Rope fixing is always a struggle on Mount Everest. It takes a huge amount of manpower, gear, and miles of rope to fix either side of the mountain. In recent years, rope fixing on the North side has been handled by the Chinese. The Chinese take payment from each team to pay for equipement and the large Sherpa team needed to install the ropes. It's a massive undertaking that costs tens of thousands of dollars.
This year, rope fixing stalled above C3. The Chinese fixed the ropes to 8300m early on, but above that they asked for help from other teams. This created a little confusion as some teams arrived on the mountain without realizing that the Chinese would not fix to the top.
Three days ago (5-7-2017), representatives from each team gathered at Chinese Base Camp to discuss fixing from Camp 3 to the summit. This was my first rope-fixing meeting and I expected a lot of upset owners and guides, questioning why we were being asked to pay more money to fix ropes when this fee had supposedly already been covered. Small teams, large teams, new teams and old teams all sat together in a large dome at the Chinese camp. The Chinese generously laid out snacks, fresh fruit and drinks for all. The meeting started with a disgruntled gripe from a guide service owner about why we were being asked for more more money to fix the ropes.
A western guide and expedition leader, with many years of experience on the north side, instantly stopped this downward spiral. He explained that it is extremely expensive to fix ropes on Everest and that the Chinese were making a legitimate claim. He asked everyone to cooperate and calmly discuss the options available so that we could move on and get started with fixing ropes for this year.
We started with the basics. The Chinese had already purchased the technical equipment for fixing new rope to the summit and agreed to send it to ABC. The two remaining challenges were moving the gear from ABC to 8300m and deciding who would fix the rope to the summit.
We opened the discussion and several options became clear. To fix the ropes to the summit, we could pool Sherpa from several teams to make a rope fixing team. This often creates logistical problems and can end up being more costly, less efficient and can generate disputes between teams.
Transcend Adventures presented a second option. Their team is one of the largest teams on the mountain this year with a strong and numerous Sherpa team. Transcend volunteered, with the help of Arun Treks Sherpa, to do the work of fixing the ropes from C3 to the summit. In exchange for his Sherpa team doing the additional work, Transcend Adventures will receive payment to cover Sherpa bonuses, food and additional costs incurred. Working above C3 is physically demanding and all teams agreed that this was a fair and efficient arrangement.
Fixing from C3 to the summit was solved, but the team from Transcend Adventures/Arun Treks lacked the manpower to get the equipment to C3. Despite their strong and able team, it was too much to ask for them to carry all the gear to Camp 3, fix the ropes, and then summit with their climbing teams.
Additional Sherpa were needed to haul supplies to C3 for the Transcend Adventures/Arun Treks team to complete the job. The Chinese team generously volunteered to carry 2,000 meters of rope and all the hardware without additional payment. The bulk of the gear accounted for, all that remained were 24 bottles of oxygen for the fixing Sherpa to use while working above 8,300m. The Sherpa members present decided that this would be 6 Sherpa loads (a fair number considering that many of our Alpenglow Sherpa take pride in often carrying 8 bottles!).
Teams were asked to volunteer to provide a Sherpa if they had the manpower to do so. Some teams have extra Sherpa on staff and other teams are short on Sherpa, but within a matter of minutes, enough teams had volunteered to provide Sherpa to complete the task. Kobler and Partner, Alpenglow Expeditions, Furtenbach Expeditions, Climbalaya, Seven Summits Club and Hiro (Mountain Experience) all volunteered to provide one Sherpa each, plus the oxygen each Sherpa would need to breath whilst completing the carry to 8300m.
The meeting ended in a round of clapping and cheers. Everyone was excited to have a plan that would begin the next morning and get the ropes up while the weather was suitable for fixing. Onwards and upwards!
The Bottom Line
$135 has been collected from each climbing team member (not including Sherpa) to go towards Sherpa bonuses and additional costs incurred for fixing the ropes to the summit.
Transcend Adventures with Arun Treks Sherpa will fix from Camp 3 to Summit
Chinese Team will carry all rope and hardware to Camp 3
6 Sherpa from 6 teams will carry 24 bottles of oxygen to Camp 3. These Sherpa will receive summit bonuses (Kobler and Partner, Alpenglow Expeditions, Furtenbach, Climbalaya, Seven Summmits Club and Hiro)
As of Wednesday May 10, 2017, all of the gear had arrived at Camp 3 and the ropes had been fixed to the Northeast Ridge above Camp 3.
Rope fixing was completed on May 11th at 4:30PM, Beijing time. Nine Sherpa from Transcend Adventures/Arun Treks summited.
The first teams have already left ABC and are aiming for a summit day of May 13, 2017.
** Edits made to rope fixing team per request of Babu at Transcend Adventures.