Difficult conditions on Mount Everest – permits for the north side have arrived

View of Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse (from Namche)
View of Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse (from Namche in 2019)

“At altitudes between 6800 m and 7600 m, there are many places with open blue ice,” warned Valeriy Babanov on Instagram a few days ago. “Therefore, fit and sharpen your crampons well. To avoid misunderstandings on long ice slopes. As you remember, luck always favors the strong and prepared!” Babanov is one of the strong.

The Russian has twice been awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of mountaineering”: in 2002 for his solo ascent of the North Face of the six-thousander Meru in the Indian Himalayas, and in 2004 (together with Yuri Koschelenko) for the first ascent of the 7,804-meter-high Nuptse Shar I – in the vicinity of Mount Everest. Now aged 59, Babanov wants to scale the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen. If he succeeds, he would be the oldest person on Everest without a breathing mask. So far, the Italian Abele Blanc is in the record lists having achieved this feat. When he summited in 2010, Blanc was 55 years and 264 days old.

Babanov wanted to set off today from Everest Base Camp towards the South Col at just below 8,000 meters – “for the final acclimatization”, as he wrote in his Instagram story.

Traffic jams on the Lhotse flank

German mountaineer Norrdine Nouar also wants to climb Everest without breathing mask. “If the weather is suitable, I will rotate to Camp 3 (7,300 m) and Camp 4 (South Col),” the 36-year-old writes to me today from Camp 2 at 6,400 meters. As reported, Norrdine scaled his second eight-thousander without bottled oxygen in mid-April: Annapurna I in western Nepal. According to him, traffic jams are currently forming on the Everest ascent route in the Lhotse flank – “due to ice and a lack of skills”, says Nouar adding that around 80 clients of commercial teams had made their way up to Camp 3 and back.

Fixed ropes up to the South Col

Due to the strong winds of the past few days, there are still no tents in Camp 3, writes Norrdine. According to media reports, heavy gusts had destroyed numerous tents in Camps 1 (6,100 m) and 2.

Last weekend, the eleven-member rope-fixing team of the Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks had secured the route up to the South Col. According to the weather forecast, the wind should drop noticeably from the beginning of next week. The rope-fixing team will then probably climb up to the summit at 8,849 meters. The commercial teams will then wait for their chance to reach the highest point of the world too. So far this season (as of 29 April), the Nepalese government has issued 390 climbing permits for Everest.

Teams on the way to the north side of Everest

The long-awaited permits for the Tibetan north side are finally there. “Today’s the day,” writes Adrian Ballinger, head of the US operator Alpenglow Expeditions, on Instagram. “We’re all packed, Alpenglow Expeditions has all our permits and we’re on our way to China and will cross the border to Tibet on May 7th.”

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest
Tibetan north side of Mount Everest (in spring 2005)

Lukas Furtenbach, head of the Austrian expedition operator Furtenbach Adventures, is also waiting in the wings: “Looking forward to enter Tibet in a couple of days to climb Everest from the North side. It will be a light and fast expedition with a small team on an empty mountain.”

Because the Chinese-Tibetan authorities took so long to issue the permits for the north side, some operators had pulled the ripcord and switched to the south side.

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