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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Himalaya Spring 2017: It's Finally Go Time on Everest

After years of planning, months of preparation and training, and weeks of acclimatizing and waiting, it's now starting to look like it is time to climb on Everest. The teams on both the North and South Sides of the mountain have been patiently watching the weather forecasts for the past week or so, and conditions are starting to finally come around. But the weather windows look tight, so squads are setting off now to get themselves into position for the summit push to come.

If you've been following the season closely, and you thought to yourself that the weather seems odd this year, you're not alone. In fact, Alan Arnette has written an article on that very subject, quoting meteorologist Michael Fagin of Everest Weather who has described conditions this year as the most difficult to forecast in the 14 years he's been predicting weather in the Himalaya. He also indicated that the forecast models have often changed ever 12 hours, which is why it has been so difficult to nail down a good window to launch summit bids.

But, things are changing, and there does seem to be a two short periods of stability about to arrive. The first should take place on May 18-21 – essentially today through Sunday, and then again from May 23-25, which is the middle of next week. The teams on the mountain are now scrambling to take advantage of these calmer days ahead.

Amongst them is the IMG squad, which sent their first wave of climbers up yesterday. They're expected to reach Camp 2 today, and if everything goes according to schedule, they should be ready to summit over the weekend. But, the team's guides are keeping a close eye on conditions to determine the right time to climb. They also have two other waves of climbers waiting for their turn, with another one likely to set out today.


Joining IMG will be the Mountain Professionals who also set out yesterday, along with on the South Side, along with the 7 Summits Club and Summit Club on the North Side. Others are sure to join in on the fun too, while some are likely to hold off and wait for the second window to open early next week.

It is now being reported that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki has changed his plans to summit without oxygen from the North Side. According to various reports, he has changed his climbing permit and has jumped over to the South Side of the mountain where he will attempt the "Supercouloir Route," again without using bottled O's. In the past, Kuriki has famously tried to climb Everest solo in the fall, and has found himself in trouble on the mountain on more than one occasion. In fact, those bouts with Everest have cost him nine fingers and a few of his toes due to frostbite.

Kilian Jornet has checked in from the North Side of Everest, where things appear to be going well. A few days back he posted on Facebook that he had climbed from ABC at 6300 meters (20,669 ft) up to 8400 meters (27,559 ft), covering that distance in about six hours. You may recall, the Spanish mountain runner is preparing to make a speed attempt on the North Side of the mountain, and has already warmed up on Cho Oyu.

With teams shifting position all over the mountain, and summit pushes imminent this weekend, it looks like it will be a busy couple of days on Everest. We'll be keeping a close eye on developments there, as it is about to get very interesting. I'll post more updates as things unfold.

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