Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rest day today...so I figured I would post an update with 71 days left

My climbing partner - Brendan Madden - and I were chatting recently about immersing ourselves into the climb.  We both watch YouTube videos pertinent to the Tibet side Everest climb.  For those interested in seeing two that provide a ton of detail, we recommend Li-Lan Cheng's video and the Everest No Filter:  A SportsCenter Special video.  Both videos offer a clear glimpse of all the camps, terrain between camps, and general climbing conditions.  I think I speak for both of us when I say that watching these repeatedly gives us a wonderful vision of what we can expect.  

Speaking of expectations, we are dutifully documenting our gear and needs by camp throughout the climb.  I create checklists that I later print out to save me from having to remember or scramble for gear when I am least capable.  A simple checklist enables me to operate mindlessly on most of the climb.  Yes, you could say I am a planner but the best laid plans often go haywire...and that is when the adventure begins.  

Our plans include a rather rough sketch of our climb.  SummitClimb provides a detailed itinerary that merely gives climbers a general idea of the climbing routine.  We embellished that itinerary to give both of us an idea about the changes in altitude and potential equipment needs for each day.  Below are two figures that show how the climb progresses by altitude:

In feet for our American friends:
and in meters for our international (non-US) friends:

The difficult part of planning the climb is determining when the summit push occurs.  As I mentioned above, the itinerary is a rough sketch.  We have no idea if the mountain will allow us to climb on the day we aim to summit.   Instead, we have data to consult - the Himalayan Database.  Richard Salisbury and Elizabeth Hawley cobbled together records from thousands of climbs and climbers over the years.  The data are now available for all - thanks to the sponsorship by the American Alpine Club.

I read the data into my favorite statistics program (R) and plotted the days in May where successful summits occurred (on either side).  The results are quite surprising.  Below is a figure that represents the day in May (why May?  Because that is the most likely month to summit Everest).  


The figure shows that the mean summit day falls on May 21st (20.69 for those who are interested in minutiae).  That date - plus or minus 1 standard deviation (often represented as +/- SD) gives us an expected summit window from historical records (since 2000) of May 17th through May 25th.  Why did I restrict my search to 2000 and later?  The climbing structure for both sides differed over the years.  Each side's mountaineering oversight changed until the local authorities started implementing more of a standard routine at or about the year 2000.  Historians may differ on my cut-off but I am not producing this for historical purposes; I want to get a "best guess" on a summit window.  So, sometime in mid to late May, we might be fortunate enough to summit Everest.

Our planning and preparation continue.  We aim to winnow down our gear to what we "need" and when we might find it useful.  More on that process later.  Speaking of needs....I need to get my day going.  Rest days are not always restful!

Thanks for following.  Expect another update on my next rest day - this upcoming Wednesday (1/31/18).  See you soon.  Have a lovely weekend.