Mountaineering :: Trekking :: Ski touring

 

This was my 12th expedition to Mt Everest. On May 16th I reached the summit with 3 members of the Jagged Globe expedition and 4 Sherpas. This was my 9th ascent of the peak.

This is a copy of the summit day report that I wrote for the Jagged Globe website.

 

Climbing Everest is never easy, but some summit days are more difficult than others. Despite all our efforts to reach the top on a straightforward day we ended up climbing to the top in quite difficult circumstances. It is a sign of the changing nature of Everest climbing that these difficulties we're entirely caused by not by weather, wind or snow, but by other people. When setting out from Camps 2 or 3 on the summit bid it is never entirely clear how many other climbers are targeting the same summit date. Only once we were underway did it become clear that there were a lot of other people on the move, and only after the climb did it become clear that a record 140 people had climbed Everest from the Nepalese side on 16th May.

We had left Base Camp on 11th May hoping to reach the summit on the 14th or 15th. We then lost a day due to a logistical issue and another due to bad weather. The same things affected many other people and the outcome was that most of the teams targeting the 14th, 15th and 16th ended up being pushed onto the same date.

It was early evening on the 15th when we reached Camp 4 at the South Col. (7950m). The weather forecast was good for the following day and we did not have sufficient supplies of oxygen to spend a rest day before attempting the summit. Although the situation was far from ideal we snatched a brief sleep and set out for the summit at 23.00hrs. This put us quite near the back of the queue of climbers heading upwards and we could see a long line of headlamps above.

The climb breaks down into three distinct sections and the first, to the 'balcony' passed without problems. The other climbers were mostly well ahead of us and any delays we encountered did not add more than an hour to the journey time. The 2018 season has been one of exceptionally snowy conditions on Everest and the slope between Camp 4 and the balcony which is often rocky has been totally covered in deep snow. Dawn arrived when we were about 30 mins below the balcony and it was fully light by the time we reached the ridge.

Conditions had not been noticeably cold during the hours of darkness, but on a totally calm day it became apparent with daylight that it was going to be a very warm day. It would have been possible to climb in light clothing but with everyone dressed in down suits it now became a major problem to avoid overheating. We were now at the tail end of a slow moving 'snake' of people and the climb to the South Summit which would take less than 3 hrs in normal conditions took more than 5 hrs.

It was after 10.00 hrs when we reached the South Summit and looked along the ridge to the main summit, 100m above. Conditions were clear and most of the rocky difficulties were buried under snow. Under normal circumstances this would make the climb easier and a time of one hour would be reasonable. But there were more than a hundred people strung out along the route, some going up and some coming down. No one seemed to be moving very quickly.

Some of our team made it to the summit in 3 hrs, others took almost 4hrs. Progress was painfully slow. Most of the climbers on the route were adequately competent and courteous (although there were a few exceptions) it was just that there were a lot of people in a confined space where passing was difficult. The 'Hillary step', or rather the deep snow covering the feature, proved particularly challenging as it created a bottleneck where it was impossible for the upward and downward climbers to pass. Above this it was a tiring 30 minute walk on a gentle incline to the top. In the one hour window when our team were on the summit there was a rotating group of about 5 - 10 other people on the summit as well. Conditions were clear and we could see a well marked trail with fixed ropes on the Tibetean side showing where climbers on he North side of the mountain had been climbing.

The only significant advantage of being at the back of the queue was that as we descended we did not meet any climbers coming in the opposite direction. Before 13.00 we we all heading down. Two of the team with their Sherpas were moving well and descended fairly quickly to Camp 4 on the South Col. The second party, of 2 climbers and 2 Sherpas, were tired and moved more slowly. They had to carefully conserve their supplies of oxygen as darkness fell and they crept back into Camp 4 at 20.30, ending a very long, but successful day.

The climbers had trained hard, both before the expedition and during the trip. We all thought that we were in good shape for the climb. However our four Sherpas proved exceptional on summit day and without their strength, endurance and assistance none of the climbers would have had a chance to reach the summit. So a big 'thank you' to Pem Chiri, Ang Rinji, Rakesh and Ong Di for making the climb possible.

David Hamilton - Everest Base Camp / 19 May 2018

 

 

David Hamilton
High Adventure
67 Castle Road
Hartshill
Nuneaton
Warwickshire
CV10 0SG

Email:  david@highadventure.org.uk

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