Irish Update - Everest Season 2018
21st May 2018: Kevin Hynes becomes the second Galway person to climb Everest.
19th May 2018: Adrian McNally summits becoming first Meath person to climb Everest.
18th May 2018: Linda Blakely summits Lhotse – 1st Irish double-summit & 1st UK woman double-summit.
17th May 2018: Linda Blakely summits becoming first Armagh woman to summit Everest.
16th May 2018: Louise McEvoy summits becoming first Dublin woman to summit via South (Nepal) side.
16th May 2018: Paul Greenan halts his attempt due to pneumonia (diagnosed by medics at base camp)
14th May 2018: Denis O’Brien halts his attempt citing significantly diminishing appetite with higher altitude.
Update (12-May-18): A few hours ago Ascent Himalayas posted the following update on their facebook page indicating that the team including Denis and Louise are now en-route to Camp 2. This is the text posted at approximately 7am this morning:
As per the update from base camp by Mingma Tsiri Sherpa Everest team (Denis O’Brien, Louise McEvoy, Simon Thomasson, Hari Mix, Ole Hovestad, Orlando Castro, Yangji Sherpa, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa & Yangdi Sherpa) are on the way to camp 2 and most of the members have already reached to camp 2 and as per the plan they summit on (2018-05-16).
So they are off, and right now all Irish climbers on Everest are at or en-route to Camp 2 as they push upwards towards a summit push over the next 4-5 days. Paul Greenan and the Jagged Globe team reported earlier today that they are holding at Camp 2 watching the weather and waiting for skies to clear ahead of them (not least so that the ropes to the summit can be fixed before they reach them).
11th May 2018: May is summit time on Everest. As I write this, some teams are off and running on their final summit rotation while others are preparing to depart base camp on their summit rotation after a month of patient adaptation and repetitive ascents to Camp 1, Camp 2 & Camp 3 to ensure their bodies can slowly adapt to the lower atmospheric pressure and reduced oxygen concentration. The recent period of high winds and crap weather (including thunder storms) seems to be drawing to a close and it is anticipated that the projected calm of the coming days will enable the summit route to be fixed very soon. Hence teams are already on the move in anticipation of this brighter spell, doubtless in hopes of snagging early summits once that summit route is set and ahead of the upper mountain becoming busier.
The summit window(s) can occurs at any point around mid to late May depending on the weather. Past Irish summits have occurred between 7th May and 5th June, with majority happening from 21st to 23rd May (see graphic further below). By now the majority of climbers will have completed their adaptation and are waiting and watching the weather for a forecast showing the jet stream moving away from the high mountain to enable summit attempts to take place. Some have spent the past week or so at lower altitudes in Gorek Shep or further down to Namche to enjoy the food, take in the air at lower altitudes, and get some improved sleep to refresh the body and soul ahead of the final push. The pending summit window might be days or weeks. Every year produces a different pattern, and every year teams jostle for position so that they are poised to take advantage of improving weather and if possible avoid crowds or queues. This is also a period where teams be somewhat hush-hush on their exact plans to prevent rumors from taking hold across base camp (not sure it makes much difference, but the paranoia still exists). In 2012, the initial window arrived later than usual and led to a massive amount of people on the march at the same time. Some expedition leaders will hold back in such cases, and credible companies will be closely examining weather patterns and reading the dynamics around them to conclude a summit push strategy. There is no entirely accurate recipe here, but there are ways in which teams can help themselves make informed decisions. Luck, patience and a dollop of game-ready & informed opportunism is what is needed.
So how are the Irish doing on Everest this year?
Paul Greenan is heading upward with Jagged Globe as I type. The team departed base camp last night, and according to Jagged Globe dispatches are now settled into Camp 2. This was the teams latest report this morning…
There were strong winds at all altitudes during the night. This led to drifting snow in the icefall. The Jagged Globe team were the first on the move this morning and had to break trail and pull the ropes free as far as Camp 1. This slowed progress and the team took 9hrs for the trip from BC to Camp 2. The Sherpa team are carrying loads to Camp 4 today despite the continuing strong winds. Later tonight the team will decide if tomorrow will be rest day, or if they are in a position to move to Camp 3.
Paul seems to be in great fettle, and the team seems to have had a great adaptation and rest period ahead of the big push.
Denis O’Brien & Louise McEvoy are both at Everest Base Camp, having completed their adaptation and are waiting to depart EBC to begin their summit rotation shortly. They are under the watchful eye of Pasang Tenzing Sherpa and are (like many others) waiting for the recent bad spell of weather to pass. Their teammate Simon Thomasson from UK is providing great updates on his Facebook page and reports that they are using the waiting period to trek to Pumori high camp to stretch their legs. Lapka Sherpa (son of Mingma Tsiri Sherpa who owns Ascent Himalayas) reported this today, which feels like a prelude to summit rotation news.
From tomorrow we will be updating our progress of our clients. As we haven’t updated for a while because our summit was not sure of the bad weather. So you can get the regular update from tomorrow on our Ascent Himalayas Facebook page and Instagram.
Louise has been dealing with a bit of a cold for the past while, which is not unusual and is tricky to shake off at altitude. She is in great spirits and is focused and looking forward to the upward push. Denis seems to have adapted very well and updates provided by his daughter Tracy on his GoFundMe page suggest everything is going to plan. I would be surprised if both are not on the move before the weekend is out.
This is a massive period for all climbers, and often a nervous time for those watching and following back home. Coverage for teams progressing up the high mountain can be patchy so be patient with them as they progress. If you have not heard anything for days, that is likely because they are focused on their climb, engaging the oxygen equipment and contending with the incredible pressures and psychological as well as physical challenges they face as they head above 7000m towards Camp 4 at 8000m and onward to the top. This is a time when positive energy and good wishes are the order of the day as the team prepare themselves for what lies ahead.
I wish them all the best of luck in the days ahead, and will be cheering them on from sea level as they embark on what will hopefully be the final and successful chapter in their Everest story.
(Photo: Denis O’Brien, Louise McEvoy & EBC trekker Stephen Cullen in Kathmandu last month)
Interview - Louse McEvoy
In keeping track of the Irish on Everest this year, I have been in contact with Louise over the past couple of weeks, and today I interviewed her ahead of her summit rotation to get some insights into her story, what motivates her and the Everest experience thus far. Enjoy.
You were born in Dublin, raised in Canada and now live in USA – Tell us about that ‘international’ Irish experience?
I was born in Swords, moved to Canada when I was 4 years old (but grew up verrryyy Irish), and then to California 17 years ago for work. My DNA is 98.7% Irish and 1.3% Northwestern Europe so I feel very Irish. After we moved, I returned to Ireland for family reasons down the years – weddings, funerals, family gatherings.
How did you get into high altitude mountaineering & what was your toughest peak to date?
When I moved to the US, I knew no one and spent a lot of week nights and weekends by myself. I joined a gym, bought a mountain bike, took flying lessons and a friend suggested a book book on Everest and it changed my life. I’ve been in the mountains ever since. 14 years ago, on a whim, I made the trek to Everest Base Camp and I’ve been climbing ever since in the hope of climbing Everest someday. I hope that day is soon. The mountains started with Kilimanjaro, then Rainier, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Denali, Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and a bunch of 14,000ft peaks in California. My toughest expedition to date was Denali in Alaska. There is no ‘Sherpa’ support on that expedition, so all climbers carry 60+lbs pack and pull 40lb sled. It’s grueling at times, especially at altitude. When I was there, we got stuck at 14k camp for 12 days (!!) because of the weather. One of the guys on my rope fell into a crevasse and a climber from the broader camp fell from 16k ft to 14k camp and died. Denali is beautiful but it was a tough expedition.
How did you train and prepare for this Everest climb?
Training included 2-3 hours on the stairclimber or treadmill plus boot camp or spin classes 5x a week. On the weekend, I would hike for 5-10 hours at peaks up to 11,000ft, most often with ankle weights and rocks in my pack.
How did you choose between Nepal vs Tibet sides or was it always Nepal side for you?
I always planned on climbing on the Nepalese side plus a good friend is climbing Lhotse this year (with the same expedition company) so it made sense to climb on the south side.
Which company are you climbing Everest with and what drew you to them?
I’m climbing with Ascent Himalayas. They are a Nepalese company. I always figured I would go with a western company, but my friend who is climbing Lhotse, reached the summit of Everest in 2013 with Ascent Himalayas and highly recommended them and wanted to use them again. I trusted his opinion and precious experience, and did some background research on AH myself, and decided to go with them too – and I haven’t been disappointed.
Tell us a little about your teammates?
We all get along and I’ve made some long term friends. There are some distinct teams who speak different languages (Norwegian, English and the Nepalese team – there are 3 Nepalese women climbing), so it’s very multi-cultural.
How has the adaptation and rotations gone so far?
So far, OK, although I’ve had a really tough head and chest cold for 2 weeks so everything has been a struggle. However, from a logistical standpoint, the AH team has done a great job of getting a large team through the rotations and camps.
Did you encounter anything thus far that really surprised you?
Honestly no. I’ve read a lot about the mountain, the climb, the time at EBC so I had some expectations plus I did the EBC trek a number of years ago and remembered all the towns and culture. I didn’t expect to get this sick which has been disappointing. I came into this climb very fit and strong but the cold and the time at EBC has been a challenge.
Will you be using supplementary oxygen up high and if yes when?
Yes – I’ll be on supplementary oxygen starting at camp 3, through Camp 4 and to the summit and back down to camp 4.
You will soon be heading into the 8000m zone – How do you prepare mentally for that challenge?
One day at a time. I have some close friends on the team and we’ve agreed to look out for one another and support each other as much as we can. One teammate and I have agreed that the headwall to camp 3 will be tough because of our colds, so we’re sticking together and encouraging one another. This isn’t a race for us, we just want to summit and be safe.
This year is the 25th anniversary of the first successful Irish summit of Everest by Dawson Stelfox. What does the mountain mean to you and was there anything in particular that motivated you to climb it?
Firstly, that’s a great anniversary and congratulations to Dawson Stelfox. The mountain means more to me than the summit; I’m here to truly experience the climb, the culture, meeting other climbers and enjoying being on the flanks of Everest. I’ve had this dream for over a decade, it’s something I’ve trained towards for many years and have climbed peaks all over the world in anticipation of climbing Everest. I’m not here for records or accolades, it’s simply my dream that I hope to fulfill.
What advice do you think is most important to give folks back home who will be following your climb and thinking about climbing Everest in the future?
Do it for the right reasons, not because it’s a “bucket list” item. This is hard and dangerous, you have to really want to be here. It might be one of the toughest things you ever do mentally or physically and you really have to prepare for that. Be here for all the right reasons and the enjoyment will be that much more.
What do you do for a day job when you are not up the side of mountains?
I work for a software security company, their headquarters is in Dallas, Texas but I work from home in Southern California because I travel so much. The company has offices globally, including Cork. I’ve been very fortunate to have an executive team who understands my dream and has graciously allowed me this much time off work.
Irish Successes on Everest - By Summit Date
The following charts visualise the various Everest summits by Irish climbers by date of Summit. [Raw data via Himalayan Database]
Irish Successes on Everest - By County
The following charts visualise where successful Irish climbers on Everest came from.
Total Everest Summits
According to Everest blogger Alan Arnette, Everest had been successfully climbed 8306 times by 4833 people since the first successful ascent in 1953. The summit of Everest straddles the border between Nepal and Tibet at an altitude of 29,035ft or 8848m. The mountain was initially named Peak XV before being renamed in 1856 after George Everest, a retired British Surveyor General who never actually saw the peak. I have produced the graphic below using raw data from Himalayan Database to show the increase in summit numbers over the years, with notable reduction in 2014 following the avalanche in the Ice Fall and effective shutdown of Nepal side, along with absence of 2015 stats due to the Nepal Earthquake & avalanche at Base Camp which occurred midway through the climbing season and led to the full shutdown of the mountain. [Raw data via Himalayan Database]
The author: Paul Devaney is from Longford and is co-founder of Irish Seven Summits and Director of Seven Summits Solutions which provides Aerospace and Digital Design services. Paul is also an amateur mountaineer and adventurer, has completed 6 of the Seven Summits and attempted Everest in 2014 and 2015. In both instances his expedition was halted due to major disasters (Avalanche in 2014 and Earthquake in 2015). Paul has climbed and trained in the Alps, and scaled mountains from Alaska to Antarctica and beyond. He lives in London, England.