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

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.