Winter Everest Ends with Close Calls, No Summits

Josh Kobush returned to Everest Base Camp today, after reaching approximately 7,300m on the West Ridge. Unwinding with some of Alex Txikon’s support team, Kobusch said that he was feeling great and could have continued, “but my intuition told me to stop,” he said. “If you want to summit, you should reach at least 7,500m to 8,000m on a previous partial climb.” Further impeded by his injured foot and some stomach problems, he turned around.

The way down had some hairy moments. Descending from Camp 2 (6,850m), he was covered by avalanche spindrift while rappelling. Luckily, he was roped up, so the experience was like rappelling under a (very cold) waterfall. Later, he couldn’t find Camp 1 in the dark, so he had to pitch his tent “where I honestly had no idea where I was — in the middle of the glacier!” This is why his track yesterday put him close to but not in Camp 1. Even his last leg back to Base Camp had its thrills, which we’ll cover in a future summary.

Jost Kobusch’s location this afternoon. Graph:


Meanwhile, crews are packing up all the Base Camps. This evening, Txikon reported from Camp 2: “We took the normal route to Camp 3 but, man, there was 40 to 45cm of fresh snow threatening to slide right down on us,” he said. “It’s frustrating, we are strong, we had ropes and gear ready, but conditions are impossible. And yesterday was even worse.”

Snow newly blankets Everest Base Camp. Photo: @DiegoMartinezPh


They had expected some snow, but not the 70cm that both Txikon and Tashi Lakpa’s teams dealt with at Camp 1 on Wednesday morning. They planned to reach Camp 3, but breaking trail through fresh snow, among hidden crevasses, with very poor visibility and avalanches roaring down from Nuptse, they barely made Camp 2.

“We might have risked too much,” Txikon admitted later. “I was lucky a couple of times, with slides coming very close.”

Both expeditions have called it quits, since their climbing permits end on February 29 — too short for the snow to settle for another attempt. Moreover, Lakpa’s team wanted to set a record by climbing the mountain in just five days, and they are too late for that.

Jost Kobusch at his highest point (around 7,360m). Photo: Jost Kobusch

Both Txikon and Lakpa still have to pass under Nuptse’s flank and negotiate the Khumbu Icefall tomorrow. In its current delicate state, the Icefall may still present challenges for the climbers, tired and burdened with all the gear they’re bringing back with them.

Although no one succeeded, their clean way of tackling the mountain in winter recalled the time, not too long ago, when Everest was true exploration and not just conga lines and controversy.