu region, where they are slowly acclimatizing as they inch ever closer to Everest, Lhotse, and other high peaks. Soon, they'll reach their destination and the real work will begin as they get ready to finally start their climbs. 

Expect some of those teams to begin arriving in Everest Base Camp starting this week, where they'll find the route up to Camp 2 now prepared for them. It was revealed over the weekend that the Ice Doctors – the team of Sherpas tasked with building and maintaining the route through the Khumbu Icefall – have completed their preliminary work, fixing ropes and setting ladders from BC to C2. That means that early arrivals will able to start their acclimatization rotations within a matter of days. 

In addition to fixing the ropes up to Camp 2 we've also started to get a clearer picture of the season ahead on Everest. Last week we had a preliminary rundown of the number of teams that would be climbing the world's tallest peak this season, and the count was much lower than it has been in the past. But now, as the official start of the season draws closer, those numbers are climbing higher. According to recent reports 385 climbers will use the Khumbu Icefall route this year, with 72 of those dedicated to climbing Lhotse and 34 on Nuptse. That means that 279 climbers are scheduled for Everest itself. That's up considerably from what we first thought, but it is also still down from the traditionally higher numbers of climbers that visit Everest on an annual basis. 

Of those, about 40 percent of the climbers are returning from 2015, when the massive earthquake on April 25 put an abrupt halt to climbing operations. The Nepali government has ruled that permits issued last year would be extended for 2016 and 2017, and obviously a number of climbers are taking advantage of that opportunity. 

Meanwhile, over on Annapurna things remain at a standstill. The weather forecasts are unpredictable at this point, with high winds expected over the next few days. The teams there are waiting to make another acclimatization rotation, or possibly even a summit attempt. But for now they have to wait for conditions to improve. There first chance could come later this week, but it is unclear if the winds will drop enough to allow them to make a move towards the top.

Things are now lining up for the season to truly get underway. Stay tuned for more updates in the days ahead. 

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