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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Himalaya Spring 2017: Rope Fixing Team Retreats on Everest, Kilian Speed Climbs Cho You

Just a quick update from Everest today, as it seems that the rope fixing team on the South Side was forced to retreat to Camp 2 yesterday before reaching the summit. Reportedly the weather there is quite good, and should remain so for the next several days, but heavy snow on the upper slopes of the mountain have made the process of installing the lines on the mountain more time consuming and exhausting than expected. As a result, the Sherpa team was able to add to the route yesterday, extending it up above the balcony, but after spending several days above 8000 meters (26,200 ft), the squad simply had to descend to regain their strength and get some much deserved rest.

This delay in getting the ropes into place will likely cause the teams that are currently at or above C2 to retreat to Base Camp as well and wait for the work to be completed. Most of the climbers are now fully acclimatized and are simply waiting for the lines to be installed and a proper weather window. Once access to the summit is granted, there is likely to be a mad dash for the summit, provided the weather allows.

Reports indicate that there is plenty of snow on the upper flanks of Everest this year, which is welcome news for the climbers. Most would rather climb on snow and ice rather than bare rock, and it seems that will be the case this season. Not only is it easier to make the ascent over the more technical sections of the climb, it is also safer too. Often the wind clears the snow from the upper sections of the mountain, but this year it looks like it will remain.

So what does this mean for the climbing schedule? It now looks like the ropes won't be fixed until late this week, which means summits attempts will be pushed into next week. The forecast continues to look good, although winds do pick up some over the next couple of days. If everything holds however, we can now expect possible summits by next week this time, although even that could fluctuate some. So far, everything is still going as schedule, and nothing is really out of the ordinary, but until the rope fixing is completed, the teams remain in a holding pattern.


Elsewhere, Kilian Jornet has posted an update on his efforts on Cho Oyu, and as you would expect they are impressive. He and Emelie Forsberg set out to make a speed climb on the mountain in much the same way as Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington did last year by using oxygen tents to pre-acclimatize before ever arriving in the Himalaya. As a result, Jornet and Forsberg were ready for a summit push in just nine days.

A few days back they launched their attempt and were reportedly climbing very fast in good conditions. At the Yellow Band – located at 7700 meters (25,262 ft) – Emelie turned back as it looked like the weather was starting to take a turn for the worse. For her, this was her first climb above 6000 meters (19,685 ft), so it sounds like she made an impressive effort all around. Kilian pressed on, and as he neared the top it began to snow heavily, making it difficult to see. He reached what he believed was the summit, but because there are few features on Cho Oyu, and the snow was coming down hard, he isn't sure if he did indeed top out. He says that he didn't see a way to climbing any higher, but that he still isn't positive he reached the summit.

From there, both he and Emelie descend back to BC and left camp. She is going home to train for the running season ahead, while Kilian will now head to the North Side of Everest in Tibet to prepare for his speed attempt on Everest.

So how fast was the Cho Oyu climb? Reportedly it took Kilian just 14 hours to go from Camp 1 to the summit. Not bad at all, and a good indication that he is now ready to take on the Big Hill soon too.

That's it for now. More to come soon I'm sure.

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