I realize that many of you are following the many blogs out there that cover the Everest climbing season. As such, you are privy to the many rumors and posturing and debates taking place about this unique season. A great source for some unbiased reporting of all of this “information” is Alan Arnette’s blog (www.alanarnette.com).
The reality is that Russell Brice, of Discovery Channel fame for his “Everest: Beyond the Limits” TV series a few years ago, has pulled his large and influential Himex (Himalayan Experience) expedition off the mountain for the season due to it being some sort of “death trap.” However, the realities for many of us on the ground here are considerably different.
Yes, the mountain is posing some unique challenges this year. Yes, the mountain is making this season more of a “climber’s season” than a “peak-bagger’s” or “trophy-chaser’s” season. Mountaineering, which I’ve been doing seriously for 15+ years, always poses objective hazards and risks. The challenge is to mitigate these risks as much as possible unless they prove too much to overcome. In my own personal assessment, we have not approached that threshold as of yet.
In fact, over the past week or so, conditions have improved markedly with the increased snowfall, which makes the Lhotse Face safer (less rock fall) and improves the climbing through the Yellow Band, over the Geneva Spur, and up the Southeast Ridge to the summit. In fact, during my climb to Camp III, I ran into climbing phenom, Damian Benegas (who I was supposed to climb Cerro Fitzroy in Patagonia with along with his twin brother Willie back in January before work issues got in the way) who was on his way to fix the lines through the Yellow Band and on up to the South Col, so there are still a large number of very experienced climbers that view this Everest season as very much within reach (including Conrad Anker, who graciously provided a viewing of his excellent “Everest: Wildest Dream” movie for us in the IMG communications tent the other day, Simone Moro, the Nat Geo/North Face team, Dave Hahn and the First Ascent team, the Alpine Ascents team, etc.). In fact, IMG’s stellar Sherpa team is heading up now to establish Camp IV and fix the route to the summit. If conditions continue to hold/improve and the weather cooperates, we could find ourselves summiting sometime around the 20th of May or so (fingers crossed).
Climbing, and the assessment of the risks associated with doing so, are and should be a very individual thing. I would never criticize Brice’s decision to end his team’s expedition, especially since I know nothing about the strength or collective experience of his climbers, but I also wouldn’t put out pre-emptive positioning papers on the reasoning for doing so that imply that those of us that choose not to follow his lead are reckless or have some sort of a death wish. To each his own, but part of the joy of climbing for me is assessing things for myself and making the best decisions possible based on the information available in that instant. In fact, we’ve had several IMG team members depart our expedition for very individual reasons this season already (some health related, others found the risks too great, etc.), and I not only respect their decisions but I also commend them for having the courage to do so knowing that those decisions must have been extraordinarily difficult to reach.
Only time will tell what this season ultimately has in store for us/me, and at this point I am willing to wait to have that revealed to me in due time…