The Kathmandu Post, Sangam Prasain, 11th May 2017, Kathmandu
Everest expeditions are likely to be delayed by a few more days as three straight days of bad weather have prevented experts from preparing routes to the summit.
Last Monday, seven so-called Icefall Doctors, a dedicated team of local climbers who prepare the route by fixing ropes, had made an attempt for the final push to the top. However, they were forced to return due to high winds and heavy snowfall above what is called the ‘balcony’ (8,400 metres), said Gyanendra Shrestha, a Tourism Ministry official stationed at Everest Base Camp. “We don’t see any possibility of making summit bids this week.”
Last year, nine high-altitude Nepali mountain workers had reached the top of Everest on May 11.
Shrestha said that a climbing route had been prepared up to the ‘balcony’. From Camp IV (7,920 metres), the climbers will make their final summit bid. They will reach the ‘balcony’ first, and then launch their Everest push, which normally starts around midnight.
Nearly 800 Everest hopefuls are waiting to take advantage of a good weather window this spring climbing season.
According to the Tourism Department, 373 fee-paying climbers have received permits to make an attempt on the world’s highest peak this spring. This is the highest number of climbing permits issued for Everest during a single season. With each climber hiring at least one local climbing guide, the total number of climbers is likely to touch 800 this season.
As there are a large number of Everest aspirants this season, mountaineering officials have expressed fears that there could be dangerous overcrowding if the climbing is delayed by bad weather.
On May 22, 2008, a record 135 climbers made it to the top of Everest in a single day. The record was broken on May 19, 2012 when 179 individuals reached the top in a single day due to a ‘traffic jam’ caused by a small ‘weather window.’
The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) has said that considering the large number of Everest aspirants waiting for a chance to mount a bid for the summit, a ‘traffic jam’ on the slopes cannot be ruled out this year.
Everest has seen a record number of climbers this season due to a backlog resulting from the 2014 and 2015 avalanches.
The world’s highest peak was closed for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 due to deadly avalanches. On April 18, 2014, an avalanche on Everest near base camp killed 16 Nepali guides.
The government had extended the Everest climbing permits of those climbers who were forced to abandon their bids in 2014 until 2019. That year, 326 mountaineers had received climbing permits.
Then in 2015, avalanches set off by the devastating April 25 quake killed 19 climbers, including high altitude guides and helpers at base camp and Khumbu Icefall.
This time, the government extended the permits to climb Everest for two years until 2017.
This season has already seen two deaths, those of experienced Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck and Nepali Min Bahadur Sherchan. More than 4,000 people have scaled Everest since 1953. Over 280 climbers have died attempting to scale the world’s tallest peak.