Mt. Everest Expedition: Snowing at Base Camp is a Good Thing

Posted by: Dave Hahn | May 05, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

Snowy, cold and grey morning at Mt. Everest Basecamp.  Which is not entirely a bad thing.  In fact, we want it to keep snowing for a few days in order to change the dangerously icy conditions that exist up high on the mountain.  Of course, snow down here at 17,500 ft. doesn’t translate to snow up at 25,000 ft, but we can only hope.  The consensus between guides and expedition leaders on the mountain is that we need some sort of change before we can responsibly send climbers and Sherpas onto the rock-strafed flanks of Lhotse again.

This situation makes for a slightly tougher than normal mental game for Everest climbers.  Normally, in this first week of May we’d be putting the finishing touches on our conditioning and acclimatization in preparation for the summit.  And although we did what we could toward those goals on our last rotation up the hill, it wasn’t much without a day or two on the Lhotse Face.  But that could not be helped.  Unfortunately, we saw, heard of, and dealt with several instances of other climbers getting slammed by rock.  Such poor odds of success were not for us.  So now we are resting at basecamp and we are in limbo.  If the snow actually sticks to the blue ice of the Lhotse Face the chance of a rock blowing off the summit of the 4th highest mountain in the world and hurtling unimpeded down toward our fixed ropes would be greatly reduced and we’d be back in business.  If that happens sooner, then we might even have a chance to go back up for a more thorough acclimatization rotation before the summit bid.  If time drags on a bit before that snow sticks… we may be left with just a shot at the summit.  And if time drags on for several weeks without the change we need… a decent shot at the top is in doubt.

In our favor, the jet stream winds that were raking the mountain (and setting free thousands of precariously perched rocks up high) have eased.  The word is that the jet is to the South of the mountain now and that relatively low winds are going to be with us… which normally allows for cloud formation and some daily snow.  In our favor, there are still teams willing to risk the rockfall (and now snow sluffs) of the Lhotse Face and so we’ll get daily reports as to conditions up high and perhaps the route will still get scratched in despite the hazards.  We certainly wouldn’t ask anyone to endure these conditions, but we aren’t so proud and stubborn that we wouldn’t take advantage of the good results of such labor when conditions turn favorable.

It is hang loose time.  Cards, books, movies, naps, meals, get-togethers with other climbers, walks out to “Icy Cyber” (the position ten minutes out in the glacier that gets 3G service), conversations about the weather, the icefall, the fixed ropes and the helicopters… incidentally, there are none today and it is quiet like back in the old days, thanks to the snow.

Best Regards,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

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Comments

Hi Dave,

Great post. Glad you guys are playing it safe. Been reading a lot of reports about all the rockfall and lack of snow this year.

Zachary Zaitzeff

Posted by: zachary zaitzeff on 5/5/2012 at 4:34 pm

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