And that’s a wrap – the main Everest season is now over for another year and as always it provided us with plenty of entertainment, controversy, joy and sorrow.
Even at the top of the world it was impossible to get away from the fact that there is a Worldwide Pandemic occurring right now. Indeed, at the very moments teams and climbers were making their way up the hill, it’s home country of Nepal was being ripped apart by Covid.
Arguments raged across the globe as to whether the massive amount of Oxygen needed to climb Everest would be best used in the hospitals of Kathmandu and the like, obviously they would be, yet the discussion is never as simple as it seemed to some and the Nepalese authorities were only too happy to brush any contention under the carpet – especially when it came to cases of Covid at Base Camp.
Covid made a few teams end their season’s early. ‘Furtenbach Adventures’ called it a day in the middle of May and ‘Mountain Trip’ followed suit a week later. ‘Climbing the Seven Summits’ also brought things to a close before the final whistle, with much of their Sherpa support showing signs of the illness. Many climbers never even got past Base Camp before having to return to lower levels.
This year we saw four deaths on Everest. Pemba Tashi Sherpa fell into a crevasse on his way back from Camp 2 to 1, exhaustion claimed the life of Abdul Waraich as he returned from the summit to Camp 4, the same fate which fell on Wong Dorchi Sherpa, while Puwei Liu reached the Hilary Step before turning around, but passed at Camp 4 as a victim of the sheer altitude of the mountain.
Overall the deaths accounted for less than 1% against those that reached the summit, with early predictions suggesting just over 500 climbers made their way to the top. We should receive official numbers soon.
Summits began on May 7th, when Kami Rita Sherpa and his team of rope-fixing Sherpa’s superbly broke through and 4 days later the quickest to react were able to achieve their aims. This included now-15 times summiteer Kenton Cool, the Bahrain Royal Guard team, plus Shehroze Kashif, a young man from Pakistan who seemed to have the whole of his country supporting his successful climb.
The following day was another busy one on the peak with former NFL star Mark Pattison among those that got to the top but it would be another 10 days before others could follow that path.
The weather is always a major variable on Everest and none more so than this year with strong winds causing huge problems, disrupting plans and at one stage threatening to end the season early.
In between cyclones the 23rd and 24th of May provided a short window to the summit which was exploited by some, including blind climber Zhang Hong and Yin Hung Tsang, who broke a female record by going from bottom to top in under 26 hours.
Cyclone Yaas then hit it’s stride and I personally thought that it would be unlikely to see anyone else make it to the top of Everest this season.
Others had different ideas though.
Nimsdai led the way on the 31st of May and led all of his Elite Expeditions team to the summit. Plenty more followed them, then with the Icefall open for a bonus few days, June 1st gave us some more success with singer / songwriter Mike Posner among those able to squeeze the peak in before it was time to go home.
That final day also saw Colin O’Brady make it to the top, but not without Os like he planned, instead he abandoned that bid to experience the final stages alongside wife Jenna Besaw. It was to be a rare year that nobody made it to the top of Everest without the supplemental use of Oxygen – although some made it close.
The season closed out with the news that the most-watched pairing on Everest had to abandon their bid to stage an historic climb when tiredness brought on by the disruption caused by the various delays meant that Kilian Jornet and David Goettler were to come away empty handed. The epic entertainers were smart enough to know that this was not to be their year and the mountain will be in the same place the next time they want to try something special. We will all watch on when they are ready.
That brought to end an interesting few months, a season that has divided many commentators, and the arguments are sure to go on when everyone important has returned home and safe to their families.
For me, I tried to concentrate on the climbing and enjoyed it as always – especially thanks to those that really shared their stories and their souls with us watching on intensively to their ever-updating Social Media accounts. Through this medium it was hard not to grow bonds with people you have never met, and cheer them on with every step they made up the Lhotse face and beyond.
Followed accounts numbered in the 100s but it was great to share in the success of the likes of Jenn Drummond, Adriana Brownlee, Siggi and Heimer, Andrew Hughes, Ronan Murphy, Mark Pattison, Khrysty Mokhnatska, Arthur Muir, Shehroze Kashif and Sirbaz Khan among many others, and I look forward to hearing their extended stories in the weeks and months ahead.
You didn’t have to reach the top to be a winner of course and I thank Sanna Raistakka and Heather Werner for providing incredible updates all throughout their time on Everest and for a few months letting us in and baring themselves to the outside world and those of us not brave enough to put themselves in that position.
Until next time, be safe, be positive and be yourself.