Everest: Purja Assumes Leadership at Camp 2. What Will He Do?

8000ers Everest
An Icefall Doctor at Camp 2 earlier this season. Photo: SPCC

Conditions on Everest after days of heavy snowfall are objectively dangerous. Those in Base Camp just focus on getting home, but a large number of climbers remain in Camp 2, under the leadership of Nirmal Purja. They apparently want to cling to their slim chances of summiting before they have no choice but to descend.

“Cyclone Yaas has dumped huge amounts on snow on Mount Everest over the past three days, bringing an unceremonious end to the climbing season here,” Climbing the Seven Summits reported. “There are reports of a few teams still hunkered down at C2, looking for a later window. We hope they are ok…Avalanche conditions on the Lhotse Face must be extreme.”

Everest Base Camp remained foggy and snow-covered today. Photo: Climbing the Seven Summits

“We are packing up and [deciding whether] to wait for choppers or trek down the Khumbu valley,” Garrett Madison told ExplorersWeb. “It’s still foggy in Base Camp, so we can’t see how things are up there, but word is that Nims is going up.”

Dawa Steven of Asian Trekking, whose team failed to reach the summit, adds: “2021 has been the most difficult Everest season in my entire climbing career. As if climbing to the highest point on earth isn’t hard enough, we had to deal with a COVID outbreak and two cyclones.”

What happens at Camp 2?

In Camp 2, Nirmal Purja has taken the leadership of all the teams, including his own Elite Exped, Seven Summit Treks, and Climbalaya. “I’m holding my team at Camp 2,” he reported. “The weather is a lot better today but it looks like no one is going to move forward unless we do. I will make the decision, with safety being paramount.”

Purja had hoped to reach Camp 3 today, but the actual weather did not match the sunny forecast.

Nirmal Purja yesterday. Photo: Nirmal Purja/Instagram

The Climbalaya team says that conditions should really improve in the next few hours. The two climbers on Baruntse said that today was sunny and calm for them, at least at their 7,000m position. Even so, Everest may need days for all the fresh snow to settle or sluff off.

In addition, Sherpas must again break trail and dig out the ropes, assuming that the ropes are still there. If avalanches have indeed swept the Lhotse face, all the fixed lines may have come off.

Purja may have already made his decision, according to Pascal Denoel of the Climbalaya team. The Climbalaya Sherpas have decided to stop their attempt. According to Denoel, Nirmal Purja told all the Sherpas in Camp 2 that “it would be suicidal to climb between Camp 2 and Camp 3, and then from Camp 3 to Camp 4,” because of the avalanche risk on the Lhotse face.

This may mean that he will abort or even postpone the current push.

Icefall open until June 3

Surprisingly, the Sagarmatha Committee has agreed to keep the Khumbu Icefall open until June 3, past the end of the official season (and the climbing permits’ validity). Two days ago, Nepal’s Department of Tourism told all climbers to leave the mountain but the DoT has now changed its tune.

“We have decided to give them a chance…after reassessing the weather forecast,” director Mira Acharya told The Kathmandu Post.

Such extension might allow climbers to remain in Camp 2 until the avalanche danger diminishes. A helicopter could resupply them right in Camp 2. Those who are strong, fast, and motivated enough could even return to Base Camp and go up again.

The problem remains the uncertain state of the ropes above Camp 2 and the climbers’ state of health. It is unknown whether any further COVID cases have shown up, either in BC or C2.

As for keeping the route through the Icefall open into June, this has not happened since 2005. As the monsoon approaches, temperatures rise, and the Khumbu Icefall becomes dangerously unstable.

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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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Stinky Feet
Stinky Feet
3 months ago

The problem now with Nims is his ego is too big at this point. He needs to fold it up nicely into his pack and pull the plug. It is one thing to put yourself at risk; it’s another to put your team and the icefall doctors. The mountain all season long has proven that it is not happy with how it has been treated this year. He will have more respect by calling it off at this point and getting everyone down safely as opposed to summiting this year.

+7
Paulo
Paulo
3 months ago
Reply to  Stinky Feet

No worries. After all he is (self-proclaimed) THE BEST CLIMBER IN THE WORLD…

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Alastair
Alastair
3 months ago
Reply to  Stinky Feet

He’s up at C3 now and seems to be very mindful of his team. 😊
https://www.instagram.com/p/CPdykcXjHE7/

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John T
John T
3 months ago
Reply to  Alastair

It’s not about whether they even get up to the summit at this point though. The original poster is correct, The mountain conditions, tents, oxygen supply are all unknown at this point. Why take that chance with people’s lives at stake? It is very risky leadership, whether or not the complete the climb.

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Pawel
Pawel
3 months ago

Nims already in Camp 3 with his team.
Seven Summits Treks – CAPF’s Everest Expedition 2021 and Climbalaya cancelled so looks like from bigger teams only he decided to stay

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Maysnow
Maysnow
3 months ago

Van Oss writes, he became slower and slower beetween C2 and C3, but they didn’t have anything to test. And than he writes something about conditions after a sickness. Whatever – Furtenbach did the right decision.

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