The outer bands of the cyclone “Fani” have also reached Mount Everest. Strong winds and snowfall is reported from both sides of the highest mountain on earth. The expedition teams have no choice but to sit out the bad weather in the base camp. Luis Stitzinger leads an expedition on the Tibetan north side of Everest. I have contacted the 50-year-old German, who has already scaled eight eight-thousanders, all of them without bottled oxygen.
Luis, you were on the North Col at 7,000 meters for the first time this season. What are the conditions on the mountain like?
The conditions are generally good, on the east side of the North Col (the ascent side) there was only some wind-drifted snow and some danger of avalanches, so that the rope fixing work was delayed a little bit. The route will probably be completed later than in other years, now that the jet stream is above us and nothing big will happen on the mountain for about a week.
Before the season it was reported that there would be “eco-toilets” on the North Col at 7,000 meters, from which the human waste would be collected and taken down to the valley later. Are these
“toilets” already there and if so, what do they look like?
On the North Col nothing has happened yet, in all other camps (BC 5200m, Middle Camp 5800m, ABC 6400m) the excrements are collected in chemical barrels, which have to be removed from the mountain by the teams. A system similar to Denali or Aconcagua. This is very praiseworthy and what I have seen it is respected by everyone. The collection and removal of garbage is enforced very strictly.
The Chinese authorities had announced that they would limit the number of permits to 300 this year. How many mountaineers are de facto in ABC?
Rumours said 150 at first, but now that all the teams are there I have the impression that there are more climbers, but that the number of 300 should not be exceeded too much, because nowhere on the mountain there are queues. The next time I meet the Liaison Officer, I’ll ask for the official number.
Is there any cooperation between the various teams on the north side?
None worth mentioning, except among operators/expedition leaders who are friends of each other. But on the northern side of Everest this is perhaps less necessary than on other mountains, because the Chinese rope-fixing team takes over the part that usually requires the greatest cooperation among the teams.
What about your personal ambitions to climb Everest without bottled oxygen?
They are still high, and hopefully there will be a chance after having completed my job as expedition leader towards the end of the season. But one by one, the first priority is to accompany all members successfully and safely up and down the mountain.