Everest: A Crowded Sunday Ahead?

Uncertain weather and recent heavy snowfall make for a nail-biting end to the Everest season. It’s now or never, as 300 climbers converge on the summit.

The prospect of worsening weather next week, followed by the closure of the route on May 28, has triggered a massive push. Leader Chhang Dawa Sherpa estimates that 300 climbers are currently heading for the summit. The regulations from Nepal forcing expeditions to summit in the order of their permits seem to have fallen by the wayside.

It seems that the only way to avoid crowds is if good weather persists for days. But now, everyone either has to summit in a mad dash or give up their Everest dreams for this season. Sunday should see a massive number of climbers on Everest’s upper slopes. We may not see pictures of crowds, but there will be crowds.

Thrashing through fresh snow, with possibly buried ropes, will tax all the climbers. Many of them have been in Camp 2 or even Camp 3 for days.

A crowded Camp 3

An unknown number of Seven Summit Treks clients were in Base Camp, hoping for a chance next week. However, as the weather cleared, some of the strongest individuals launched a 24-hour summit sprint.

“Our Everest and Lhotse summit teams are either hunkered down at C3 or ascending the Lhotse Face toward C3 as we write,” Climbing The Seven Summits posted at around 6 pm Nepal time. “The weather has cleared and the team is reporting sunny skies and low winds on the Face.”

Most climbers are now in Camp 3, including those who had been biding their time in Camp 2. Others have sped all the way to C3 from Base Camp. SummitClimb’s Dan Mazur estimates that they made the trip in nice weather in about six hours.

“Some of us were climbing on oxygen,” he admitted. Not too many years ago, climbers turned on the oxygen at the South Col, but the use of bottled gas (and the flow rate) has increased significantly.

Madison Mountaineering planned to reach Camp 4 today and begin their summit move tonight.

Still sketchy above the South Col

Above the South Col, however, conditions remain sketchy. “The wind is becoming acceptable but [is still] around 35kph,” writes Pascal de Noel of France. “Combined with the fog and snow from the Bengal cyclone over several days, the summit now appears very uncertain.”

De Noel adds that if the snow is heavy, they may have to turn back because of the avalanche risk between Camps 4 and 3 during the daytime descent. Currently, he concludes, “only the strongest will reach the top.”

Little word has come from the no-O2 climbers. Only Sanna Raistakka and Roland van Oss said yesterday that they were about to set off. They were counting on the summit pushes stretching over three days to avoid getting stuck in a traffic jam. But given the narrowing window and the mass of bodies converging on the summit, they may not have that luxury.