Written by Robert Kyte
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alpenglow has been forced to cease operations on the North Side of Everest due to China’s strict zero-covid border policy. Alpenglow is one of a small number of companies operating exclusively on Everest’s North Side. This means we have not climbed the world’s tallest mountain since our last North Side expedition in 2019. We miss it! And while we remain unable to say with certainty whether or not we will return to Tibet next year, we are receiving a number of positive indicators from our partners that the North Side of Everest is likely to open for the 2023 climbing season. We are so excited to share this update with our community, and to keep all of you informed as North Side climbing again becomes a reality.
Why the North Side?
In 2015, after a decade guiding the South Side of Everest, Alpenglow made the decision to operate solely on the North Side of Mt. Everest. We choose to climb only from the North Side for a multitude of reasons:
1. The Khumbu Icefall
The Khumbu Icefall on the South Side presents too much objective hazard for us to feel comfortable sending our Sherpa, guides, and team members through. After a number of deadly accidents in the icefall during Adrian’s tenure on the South Side, including the serac fall that resulted in the deaths of 16 Sherpas in 2014, Alpenglow decided to cease operations on the South Side and move all expeditions exclusively to the North Side in Tibet. We were strongly reaffirmed in our decision after an earthquake in 2015 sent an avalanche cascading from nearby Pumori into Everest Base Camp, killing 22, while the safer terrain of the North Side led to no fatalities despite the same earthquake. Though the summit day climbing is slightly more technical than its South Side counterpart, the removal of the Khumbu Icefall as an objective hazard drastically reduces the objective hazard of the route and heavily mitigates overall risk. When looking at the overall challenge of the two routes, eliminating multiple trips through the overcrowded Icefall, Everest’s most dangerous and unpredictable terrain, in exchange for slightly steeper climbing on summit day on the North Side makes this tradeoff a no-brainer.
2. Overcrowding and Inexperience on the South Side
Seasonal overcrowding with inexperienced climbers led by inexperienced or non-certified guides and expedition leaders presents a recurring hazard to climbers ascending the route from the South Side. Dirty, crowded camps high on the mountain and hours-long queues in the Death Zone have become commonplace on the Nepalese side, further reinforcing our position on the objective advantages and drastically-mitigated risk of climbing via the North Side.
3. A Better Climbing Experience on the North Side
The regulations put in place by the Chinese government create a better climbing experience. The North Side of the mountain is cleaner: waste is managed, trash is removed, and companies are held responsible for doing their part to improve the mountain. As a result, the chances of sickness going through base camp are reduced, our teams are kept healthy, and the views are unobstructed. Everest is one of the most beautiful mountains on the planet, and we strongly believe it should be kept that way. Climbing from the North Side enables us to give our team members the best quality experience on the tallest mountain on the planet.
4. Ease of Access for Rapid Ascent
Ease of access to basecamp on the North Side complements our Rapid Ascent™ Program. The use of a Hypoxico tent in the months leading up to your arrival in Tibet will have you pre-acclimatized to roughly 18,000’.This allows us to drive directly to Base Camp, eliminating the weeks-long trek to base camp common on the South Side, and reducing the risk of getting sick before even reaching the mountain. This also means fewer acclimatization laps up and down the mountain, less time spent waiting to climb, reduced risk due to fewer days spent in potentially hazardous terrain, preservation of the fitness and preparedness of our team as a whole, and reducing our overall impact on the environment.
Stay Tuned for Upcoming News
In the coming weeks, we are expecting news of a firm decision on the status of China’s border policies that will determine whether or not we can make our return to the North Side of Mt. Everest. Stay tuned for further updates by subscribing to our newsletter at the bottom of this page. And if you know you would like to climb Mt. Everest in the safest way, with the North Side’s most experienced and ethical team, let’s talk today!
For more information about the Mt. Everest North Side Rapid Ascent or any of our international expeditions, check out our website. For any questions call our office at 877-873-5376 or send us an email email@example.com. We hope to climb with you soon!