Climbers on Mount Everest are celebrating after more than a week of successful summit expeditions, made possible by an unusually long period of good weather. A spokesperson with the Nepal Department of Tourism told Outside that approximately 450 mountaineers made it to the world’s highest point between Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 15.
According to Krishna Manandhar, a senior meteorologist based in Kathmandu who specializes in expedition forecasting across the Himalaya, the rare clear conditions could last a few more days. “This season has been extraordinary in terms of weather and windspeed,” he said. “In ten years of forecasting for expeditions, this year has been the best by far.”
There were a number of notable ascents among the estimated 450 climbers to make it to the highest point on the planet. British mountaineer Kenton Cool stood on top of the world on Sunday, May 16, for the sixteenth time—the most of any non-Nepali climber. That same day, Austrian expedition leader Lucas Furtenbach successfully placed 17 clients and 27 Sherpa guides on the summit just 16 days after the group had left Kathmandu—a remarkably short window of time from city to summit. Furtenbach and his team used hypoxic tents for pre-acclimatization before they arrived in Nepal. On Instagram Furtenbach wrote: “I am a strong believer that this is the future of Everest climbing.”
This season has also seen its share of more obscure records, including the first person to play a bass trumpet on the summit. Fifty-six-year old South African paraglider Pierre Carter, who hopes to fly from all seven summits, became the first person to legally launch from the mountain when he flew from the South Col (26,000 feet high ) on Sunday. On three previous occasions, paragliders have illegally flown off of Everest including Lhakpa Chhiri Sherpa and Sanu Babu Sunwar in 2011. The duo continued to walk and kayak under their own power to sea level at the Bay of Bengal—earning them recognition as National Geographic Adventurers of the Year in 2012.
But what may come to define the 2022 Himalayan climbing season more than anything else is a deep field of strong female climbers who are setting multiple records.
Nepali-born Connecticut resident, Lhakpa Sherpa, broke her own record for the most Everest summits by a woman earlier this week when she notched her tenth successful climb. Lhakpa is currently the subject of a feature documentary about her life and climbing career.
Norwegian climber Kristin Harila used the favorable weather window to tick off three peaks above 8,000 meters in elevation. She climbed Annapurna on April 28 and then notched back-to-back trips up Dhaulagiri and Kanchenjunga in the ensuing 17 days. The Norwegian climber is attempting to best the record for ascents of all 14 8,000 meter peaks set in 2019 by Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja. Her plan is to now climb Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu before the current weather window closes.
Taiwanese Tseng ‘Grace’ Ko-Erh, 29, is also on her way to climb the 14 highest peaks after completing ascents of Annapurna and Makalu this season. She climbed Annapurna without using supplemental oxygen, earning the record for the youngest female to do so.
Twenty-year-old Kasturi Savekar from India became the youngest person ever to ascend Annapurna, and then claimed an Everest summit within two weeks. She told Outside that she hopes to climb Lhotse this season as well.
British mountaineer Adriana Brownlee, 21, has an ambitious goal to climb seven peaks over 8,000 meters on her way to become the youngest on top of all 14. She came into the season with ascents of Everest, Dhaulagiri, and Manaslu, and has already added Annapurna and Kanchenjunga to the list.
On May 12, 18-year-old Lucy Westlake became the youngest American woman to climb Everest. “My experience has been that [as a woman] you get judged immediately,” Westlake told Outside. “You get seen as if you’re going to be the weakest member on the team. I hope that by seeing me in the mountains and seeing other women that are doing amazing things in the mountains will really change that perception and that stereotype,” she continued.
While the skies are clear on the Everest summit, heavy cloud cover in the lower Khumbu Valley has created a hurdle for climbing teams. Once arriving back to Base Camp, tired climbers have been unable to board flights back to Kathmandu from the small airstrip in Lukla. Multiple expeditions have been delayed in returning to the Nepali capitol by the cloud clover. The groups should be arriving in the city this week.
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