May 6th: Summit tactics, and Grant’s Options

.Hi, As Grant gets to going down to BC after a successful 2nd acclimatisation round, I attach below an email I sent him exploring options. I thought it would be interesting for his legion of fans to understand how we ( as in Everest climbers) think about the days ahead. It’s a constant state of flux depending on health, mental preparation, the weather, and making choices. So here is the excerpt where I discuss with him some of the options open, and a new 3rd option at the end:

David Lim


Hi Grant
I got a sked that may match yours
3 BC – IC
5 ABC – NC
6 NC + higher
7 NC – ABC
8 ABC – BC
9 – 12 rest and recharge
Option 1
13 onwards – wait and do an early summit push?

Option 2:

13 BC – IC
14 IC- ABC
15 ABC – NC
16 NC+higher – ABC
17 ABC – BC
18 – 21 rest and recharge
21st onwards – poss summit attempts

I have factored a steady 8-day summit window that includes a descent to BC. You can use that as a benchmark to factor in dates and so on for your exit from the Rongbuk
NC- C2
C3-summit – C3/C2
C2/C3 – ABC

My feeling is that you could feasibly go for an early summit push based on the fact that this push would be your 3rd push up high with at least 2 nights at NC. If t fails, you have time for a second summit attempt, not to mention waiting out bad weather ( we waited 11 days at BC! ). The 2nd option above makes you much stronger, IMO, but then you only have one realistic window in late May or early June. If there is a long spell of unstable weather, you’d only have ONE shot at the summit. In the mid 90s, many summitted in mid May like May 10,11 and so one with the possibility of one more window opening up in late May ( we summitted May 25th, and mant got lucky on May 27, 28, 29). However, I have observed that for the north side in recent years, many are pulling off summits well into the monsoonal 1st week of June.

I felt OK to go after a push to around 6700m, and then a night at 7300m on the lhotse face – very common cycle. North side, we did one night at NC before making a summit climb – we could have done with a 2nd cycle.  Don’t forget too, you arent really getting much rest above 5500m, so you are draining muscle mass the longer you wait. The key is to make the push when your declining condition crosses the rising acclimatisation line in an X/Y type chart

I would complete this coming cycle and assess my strength, mindset and conditions. AND I would NEVER be tempted to push for the top without at least a 4-day cycle of rest to get my glycogen  supplies topped up ( usual 72  hours+ after a big workout) at BC, carbing up for the climb….

Which option do you prefer?


After the May 6th chat with Grant, my view is that he takes a bit longer than others to acclimate to zones above 6500. That , coupled with the very tough walk to ABC; a THIRD option exists after tomorrow; whereby, he could, after some days of rest at BC ( say May 7.8 and 9) ; hike up to IC at 5900m to ‘top-up  his acclimatisation, and then maybe do a hike to ABC from IC and back down to BC on May 11th. Factoring in 4 -5 days of active rest at BC; technically, he could comtemplate making a summit push anytime from BC from around  May 15th. He might also want to actually, irrespective of his fitness, hike a bit more slowly between camps to acclimatise better. For example, it may be better to take a steady 10 hours from BC to ABC, then to do it in 8, and then hang around at ABC for 2 hours waiting for your team to arrive.

As mentioned, a nice steady 8 day window is what Grant needs to summit. And this sometimes means hiking to ABC in bad weather and laying in wait for the good weather window which is critical for the days going up to NC, C2 ( 7650m) and C3 ( 8300m) prior to the summit push. So mathematically, if the weather cooperates, Grant could be making the top anytime around  20th or 21st of May.  Health,  how far the fixed rope and upper camps have progressed, sustained bad weather and all sorts of factors affect this very theoretical schedule for now.

Ulimately, Grant will have to weigh all his options, and how he is doing for the final decision.

Personally, if I am feeling well, and have been sleeping well at ABC ( Grant is not), and earlier push would be great. And if that fails, I should have options for a 2nd attempt, as there would be time left before the monsoon season. If I am feeling a little less acclimatised, I would either do the full blown 3rd cycle ( as Option 2) or the modified 3rd cycle ( Option 3), before making a summit push, at the risk of havng only one chance at the top.

So many factors and choices make the tactics on Everest very interesting. I hope this helps readers get a grasp of what goes through our minds when we are on a climb.





Posted on May 6, 2012, in Everest 2012. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Kate (Isadora) Smith

    Golly reading David’s lengthy suggestions blog there is plenty of food for thought. I expect at the end of the day the best advice will come from Everest, the weather and reading his own body signals.your plans sound pretty good to me but I’m only a novice. I expect Axe will take your blog on board. I don’t know Axe but he sounds to be a top bloke. His blogs are brill and he has kept his followers well entertained. He is a tough chap and he will certainly give it a good go. I read that he is in the middle of his climbing team which sounds a good place to be. Cheers to both you and Axe. Kate (Isadora )


  2. keep up with your excellent and hard work Grant, stay safe and healthy. There is a nice photo on Alt Junkies blog, are you the one standing in the background, or got higher? Have a nice walk to BC and a good rest. Say hello To Margaret.

    Cheers Tad


    • Hi Tad, thanks for the nice comments as usual. Passed your regards to Margaret who is doing really well so far – you should be very proud of her. I am not sure if its me in the photo sorry. If it is I am the small bald one!


  3. Kate: One of the dangerous aspects of tactics if the leader has a hidden agenda ( like wanting to wrap up early for another commitment in Kathmandu!); or it there is insufficient redundancy of resources like spare 02 masks, cylinders and so on. Another is confirmation bias : making decisions based on only considering data you ‘want’ to hear as it confirms your choices and so on. Everest climbs have been a nice research subject for academics who specialise in the area known as “decision science”.

    (David Lim)


  4. Hi Axe/David

    I read today that the Himex expedition led by Russell Brice on the South Side are pulling out of the climb due to the dangerous condition of the Khumbu Ice Fall this year….hopefully conditions better on the North Side for you. Best Youngie


  5. Hi there Axe
    I’ve been silent but following what you are up to. You have done better this year with the acclimatising, and I’m looking forward to your success on the summit climb. Thanks for the Winter volcanoes blog, I’m looking to have a good snow season. Planning well along for the ATC Saribung and Mustang expedition in October. Best wishes to you and your party, I await developments
    Kiwi Jim


    • Hello Jim!Great to hear from you, yes the weather so far looks better than last year. Good luck on your ATC trip and I look forward to catching up in NZ when I get back for some more time in the hills. Cheers, Axe


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