Thursday, April 21, 2016

Himalaya Spring 2016: Use of Helicopters Approved on Everest

With most of the climbing teams now in place in the Himalaya, the spring climbing season has started to resemble the traditional schedule we've come to know from years past. Acclimatization rotations have begun on Everest and Lhotse for instance, while elsewhere Base Camps are very busy with climbers getting settled and preparing for the challenges ahead. But the Nepali government has announced a major change in operations that could dramatically improve safety on the world's highest peak.

Climber and mountaineering blogger Alan Arnette is reporting today that government agencies in Nepal have approved the use of helicopters to shuttle gear up to Camp 1, bypassing the dangerous Khumbu Icefall altogether. Alan says that using the helicopters will eliminate the need to carry 87 loads from Base Camp to C1, thus preventing the need for porters to cross through the Icefall numerous times, which is where 16 lives were lost back in 2014 while shuttling equipment up the mountain.

Reportedly, the weather has been warmer than usual on Everest this spring, which has brought concerns about avalanches and collapsing ice in the Icefall. This move will help to reduce fears of too many people spending too much time on this dangerous section of the climb. As Alan reports, most foreign climbers pass through the Icefall an average of 6 times, while the Sherpas are far more exposed, often climbing up more than 18 times. For them, the decision to use helicopters is an important one and a matter of life and death.


Meanwhile, the first acclimatization rotations are proceeding on schedule, with Everest and Lhotse teams now spending time in both Camp 1 and Camp 2 as they allow their bodies to become accustomed to the thin air at altitude. Most will spend a night or two at those camps before dropping back to BC to rest and recover. Than, they'll start the process over again, possibly moving higher as the fixed ropes are installed.

Over on Annapurna, the remaining teams are now gearing up for a another potential summit bid. The weather is expected to start improving over the next few days, which means the climbers will likely be on the move once again. Those summit pushes could start as early as this weekend, with an eye on topping out early next week. The forecasts are still shaping up however, so any attempts on the summit could be pushed by a day or two.

More news to come.

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