Each year Mt. Everest is a dramatic stage for the theater of human passion. Sometimes a Greek tragedy, sometimes a feel-good story, but always a spectrum of emotion. The Spring 2018 season was no different in its range of accounts. However, this year was one of the better years for summiting Everest. Indeed, the past two years since the devastating earthquake, Everest was relatively void of natural disasters. A major weather window allowed a record number of summits for the Spring 2018 season. For this year there were an estimated 715 summits. From Nepal, there were 476, and from the Tibet side, 239. That’s quite a bit more than the previous record year of 2013, with the total summits for that year standing at 667. As stated before, the enormous break for climbers in clear weather and warmer temperatures played the starring role. Climbers saw an unprecedented 11 days of clear skies and calm winds. This also allowed a bit of breathing room between teams, and climbers could spread out reducing the overcrowding that can tend to happen when summit days are limited to just a few days in May. Though the door of good weather was opened for quite a while, early in May was not so lucky, so the first summit was not seen until May 13th. This was followed by the May 15th summit of a 70 yr. old Chinese double-amputee, Xia Boyu, with Mingma G Sherpa and other guides on the Nepal side.
So let’s recap the season…
There were 366 permits issued, including 20 Nepali permits for 43 different expedition groups by the Ministry of Tourism. This is a record number of permits ever issued by Nepal. On the Tibet side, China issued 180.
Of the 715 summits, the first to the summit was the rope fixing team on the Nepal side at 3:30 pm on May 13th. To date, we have reported for the standard South Col Route in Nepal 229 foreigners, and 247 Sherpas to summit Everest. The reports from expedition teams for the Northeast Ridge Route are 111 foreigners to the 128 Sherpas.
Quite a few records and summits of note need to be mentioned. The majority of record holders for Everest Spring 2018 were Sherpa. Firstly, Lhakpa Sherpa from Connecticut at age 44 broke her own female record. On May 16th she has made her ninth summit. 48 yr. old Kami Rita Sherpa reached a record 22 summits; he states he would like to reach 25 summits before finishing his career on Everest. On May 14th Steve Plain, an Australian obtained all Seven Summits in 117 days. The previous record for reaching the summits of each continent was 126 days. The first ever Paraguayan to the summit was Franz P. Rassel. The biggest story this year is undoubtedly Xia Boyu. After winning an appeal overturning a Nepal Supreme Court decision to ban all double amputees from climbing Nepal’s mountains, Xia Boya at 70 yrs. old summited on May 14th. The Sherpa to accompany him was Mingma G Sherpa.
Unfortunately, as is every year, deaths occurred on Everest. This year five deaths marked the Spring 2018 season. A Macedonian climber named Gjeorgi Petkov died of a heart attack at age 63, and Nobukazu Kuriki from Japan died of pulmonary issues on his eighth attempt to climb Everest. Damai Sarki Sherpa fell into a crevasse near Camp 2 while helping a climber into a rescue helicopter. Pasang Norbu Sherpa died during his summit push at 28,051ft. Also, Lam Babu Sherpa was reported missing while supporting a Ukrainian team. One death was also reported on Lhotse which is a stone’s throw away from Everest. Rustem Amirov died from AMS complications 300 feet below the summit. Always the deaths and accidents both reported and unreported are a tragedy. It is important to take time to review the why’s and how’s of these catastrophes so as to prevent them in future seasons. However, Everest is safer now than ever before because of better weather reporting, higher use of supplemental oxygen, and using known routes with more regularity.
Overall the 2018 Spring Season was a success in summits. Record numbers of people were able to achieve a lifelong dream, and work went on as usual for the support teams and guides. Everest will always be a pull for all those whose seek to do what seems only barely possible. Seasons to come will see more of the range of human infatuation and emotion in this mythical place.