Reporting from High Camp on Mount Vinson, expedition leader Garrett Madison provides this update:
Hi, this is Garrett calling for the Madison Mountaineering Mount Vinson expedition. Today on New Year’s Day, our team the Adventure Guides and Madison Mountaineering team made the summit of Mount Vinson (4892 m / 16,050 ft) [garbled]. We had a beautiful day with perfect weather. We had the summit all to ourselves. Now we are back in Vinson High Camp. We are planning to head down towards Vinson Base Camp tomorrow. All is good here and we look forward to getting down to base camp the next day!
(photo: Madison Mountaineering archives)
I am very happy that our team experienced a high level of success and safety with all climbers who embarked on the summit attempt from Everest base camp reaching the top between May 14th and May 18th. Our small private teams (Kenton Cool’s group and the team of Ant Middleton & Ed Wardle) along and our main team of climbers are back in Kathmandu and heading home, some are home already.
We also had climbers complete the Everest and Lhotse combination climb, going from the summit of Mount Everest to the summit of Mount Lhotse the next day, altogether 36 climbers and Sherpas reached the summit of Everest plus another 6 from our rope fixing team. As in previous Everest seasons there were no injuries among our climbing team. We were supported by our incredible team of Sherpas who are an integral part of our success.
This season on Mount Everest is likely the most successful ever, given the number of collective summits versus permits issued and taking into account overall accidents / fatalities. The reason for this very high level of success all around I believe is due to 2 factors, the fact that our rope fixing team opened the route earlier than in previous Everest seasons and because a period of very good weather then manifest which allowed climbers to take advantage of the open route and good mountain conditions to climb. Because our rope fixing project was on time and well communicated to teams in Everest base camp, climbers were able to plan and prepare for summit attempts in advance of the good weather that materialized May 13th onward.
Our rope fixing team had to work hard, despite unfavorable conditions in April and early May such as a very icy Lhotse Face combined with high winds, our team was still able to fix the ropes to the summit of Mount Everest by May 13th, with double lines in places to ease congestion such as on the Lhotse Face up to Camp 3, the Yellow Band, and on the Geneva Spur. The rope used was 10.5 mm static rope, a very strong and durable rope, the anchors (primarily Black Diamond 22 cm ice screws) were placed appropriately to support large numbers of climbers.
The small number of accidents / fatalities this season were unfortunate, but on average less than what we normally see on Everest. Generally there are some accidents / fatalities related to climbers getting stuck up high on Everest in bad weather or on a very crowded summit day and then running out of oxygen (I was witness to this in 2012 when 4 climbers perished up high on Everest because the rope fixing was delayed to May 18th and few good weather days were available). Because the weather window has been favorable, climbers were able to spread out summit attempts over a week long period, so that no single day was problematic from a congestion standpoint.
Additionally, because our rope fixing project was well planned and executed on schedule, climbers were able to take advantage of the good weather window by making plans in advance of the arrival of this stable weather period.
The rope fixing project this year was coordinated by my team, with support from Adventure Consultants and our local operator in Nepal, Himalayan Guides. Initially there was some contention from other teams that this was a good idea, as traditionally the rope fixing project was managed by the ‘old guard’ on Everest and the work shared by many teams. However, the challenge of managing members from many teams often led to some confusion regarding work days, and lost efficiency when Sherpas from different teams worked together for the first time.
Our approach, keeping the project contained within essentially one team, provided us the opportunity to utilize our most capable high altitude Sherpas to complete this difficult project in an efficient and safe manner. Myself and Guy Cotter (CEO of Adventure Consultants) both climbed Mount Everest & Mount Lhotse this season, so we were able to actually be on the mountain to oversee various aspects of the rope fixing project in person rather than manage from Everest base camp as was traditionally the case by the managing teams.
I believe this “hands on” approach by the leadership influenced the rope fixing project in a very positive manner, as is evident by the outcome. We hope this example of project management, where the end result is safer and more successful climbing on the world’s highest mountain, can be carried forward to future seasons on Mount Everest!
Lhotse summits by our three members – Garrett, Josh & Mingmar Sherpa climbed Mount Lhotse, next to Mount Everest. Its the 4th highest mountain in the world. They climbed today at 9:15 am. And , now are on their way down the Lhotse Face with the other Mount Everest climbers to Camp 2.
All our Sherpas and climbers team are healthy and coming down to camp 2 . Some are in Everest Basecamp, the others will descend tomorrow from Camp 2 .
Our main team of climbers has reached the summit of Mount Everest at 5:00 am (1st Group) & 6:35 am (2nd Group) today (18th March)!
Team Members: Mr. Garrett Madison, Mr. Joshua Joseph Miller, Mr. Randolph Kidder Luskey (1st Group)
Mr. Conan Tundra Bliss, Mr. Matthew David Kernan, Mr. Tym Douglas Blanchard, Mr. David Scott Landman, Mr. Sidney McCord Pattinson (2nd Group)
Nepali Sherpas: Mr. Siddhi Bahadur Tamang, Mr. Mingma Sherpa, Mr. Ang Phurba Sherpa (1st Group)
Mr. Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, Mr. Pas-Dawa Sherpa , Mr. Lakpa-Dendi Sherpa, Mr. Sher-Bahadur Thapa Magar, Mr. Mingma Shona Sherpa (2nd Group)
They reported good conditions and are on their way down to the South Col high camp , if possible then to the Camp 2 ,where they will spend the night.
Kenton & the team fly to Kathmandu this morning .
The main team of climbers with guides Garrett, Conan, & Sid are resting at the South Col high camp (Camp 4). Our Team are in the saddle between Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse. They are preparing to depart for the summit around 7:30 PM tonight. They are planning to reach the summit early on May 18th.
Kenton, Ben, & Mark with our Sherpas headed down safely to Everest base camp and will fly by helicopter to Kathmandu tomorrow .
The team of Ant and Ed safely arrived at Kathmandu today.
More summits from our team on Mount Everest! Today Kenton, Ben, Mark, along with our Sherpas made the summit of Mount Everest and reported great conditions. They are now safe in South Col also known as Camp 4. Their team will spend tonight there and will head down tomorrow to Camp 2.
Additionally , Our main team of climbers with Garrett, Conan, & Sid are heading up to Camp 4 today. They will climb up the steep ice of the Lhotse Face, over the Yellow Band and the Geneva Spur. Their plan is to rest tomorrow and go for the summit push on the evening of May 17th , if the weather is good.
Also, The Team of Ed & Ant are safely on their way down to Everest base camp.
Our team of Ed & Ant along with our Sherpas Dawa & Sangbu have reached South Col and staying there tonight! They have good conditions and are planning to come down tomorrow to Everest Basecamp.
Additionally, Our second team of Kenton, Ben, & Mark are planning to move up from Camp 3 to Camp 4 today in preparation for their summit attempt!
Also, Our main team members of Garrett, Conan, Sid, Matt, Tym, David, Josh, & Randy are resting in Camp 2 . They are evaluating the weather conditions and preparing to head up to Camp 3 for the summit push tomorrow.
Our First Team of Climbers reached the summit of Mount Everest today, after our Sherpas fixed the rope yesterday.
Time of Climb – 8:50 am 14th May 2018
Team Members: Mr. Anthony Peter Michael Andrew Middleton (UK), Mr. Edmund Philip Wardle (UK).
Mountaineering Sherpa Guides: Mr Dawa Phinjo Lama, Mr Phurba Ridar Bhote, Mr Kul Bahadur Thapa Magar, Mr Sangbu Bhote
They have returned safely to the South Col high camp and are now resting.
Our Sherpas worked very hard today to break trail through waist deep snow and some strong winds. They have now established the climbing route to the summit of Mount Everest! They are now back at the south col high camp (camp 4).
The Rope Fixing Team Members are: Pasang Tenzing, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa, Pas Dawa Sherpa, Tenzing Gyalzen, Datuk Bhote, Pemba Sherpa, Jenjen Bhote, Siddhi Bahadur Tamang.
We are happy that our team made the first summit of Mount Everest in 2018. Now, hopefully many other climbers will be able to follow the route safely to the summit over the next week if we have good weather.
Tonight our main team of climbers are heading up to Camp 2 on our “Mount Everest (summit) final rotation”, then we will assess the weather and monitor the progress of our Sherpas who are doing the rope fixing from the South Col high camp (Camp 4). Some of our climbers (advance team) have moved up to Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face in preparation for an early summit just after the rope fixing project is completed, as May 13th and May 14th look like perfect summit days. Our second team of climbers is in Camp 2 at the moment and preparing to climb to Camp 3 tomorrow.
The last few days have been very windy on Mount Everest, however, this upcoming weather window looks very reasonable for making summit attempts! Our main team of climbers is eyeing a later weather window sometime between May 17-19, as we are in no need to rush up the mountain because we have plenty of resources, time, and energy to choose what we think will be the best summit day with the least amount of climbers from other teams on the route. Last year we summitted Mount Everest on May 23rd and had the entire route to ourselves as no other teams decided to climb that day.
We hope we are fortunate enough to again have a good summit day where we can enjoy the solitude of the mountain and the spectacular views from the top! We look forward to climbing up the Lhotse Face and onward to the Camp 3, the Yellow Band, Geneva Spur, to the South Col high camp (Camp 4)! Then preparing for the final climb to the summit of Mount Everest!
Our rope fixing team of Sherpas at the South Col high camp (Camp 4) made great progress yesterday fixing lines all the way up to the balcony. Today the winds were very strong on Mount Everest and they had to stay in high camp (Camp 4) because conditions were not suitable for climbing or rope fixing. Our plan is for them to continue fixing lines tomorrow as the weather looks much better and hopefully they will make it all the way to the summit of Mount Everest, thereby opening the route for all teams here on Mount Everest wishing to make a summit attempt!