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Monday, May 15, 2017

Himalaya Spring 2017: Summit Season Begins on Everest

It was an incredibly busy weekend on the world's tallest mountain, as the first summits of the season were notched on both the North and South Sides of Everest. Rope fixing efforts are now complete, paving the way for a very busy climax to the spring climbing season in the days ahead. The weather is currently quite good on the mountain, but forecasts call for that to change in quickly, so most teams are back in a holding pattern while they wait for a longer, safer summit window.

We'll start on the North Side, which saw its first summits at the end of last week when a team of Sherpas finished fixing the ropes to the top. On Saturday, the first commercial squads took advantage of the open route and favorable weather to put six Indian climbers and ten Sherpas on top of the mountain from the Tibetan side between 8:20 AM and 9:30 AM that morning. Reportedly the weather took a turn for the worse later in the day, preventing other teams from reaching the top, and causing some to turn back.

According to The Himalayan Times, the climbers who summited were part of the Transcend Adventures team with Suresh Babu, Durga Rao Kunja, Bharat Thammineni, Krishna Rao Vooyaka, Satya Rao Kare and Sunda Raju Repalle all topping out. Joining them were Pema Chhepal Sherpa, Phurba Sherpa, Tashi Chumbel Sherpa, Nurbu Sherpa, Pasang Dorjee Sherpa, Phura Tenzing Sherpa, Kami Temba Sherpa, Sonam Tashi Sherpa, Lhakpa Tshering Sherpa and Karma Dorjee Sherpa.

Of special note is Lhakpa Tshering Sherpa, who set a new record for most summits of Everest by a female climber. This was Lhakpa this was her eighth trip to the top of the world's highest mountain, extending her previous record for accomplishing that feat. She tells The Times that she hopes to summit two more times to reach 10 before she hangs up her crampons. 

Meanwhile, the rope fixing team on the South Side of Everest in Nepal took advantage of a narrow weather window to wrap up its work as well. The team of 14 climbers topped out today at 1:25 PM local time, completing the efforts that had been stymied do to bad weather late last week. The Himalayan Times reports that at least 12 other climbers from other teams followed along close behind, and reached the summit as well. 

The names of the climbers who topped out earlier today have not all been revealed, but the group included Kanchha Nuru Sherpa, Lakpa Gelu Sherpa, Sonam Janbu Sherpa, Pema Chhiring and Pem Chhiri. Congratulations to everyone who successfully stood on top of the world, both today and on Saturday. 

Unfortunately, the current weather window isn't expected to stay open, and it looks like the summit will be closed off for a few days. Most of the teams are now watching the forecast closely and are planning to launch summit bids later in the week with an eye on topping out sometime next weekend. As things begin to shape up, it appears that May 20 and 21 could be very busy days on the mountain indeed, with a rush to the top as the end of the season starts to draw near. 

The next few days are likely to be anxious ones for the climbers. They have now wrapped up their acclimatization efforts and are simply waiting for the moment their guides tell them it is time to go up. Most have now been in Base Camp for nearly six weeks, and they are more than ready to launch their summit bids and get the expedition over with. Their patience will be paid off soon however, and they'll begin the long, arduous slog to the top. It won't be easy, but it will certainly be rewarding. 

Stay tuned, it's likely to be a very busy week. 

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