Annapurna’s Tactics on Everest: Ropes Airlifted to Camp 2

portrait of Kami Rita Sherpa, 25-time Everest summiter
The indomitable Kami Rita Sherpa leads the rope-fixing team from C4 to the summit. Photo: Kami Rita Sherpa

The strategy followed on Annapurna some weeks ago, using helicopters to deliver ropes to higher camps, will also be decisive on Everest.

Kami Rita Sherpa and a 12-man Sherpa team left Base Camp today to fix ropes from Camp 4 to the summit of Everest. However, they will not need to carry these ropes through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. Seven Summit Treks’ CEO Mingma Sherpa told The Himalayan Times that a helicopter has already deposited the ropes at Camp 2.

The Western Cwm on Everest, with a sea of tents

Camp 2 at Everest’s Western Cwm. Photo: Madison Mountaineering

We don’t know whether anyone has done this previously, but this time, at least, it is in the open. And so is the debate.

Fair play?

On the one hand, the rope fixers are employees working on the mountain, so why not? It allows them to travel safely and swiftly through the hazardous Icefall. It shouldn’t affect Kami Rita’s goal to break his own record and summit Everest for the 25th time. He is still climbing the entire way. He is just traveling lighter until Camp 2.

On the other hand, the move supports those voices criticizing the overuse of helicopters at Everest, including clients’ potential taxi rides above Base Camp.

Clearly, such tactics are here to stay, since they both increase the safety of Sherpas and save money (in porters’ wages) and time. Time is especially precious this season since Nepal’s COVID spike has pressured outfitters and authorities to close the season prematurely. Their only chance is to launch a summit push ASAP, touch the top, and (literally) fly out of Base Camp before they are forced out.

Expedition outfitters, also pressured not to disclose anything but wonderful news, barely update on the state of their teams’ rotations. “The weather looks pretty good –- a little snow in the forecast but not much wind,” Garrett Madison wrote yesterday.

“That bodes well for perhaps an earlier summit than normal, maybe mid-May if we’re lucky.”

The Annapurna experience

On Annapurna some weeks ago, outfitters used a similar helicopter-based strategy. On that occasion, however, rather than a planned tactic, the helicopter solved a serious miscalculation about the amount of rope needed. The improvised idea worked: The day after the rope (and oxygen) drop, everyone stuck at 7,400m proceeded to the summit. A record number of 68 people topped out that day.

Both outfitters and climbers consider that expedition a resounding success, but the climbing community was less fulsome in its praise. Should these summits be asterisked as helicopter-supported? If not for the fresh bottles of oxygen hauled virtually to the door of their tents, the many climbers dining on supplementary O2 could not have endured Camp 4 for three days.

Update on the no-O2 climbers

On Everest, there is particular interest in the handful of climbers intending to climb without oxygen. However, they have remained as discreet as the rest. Csaba Varga set off from Base Camp today on his second rotation. He intends to spend two nights at Camp 3, then touch Camp 4 at the South Col before returning to Base Camp. At this point, he will be fully acclimatized and ready to summit. Arjun Vajpai and Colin O’Brady have completed a rotation to Camp 2.

A light tent at night looking toward Everest

A night under the stars for Alex Txikon, with views of Everest-Lhotse and the lights of Base Camp far below. Photo: Alex Txikon

Kilian Jornet and David Göttler have not updated recently and may keep quiet until they complete whatever route they have in mind.

Finally, Alex Txikon has decided to acclimatize far from Everest and its bustling but roped-off and socially distanced Base Camp. Currently, he is on Pumori. The Spaniard spent one night at 5,800m and reached 6,200m the following morning.

+1

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Sid
Sid
2 days ago

This is the second time you’ve gotten Arjun Vajpai’s name wrong. Not Pajpai or Vajpal 🙂

+2
Eva
Eva
1 day ago

I think it is slightly unfair comparison to Annapurna here, although judging the click baiting headline, it was intended to provoke reaction (could not myself resist either). Climbers who are aspiring to get to summit are not in any case ferrying the ropes through the icefall and anything that reduces the risk of the sherpas on rope fixing is commendable. Doubt there is any other place where you’d see a discussion about such an easy increase of workplace safety.

It will not diminish the achievement of the climbers and certainly not the work of Sherpas.

+4
Walid Hamadeh
Walid Hamadeh
1 day ago

Finally! Working smart and hard. Ferrying ropes by helicopter is a fair game as it reduces Sherpas risk of injuries. I am a big proponent of even having the tents, ropes, equipment, etc. flown in to BC. This is a benefit not only to the Sherpa community but also to the many tourists that require the mental and physical health of those supporting staff and Sherpas. I would even make it part of the organized trek and summit with an additional expense item that is shared between the many expedition hungry crowd. Is it FAIR? YOU BET IT IS.

+1
glu
glu
1 day ago
Reply to  Walid Hamadeh

They are not flying them in to BC, they are flying them to camp 2… next thing you can just fly all the gear and clients to camp 4…

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
1 day ago
Reply to  Walid Hamadeh

Please explain how losing jobs to a helicopter and a pilot or two based in Kathmandu is going to help the Sherpa community. How many porters will lose jobs because helicopters deliver to base camp? How many high mountain sherpas will lose jobs because O2, ropes and other supplies are heli-delivered to high camps? Is that fair? Let’s ask those communities, not you or other foreign interests.

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Danilo
1 day ago

Why you don’t write some about the slave they land in Doha or Dubai. How many deadly are from Nepal just because they work for the World Cup? Do you prefer they work in there own country or go away because they need job?

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Ian
Ian
1 day ago
Reply to  Danilo

You’re on the wrong website, buddy.

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Valerie Brown
Valerie Brown
1 day ago
Reply to  Danilo

Sorry, what are you talking about?

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Jim
Jim
1 day ago

This has been happening for years in Everest, I don’t understand why it’s a big story all of a sudden.

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Damien François
Damien François
1 day ago
Reply to  Jim

SENSATIONALISM! This website’s main goal…

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Craig Quigley
Craig Quigley
1 day ago

Usually stirred up by you

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Momo
Momo
1 day ago

Airlifting rope is a safety measure and a non issue in my opinion. The bigger issue is the likes of Bahrainians using heli to be airlifted from BC to upper camps for acclimatization rotations. I’m afraid this may become a trend

+1
OldHikerDude
OldHikerDude
1 day ago
Reply to  Momo

I know the heli pilots are daring and highly skilled, but I believe that with increasing flights up to C2 on a regular basis, you’re also increasing the chances of something unforseen happening. I think there are still remnants of a heli crash near C2 somewhere. Flying “climbers” to higher camps for acclimitization is insane. Money talks, but things are going way too far.

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Pablo
Pablo
1 day ago
Reply to  OldHikerDude

mountaineering is dying, it will soon have another name.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
1 day ago
Reply to  Pablo

This kind of heli-peak bagging (with lavish O2, pre-roped everything and plenty of sherpas to carry your gear) already does: tourism.

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Flying high
Flying high
15 hours ago
Reply to  OldHikerDude

Seems to be a lot of misinformation – So far this season I haven’t nor has any of my colleagues or other companies to my knowledge flown people up to camp 2 from BC. Down yes, for me just rescues down but other companies have flown “paying” customers.

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Ian
Ian
1 day ago
Reply to  Momo

The Bahrain’s should all fall into a crevasse.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
1 day ago

Mountaineering (in the last few years) is already full of contradictions and window-dressing. Mountaineering has been slipping down this slippery slope for decades. People claimed that climbing brought jobs to poor, remote areas. Not very good jobs for most, but the only jobs available and ones that people with no other opportunities still vied to get. If they were good, they got the opportunity to work on the mountain for more pay, at extremely demanding, extremely risky jobs that allowed them to send their kids to school and open a lodge or teahouse, if they survived. And those risky jobs… Read more »

Lenore Jones
Lenore Jones
23 hours ago
Reply to  MuddyBoots

I am not sure about the porters, because I don’t know where the ropes were carried from, but the sherpas are still climbing up. The ropes are being sherpa-carried above camp 2, so just as many are going up, I believe. They just have a lighter load for the first part of the trip.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
21 hours ago
Reply to  Lenore Jones

On Annapurna the helis dropped rope, O2 bottles (and lots of them) and food. Probably gas for stoves as well. Sherpa make many trips to stock high camps. If this is not needed because helis do it, they likely need fewer sherpa high on the mountain. And if helis supply base camp, most of the porters are out of work.

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Flying high
Flying high
16 hours ago
Reply to  MuddyBoots

No it was only ropes dropped, no O² food or other supplies. Ask me how I know, well I dropped it there and checked the load

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
28 minutes ago
Reply to  Flying high

Media reports said otherwise and specifically mentioned O2. Specifically quoted the Pakistani climbers, who were there, breathing Os and eating the food that they said was dropped by heli.

https://abenteuer-berg.de/en/heli-doping-and-more-why-my-mountain-stomach-is-growling/#more-51577 and
https://abenteuer-berg.de/en/summit-push-on-annapurna-interrupted/

Yes, 3rd party media reports can be wrong, but isn’t it also possible that another heli company dropped Os and food?

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Last edited 20 minutes ago by MuddyBoots
Linda A. Cook
Linda A. Cook
19 hours ago

Hope to see the big 25th celebration photo.

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