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:
I got a sked that may match yours
3 BC – IC
4 IC- ABC
5 ABC – NC
6 NC + higher
7 NC – ABC
8 ABC – BC
9 – 12 rest and recharge
13 onwards – wait and do an early summit push?
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
BC – IC
C3-summit – C3/C2
C2/C3 – ABC
ABC – BC
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.