Website- Peak Freak Expeditions

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Everest North compared to South

We've been getting a lot of people asking if we'd consider going back to the North side of Everest? Tibet has its issues too, they are not exempt. You'd think that if you're going to climb and be among nature you'd be able to leave all the political differences behind. That's not the case, climbers are a liability or target in a country when things go wrong and too often they do. The Chinese government is well known to close the border to climbers and turn everyone around or be selective without notice and they certainly don't like the press. 

We've been working with restrictions the past year and a half that required our Tibet overland tours to consist of a minimum of five people, all the same nationality. This was an attempt to keep journalists out and keep applicants true as tourists. Their logic was that it would be logistically too difficult to organize five journalist all the same nationality traveling together to dispatch news out of there. 

As for being targets, late June last year after the Everest season 10 climbers were shot in the head on Pakistans Nanga Parbat, the 9th highest mountain in the world by Taliban militants who were taking revenge on foreigners for drone attacks. It was terrifying news. Climbers used for revenge!! 

The North side of Everest in Tibet is a climbers climb. There's no ice fall to contend with and no Hillary Step, but there is a ladder to negotiate on the North East ridge that climbers have to wait out bottle necking on a busy day. The crux on the north side is the long traverse at extreme altitudes before descending to safer altitudes after your summit bid. It's long and you're tired and at risk of running out of steam or even oxygen if you move too slow. Climbers who died here aren't typically victims of avalanche or falls. Most who passed had sat down and never stood up again. 

Its cheaper on the north than the south, less people but it's harsh due to more wind and exposure than the south. There's no real sense of journey here, it lacks the beautiful Sherpa culture, village life and the friendships made along the way. There's no visitors allowed. Only climbers are permitted to the base area past Rhongphu Monastery. 

Unlike the Nepal government the Chinese government are very involved. Both having its good and its bad. You can't roam freely with the locals like you can in Nepal.  

China doesn't care much for mountaineers. They see things and get to places they'd prefer they didn't and they don't rely on the revenues from tourism to feed their people like Nepal does. They have no problem saying pack up and get out. 

It's truly a climbers climb in regards to availability of rescues. There aren't any, your pretty much on your own if you mess up. There's no helicopter service or cooperative rescue coordination among the teams due lack of resources. It's each man for himself here. 


We've been keeping an eye on the weather on Everest South this year even though no one is climbing it's still an important part of our annual observations to watch climate and the changes and effects it has on the route.

It's been very calm, little wind on the summit and lots of precipitation in the form of snow building up. There will be more avalanche activity as result on the Lhotse Face and the West Shoulder. Depending how long this systems lingers this could have been one of those seasons that no one got up due weather like the earlier years. We had a good go at the mountain for quite a spell. In the earlier years it was not uncommon for no one to get on top due weather. I think people were mistakingly starting to take the summit opportunity for granted on the south side. The north's snow issues are different due to more wind. 

Tim and team made it to Kathmandu. They opted for the helicopter to the village below Lukla named Phablu. From here they met their jeeps for bags and members that Tim organized for a 12 hour bumpy- washed out - mud road to Kathmandu. They were caravanning with a couple other jeeps doing the same. Epic to the end...

That's life in the Himalayas!

What's next for Peak Freaks?  This couldn't be even more important than now.

 Our "Triple Crown" Everest Training Climb. Helping people to become self-reliant climbers in moderate terrain at moderate elevations. Learning about yourself at altitude and leaving with the knowledge as to whether or not you can trust your own judgement climbing big mountains, or if you even like it before the big investment in time and money. Especially important for anyone considering climbing 8000m peaks.

Tim and Becky Rippel

Photo: Everest North Side - Tibet