With the spring season slipping away, Everest climbing teams wait impatiently for their chance at the peak.
This month normally offers the best weather for climbing the world’s tallest mountain, and during the last decade, scores of people have made it to the top each year in May. In all more than 4,300 have climbed since 1953.
But this year weather has not cooperated. A week of snowfall and fierce storms with high force winds have slowed staging operations – where gear and supplies are taken up the mountain to interim camps – and also the climbers’ progressive acclimatization programs.
More than a thousand summit hopefuls and their Sherpa crews are still in Base Camp, but some have descended two days’ walk to the villages of Dingboche and Pheriche, both about 14,500 feet high, to wait. Other expeditions have packed in for this year and are coming down from the mountain, having judged the weather-related risk too high and mindful of two deaths already this season.
There is still hope, at least for expeditions that planned for an extra time of margin. Occasionally the climbing window extends into early June, as in 2007. In all likelihood at least a few of the waiting mountaineers will reach the top. (1988 was the last year that there were no successful spring ascents.)
The other would-be Everest summiteers will have learned at no small cost – between $25,000 and $65,000 each – that mountain weather can be as fickle as the deities that Nepalis believe live on the great snow peaks.