It will be a very busy day today at the top of the world. After months of planning and weeks of preparation, today is the day that the climbers on Everest will begin heading up to the summit en masse. For most it will be the culmination of a lifelong dream to climb the highest mountain on Earth, for others it will simply be the latest climb in their pursuit of mountaineering greatness.
The road to a successful summit of Mt. Everest in May actually begins in March. That’s when teams of mountaineers first arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal, and start to make their way out to the remote Himalayan peak. If they’re climbing the most common route, from the South Side, they’ll first have to make an 8- to 10-day trek to Base Camp. They can also elect to climb from the North, which is generally less crowded, but in order to get there they’ll first have to cross the border into Tibet. Once they’ve made that crossing, however, they can actually reach BC by car.
After they’ve settled into their respective Base Camp, the process of acclimatization begins. By making a series of climbs up and down the mountain, going a little higher each time, the climbers prepare their bodies for the challenges of dealing with altitude. Slowly but surely they adjust to breathing less oxygen as they hone their technical skills and keep an eye on the weather. The climbers know they need the perfect window of opportunity to reach the summit, as misjudging the conditions can be fatal.That is where most teams have been for the past week or so. With their acclimatization completed, the climbers have been watching the forecast and waiting for high winds to die down just long enough to allow access to the top. That happened yesterday, which allowed the all-important Sherpa guides to complete their work of fixing the ropes to the summit. While they were busy doing just that, a talented team of Chilean climbers blitzed past them and nabbed the first successful summits of the season.
Now, with the ropes firmly in place, the rest of the climbers can begin heading up as well. Over the next few days, several hundred climbers will reach the top of the mountain from both the North and the South Sides. With a little luck they’ll all get up and down safely. After nearly two months away from home, they’ll be eager to pack up and get back to their lives.
[Photo Credit: BabaSteve via WikiMedia]