Mt. Everest is, once again, alone at the top of the world. As predictably as ever, the monsoon winds have swept in, closing the curtain on the 2013 climbing season. Despite it being a major anniversary year on the mountain—50 years since the first American summit by Jim Whittaker, and 60 years since Hillary and Norgay put up the first-ever known ascent—it was, in most respects, an average season. Hundreds of commercial clients made it safely to the top, nine people died tragically and—as in 2012—it went poorly for pro climbers. Here are some highlights and lowlights:
• More than 600 commercial clients safely summited.
• A brawl erupted between a group of Sherpas and pro climbers Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and their photographer Jon Griffith. The situation spiraled seriously out of control, erupted into violence and ended with the Western alpinists abandoning the mountain and their attempt at an oxygen-free climb of a new route (which would've been the first in over a decade).
• Mexican climber David Liano became the first person ever to summit from both sides in the same season. He topped out from the South on May 11, and the North on May 19.
• The oldest man to summit Everest (in 2008, at age 76), Nepal's Min Badahur Scherchan, now 81, was competing with 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura from Japan to set a new record. Miura set the new record, and Scherchan turned back before making the summit.
• Seven climbers completed the Everest-Lhotse double, nearly doubling the exclusive list of 12 who'd previously accomplished it.
• American Chad Kellogg failed on his third straight attempt at an oxygen-free speed record ascent-descent. He had hoped to make the 11,400-foot climb from Base Camp to summit in less than 22 hours and finish the roundtrip in 32 hours, but was turned back 1,800 feet below the summit by harrowing winds. He wrote this enlightening expedition summary, which gives a good idea of the depth of planning that goes into, as well as the incredible physical demands of making such an attempt.
For a very detailed summary of the 2013 Everest season, be sure to check out arbiter Alan Arnette's website, where he breaks it down in detail and offers some great insights on the mountain itself in his "Closing Thoughts," which are excerpted here:
Yes, Everest has changed since the first summit 60 years ago. But in some ways it is still the same as when the early pioneers chopped steps, and carried their own gear as they made their way to the summit.
Everest, while with less snow than 60 years ago, still had a lot snow and ice. It is still cold and windy. But the route remains basically the same to the top. The weather forecasting is better but still sometimes a mystery. The early climbers suffered from frostbite just as some do today.
Mallory and Irvine used supplemental oxygen, so did Hillary and Tenzing who only spent 15 minutes on the summit, just like many today. The early expeditions used hundreds of porters and Sherpas. They prided themselves on fine food, table and chairs – all the comforts they could haul overland. They communicated using wireless radios.
What has not changed is that feeling each person gets standing on the summit. It is their moment, private, humbled and unique. No matter your first or 15th or 21st; it stands alone in your personal journey of life. It is a moment of honor.
So when asked if you climbed Everest, look that person in the eyes, and proudly say—Yes I am an Everest summiter.