Another climbing season is well underway on Mt. Everest, and if you haven't been following the latest news from the Khumbu Valley, you've been missing out on what's already proven an eventful, accident-prone, and contentious season, full of avalanches, rockfall, helicopter evacuations, two deaths, and what one veteran outfitter called the most dangerous conditions he'd ever seen on the mountain.
But if these people were easily dissuaded, they wouldn't be climbing Everest, and so preparations continue, teams are making rotations up the mountain, and pretty soon they'll be looking for a weather window for a summit push. Two groups I'm watching closely are the Eddie Bauer-sponsored teams aiming to commemorate the Bauer-sponsored first American ascent of Everest in 1963.
One team features guides Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot attempting the South Col route with Leif Whittaker, son of Jim Whittaker, who was the first American man to stand on the summit. Additional trivia: Hahn, who holds the non-Sherpa record for Everest ascents, will be aiming to stand on top of the world for the 14th (fourteenth!) time; and Arnot will be going for her 4th summit, which would give her the record for most summits by a non-Sherpani. The second Eddit Bauer team, consisting of Jake Norton, Brent Bishop, Charley Mace, and David Morton, will be attempting to follow in the crampon-steps of Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld's legendary ascent of the treacherous West Ridge, which also happened on the Bauer-sponsored 1963 expedition. (It should be noted that I have a slight bias here: Arnot, Hahn, and Norton were all also partly responsible for getting me up Aconcagua in 2009--see the Men's Journal article here.)
And for the best and most up-to-date reporting coming out of basecamp, you really should be checking in on what Outside's Grayson Schaffer has to say. Grayson's been embedded with the Bauer teams from the start, but his reporting covers all aspects of basecamp's mixture of the tragic and the comic. In the latter category, see his excellent mini-profile of Aydin Irmak, "a 46-year-old Turkish New Yorker" who has been "pushing a 33-pound, steel-frame single speed around Base Camp." Writes Schaffer:
The short version of Irmak’s story is that he plans to carry his bike to the summit. He's not trying to raise awareness for any cause, not trying to beam images of himself to schoolchildren back home, not trying to find fame and, in fact, is trying very hard to keep a low profile in Base Camp. Too many people have already let him know that his quest is foolish, dangerous, irresponsible, or worse. But like most New Yorkers, he doesn't care what you think.
The long version...
Well, for the long version, click over to Outside. Well worth the read.