Why Climb Everest With Alpine Ascents?
Thank you and AAI for giving me the chance to participate in such an amazing and life-changing experience. Ben and his team made it possible for us to summit Everest while feeling safe and enjoying the adventure. Special thanks to Jangbu and Karma Sherpa, I wouldn’t have been able to push myself to summit Lhotse without their incredible support. – 2017 climber
There are many reasons to choose a particular guide service, but there are five main areas of concern that you should look at carefully:
- Safety Record
- Guides (professional International Mountain Guides and Sherpa staff)
- Logistics in-country
- Pre-trip planning
- Success rate
In all five categories, Alpine Ascents ranks highest in the climbing industry. No other guide service has the safety record, quality of guides, finely honed programs, and customer service that we offer.
Some of the keys to our continued success:
We have been guiding Everest (among the first), the world’s highest mountain, since 1992.
Our 2017 expedition saw 11 members to the summit. We’ve had 239 climbers in the past 13 years — most notably Sherpa guide Kami Rita Sherpa with his record-breaking 21st ascent and another successful Everest/Lhotse traverse!
Our 2016 team met with 100% summit success. In 2013, our 12th straight summit year, 39 climbers in two teams reached the summit of Everest. All seven of our Lhotse traverse team members also summited.
Our reputation for leading successful climbs on Mt. Everest is unsurpassed. Of the few thousand people to stand atop Everest, well over 270 of them have been with an Alpine Ascents expedition. With a 25+ year history of summit success, we’ve grown with the mountain, honing our logistics and technologies, and adapting to maintain our mantra of providing quality, safe, and successful expeditions. (Learn more about Everest: 2012 Outside Magazine Article on Everest Guiding)
We look to provide high quality at every leg of the journey and work hard to improve every season. Be it experienced guides, veteran Sherpa, cook staff, menu plans, dining tent, oxygen amounts, Base Camp facilities, or climber-to-guide ratios, we review every detail with great care. We encourage you to compare us (and our recent statistics) to other guide services.
The numbers speak for themselves, with over 20 years of success, even in years when other groups were unable to summit. For more about success on Everest see: “Why Climb With a Professional Mountain Guide.”
Last two climbing seasons in review
- 11 team members to the summit in 2017
- 100% success in 2016
- Seven climbers followed with a summit of Lhotse
- First Qatari to summit Everest
- First Saudi woman to summit Everest
- 100% success for famed Arabs with Altitude team
2013 proved to be a great season for us with 100% success of climbers who reached High Camp making the summit, and over 80% of the climbers who joined our climb reaching the summit. We were also thrilled to have two guides, three climbers, and two Sherpa reach the summit of Lhotse (both peaks reached within a 24-hour period). These percentages are very high when compared to other outfitters, and we certainly encourage you to compare these statistics (using the same reference points) to other outfitters. Overall totals include 39 climbers on two teams (13 climbers, 6 guides, 20 Sherpa).
Our history tells the story, as we always try to err on the conservative side when making decisions. The foundation of our goal – to be as safe as possible – is based on our team philosophy. Groups of climbers, guides, and Sherpa working together to make decisions and assist climbers minimizes risk. Whether adjusting oxygen tanks, looking for a lost glove, or fixing broken sunglasses, the support of those groups can turn these potential nightmares on a mountain into manageable difficulties. We never felt that the idea of one person being solely linked to another for support gave a climber the best chances of a safe and successful expedition. In fact, we see many groups who strayed from this idea and returned to the concept of more supported expeditions.
We also offer a support trek to Everest Base Camp for family and friends of team members.
During our 1992 expedition, 12 people summited, and in 1993, eight people stood with us on top of the world. Our 1994 expedition was marked by 10 successful summiters, with Peter Athans attaining the summit for his fourth time, a record for western climbers at the time.
The 1996 season was marred by storms, and our team was at the forefront of numerous rescues, assisting endangered climbers from other expeditions. Lead guides Todd Burleson and Peter Athans climbed to 26,000 ft. to rescue climbers, for which they were awarded the American Alpine Club’s prestigious Sowles Award. Our team made a valiant second attempt at the summit, but harsh winds turned us back.
From 1997 to 1999, our guides were involved in high-altitude research; our team worked in conjunction with the Boston Museum of Science in the installation of GPS equipment designed to measure the increasing height of Everest. Our 2000 Everest expedition was certainly one of our finest teams, led by Vern Tejas and Willi Prittie, who extended our unsurpassed safety record.
Seventeen team members reached the summit in 2002, and 2003 saw 14 members step atop the world. In 2004, 17 climbers – 100% of the guided climbers who left Base Camp – summited.
In 2005, during one of the most difficult poor-weather years to date, 15 climbers reached the summit. In 2006, 13 climbers reached the top on May 20 and our 2007 team saw 21 climbers reach the top. Our 2008 team saw our biggest success to date, with 24 team members reaching the summit. In 2009, 21 members of our expedition summited. And 2010 saw 17 members reach the summit!
In 2011, our 10th straight summit year, 16 team members reached the summit of Everest and three went on to climb Lhotse less than 24 hours later for the first time in history. Expedition leader and guide Garrett Madison, along with climber Tom Halliday and guide Michael Horst, continued on to the summit of Lhotse after returning to the South Col. These three climbers are the first people ever to stand on top of two 8,000 m peaks in a 24-hour period.
In 2012, our 11th straight summit year, 14 team members reached the summit of Everest (189 climbers in the past 11 years) and two of our team members also summited Lhotse. The events of 2012 reaffirm our commitment and belief in guiding Everest with small climber-to-guide ratios and highly supported expeditions.
- 2017 – 11 Climbers to the summit (including 2 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Ben Jones, Eric Murphy, Jangbu Sherpa
- 2016 – 5 Climbers to the summit (including 2 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Ben Jones
- 2013 – 39 Climbers to the summit (including 20 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Vern Tejas, Garrett Madison, Michael Horst, Ben Jones, Brien Sheedy.
7 climbers complete Everest/Lhotse traverse in less than 24 hours.
- 2012 – 14 Climbers to the summit (including 6 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Garrett Madison, Jose Luis Peralvo
- 2011 – 16 Climbers to the summit (including 6 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Garrett Madison, Michael Horst, Ben Jones
4 climbers complete Everest/Lhotse traverse in less than 24 hours
- 2010 – 17 Climbers to the summit (including 7 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Vern Tejas, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Garrett Madison, Michael Horst
- 2009 – 21 Climbers to the summit (including 10 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Vern Tejas, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Garrett Madison, Michael Horst
- 2008 – 24 Climbers to the summit (including 10 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Dave Morton, Vern Tejas, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Melissa Arnot
- 2007 – 21 Climbers to the summit (including 10 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Dave Morton, Vern Tejas, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Amy Bullard
- 2006 – 13 Climbers to the summit (including 5 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Vern Tejas, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Dave Morton
- 2005 – 15 Climbers to the summit (including 7 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Willi Prittie, Vernon Tejas, Lakpa Rita Sherpa Dave Morton and Jose Luis Peralvo
- 2004 – 17 Climbers to the summit (including 8 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Vernon Tejas, Jim Williams, Lakpa Rita Sherpa and Dave Morton
- 2003 – 14 Climbers to the summit (including 5 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Willi Prittie, Vernon Tejas, Luis Benitez and Lakpa Rita Sherpa
50th Anniversary of the first ascent
- 2002 – 17 Climbers to the summit (including 8 Sherpa team members)
Guides: Willi Prittie, Vernon Tejas, Mike Roberts and Jose Luis Peralvo
- 2000 – Vernon Tejas, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, and Willi Prittie to South Summit (28,700ft) with team
- 1999 – Pete Athans summited for the 6th time (most by any Westerner at the time)
- 1990-1998 Helped 39 climbers to the summit of Everest. Todd Burleson and Pete Athans receive Sowles award for Selfless Rescue (1996). Worked with Bradford Washburn in setting up laser altitude measurement systems on summit.
- 1990 Alpine Ascents International was established as one of the first Everest guide services.
Logistics That Make A Difference
We have learned that many logistical factors also effect the safety and success of an Everest expedition. A few unique examples are:
With Alpine Ascents, you will be led by professional guides. Our guides are experienced Everest and Himalayan veterans. Combined with our Sherpa support, this provides you with your best chance of reaching the top.
The most experienced climbing Sherpa on the mountain (most with between 10 and 17 summits), these climbing Sherpa are able to move our gear and supplies up and down the mountain so you don’t have to. They are also great friends and comrades.
Alpine Ascents is committed to smaller team sizes. Expeditions with 30 to 50 people are hard to manage and offer little assistance to climbers.
Alpine Ascents provides more oxygen than any other guide service. Our systems are the lightest systems available. They weigh only 7 lbs. compared to the 16+ lbs. used by some companies. We provide oxygen above Camp II. We offer a four-liter flow from High Camp to the summit and back.
For a group size of eight, we usually have 14+ Sherpas working on the mountain, carrying loads and assisting climbers. On summit day, a Sherpa will be assigned to carry extra oxygen for you the entire day.
Alpine Ascents keeps our Base Camp manageable and well-supported, and does not use it to support or house self-guided or partially guided teams. Dining tents, communication tents, and showers have been a hallmark of our legendary Base Camp.
Alpine Ascents takes a rest day at High Camp on the South Col, breathing supplemental oxygen and rebuilding our strength before summit day. Other companies climb from Camp III to the South Col (an exhausting day), reaching High Camp late in the afternoon, and a few hours later leave for the summit. We believe our extra day greatly increases summit success as well as reduces the likelihood of extreme exhaustion and the potential for accidents. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal states that 80% of the deaths on Everest happen on summit day or shortly thereafter. Marked fatigue, late summit times, and the tendency to fall behind companions are common among nonsurvivors.
We prepare your meals in every camp and throughout the entire trip. Many companies require you to cook at different camps on the mountain. This is a laborious task that often requires several hours of work to melt snow and cook meals. (See Base Camp for more details.)
We work with the Everest Base Camp Medical Center. For the last several years, we have contracted to provide you free visits to their doctors. In addition, our guides are Certified Wilderness First Responders and carry extensive medical kits on the mountain.
We contract with a private company that transmits the latest forecasts designed specifically for Everest. These forecasts allow us to choose the best summit days with much better accuracy, which increases summit success and safety.
We have the latest in satellite communications. Our dedicated communication center allows you to send emails and make phone calls to family, friends and for your business. We provide WiFi service at Base Camp. 3G cell phones can now be used at Base Camp for cell phone and smart phone communication. We also have an extensive recharging facility for your personal electronic devices.
Alpine Ascents has the best-equipped Base Camp on Everest. Heated dining tents, hot shower, personal sleeping tents, and clean bathrooms help make your life comfortable. Food and drinks are always available between the three great meals our cooks will provide you. We have a diverse menu designed by an American chef, and much of our food is brought from the US, including specialty items such as smoked salmon and imported cheeses. This helps you to consume the large amount of calories needed to climb Everest. Our attention to food and its preparation on Everest and mountains around the world have led to very few gastrointestinal issues for our team members.
We also have a full-time Base Camp manager to assist you with any needs that you may have.
We are looking for experienced climbers, for whom Everest is the next logical step in their climbing careers. Our team will be in top physical condition and ready to meet the extreme challenges Everest presents. It is important that your resumé includes previous high-altitude climbs and strong mountaineering skills. Climbs like Denali, Cho Oyu, Aconcagua, and Vinson are good prerequisites to an attempt on Everest. It is important that a team member be able to work well with others and be willing to commit to a group effort over several weeks. This team effort has increased summit success and it makes for a more enjoyable climb. You will be exposed to a completely different culture during the expedition, and as a member it is your responsibility to treat the people and their environment with respect. This ability is as important as your climbing skills.
Climbing Mt. Everest is the supreme symbol of man’s personal struggle to achieve. As a metaphor, Everest is simple and pure, man versus nature. It approaches a universal understanding of our primal desire to conquer, and will eternally stand as a symbol for triumph and failure. As long as Everest and man exist, it will draw adventurers without mercy, leaving no culture nor people untouched. Those who have summited the mountain seem unable to forget it for a moment, as if the mountain has seeped into their genetic fiber. Others who attempt or merely visit Everest are often equally affected.
Shrouded in mythos and legend, certain peaks reign over a landscape with such dominance they become inseparable from the land and people. While Denali is inseparable from Native Alaskan lore, Everest has dominated the cultures of Tibet and Nepal, long before it was “discovered” to be the world’s highest mountain. Tibetans call it “Chomolungma,” mother goddess of the universe, and to the Sherpa people of Nepal it is “Sagarmatha,” the churning stick in the sea of existence. These reverences add to the magnetic nature of the Everest and the Himalayan Range.
There is something about Everest and its neighboring cultures that intensify our desire to better understand it. The more we learn, the more we need to know. Its profound presence, geography, glaciology, Sherpa tradition, Buddhism, the mighty Yak, and even legend of the Yeti all draw us deeper into Everest’s mystique. By the time most people attempt to climb or visit Base Camp, they are so obsessed with Everest that the physical challenges are almost forgotten until, of course, they reach the Himalayas. It is truly the stuff dreams are made of.
Mallory and the Statement:
When George Mallory responded, “Because it is there” to the “Why climb Everest?” question, he passed on a sort of permanent approval to those who wished to risk their lives climbing. But one should really have asked Mallory and his predecessors, “How did you know it was there?” Possibly, “Why climb Everest?” is best answered, “Because we found it.”
By the end of the 18th century, the world did not know where the highest mountain lay. Historically, it was prime time for the “Great Game” and the struggle to conquer Central Asia. While the British developed their stronghold on the Indian subcontinent, Czarist Russia was intent on dominating the relatively uncharted landscapes of mountainous Asia. To control these areas, one had to overcome ruthless thieves and unfriendly kingdoms, as well as cross the seemingly unpassable and hostile ranges of the Pamirs, Hindu Kush, Karakorums, Garwhals, and Himalayas.
To map these areas around India, one traveled as a spy or pundit, often changing disguises as the communities warranted. These cartographers-cum-spies also needed incredible strength and climbing skills while crossing the barren terrain, and hence an explorer’s renaissance was born. These explorers would often quick-change from Muslim Cleric to Buddhist pilgrim, replete with an understanding of language, culture, and local idiosyncrasies — those minute details of movement which are a delicate part of Asian culture.
Even these skills were only a prerequisite to the goal of the journey which was to survey the regions with precision. For these explorer chameleons, it was not uncommon to hide surveying tools in everyday objects. The most famous instance of this was a surveyor’s kit and records hidden inside a Tibetan prayer wheel. Another pundit logged thousands of miles by counting every individual step. While noting what progress could be made in a day or week, observing difficult crossings, natural defenses, and watering holes for pack animals, they traveled in expedition style (a common term for a style of mountain climbing in which a series of camps are set). Expedition teams approached the surveying journey in the same way modern climbers think about a mountain.
These explorers became legendary heroes who bridged the gap between older explorers and modern day climbers.* They were, in fact, the first Himalayan climbers, as surveying the mountains was often the cited raison d’etre for an expedition’s approval and funding. The heroes became fabled characters in Kipling’s “Kim” and provided a century of literature for the Great Britain’s Royal Geographical Society.
*The mapping of Everest is a sub history in itself, with Indian surveyors of the 1950’s taking accuracy to new levels. Even with satellite methods of the 1980’s, the older figures held. Most recently, famed climber, photographer, and cartographer, Dr. Bradford Washburn, made updated calculations. Nearing 90 years of age, Dr. Washburn still conducts experiments with Everest climbers using GPS systems and a prism placed on the summit. Everest climbers Burleson, Athens, Berg, and Tejas have all worked with Washburn.
It was not until 1808 that the British fully embraced the single goal of finding the world’s highest mountain. (It was nearly 100 years later that the British dispatched Colonel Younghusband to cross the Himalayas to secure Tibet as an ally.) Charting territory from British India, they did not reach the Himalayan foothills until the 1830’s. Movement was slow in Himalayan terrain and Everest was not proclaimed as the world’s highest peak until 1852. Thirty years later, Clinton Dent raised the first serious proposal for a full-on attempt to summit Mt. Everest.
Now discovered as the highest, it was Mallory’s 1922 expedition that brought Everest and its mythos to the masses. After 114 years of mapping, Mallory could now state, “Because it is there.” When Hillary and Norgay were the first to summit Everest in 1953, Hillary stated, “I really believed the story had finished. I supposed it would be recorded in Alpine journals but that was all. How wrong I was. The media and public reaction was far beyond anything I naively expected.”
Back in vogue, the media attention to the disasters of 1996 has brought Everest renewed popularity. Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” has made Everest household talk from the Oklahoma plains to the shores of New Foundland. While the tragedies of 1996 were unique, they were certainly not odd. Climbers do die on Everest most every year, but the 1996 tragedy offered a reporter at the ready, satellite phones, internet access to events, and a cast of characters that intrigued arm chair climbers and the common man. It was practically a ready-made news event, and unfortunately, the actual climbing was often presented with journalistic simplicity.
Most recently, the Everest IMAX film has reached theatres around the world and has given an alpinist’s view of the mountain and a chance for us catch a glimpse into the incredible beauty that seduces climbers. We may ask ourselves why a few deaths on Everest evoke more empathy than other natural disasters and grade-school killings? It is because we all relate to adventure in some form; the predetermined, articulated goal of a climber, sailor, or balloonist will naturally capture our human emotions.
As the West decides who are the Everest heroes and goats, the Sherpa of Nepal go about their business of climbing Everest in uncelebrated glory. While five summits is the record for a westerner, Ang Rita Sherpa has summited the mountain 10 times. For most Sherpa, climbing is one of a few possible occupations. Their reputation as climbers is nothing short of historic, and their local Buddhist, animist, and cultural traditions have nurtured and impacted a fascinating relationship with westerners and western thought.
Why Guide Everest?
We crawl into our tents and secure oxygen masks in a futile attempt to get a night’s sleep. The team climbed from 23,500 ft. to almost 27,000 ft. with air so thin it’s like breathing through a first grader’s paper straw, says Todd Burleson, who has been a team leader for more Everest expeditions that any other climber. Whether for love of the mountains or simply an occupation, the added difficulty of getting others up Everest has brought the challenge to a new level. Of course, guiding — like other forms of teaching — has innate rewards, but the severity of the climb, the level of difficulty, and intense emotional pressure, leaves us bewildered as to who would take on such a task. Most of us will never experience the minus 40 degree cold, the 100-mile per hour winds, the excruciating pain of moving your body up 3,000 ft. in a day and trying to breathe (much less eat, sleep and drink) at the 29,000 ft. mark.
It should be noted that not all guides are drawn to this type of climb. Barbara Winkler, a leading US instructor, recalls the first time she guided others: “The climbers were so excited when they got to the summit, I was overwhelmed by the experience and the sense of teamwork. I grew up in Switzerland where climbing was easily accessible, but as I developed, I never thought about climbing Everest. I was more attracted to certain types of climbs and regions of the world. I was never really focused on climbing a particular mountain.”
Everest or not, the concept of guiding has long been a part of mountaineering. “Whether through a guide service or other type of apprenticeship, we learn to climb from others,” says Burleson. “It’s really absurd how the media portrays the Everest climbers. We guide and our teams are technically suited for the challenge and are really qualified to make an attempt. Although guiding is extremely different than straight climbing, you are no more or less a part of the mountain.” Speaking about Everest, Burleson continues, “I certainly wonder why I would put myself through this again and again. The winds are howling at 75 mph, we’re exhausted, and the only thought is the excruciating and dangerous climb that awaits us after a few hours of sleep. Yet in the middle of the night I walk out of my tent, the winds have died down a bit and as a full moon sits on Lhotse (the 4th highest peak in the world) it is so awesome and stunning that I cannot imagine never returning.”
Modern Day Adventurers
Like the travelers of the eighteen- and early nineteen-hundreds, modern climbers continue the legacy of exploration. The great adventurer Ned Gillette who was recently killed in Pakistan said, “Adventure is looking at an old subject in new ways, the biggest challenge could be finding a challenge and there are plenty of challenges if you are willing to use your imagination.” Adventure is intrinsic to our nature and we each explore and test our limits in different ways. Each of us have our own Everest.
Alpine Ascents Everest Summit Day Recap
*Comments from our lead guide in blue
Our team of six climbers, four guides, and 10 climbing Sherpa (seven climbing and three support) had arrived at the South Col (Camp IV) on the afternoon of May 22. Our plan was to spend the night sleeping on supplemental oxygen and then rest for most of the next day on supplemental oxygen until 8 p.m., at which time we would get up and prepare to leave for the summit.
Having over 24 hours to rest at the Sough Col before leaving for the summit means that you are much more rested and stronger for the final push to the top. Most teams choose to rest only a few hours at the South Col after arriving, and then leave for the summit that same day in the evening. It seems to me that these climbers are often more tired and have to push much harder to make it to the top, and are often very exhausted by the time they return to camp. Our strategy of resting 24+ hours on a generous flow of supplemental oxygen gave climbers the chance to completely recover from the strenuous push from Camp III on the Lhotse Face to Camp IV at the South Col.
In addition to our guide staff, our climbing Sherpa staff was present to assist climbers in every way possible during preparation at the South Col and throughout the climb to the top and back.
You can’t imagine how valuable it is to have a climbing Sherpa with you who has climbed to the top 10+ times under the direction of our leadership, in addition to your guide, it is truly a recipe for success.
All of the climbers who made it to the South Col (and for that matter all who stuck around for our summit rotation) made it to the summit and in good style.
On May 23rd (by far the most crowded summit day) in the afternoon when many teams had climbed and were descending back to Camp IV, one climber from a less equipped team was very distressed (possibly suffering from severe HAPE) and was not able to descend. Fortunately, a lead guide from another company who was also descending from the summit (Willie Benegas) took the initiative in dragging this climber down from the South Summit, and our Sirdar, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, climbed up to help him down from the Balcony to Camp IV. Unfortunately, the distressed climber was not assisted by any climbing Sherpa from his own team, nor his own “team leader,” who is also the owner of the company, and likely would have perished if not for the help of the other guides and Sherpa. As other climbers arrived back at the South Col that afternoon after making the top, quotations such as “this was the hardest day in my life” were abundant. Thankfully, with the good weather that day, everyone made it back to the South Col.
At 8 p.m. on May 23rd, the Alpine Ascents team awoke from our afternoon nap and had a few hot drinks, filled our water bottles with hot water, and ate some dinner before setting off to climb to the summit. As we exited our tents to put on our harnesses and crampons, we noticed that there was a fair amount of snow falling and some gusts of wind. Our weather forecast (we hire a professional forecaster to analyze the weather) had been calling for the 24th of May as the best day in that period for summit weather, and as we were preparing to leave camp, we consulted with our forecaster and learned that a storm system had developed in the North (Tibet) and was engulfing the mountain, and would bring winds and precipitation over the next one to three days. If this weather continued and the jet stream returned over Everest as predicted, that would mean the end of the summit window. So we left the South Col and climbed up into winds and heavy snowfall knowing that this could be our only shot at the top before the weather effectively shut it down.
Just one hour out of camp, as we approached the base of the triangular face, we encountered an entire team that was descending. They had started out earlier than us and then decided that the weather was too harsh for a safe summit bid. This group of about a dozen climbers was with their guide and a few Sherpa and thought the right decision was to turn around. As we continued upward towards the Balcony, I reflected on how, with difficult weather, there is little room for error at this elevation:
Everyone’s oxygen system, protective clothing (down suit, goggles, hand warmers in over mitts, etc.) must be working properly in order to avoid frostbite, exhaustion, etc. The team must be very well-organized with effective leadership. Our team climbed close together and communication between the guides and Sherpa on exactly how every climber was doing was monitored closely.
When problems arose (and they always do), we dealt with them immediately and resolved the issue so that climbers could continue climbing without having to stop for long. We passed one climber with his personal Sherpa who was descending as we climbed the snow slopes up to the Balcony. By the time we reached the Balcony (about halfway from the South Col to the top), the precipitation had let up quite a bit, but the winds were still blowing 25–30 mph on the Southeast ridge and blowing the new snow all around us. It was tough to see, and a little intimidating to say the least, but our group continued to push onward.
Just after leaving that rest break we encountered two more climbers with their personal Sherpa who were also descending because of the difficult conditions.
As an individual climbing in those conditions without the support of a large and well-experienced team, I can sympathize with their decisions to turn back, they must have been wondering what will happen if conditions do not improve or worsen? You can imagine succumbing to exhaustion or frostbite while battling the winds, or missing a clip on the fixed lines and tumbling down the Kangshung face (our climbing Sherpa and guides check every single carabiner clip when you make a transition from one fixed line to the next).
We decided to push on, knowing that if conditions did worsen, we had the resources and manpower available to get everyone down safely and into the shelter at the South Col.
When we reached the top at 8:30 a.m. the sky had cleared briefly and the wind and snow had let up, which is typical of mountain weather the first few hours after sunrise. We had a nice view down the summit ridge and could see the top of Lhotse in the distance, with clouds obscuring all else. The descent was uncomplicated and we arrived back in camp between noon and 1 p.m. A few climbers from other teams made the top that day, however a significant portion turned back and “threw in the towel” on their summit bid.
I know and have climbed with some of these climbers personally and think they could have reached the top if they had the support of a large group of experienced guides and climbing Sherpa by their side to assist in problem solving and encouragement when things got tough early that morning on the Southeast ridge of Everest. The large group that turned back only one hour from camp probably thought that it would be better not to risk climbing in unfavorable conditions. Our decision to push onward and continue to the top with all members was based on very experienced guides and Sherpas, ample resources, and spot on leadership and decision making. We knew that may very well be the only day remaining to make the summit. The following day some climbers did make the summit, however reported high winds and cold temperatures, that was the last summit day of the season for climbers on the south side of Everest.
Climbing Mt. Everest continues to be a very challenging endeavor, and to succeed in reaching the top (as well as return safely especially on a day with less than favorable weather conditions) requires having maximum resources available. I was proud to be part of a well-equipped expedition that was able not only able to manage our own climbers’ needs throughout the expedition, but also to lend assistance in rescuing other climbers, setting the route, and fixing the climbing ropes to the summit, as well as providing some gear and medical supplies to climbers from other expeditions when needed.
Alpine Ascents Everest Summit List
2017: Alpine Ascents International 2017 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Ben Jones
Summit date: 27 May 2017
282: Ben Jones – American
281: Eric Murphy – American
280: Malcom Alexander – Australian
279: John Peterson – American
278: Santiago Perez – American
277: John Zeckendrof – Australian
276: Jangbu Sherpa – Nepali
275: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
274: Fur Kancha Sherpa – Nepali
273: Mingma Tshering Sherpa – Nepali
272: Dawa Nuru Sherpa – Nepali
2016: Alpine Ascents International 2016 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Ben Jones
Summit date: 18 May 2016
271: Ben Jones – American
270: Mario Simoes – American
269: Jen Loeb – American
268: Fur Kancha – Nepali
267: Pasang Tendi – Nepali
2013: Alpine Ascents International 2013 Mt. Everest
Team 2 Leader: Michael Horst
2nd Summit date: 21 May 2013
266: Michael Horst – American
265: Vern Tejas – American
264: Sheikh Mohammed al Thani – Qatari
263: Raed Zidan – Palenstinian
262: Masoud Mohammed
261: Elia Saikaly
260: Kami Rita – Nepali
259: Phura Temba – Nepali
258: Ang Pemba – Nepali
257: Lakpa Nuru – Nepali
256: Nawang Jangbu – Nepali
255: Fura Kancha – Nepali
254: Passang Kajee – Nepali
Team 1 Leader: Garrett Madison
1st Summit date: 18 May 2013
253: Michael Grigsby – American (+Lhotse on 19, May)
252: Adriaan Wessels – Dutch
251: Bernardo Gonzalez – Australian
250: Woody Bailey – American (+Lhotse on 19, May)
249: Scott DeRue – American
248: Gosia Borchardt – American
247: Martin Grieder – Swiss (+Lhotse on 19, May)
246: John Lowry – Canadian
245: Raha Moharrak – Saudi Arabian
244: Garrett Madison – American (+Lhotse on 19, May)
243: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – American
242: Ben Jones – American (+Lhotse on 19, May)
241: Brien Sheedy – American
240: Karma Sarke – Nepali (+Lhotse on 19, May)
239: Ningma Tshering – Nepali
238: Mingma Dorjee – Nepali
237: Passang Tsheri – Nepali
236: Da Nuru – Nepali
235: Ang Passang – Nepali (+Lhotse on 19, May)
234: Lakpa Sona – Nepali
233: Passang Tendi – Nepali
232: Ang Norbu – Nepali
231: Mingma Tensing – Nepali
230: Pemba Tenzing – Nepali
229: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
228: Fura Kancha Sherpa – Nepali
2012: Alpine Ascents International 2012 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Garrett Madison
Summit date: 20 May 2012
227: Rob Sobecki – American
226: Laurence Clark – British
225: Mark Shuttleworth – British
224: Leanna Shuttleworth – British
223: Marc Hester – Australian
222: Garrett Madison – American (5)
221: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – American (16)
220: Jose Louis Peralvo – Ecuadorian (4)
219: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali (18)
218: Karma Sarkee Sherpa – Nepali
217: Ang Passang Sherpa – Nepali (12)
216: Ningma Tsheri Sherpa – Nepali (15)
215: Pemba Tenzing Sherpa – Nepali
214: Ang Nuru Sherpa – Nepali
2011: Alpine Ascents International 2011 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Garrett Madison
Group 2 Summit date: 19 May 2011
213: Mingma Dorji Sherpa (5) – Nepali
212: Thomas Halliday – American (+Lhotse on 20, May)
211: Louis Mariorenzi – American
210: Dawa Nuru Sherpa (12) – Nepali
209: Garret Madison (4) – American (+Lhotse on 20, May)
208: Michael Gibbons – American
207: Ben Jones – American
206: Gary Nelson – American
205: Marshall Warren – American
204: Ang Passang Sherpa (11) – Nepali
203: Tshering Dorjee Sherpa (13) – Nepali
202: Mingma Tshering Sherpa (13) – Nepali
201: Lakpa Rita Sherpa (15) – American
Group 1 Summit date: 14 May 2011
200: Rob Hart – South African
199: Michael Horst (3) – American (+Lhotse on 15, May)
2010: Alpine Ascents International 2010 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Vern Tejas
Summit date: 24 May 2010
198: Vern Tejas – American
197: Michael Kraft – German
196: Donall Healy – American
195: Dawa Nuru Sherpa – Nepali
194: Ang Passang Sherpa – Nepali
193: Mingma Sherpa – Nepali
192: Thapkee Sherpa – Nepali
191: Jack M. – American
190: Victor Vescovo – American
189: Michael Horst- American
188: Garrett Madison – American
187: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – American
186: Vanessa Folkerts – American
185: Alison Levine – American
184: Chewang Nima Sherpa – Nepali
183: Fura Kancha Sherpa – Nepali
182: Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
2009: Alpine Ascents International 2009 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Vern Tejas
Summit date: 23 May 2009
181: Dawa Tsheri Sherpa – Nepali
180: Ang Sona Sherpa – Nepali
179: Pa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
178: Fur Kancha Sherpa- Nepali
177: Thapkee Sherpa – Nepali (2)
176: Michael Morales – Panama
175: Matthew DuPuy – American
174: Philippe Herschke – Swiss
173: Thomas Boyer – American
172: Adam Geist – American
171: Michael Horst- American
170: Garrett Madison – American
169: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – American
168: Lori Schneider – American
167: Tsering Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
166: Dawa Nuru Sherpa – Nepali
165: Mingma Tsering Sherpa – Nepali
164: Frank Slachman – American
163: Stephen Coney – American
162: Kay LeClaire – American
161: Chewang Nima Sherpa – Nepali
2008: Alpine Ascents International 2008 Mt. Everest, Team II
Team Leader: Vern Tejas
Summit date: 24 May 2008
160: Vern Tejas – American
159: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – American
158: Jose Luis Peralvo – Ecuadorian
157: Charlie Hyde – American
156: Armand Musey – American
155: Jim Curtain – American
154: John Soebbing – American
153: RC Scull – American
152: Greg Konrath – American
151: Mark Luscher – American
150: Thapkee Sherpa – Nepali
149: Chewang Nima Sherpa – Nepali
148: Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
147: Ang Passang Sherpa – Nepali
146: Da Nuru Sherpa – Nepali
145: Mingma Tsering Sherpa – Nepali
144: Pa-Rita Sherpa – Nepali
143: Passand Tsering Sherpa – Nepali
142: Dianette Wells – American
2008: Alpine Ascents International 2008 Mt. Everest, Team I
Team Leader: David Morton
Summit date: 22 May 2008
141: Fur Kancha Sherpa – Nepali
140: Tshering Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
139: Melissa Arnot – American
138: Jeffrey J. Dossett – Canadian
137: David C. Morton – American
2007: Alpine Ascents International 2007 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: David Morton
Summit date: 22 May 2007
136: William Hanlon – Canadian
135: Passang Rita Sherpa – Nepali
134: Vernon E. Tejas – American
133: Amy J. Beeton – British
132: Anthony C. King – British
131: Werner J. Berger – Canadian
130: Nima Kancha Sherpa – Nepali
129: Gyalzen Sherpa – Nepali
128: Fur Kancha Sherpa – Nepali
127: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – American
126: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
125: Ningma Tsheri Sherpa – Nepali
124: Mingma Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
123: Todd A. Macy – American
122: Firat Eren – Turkish
121: John P. Griber – American
120: Chewang Nima Sherpa – Nepali
119: Tshering Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
118: Jeanne Stawiecki – American
117: James F. Ogilvie – Scottish
116: David C. Morton – American
2006: Alpine Ascents International 2006 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Vern Tejas
Summit date: 20 May 2006
115: Fura Kancha Sherpa – Nepali
114: Mingma Sherpa – Nepali
113: Tsering Sherpa – Nepali
112: Suzanne Nance – American
111: Gerhard Winkler – Austrian
110: Jacques Pirenne – Belgian
109: Vern Tejas – American
108: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
107: Chewang Sherpa – Nepali
106: Thakpee Sherpa – Nepali
105: Alastair Sutcliffe – British
104: Chris Nichols – American
103: Dave Morton – American
2005: Alpine Ascents International 2005 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Willi Prittie
2nd Group Summit date: 2 June 2005
102: Tshering Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
101: Tsheri Sherpa – Nepali
100: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
99: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
98: Tony Van Marken – South African
97: Dave Morton – American
96: Danielle Fisher – American
95: Nima Nuru Sherpa – Nepali
94: Mingma Tsering Sherpa – Nepali
93: Esther Colwill – British
92: Jose Luis Peralvo – Ecuadorian
1st Group Summit date: 30 May 2005
91: David Liano – Mexican
90: Vernon Tejas – American
89: Chewang Sherpa – Nepali
88: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
2004: Alpine Ascents International 2004 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Vernon E. Tejas
Summit date: 24 May 2004
87: Vernon E. Tejas – American
86: David C. Morton – American
85: Britton C. Keeshan – American
84: Mary Mills Davis – American
83: Justin G. Adams – American
82: Kevin S. Graham – American
81: Donald H. Hunter – Canadian
80: Jeffrey J. Dossett – Canadian
79: Haruhisa Watanabe – Japanese
78: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
77: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
76: Mingma Tshering Sherpa – Nepali
75: Passang Sona Sherpa – Nepali
74: Tsherri Sherpa – Nepali
73: Tshering Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
72: Pemba Renjee Sherpa – Nepali
71: Mingma Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
2003: Alpine Ascents International 2003 Mt. Everest
Team Leader: Vernon E. Tejas
Summit date: 30 May 2003
70: Matthew Holt -British
69: Jean Michel Valette – American
68: James Clarke – American
67: Bruno Rodi – Canadian
66: Vernon E. Tejas -American
65: Luis G. Benitez -American
64: Paul Obert -American
63: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
62: Kami Rita Sherpa (thapkee) – Nepali
61: Mingma Sherpa – Nepali
60: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
59: Tsherri Sherpa – Nepali
58: Tshering Sherpa – Nepali
57: Pemba Tenzin Sherpa – Nepali
2002: Alpine Ascents South Col Expedition
Team Leader: Todd Burleson/William D. Prittie
Summit date: 24 May 2002
56: Luis Benitez – American
55: Arnold Witzig – Swizerland
54: Joe Leroy – American
53: Mike Roberts – New Zealand
52: Cleve McDonald – American
51: Jose Luis Peralvo – Ecuadorian
50: Karl Yoder – American
49: Vern Tejas – American
48: Willi Prittie – American
47: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
46: Pemba Renjee Sherpa – Nepali
45: Kami Rita (Thapkee) Sherpa – Nepali
44: Ang Pasang Sherpa – Nepali
43: Chewang Nima Sherpa – Nepali
42: Mingma Tshering Sherpa – Nepali
41: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
40: Tsering Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
2000: Everest Millennium Expedition
Team Leader: Todd Burleson/Vernon Tejas
Summit date: 23 May 2000
39: Chuwang Nima Sherpa – Nepali
38: Mingma Chhiri Sherpa – Nepali
37: Kami Rita I Sherpa – Nepali
1997: American Mt. Everest Expedition
Team Leader: Todd Burleson
Summit date: 25 May 1997
36: Wallace Berg – American
35: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
34: Mingma Tseri Sherpa -Nepali
33: Nima Tashi Sherpa -Nepali
32: Pemba Tenji Sherpa -Nepali
31: Tenji Nuru Sherpa – Nepali
1994: American Everest Expedition
Team Leader: Todd Burleson
Summit date: 13 May 1994
30: Todd Burleson – American
29: Peter Athans – American
28: Paul Harold Morrow – American
27: Robert E. Cedergreen – American
26: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
25: Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
24: Kami Rita Sherpa – Nepali
23: Ryszard Palowski – Polish
22: Chuwang Nima Sherpa – Nepali
21: Man Bahadur Tamang – Nepali
1993: Alpine Ascents Mt. Everest Expedition
Team Leaders: Todd Burleson/Peter Athans
Summit date: 10 May 1993
20: John Helenek – American
19: John Dufficy – American
18: Alex Lowe – American
17: Wallace Berg – American
16: Michael Sutton – American
15: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
14: Apa Sherpa – Nepali
13: Danu Sherpa – Nepali
1992: Alpine Ascents Mt. Everest Expedition
Team Leader: Todd Burleson
Summit date: 15 May 1992 (2nd group)
12: Todd Burleson – American
11: Peter Athans – American
10: Hugh W. Morton – American
09: Keith G. Kerr -British
08: Lakpa Rita Sherpa – Nepali
07: Dorjee Sherpa – Nepali
06: Man Bahadur Tamang – Nepali
Summit date: 12 May 1992 (1st group)
05: Skip Horner – American
04: Vernon E. Tejas – American
03: Ang Galzyan Sherpa – Nepali
02: Dawa Temba Sherpa – Nepali
01: Louis Bowen – American
We started as a team, climbed as a team and summited as a team. It sounds so simple, but to keep that focus on Mt Everest requires years of experience and the support to make it possible.