The Khumbu Icefall, between Everest Base Camp and Camp I, has always been considered a treacherous part of an Everest Expedition. This year the Icefall Doctors, the team who maintain the path through the Icefall by fixing ropes and ladders, are busy preparing a new path that avoids the area at high risk of avalanches.
The most tragic event in Everest’s history occurred in 2014 when 16 Sherpa climbers were killed in an avalanche, a painful reminder of the danger of the Khumbu Icefall. The new route for 2015 will pass almost through the center of the icefall where there is almost no risk of avalanche however it will be a more difficult route which will take longer to traverse. According to Ang Dorji Sherpa, Chairman of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, the previous route followed since the 1990s was considered easier, but with climate change it is feared that the risk of avalanche from its hanging glaciers has been increasing.
Due to the high risk of the icefall, mountaineers traversed the route as quickly and as few times as possible during their Everest Expedition. By acclimatizing on other nearby objectives, most pass through the treacherous icefall only once or twice. But the Sherpa support staff had to cover the route up many times carrying loads of equipment between base camp and the higher camps.
All expeditions last year were cancelled due to the tragedy of last year’s avalanche. Sherpas refused to face the risks involved in climbing Everest without at least being insured for an amount that would reasonably care for their families in the case of their death. While everyone was sympathetic to the Sherpas who earn their living by continually putting their lives at risk, nearly 300 climbers had to return home disappointed without an attempt on the mountain. Consequently, the Government of Nepal has declared that the permits for 2014 will be valid for 2015.
We are all hoping for a safe and successful season on Everest in 2015.