North side of Mount Everest: Only the optimists are still sticking to their plans

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest
Tibetan north side of Mount Everest

This much is already clear: Mount Everest will also be a much lonelier mountain on the Tibetan north side this spring than on the Nepalese south side. While the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism has so far (as of 24 April) issued 388 climbing permits for Everest, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities – as reported – are still stalling the foreign expedition teams. In any case, the number of permits is capped at 300. But there will be nowhere near that many this spring.

Permits to enter Tibet and attempt Everest will reportedly be issued after the Chinese holidays around 1 May, Labor Day, at the earliest. In China, the authorities will remain closed until 5 May for this occasion. If the permits are finally issued, it would still take a few days for the teams to arrive at the Advanced Base Camp at just below 6,500 meters. Realistically, there would then only be around three weeks until the end of the season at the beginning of June to reach the summit. A tight time window.

Some operators pulled the ripcord

Everest base camp on the north side (in 2005)
Everest Base Camp on the north side (in 2005)

Too tight, say some expedition operators and have already given up their plans to climb via the Tibetan north side. Adventure Peaks, Arnold Coster Expeditions and Kobler&Partner pulled the ripcord and switched their teams to the south side.

Most of the north-side clients of operator Furtenbach Adventures also joined its team on the south side. “We are still waiting with a smaller team for the north side and are confident that we will be able to enter soon,” Lukas Furtenbach, head of the company, writes to me. “We are all perfectly pre-acclimatized and therefore won’t need long. Our whole expedition was only planned for three weeks.”

Fixed ropes up to North Col

Mingma Sherpa, head of the Nepalese operator Climbalaya, remains also optimistic that summit successes will also be possible via the Tibetan side this season. “Climbalaya will still go to the north side with a smaller team,” Mingma writes to me. “At the moment our committed north side clients are acclimatizing in Nepal and will cross the border as soon as we get the visas.”

The base camp at around 5,200 meters and the Advanced Base Camp have already been set up, and the route is already secured with fixed ropes up to the North Col at 7,000 meters, says Mingma: “So we believe that we still have time to make it for the summit window.”

Climbalaya mess tent in the Tibetan Everest Base Camp
Climbalaya mess tent in the Tibetan Everest Base Camp

Alpenglow still hopes to return to Everest

The US operator Alpenglow Expeditions has not yet lost its optimism either and is sticking to its plan to climb via the Northeast Ridge. “The window still works for us on the North side despite the delay,” the company writes to me. “And we’re excited to get back to the mountain.” Unlike all other operators, Alpenglow had taken Mount Everest completely out of the program when the north side was de facto closed to foreign teams for the past four years.

From 2020 to 2022, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities had closed the mountains of Tibet to foreigners due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, they delayed issuing Everest permits for so long that the interested expedition operators ran out of time in the end. In Tibet, you have to be prepared for anything.

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