Everest teams begin summit push as storm approaches

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As a major storm forms over the Bay of Bengal, climbers at Mount Everest Base Camp begin their attempts to reach the summit in a short window of good weather that could close at any moment.

Currently the skies above the world’s highest peak are clear, but India’s Meteorological Department predicts that by Sunday coastal communities will be hammered by the first major cyclone of the season, aptly named ‘Asani’. The name means “anger” in the Sinhalese language, which is local to Sri Lanka, where the storm is likely to make landfall. In the following days, the storm could make its way further inland and eventually reach the Himalayas.

This storm is putting considerable pressure on the climbing community, many of whom have spent the past few weeks setting up ropes on the mountain and acclimating to higher camps. Around midnight Friday, several expeditions left base camp to cross the Khumbu Icefall and ascend to Camp II at 21,000 feet just below the face of Lhotse.

A rope repair team led by Everest legend Kami Rita Sherpa, 52, reached the summit at 6.55pm on Saturday, after completing the South Col lines, above the stage Hillary, and at the top, just a few days before commercial expeditions. Kami Rita Sherpa has now summited Everest 26 times, the most in history.

“The world is watching [the rope fixing team]said Jiban Ghimire, expedition outfitter and executive member of the Nepal Expedition Operators Association, a trade group tasked with setting the route over Camp II. “They have a lot of pressure.”

This team was not the first group to reach the summit this season – that honor goes to a team of 13 Chinese climbers who reached the summit on April 30 from the Tibetan side of the mountain.

Of the expeditions leaving the Nepalese camp, the first teams are expected to reach the summit on Tuesday, May 10, with the others to follow in the following days. Climbers don’t know when the storm is expected to reach the summit.

Everest is known for its dangerous crowding in the “death zone”, as hundreds of climbers claiming the summit all share a single fixed rope. Ghimire is confident that crowding of this extreme nature will not be a problem this year. “It’s the tallest mountain in the world, and of course everyone wants to get to the top as soon as possible,” he said. Outside. “But the guides also know that this is not their only chance in the season.” Ghimire also said that the total number of climbers is lower than in years past – a result of multiple global dynamics – and that guide teams are installing two sets of ropes on the summit stretch this year: one for the ascent and another for the descent.

At least ten teams have made the decision to climb this week, while others chose to remain at base camp or returned to Kathmandu to rest and prepare for the next window of favorable weather.

Team Full Circle Everest, led by veteran mountaineer Phil Henderson, chose to push for the summit. The team hopes to become the first all-black expedition to summit Everest. In a message written on sponsor The North Face’s Instagram page, the team said they hope to “change the future of mountaineering, bringing representation to the highest place on Earth and to the global outdoor community. air”.

Another climber hoping to reach the summit this week is 18-year-old American Lucy Westlake. Reaching the summit would make her the youngest American woman to summit Everest and bring her one step closer to completing the “Explorers’ Grand Slam” of climbing the highest point of all seven continents and reaching the North Poles and South. The only Ukrainian on the mountain, Antonina Samoilova also climbs.

Other climbers choose to wait out the storm: Nepalese mountaineering celebrities Nirmal “Nims” Purja and Mingma David Sherpa are staying at lower elevations.

The accelerated schedule on Mount Everest comes as dozens of climbers have already completed ascents of Annapurna, Dhaluagiri and Kanchenjunga. The first peaks on the 27,766ft Makalu are also expected on Sunday or Monday evening. Three mountaineers have died in the Himalayas so far this year: Greek mountaineer Antonios Sykaris died in Dhaluagiri in early April; Nepalese high altitude guide Ngimi Tenji Sherpa died April 15 on Everest; and Indian mountaineer Narayanan Iyer, 52. Iyer died May 6 at nearly 27,000 feet on Annapurna after apparently ignoring his guide’s repeated pleas to turn back.

This week, expedition leaders will watch the progress of the climbing teams and watch the looming cyclone with equal interest. Despite the imminent dangers posed by the storm, most are happy to operate in a somewhat normal atmosphere after two tumultuous years resulting from the pandemic.

“What I’m happiest about,” says Ghimire, “is that we’re not locked down because of COVID.”

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