Everest: As Bad Weather Continues, Impatience Grows

Some forecasts suggest that the weather window that opened on Everest last weekend would last a long time. Other models predicted increasing winds. The winds won out.

Nearly 50 climbers endured rising winds yesterday near the summit, forcing them to turn back in dangerous conditions. They now have to wait until the next window. With only short spells of good weather, the risk on Everest then becomes overcrowding.

Those who did summit on Sunday and Monday reported excellent conditions, with glorious sunshine on the top of the world. But the wind changed Monday afternoon. By Tuesday, it had reached 70 to 100 kph, surprising climbers heading for the summit.

Everest climber at dawn, with headlamp on, totally covered in down suit and mask face and O2, with Makalu in background

A member of the Climbing the 7 Summits team approaches the top of Everest on Monday. Photo: Nani Stahringer


Eduard Kubatov of Kyrgyzstan, who intends to climb Lhotse without oxygen, described how two teammates had to return around at the Balcony (8,380m) in 70 kph winds.

“I am proud of them,” Kubatov wrote. “They went on even when they could no longer see each other in the darkness.” Ultimately, both they and a large Chinese team retreated.

Frostbite and helicopters

At least, Kubatov’s partners made all the way safely down to Base Camp on foot.  Another team, led by Vladimir Kotlyar, planned to use a helicopter to descend from Camp 2 back to Base Camp, according to Kubatov. Read the post in Russian and a video in the Kyrgyz language here.

Kotlyar is a Russian mountain guide and worked last year as manager/guide for the 7 Summits Club, the company owned by Alexander Abramov. This year, Kotylar is on Everest but it is unclear whether he is again guiding for Abramov or is an independent contractor.

Airlifts above Base Camp are forbidden on Everest, except for rescues. But even if one or two climbers needed rescue, it’s unlikely the whole team did. Note that several Russians, including Abramov, used a helicopter to descend from Camp 2 to Base Camp after summiting last year, as recorded by The Himalayan Database.

Abramov himself posted a video showing the logjams at the Khumbu Icefall, the section that helicopter shortcuts from Camp 2 avoid.

The high wind has taken its toll on many climbers. The crew at the Everest ER clinic says they have heard that many suffered from frostbite. “We saw a couple of frostbites, but most of them got evacuated from higher camps directly to Kathmandu,” a spokesperson at the Himalayan Rescue Association told ExplorersWeb.

In an update three days ago, the medical team reported that they have already seen 507 patients — 80 foreigners and the rest Nepalese workers.

The tent hosting the clinic at Everest Base Camp

Everest ER clinic at Everest Base Camp. Photo: Everest ER/HRA


Teams ignoring forecasts?

But was the wind yesterday really a surprise? According to Piotr Krzyżowski of Poland, aiming for Lhotse without oxygen, the forecast showed increasing winds, yet the teams still went up.

“I don’t quite understand the leaders who push climbers in such weather, as if there’s some pressure to summit,” he wrote.

As a no-O2 climber, Krzyzowski will be especially vulnerable to cold. So although he completed his acclimatization, he will wait for low winds, expected to come Monday and Tuesday.

He won’t be alone. Many teams point to May 20 as their summit day, which may lead to crowds at the Icefall, the Lhotse Face, and the summit area. A number of no-O2 climbers are also heading up around that time, including Kubatov, Krzyzowski, James McManus, Moesses Fiamoncini, and Silvestro Franchini on Lhotse; and Hugo Ayaviri, Sirbaz Khan, Valery Babanov and Mingtemba Sherpa, Nordinne Nouar, and Karol  Adamski (with two sherpas) on Everest.

The Princess of Qatar, Asma Al Thani, has also returned for a second attempt to climb Everest without supplementary O2, with the full support of Nirmal Purja’s team. Tunc Findik of Turkey has not fully recovered from some throat problems and has decided to use oxygen on his summit push.

The climbers give a thumbs up at Everest Base Camp

Valery Babanov and Ming Temba Sherpa. Photo: Valery Babanov/Facebook



In Base Camp, impatience and anxiety have increased with the many delays. High-end outfitters such as Madison Mountaineering are ready to wait until the last week of May, to take advantage of fewer people and the usually stable pre-monsoon weather.

For other teams, however, each extra day adds to the cost of their expedition. In addition, those who had planned to summit this week will not have as much flexibility with their chosen summit day. Coordination between teams will be difficult.

To make things worse, the forecasts hint at better weather to come but are uncertain. “The forecasts are very conflicting, so we’re going up anyway,” Eduard Kubatov wrote today.

Everest in a sunny but windy Day, as shown by a wind plume on the summit ridge

Everest was beautifully sunny today, but note the plume of strong wind on its right flank. Photo: National Geographic & Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition


What will the weather be like?

“That is a problem with nearly every expedition: nine times out of ten, guides have to interpret the forecast,” meteorologist Marc de Keyser of Everest4Expeditions told ExplorersWeb.

De Keyser works with several Himalayan expeditions in Nepal and Pakistan and also provides individual forecasts. Right now, he is offering predictions for Everest and Denali.

De Keyser told ExplorersWeb that several teams have set their sights on the weekend, despite unclear conditions. Winds may drop on Saturday, but not early enough in the day.

“May 19 looks pretty good, as the jet stream is moving further south,” he says. “This will put the Himalaya on the northern/cold/cyclonic side of the jet stream, which brings huge convection clouds, heavy snow showers, and risk of thunderstorms. The top of those convection clouds could reach 8,000m. In this situation, it is possible to summit but it will be very tricky.”

“I would bet on May 20 or 21 or even after that. Convection will be less and the top of clouds lower, while the wind will be light,” de Keyser concluded.

Check the wind charts for Nepal below tomorrow and for Sunday, May 19:

Wind chart for Nepal

Wind at 9,000m on Thursday, May 16. Chart by meteoexploration.com

Wind chart for Nepal next Sunday

Wind at 9,000m on Sunday, May 19. Chart by Meteoexploration.com

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.