Saturday, May 22, 2010

Great weather at the South Col with no easy decisions

Scott called about 40 minutes ago from the South Col of Everest. The team moved up from Camp 3 in what Scott called "quite amazing weather." He said he was basically in a T-shirt as he negotiated the famed Yellow Band, a very distinctive band of sandstone that the team needed to traverse at an elevation of about 25,000 feet. The weather remained very warm as they rested, hydrated and ate after arriving at the South Col.

Located at 26,000 feet, the South Col is the low point between Everest and Lhotse. High Camp is tucked in amongst this rock strewn area and the team will rest while breathing low flows of oxygen. Scott sounded remarkably "normal" on the phone as we discussed weather forecasts, which is not something you'd expect while talking to someone at that elevation.

Vivian on the Lhotse Face

Everyone did very well on the grueling move up the Lhotse Face. The challenge now is to make the extremely difficult decision about when to head for the summit. There are over 100 climbers at the South Col, all grappling with a similar decision. The jetstream has shifted slightly to the north of the mountain, but there are still some bands of high winds to the south. Windspeeds are forecast as fairly high, but manageable, however when you add in the "human variable," of having to contend with so many other climbers, the decision as to whether to stay a day or to go becomes very challenging.

Scott and Bill are working through the many variables that will form the basis of their decision, including the amount of food they have at high camp, the plans of the other climbing teams, and the fairly wide discrepancies between our different forecast models. We have plenty of oxygen cached, so waiting another day will not affect the "O's" needed for summit day. This sort of decision is one of the most agonizing aspects of big mountain climbing and guiding. Scott reported that there were teams heading for the summit as he spoke. Leaving the South Col at 7 pm to make a nighttime summit bid seems a bit too tempered by ambition, ego and perhaps desperation for our taste.

In any case, they are poised and ready to go for the summit! In addition to our five climbers and two Mountain Trip guides, we have 12 Climbing Sherpas ready to head high as part of our team. We are therefore extremely well supported with staff and oxygen, and only wish we had a weather forecast with a higher probability of actually being correct- one way or another.

Scott said they would make "the call" shortly as to whether they will stay at the South Col for another day or head for the summit. He said if he does not call in then we are to assume they are going for the top, as they will not stop to make phone calls until they reach the summit. It's challenging to write about this without getting too melodramatic, but this is pretty high drama!

On a side note- my son Logan turns 7 years old today and just told me he is going to wish for a safe and happy summit when he blows out the candles on his Super Mario Brothers birthday cake. We're all sending our best energy and wishes on the winds to the team. A groups of the Everybody to Everest trekking team, who hiked in to Base Camp to support Paul and Denise and the Challenged Athletes Foundation are climbing a peak in California today in solidarity of the climbers and to send their best wishes out from a higher elevation.

Bill called in after arriving at the South Col. You can listen to his dispatch below.

I'll update as I hear anything!

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear your voice Bill. Sounds like the "weather Gods" are on your side. Good Luck on your last push to the summit. Be safe and know that you are being thought of as you take this most thrilling step. Karen, Clancy and the Reuter gang.