Is there an adventure that piques your interest, but you’d likely never do? A place you’re obsessed with but would never go to? Maybe it’s because it’s too expensive or too dangerous – or maybe you just can’t get the needed time off to really get the full experience. For me, its climbing Mount Everest.
Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world, sits in both Tibet and Nepal. Standing 29,000+ feet tall, every year hundreds of adventurous climbers make a push towards its summit. Climbing season is from late March thru May, with summit pushes occurring in May. And every year I’m parked in front of my computer getting daily updates on each team on the mountain.
There are many reasons to have an Everest obsession – its beauty, it’s mystique and it’s controversy. My obsession began with a bestselling book called Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. I borrowed it from my sister a few years ago and before reading it, I had no knowledge of the 1996 Everest disaster (which is now portrayed in a blockbuster movie). It’s after you begin to research what an Everest climb is like, that you realize what these climbers go through for the few minutes of joy on the summit.
If I were to tell you all the reasons I’m obsessed with Everest, and in particular, climbing season, we’d be here all day, so here are a few!
Why I Follow Everest Climbing Season (and you should too!)
- There’s a serious financial and time commitment to climbing Everest. As stated above, most people are away for over 60 days to complete this dream and it’s not out of the norm to pay $45,000 for your expedition. The ordinary route is to fly into Lukla, Nepal and then trek to Everest Base Camp.
- There’s a big thrill of the unknown. You don’t know what to expect from year to year or even day-to-day. No guarantees when it comes to Everest – the unpredictability of the mountain and the weather conditions often causes climbers to turn back to the safety of camp. Remember the $45,000 price tag in #1? Well you could pay that much and still never reach the summit. You could be turned back by your guide if you won’t make the summit window or be turned away due to health problems.
- Everyone has a story. Why do people pay so much for a CHANCE at summiting? Various reasons, including fundraising. Many people climb to raise awareness or funds for organizations. This year, some of the organizations benefiting are the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and various Alzheimer’s disease organizations. Doug Hansen, who perished in the 1996 Everest disaster, wanted to inspire the schoolchildren in his hometown, who helped him raise the funds for his expedition.
- Beyond fundraising, a lot of the climbers have incredible personal stories. Many of these summits would not be possible if it weren’t for the sherpas in Nepal. Sherpas are Nepalese people serve as local guides for mountaineers. Many of the sherpas have the last name Sherpa and are born into mountaineering families. The pay for being a sherpa for a western expedition is far above the local salary but of course comes with many more risks. Lhaka Sherpa has summited Everest 6 times – more than any other woman, and is now trying for her 7th. What does she do when she’s not summiting Everest? She’s a housekeeper in Connecticut, taking care of her two daughters and recovering from a marriage filled with domestic abuse. Outside Magazine recently profiled this phenomenal woman.
- Although many may not want to admit it, morbid curiosity is a reason Everest gets so much attention. Climbers battle HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema), HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema), accidental falls, exhaustion and freezing temperatures (the summit can be -40 degrees Fahrenheit below zero) to get their chance at the top. Not only do climbers know these dangers, but as they climb the mountain there are many reminders. Mount Everest holds the bodies of many climbers that didn’t make it – and many of them you pass on your route to the top. In 2010, there was a Sherpa expedition to clear some of the bodies from the mountain. Unfortunately, since then there have been more bodies added. (Caution – link contains graphic images.) It’s often too dangerous to recover the bodies – two men died in 1984 attempting to recover Hannalore Schmatz’s body. Many of the deaths take place in the Death Zone, above 23,000 feet. Our bodies are not equipped to breathe in air in that thin, nor do physical activity. It’s pertinent that climbers pace themselves in the Death Zone, but also not linger.
- The world is ever-changing and that includes Mount Everest. Everest grows a few millimeters every year and the weather conditions change due to our environment changes. The Khumbu Glacier, which includes the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, moves constantly due to temperature changes. One obvious example of this was the Nepal/Everest earthquake in April 2015. With all these changes, guides have to stay on top of their knowledge of mountaineering and the mountain itself. Monitoring weather conditions is a major part of knowing when to summit and when to push back. Storms are a major threat to climbers.
Have I convinced you yet? Everest climbing season is one of the most thrilling times of the year, even for non-climbers. Why would I never climb? It’s not a fear of heights, if you can believe it! It’s simply for health reasons. I visited Cusco, Peru in 2014, which sits at about 11,000 feet above sea level. I suffered a bit of altitude sickness – headaches, tingly appendages and shortness of breath so bad that I couldn’t walk 2 blocks without resting. If I had to recover from 11,000 feet, how could I handle the 17,000 feet of Everest Base Camp? Altitude sickness is no joke!
As I type this, many climbers are making their way to the top of Everest – there is a small window right now and a few Sherpas have already summited. A storm is expected to blow through shortly, so it’s slightly risky. If you’ve taken the time to read this, please take the time to say prayer/send warm thoughts/light a candle for the safe journey of those on the mountain.
Here are some of the ways I’m following climbing season this year. Thanks to modern technology, many climbers are blogging (and responding to comments!) and some are even snapchatting from the mountain! The number one resource for all things Everest climbing season is Alan Arnette – I’ve followed his site for years and he tracks the locations of the all the teams on the mountain. If it’s happening on Everest, Alan knows it! Check out his blog here.
Blogs of Climbers Currently on Everest
Greg Paul (he summited today!)
Jagged Globe (summited earlier today!)
Social Media to Follow on Everest
Alpenglow – account for Alpenglow Expeditions
AdrianJB – Adrian Ballinger, summiting from the Tibetan side
CRichardsphoto – Cory Richards, summiting from the Tibetan side
Everestnofilter – a combination account for Adrian & Cory
Beyond_72 – Colin Brady
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