Today will be a busy day on the world’s tallest mountain as the first commercial climbers of the year make their way to the summit of Mt. Everest. As has been the case for most of the past 60 years, they’ll all be climbing along the two standard routes up the North and South Col. Those routes are arguably the easiest paths to the summit, which is why they remain the most commonly used. But earlier this spring we told you about two teams of climbers who were hoping to open entirely new routes this season. Sadly, both of those efforts have come to an end and in each case it was due to tragic circumstances.
The first of those two expeditions had planned to attempt a new route along the difficult West Ridge. The team that was hoping to make that climb consisted of Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck, Italian Simone Moro and Brit Jonathan Griffin. If those names sound familiar, it is because they were the three men who were attacked by a mob of Sherpas a few weeks back. While they managed to survive that scrape without serious injury, the incident left all three men completely rattled. Once the dust settled, none of them felt safe continuing their climb, so they pulled the plug on their expedition and went home.
The other team attempting a new route on Everest this spring was the climbing duo of Denis Urubko and Alexey Bolotov. The two men worked hard all season long, acclimatizing to the altitude and scouting their proposed route along the Southwest Face. Last week Denis and Alexey wrapped up their preparations and were ready to begin their climb at last. The plan was to go up in alpine style and without the use of supplemental oxygen, making this a truly pioneering expedition.
Unfortunately this attempt came to an end on Wednesday with the tragic death of Bolotov. Details remain a bit thin at this time, but it seems that the Russian mountaineer was using an older fixed rope while passing through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. At some point, the rope broke sending him tumbling 350 meters down a rocky ravine. We’re told that he died instantly.
Alexey was a very well known and respected climber in the Everest community and his passing has come as a shock to many on the mountain. Not surprisingly, his partner Denis is taking the loss hardest of all. After assisting in the retrieval of the body yesterday, he is now wrapping up some final business before he too heads home.
It has been a long, strange season on Everest this spring but the end is now in sight. Over the next ten days most of the climbers will make their summit bids, wrap up their expeditions and leave the Himalaya at last. Lets hope that they all get up and down the mountain safely.
[Photo Credit: Rupert Taylor-Price]