How do climbers navigate during a storm or poor visibility on Mount Everest?

How do climbers navigate during a storm or poor visibility on Mount Everest?

How do Climbers Navigate During a Storm or Poor Visibility on Mount Everest?

Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, stands steadfastly at an elevation of 8,848 meters above sea level. The thrill of conquering this huge monolith lures numerous climbers every year. However, despite their intense training and undying spirit, climbers often encounter unanticipated weather conditions, such as storms or poor visibility, which challenge their climb. Careful navigation amidst these adversities is crucial for their safety and success of their expedition. This article explores various techniques that climbers employ to safely navigate through such conditions on Mount Everest.

Navigating through Storms on Mount Everest

Storms are common on Mount Everest, especially during the peak climbing seasons. They can occur suddenly and can be extreme, making climbing hazardous. Here is how climbers navigate through them:

Reactive Planning

Reactive planning deeply relies on climbers’ expertise in predicting and responding to the immediate weather condition. When they sense an impending storm, they can decide to either descend to a safer altitude if possible or build a shelter to wait out the storm.

Climbing Gears

Climbing gears such as ice axes, crampons, ropes, and other tools are indispensable. These can help them achieve a firm grip and stable footing even during storms.

Navigating Poor Visibility on Mount Everest

At times, visibility at Everest is reduced to zero, especially during snowstorms or dense fog. Here’s how climbers handle such challenging situations:

Relying on Route Markers

Fixed ropes, ladders, and markers along the climbing route help climbers navigate in poor visibility. These landmarks, established by previous climbers or Sherpas, serve as a guide during the ascent or descent.

Utilizing GPS

Modern climbers often also utilize GPS devices for navigation. Preloaded with the climbing route’s coordinates, these devices guide climbers in the right direction even in zero visibility.

Assistance from Sherpas

Sherpas, the local inhabitants of the Everest region, have an invaluable understanding of the terrain and weather patterns. They serve as guides and support throughout the climbing journey, especially in difficult circumstances, like poor visibility.


Navigating a towering edifice like Mount Everest in stormy or poor visibility conditions demands courage, accuracy, and prudent judgement. By employing reactive planning, utilizing climbing gears, trusting established routes, using GPS, and relying on experienced Sherpas, climbers ensure that they take each step wisely, staying safe and inching closer to the summit.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do climbers predict storms on Mount Everest?

Climbers use various sources such as meteorological services, radios, or satellite phones to receive weather updates. Experienced climbers also develop an intuition to perceive imminent adverse weather changes.

2. How effective are GPS devices in poor visibility on Mount Everest?

GPS devices can be extremely helpful in poor visibility conditions. They help climbers stay on the predefined path, thus reducing the risk of getting lost or deviating from the route.

3. What role do Sherpas play in assisting climbers at Mount Everest in difficult circumstances?

Sherpas play an invaluable role in any Everest expedition. Being highly familiar with the terrain, they assist in navigation, especially during poor visibility, and often take lead in challenging weather conditions. They also provide emotional support when needed.

4. Can climbers continue their ascent during a storm?

Weather conditions dictate climbers’ actions. In severe storms, it becomes extremely dangerous and often impossible to continue the climb due to high winds, low temperatures, and limited visibility. In such cases, climbers will usually look for a safe place to wait out the storm.

5. Why are pre-established routes significant in terms of navigation during poor visibility?

Pre-established routes act as lifelines for climbers during poor visibility. These routes, marked by previous climbers or Sherpas with fixed ropes, ladders, and other markers, provide guidance during ascent or descent, making it less likely for climbers to lose their way.