(Image courtesy of Anju Sherpa)
This past weekend the spring climbing season came to an end on Mt. Everest, and by most accounts it was a highly successful one. As usual, the weather played a big part in how things unfolded, with high winds forcing climbers to wait a bit longer than usual to make their ascents. But, eventually everything came together as expected, turning this into one of the most memorable seasons in recent memory. Here’s a few reasons why.
Record Number of Summits
While we’re still waiting for the official numbers to come in, 2017 has the potential to set a new record in terms of the number of climbers who reached the summit. At the start of the season, the Nepali Department of Tourism said that it had issued permits for 380 climbers to attempt the South Side of Everest alone. Those permits were spread out over 41 expeditions with climbers from 44 countries. When we factor in the number of permits issued to teams on the North Side of the mountain in Tibet, the total could surpass the more than 500 climbers who summited last season.
Despite these large numbers however, there were no reports of traffic jams on the mountain this spring. The fast-changing weather forced teams to stagger their ascents, making it a safer and more efficient climb all around.
(Image courtesy of Kilian Jornet)
Kilian Jornet Sets Speed Record and Summits Twice Without Oxygen
Easily the biggest news of the Everest climbing season was the success of Spanish mountain runner turned alpinist Kilian Jornet. The endurance athlete first caused a stir when he set a new “FKT” (fastest known time) for climbing the mountain from the North Side without using oxygen, fixed ropes, or Sherpa support. Jornet set off from Base Camp at 16,732 feet and reached the 29,029-foot summit just 26 hours later.
A stomach bug slowed him down however, and even though he managed to set a new speed record with the ascent, he felt he could do better. So, five days later he departed from Advanced Base Camp for a second ascent of the mountain, this time topping out in 17 hours, and narrowly missing a second speed record from ABC. But, he did manage to become the first foreign climber to ever summit Everest twice in a season without the use of bottled oxygen.
(Image courtesy of Adrian Ballinger)
#EverestNoFilter Team Find Success
The climbing team of Adrian Ballinger and Corey Richards also topped out on Everest this past weekend. The duo spent a second season in a row sharing their thoughts on the climb via the Strava platform using the hashtag #EverestNoFilter. Last year, Corey managed to summit without supplemental oxygen, but Adrian had to turn back before reaching the summit. This year, Adrian finally achieved his goal of a successful Everest climb without the use of bottled O’s. As usual, these two characters shared every step of their journey on social media, providing followers with an inside look at what it’s like to climb the world’s highest peak.
(Image courtesy of Alpine Ascents International)
Sherpas Set Marks for Most Summits
Two Nepalese climbers also managed to set records for the most summits by a man and a woman. Kami Rita Sherpa, climbing with the Alpine Ascents International team, reached the summit of Everest for the 21st time in his career, tying the mark set by legendary guides Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa. Similarly, 42-year old Lhakpa Sherpa has extended her own record for most summits by a woman by reaching the top of the world for the 8th time. Either of those records will be tough to beat.
(Image courtesy of Kraig Becker)
A Dash of Controversy
It wouldn’t be an Everest season if there wasn’t at least a little controversy, right? This year, that came in several forms, including South African Ryan Sean Davy who was arrested for attempting to climb without a proper permit. Davy actually reached Camp 1 before he was discovered, and now reportedly faces a $22,000 fine, which is roughly twice the cost of the actual permit.
A Polish climber named Janusz Adamski also found himself in hot water after he summited Everest from the North Side but decided to descend along the South Side instead. Nepali officials have charged him with entering the country illegally and also climbing without a permit. He faces a $22,000 fine and a 10-year climbing ban.
(Image courtesy of Scarpa)
Every Everest season also brings its share of tragedy, and 2017 was no different. There were at least six deaths on the mountain this year, including Min Bahadur Sherchan, who, at the age of 85, was attempting to become the oldest person to ever climb the mountain. He died peacefully in Base Camp on the Nepal side of the mountain.
Of course, the most shocking death of all came back on April 30, when Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck slipped and fell while training and acclimatizing on Nuptse. Perhaps the most talented alpinist of his generation, his loss casts a long, dark shadow over an otherwise amazing season. To say that Ueli will be missed is an understatement, as the mountaineering community continues to mourn his loss deeply.
With Base Camps now empty on both side of the mountain, Everest has shut down for another year. How the 2018 season will be able to top this one is anyone’s guess, but it should be interesting to watch it all unfold next year.