The arrival of spring means different things in different parts of the world. In northern Alaska it marks the end of the long darkness, with the returning of the sun. Further south, in the Mission at San Juan Capistrano welcomes the swallows home, while in the Midwest, the last of the winter snows give way to blooming flowers.
Likewise, each spring in the Himalaya is marked with a ritual of its own. The end of March is the beginning of the climbing season in Nepal and Tibet, a time when hundreds of climbers and trekkers descend upon Kathmandu, where they complete the final preparations for their expeditions, before heading out to their mountain of choice, where they’ll spend as much as six to eight weeks preparing to make their summit attempts.
The majority of the climbers come for Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet. But the Himalaya are rich with challenging, and high, peaks, and plenty will have their sights set on lesser known, but no less challenging, mountains such as Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, and Annapurna.
At this very moment, the worlds top climbers are arriving in Kathamandu and organizing their gear for the climbs ahead. By the first of April, most of them will be catching a flight to Lukla, a remote town in Nepal that marks the beginning of the trail that leads to Everest. On the Nepali side of the mountain there are no roads that lead to base camp, and climbers are forced to make a 10+ day hike up the Khumbu Valley to reach their eventual destination. At night they’ll stay in traditional tea houses, and the long trek helps to begin the acclimatizaion process, which will serve them well on the mountain. By the time they reach base camp, they’ll be at 17,575 feet, and their real adventure will just be getting started. If everything goes according to plan, and the weather cooperates, by mid-May they’ll get their chance at the summit, and with a little luck they’ll be home by the first of June. But until then, they’ll work very hard, concentrate on acclimatizing, and hope that before the season ends, they’ll be standing on top of the world.