Why Do Climbers Often Summit Mount Everest in the Morning?
Climbing the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, is an indomitable dream for many mountaineers around the world. Stretched majestically between Nepal and Tibet, this colossal mountain speaks to individuals willing to test their physical limits and mental resolve. Throughout climbing history, one peculiar pattern that has been noticed is the predilection of climbers to summit in the early hours of the morning. What is the rationale behind this? This article addresses that question.
Calm Before the Storm
The primary reason behind the morning summit attempts relates to the weather conditions. Mount Everest, like many other high peaks, is prone to afternoon storms, which can result in harsh winds, whiteout conditions, and rapid temperature drops, creating an incredibly dangerous environment for climbers. To beat these storms, climbers set off well before dawn to reach the summit and descend to a lower, safer altitude before the weather turns hazardous.
The Importance of Timing
Another crucial aspect of timing the Everest summit in the early morning is the ‘Summit Window.’ This is a brief period, typically in May, when the jet stream – a high-altitude air current with violently fast winds – moves north of Everest, creating much calmer and warmer climatic conditions. Within this limited window, climbers typically begin their ascent about midnight and plan to reach the summit at sunrise.
Temperature plays a central role for a climber braving harsh mountainous terrains. At Everest’s summit, temperatures can drop as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius even in the peak climbing seasons of spring. Reaching the summit in the morning allows climbers to utilize the softening effect of the early morning sun, which eases the frozen terrain and gives climbers marginally better conditions compared to the chilling cold of the night or the glaring heat of the afternoon sun.
Challenges of Night Ascent
It might come as a surprise, but climbing at night, despite the colder temperatures and lower visibility, is another strategy adhered to by seasoned mountaineers. A night ascent allows climbers to descend in daylight and have a clear view of the terrain they are navigating, which is critical on Everest’s treacherous surfaces. Besides, this tactic helps climbers avoid bottlenecks and long waits that result from many expeditions all pushing for the summit at the same time.
Summiting Mount Everest is a monumental achievement, a symbol of human defiance against nature’s might. Nevertheless, any mountaineer will attest that a strategic plan, which factors in the optimal time to attempt the summit, significantly enhances the chances of success and survival.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the best time of year to climb Mount Everest?
The best time to climb Mount Everest is in the pre-monsoon (spring) season, which falls between March to May. Another window opens in the post-monsoon (autumn) season between September and November, but it is considerably more challenging due to the harsher weather conditions.
2. How long does it take to climb Mount Everest?
Typically, a round-trip expedition to Mount Everest takes about two months. This includes acclimatization time at various camps on the mountain to help climbers adjust to the altitude and decrease the risks of altitude sickness.
3. Why is Mount Everest so dangerous?
Mount Everest is incredibly dangerous due to its extremely high altitude, harsh climate, and unpredictable weather conditions. Climbers face risks such as altitude sickness, hypothermia, frostbite, snow blindness, and avalanches. The path is also littered with deep crevasses and treacherous ice falls.
4. Why do more people die descending Mount Everest?
Most deaths occur during descent due to multiple factors, such as exhaustion from the summit bid, reduced oxygen levels, or because climbers choose to push beyond their turnaround time to reach the summit, leaving insufficient energy and reserves for a safe descent.
5. How many people have successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest?
As of 2021, more than 4,000 climbers have successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest, demonstrating the resiliency and determination of the human spirit in the face of formidable challenges.