2018 Pre Monsoon Everest Season Wrap up from Sumit Joshi
Mountain Equipment staffer Sumit Joshi has just returned from Nepal where he lead the hugely successful Himalayan Ascent team that got 5 of their 6 clients and 4 guides to the summit of the big one. In fact it was a pretty good season across most of the 8000m+ Himalayan peaks with some quite long weather windows and periods of stable temperatures. This was obviously some great news for the local guides and visiting climbers after a number of inconstant and tragic seasons in recent years.
There was one weather window which meant 11 straight days of summits were possible. No doubt most people would be familiar with the queue photos of Everest and reports of previous seasons where 300 people have summited in a day, so to have a large summiting window was not only a huge plus for the climbers, but meant a lot easier logistical work for the guides and team leaders. The other thing that happened as a result of this stable weather was the amount of new records that were set. Steve Plain got to finish his amazing Project7in4 with a double header of Everest and Lhotse on back to back days but there were a heap of other achievements happening as well. The youngest female made it to the summit as well as an Australian climber managing a Kathmandu to Everest summit and back (including a Lobuche East summit), door to door in four and a half weeks!
It was by all accounts on track to be a perfect season for Sumit's Himalayan Ascent team however it ended on an extremely sad note when one of their guides fatally fell down a cravasse while trying to help a helicopter land on the very last day. They are now working with his family to support them both in the short and long term the best way they can.
It is hard to take away positive things with an ending like that but it does, in a small way, highlight the positive changes happening to supporting local Sherpa guides. There are more financial safety nets being put in place should tragedy strike but perhaps more exciting is that there is a much better pathway to earn more from their guiding career through IFMGA qualifications. Half of Himalayan Ascent's Everest guides are now IFMGA certified which is fantastic on a number of fronts. It means that less international guides need to be brought in and these qualified guides are able to be promoted to senior guiding rolls. This is a huge boost not only to the economy of the guides families and villages, but also is a massive boost to moral and social standing as the local guides can take senior roles on their local mountains. Decades of international guides in lead positions, although necessary for the expertise required, has taken its toll on the moral of the Sherpa climbers. We are now seeing more and more Sherpa guides reaching the full IFMGA qualification which not only means they can take control and lead their local peaks, but also means they can follow climbing seasons and lead peaks all around the world.
If you're interested in Everest or any high altitude mountaineering, or indeed trekking in Nepal, Sumit works in the Mountain Equipment Sydney store Wednesdays and Thursdays and is always up for a chat.