The 2012 climbing season on Mt. Everest officially gets underway today when the first climbers begin to arrive in Base Camp on the south side of the mountain. They’ll spend the next six weeks or so acclimatizing on the slopes of the world’s tallest peak before attempting to climb up to the 8848-meter (29,029-foot) summit.
Mountaineers first began arriving in Kathmandu, the gateway to the Himalaya, at the end of March. After spending a few days preparing their gear and completing their planning, they slowly began to filter out to the various mountains that they’ll be climbing in the weeks ahead. Most will go to Everest, which requires an eight- to 10-day trek through the Khumbu Valley culminating with their arrival in Base Camp. When they do arrive they’ll find that the Sherpa teams have already been hard at work building the tent city that will serve as home for the next few weeks.
The Sherpa guides have also been busy preparing the route up the South Col of the mountain. Not only have they already built a route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall, the most deadly section of the climb, but also they’ve fixed ropes up to the first high camp located at 6065 meters (19,900 feet). That will allow climbers to continue their all-important acclimatization process as they prepare their bodies for the challenges of high altitude.
While the south side of Everest, located in Nepal, is the most popular route for climbers, some prefer to make their attempt from the north side, which is found inside Chinese controlled Tibet. The approach from that side of the mountain is no less challenging although it is typically less crowded and less expensive. Mountaineers can skip the hike to Base Camp as well, as it is possible to drive straight to the starting point. The first teams are expected to arrive on the north side over the next few days.
Spring is considered the best time to climb Everest as the weather is more predictable and conditions more stable. After the climbers have spent several weeks climbing up and down the mountain, letting their bodies adapt to the conditions, they’ll wait for a weather window to open that will allow them to go to the summit. When that window opens they’ll head to the top en masse with dozens, if not hundreds, of climbers standing on the world’s tallest point over the course of just a few days.