Before sunup on the 24th of May, the RMI Everest climbing team left Camp III at 24,000 ft on the Lhotse Face, bound for a shot at the top of Mount Everest. The only trouble was that everybody else on the mountain had the same idea at the very same time. We were shocked to see how many climbers were already on the fixed lines. Estimates ran to as many as two hundred, although it was later figured that a fair proportion were simply doing carries to the upper camps and weren't intent on staying at Camp IV or climbing for the summit. Suffice to say that we couldn't set our own pace for climbing, but eventually, by keeping going when other teams elected to take breaks, we made it into the open above the difficult Yellow Band at 25,000 ft. The Geneva Spur didn't present a significant barrier to our reaching 26,000 ft by late morning. There we found a steady wind and our Sherpa team building tents on the South Col. It was easy enough for our team to get in and start re-hydrating and resting for a summit climb, but it was tougher trying to get a read on the conditions that climb would be undertaken in. A quick count revealed about fifty other tents pitched on the Col, and a few impromptu meetings with other climb leaders decided us that perhaps in excess of a hundred climbers would be going for the summit that night. The winds continued and the latest forecasts confirmed that a ribbon of 50 mile-per-hour air would still be menacing the mountain for a further 24 hours. We looked at the steep triangular face and saw that its middle third would entail loose rock with a good chance for some of that getting kicked loose onto teams below. So there were three things that didn't work well for us… rock, crowds and wind. We made preparations for a climb, but we also began to explore the possibility of delaying 24 hours and shooting for May 26th as a summit day. We each knew that we'd be putting all our eggs in one final basket by doing such a thing. We had resources for such a delay, but we didn't have unlimited resources. If we skipped the 25th, with its known problems, we'd have to take the 26th with its unknown problems… or go home without a summit. We tried to hedge our bets, telling our Sherpa team that we'd still prepare to get up in the night unless the winds were still blowing. At 10 PM, long after the other teams had left for the top and were to be seen as a Christmas parade all up and down the Triangular Face, the winds were still strong. We committed to the next night.
It was a slightly surreal day, as always, hanging out at 8000 meters on May 25th. We wondered whether we'd missed our shot as the neighboring teams came down with a summit under their belts and not too many bad stories to tell, after all. Yes it had been windy and cold and crowded, but most seemed to have done ok and there certainly weren't new tragedies to report. Finally, in the late afternoon of the 25th, the winds began to die down. That was encouraging, but our headcount for the coming summit day was less encouraging. We'd assumed we'd be up the hill with perhaps fifty climbers, but as we prepared dinner and turned in, we'd become aware of about 80 or 90. And nearly all of these climbers were leaving quite early for the top (as in about 7 or 8 PM). There was no way to beat them out the door without simply aiming to summit in the middle of the night (a bitterly cold and slightly unrewarding proposition). We'd set out afterward and take our chances on being able to pass people when we needed to. Our alarms rang at 10 PM and we ate, drank and geared up for two hours in delightful stillness. The South Col was dead calm and quiet with the wind absent and the vast majority of the climbers already well up toward the balcony. Lam Babu Sherpa would stay at the South Col, just in case, while Tsherring, Kadji and Passang accompanied the four person climbing team. We set out at midnight and four hours later topped the balcony in perfect conditions. A half hour later we experienced an incredibly colorful sunrise and things got slightly easier, even as we took on the steep slopes below the South Summit. At the South Summit around 7 AM we crested to see an amazing and at first, frightening, phenomenon. There were at least a hundred climbers lined up waiting to descend the summit ridge. At any given point there seemed to be about 8 climbers simultaneously on the Hillary Step and dozens upon dozens on the tricky rock features between us and the step. We decided we had no choice but to sit and wait patiently in the small dip past the South Summit. There was no practical way that we could pass so many climbers on such awkward terrain. The wait turned into an hour-and-a-half, which made each of us quite nervous… since such a thing is very much the definition of not being in control of one's climb… but then we each had to remind ourselves that conditions were benign. There was zero wind, the sun was shining and there was plenty of time left in the day. Also, we salivated at the prospect of having the mountain to ourselves after the long conga line of climbers passed on their way down. Finally we stood up, shouldered our packs and shook off the cold. It didn't take long then to scramble across the ridge, up the Hillary Step and onto the summit. It turned out that three or four climbers were on the summit from the Tibet side, but that didn't stop us from thoroughly enjoying about 55 minutes on top. We had unlimited views and a very happy team as we connected with Lam back at the South Col, Yuberaj at Camp II and Mark Tucker down at Basecamp.
The descent took just a matter of hours, since there was virtually no traffic left high on the mountain. We came back into the South Col feeling satisfied, but also knowing that the big work of the day was yet-to-come. We needed to pack up camp and descend a mile to ABC in the Western Cwm. With heavy packs and hot down suits we slid down the ropes for hours and hours. Past the Geneva Spur, past the Yellow Band, past Lhotse Camp IV and Everest Camp III… down to the part of the face that suddenly seemed to be melting under our very crampons. In the space of two days, spring had turned to summer and it seemed the climbing season was supposed to be over. We were greatly relieved to hit the bottom of the wall in safety and to trudge into ABC just after sunset.
Morning still held a little anxiety for us as we each knew we'd have to successfully wend our way through the Khumbu Icefall one more time. The word was that it was crumbling and collapsing and heating up. And that turned out to be true, but we saw that the Icefall Doctors were doing a magnificent job keeping a route cobbled together through the mess. We took our time and placed our feet carefully and eventually hit all of the comfort and safety of base camp by mid-afternoon on the 27th of May.
The 28th was shower-and-pack-and-keep-fingers-crossed-day for the climbing team. Showering and packing for the obvious reasons, but keeping fingers crossed because the Sherpa team still had a final day of working in the Icefall to get all the gear down. Their strength and skill and our finger-crossing worked because they emerged victorious and unscathed by mid-day. The climb was over. By the morning of the 29th, we'd heard that there were long delays for those attempting to get fixed-wing flights from Lukla. The monsoon had worked its way into the lower valleys already and the weather was sloppy with cloud and rain. Instead we arranged a series of memorable helicopter rides from base camp to Kathmandu. There was plenty of hurry-up and wait… there was awe at the beauty of mountains and gorges seen from the air, there was sheer terror at the power of thunderstorms on small aircraft, there was gratitude for the skill of the pilots we'd watched performing miraculous rescues all season long… and at the end of the day yesterday, there was an easy dinner in a Kathmandu restaurant and a comfy hotel bed. Soon there will be home.
Thank You Very Much for keeping track of our expedition.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Update 2:45 pm Nepali time:
Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot and team are 20 minutes from camp, so they are safely through the Khumbu Icefall!
I will still keep track of the Sherpa team that is still higher up on the mountain. They need to go back up to Camp 1 either tomorrow or the next day for final loads off the mountain. Until everyone is clear of the upper mountain, I will be here in communication with the Sherpa team. What a Climb!
RMI Guide and Everest Basecamp Manager Mark Tucker
Thanks so much for all the updates and a hearty congrats to you, Dave, Melissa, and your team! You may not remember, Mark, but my wife and I met you on Everest 2010 and most recently coming down the Mweka Route on all of our last day on Kili last August. We enjoyed chatting with you.
After making great progress on their descent, RMI Guides Dave Hahn & Melissa Arnot and team are safely at Camp 2! It was a long day but sleep will be so nice with the thick air of 21,000'.
I will continue to send updates as the team makes their way back to Everest Basecamp.
RMI Guide and Everest Basecamp Manager Mark Tucker
Hooray!! # 14!!! We’re so glad for you Dave and look forward to that celebratory MARGUERITA upon return. Its hot , dry, and beautiful in Taos; but we’ve followed you once again on the RMI Blogs and cannot quite believe the number of climbers you have to contend with!! But then you usually wait it out until almost the end of your permit, and are thus successful—we’re so proud of you!!!
Posted by: Jean Richards, Lily Woll on 5/29/2012 at 7:08 pm
Congratulations Dave, Melissa and Team. Dave, please do not ever act your age. You are an inspiration to all of us.
Posted by: John Wayne Rogers on 5/27/2012 at 5:59 am
On Saturday, May 26th at 9:31 a.m. Nepali time the RMI 2012 Mt. Everest Expedition reached the summit!
RMI Guides Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot led the team of climbers to the summit of Mt. Everest at 29,035'. This marks the 14th summit for Dave Hahn and the 4th for Melissa Arnot.
Congratulations to the team!!!
RMI Guide Dave Hahn contacted Everest Base Camp from the South Summit. The team is doing well and the weather is great. They are enjoying watching the sunrise and have gotten some great photos.
The team is taking a break at the South Summit which will allow climbers descending from the summit to get past. The weather is great, the team is strong, they have plenty of oxygen and a good pace so far.
RMI Guide and Everest Base Camp Manager Mark Tucker
May 26th, 4:30 a.m. Nepali time:
Our Sirdar Sherpa, Lam Babu, is at the South Col and relaying messages during the climb.
Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot and the team are at the Balcony! The climbing team is changing oxygen bottles, having a snack and a drink. Next stop the South Summit!
Here at Everest Basecamp, the top of Pumori is just starting to catch some light. No wind. It's a beautiful morning!
RMI Guide and Everest Basecamp Manager Mark Tucker
It is 4:30 in the afternoon on the 25th of May, at South Col, Everest High Camp. We didn’t go for it last night, there a few too many people, I don’t know how many exactly, but on the order of 90 – 100 and there was a wind last night, so we didn’t pull the trigger last night.
We are going to go for it tonight. We’ve got the forecast in our favor, the winds are supposed to drop down. There are other people going for it tonight but manageable numbers and we feel pretty good about it. It’s a sunny day up here at 26,000’ and we are hanging out, making plans taking care of our selves, getting ready because tonight we want to start up for the roof of the world.
I’ll try to give you a call when we get up and are brewing up in the dark tonight and the cold. But all is well, we are going ahead with things.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
RMI Guide Dave Hahn calls from 26,000 on Mt. Everest.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn and the Mt. Everest team have decided to remain at Camp 4 and postpone their summit attempt until tomorrow night Nepali time. The winds remained strong and they are hoping for better weather tomorrow.
We’ll keep you posted.
Best of luck to the Everest Climbers!
Hey, this is Dave Hahn calling down from High Camp (Camp 4) on Mt. Everest. We are just about at 8,000 meters. I hope you can hear me the winds are beating the stuffing out of our tent fabric right now. We got up here late morning today, we moved up pretty well from Camp 3, in about 4 ½ hours. Very crowded conditions on the Lhotse Face but the team was doing well and we cruised on up here.
It was a beautiful day but as soon as we got into the South Col the wind was blowing. Our forecast has changed a little bit, it’s not looking like quite the great window of opportunity that we thought it would be. There are a number of teams going for the summit tonight. In fact, many of them are starting and it’s not even 8 pm yet. We may not be starting if the wind is still blowing. We are thinking we can wait it out and maybe get some better weather tomorrow. But we are ready to go if this wind drops and the crowded conditions aren’t too bad.
Four team members, four Sherpa up here on the South Col and it’s exciting as always. We don’t know what’s going to happen but we are going to play our cards right.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
RMI Guide Dave Hahn calls from Camp 4 on Mt. Everest.
Hello from Everest Base Camp,
I spoke with Dave and Melissa at Camp 3 and WOW did they sound great!
The climbing team left Camp 2 early this morning under perfect conditions. As they periodically checked in it sounded like they were truly enjoying the climb and taking pictures when possible. As you can imagine, under harsh weather there isn't time to enjoy the mountain and the views.
Our super Sherpa team started a bit earlier and set up tents at Camp 3 then returned back to Camp 2 to spend the night. The equipment that had been brought up there weeks ago was all intact and the team was able to pull into a well provisioned home for the night. Last I heard Melissa was kicking Dave's you know what in the stove boil off competition for dinner, Go Melissa Go!
As this climb is quickly coming to it's conclusion, and a day like today that can be so pivotal in the future success I get so excited with this good luck. Not that these tough individuals wouldn't meet the challenge of wind, cold and snow. I just like the way it is shaping up.
The weather forecast is still looking good with winds decreasing over the next few days. You have to love that!
The Sherpa team will get out of Camp 2 early tomorrow morning and the climbing team will try and have a seamless hand off of some gear to them from Camp 3, check out time should be around 6:00 am. Then the whole team should climb together up to high camp the South Col, getting there midday, that should allow enough time for rest and preparation for early departure toward the summit that night.
RMI Guide & Everest Base Camp Manager Mark Tucker
RMI Guide Dave Hahn checks in from Camp 3 on Mt. Everest.