That’s a Wrap: Everest Season 2021

Nothing has been normal about this Everest season. While the world has slowly been coming to grips with ongoing pandemic, and COVID cancelled the best laid plans of thousands of climbers across the globe, a lucky few were able to climb. In fact, lucky few might not quite be the right way of putting it. Even in the midst of the current situation, a record 408 permits were granted to climb Everest this season, with many of those climbers looking to double up with ascents of Lhotse.

The first and second wave saw ~200 summits including both world and a British record ascents (you can catch up on that here), but following that initial weather window, reports of a worsening outbreak at Base Camp, combined with a series of cyclones, put climbing on hold. Initially, authorities said they would be looking to close the Khumbu Icefall (the first part of the climb from Base Camp to Camp I) around the 24th/25th May, but this was extended to allow for further attempts before the end of the season.

Perhaps amongst the most high profile of the late summiteers was the group lead by Nirmal Purja. Nims reported on his Instagram account that his team of 16 summited at 7am on 31st May, and several were heading back to Camp III before making an attempt on Lhotse.

Unfortunately, it seems it wasn’t to be for Kilian Jornet and David Goettler. The duo were reportedly eyeing up a new challenge in the Khumbu region, although they never publicly announced their plans. However it seems that by the time they reached the South Col on Everest neither felt in good enough condition to continue, and the plan was scrapped. Reporting on his social media, Goettler said:

…it was easy to know we should stop. It would have been foolish to continue to climb higher in that state. You can’t climb Everest in our style if you don’t feel 100%, and luckily both of us know very well how we should feel at those altitudes.
So, we stopped our climb and descended. Even though we could blame the wind for having prevented us from going on… it wasn’t the wind or bad weather or bad conditions on the mountain. It was our bodies and how we felt, and it’s equally important to listen to your body and respect it. It’s just one more piece of this difficult puzzle. When the margins of safety are this slim, if one piece doesn’t fit you don’t get to finish the puzzle.
Disappointed, of course. Regretful. Not a bit.

So now, with the Icefall closed and teams returning to Kathmandu, eyes turn to other parts of the world for climbing. It remains to be seen what will happen in the Karakorum this year, with Pakistan implementing stringent travel policies including vaccination requirements and a travel ban which all but prevents sherpas travelling from Nepal to support teams on K2 amongst others, it is unclear whether we will see any more 8000ers climbed this year. However, knowing the nature of climbers who have been unable to head out to the mountains for so long now, it’s inevitable they’ll be itching to get back up to thin air sooner rather later.