Climbers on Mt. Everest regroup after ferocious wind storm

A surprise wind storm raged through the Himalayas over the weekend, wreaking havoc for dozens of mountaineers who had positioned themselves for summit bids on Mt. Everest.

Winds in excess of 50 mph uprooted tents and twisted fixed lines on the mountain, possibly ending or delaying several expeditions that had been perched high on south-side and north-side routes leading toward the 29,035-foot peak.

(In the aftermath, however, several summit bids were continuing on Monday.)

Bill Burke, a Southern California mountaineer camped on the north slope, issued an audio report stating that an estimated 50 tents were “blown off the mountain” by gale-force winds.

Burke, 69, who is part of a small expedition, said the wind “literally sucked all of the contents” from one of his group’s tents, including sleeping bags, clothing and high-mountain gear used by four Sherpa porters.

A statement on the Asian Trekking website said the wind storm “gusted through the upper camps delivering chaos wherever it touched” and added that tents in exposed areas were either “shredded or blown away.”

A blog post by RMI Expeditions, which has a team on the south slope, stated: “Our climbing team was hit by huge winds last night at Camp I. In fact, the entire mountain (all the camps) was blasted with extremely high winds and frigid cold. Many tents were lost in the upper camps.

“Our team survived the night by 1) checking and re-checking the tents to make sure they were secure, 2) eating a big freeze-dried meal for dinner, and then 3) diving into their extremely warm sleeping bags.”

Though complete information is difficult to obtain because of mountain logistics and the number of expeditions from around the world, there were not believed to have been any fatalities caused by the wind storm.

Burke’s expedition will continue with its members sharing what’s left of the gear and clothing, but it will be a delayed effort because fixed lines were damaged by the storm and need to be fixed by Sherpas.

Burke, who two years ago became the oldest American to summit Everest and live to tell about the experience, is hoping to reach the world’s tallest peak for the first time from the north route, via Tibet.

His itinerary this year calls for a south-side attempt after the north-side climb for a first-ever double-ascent of Everest. But because of delays caused by the wind storm, the second leg of his journey might have to be scrapped.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 15 people had reached the top of Everest and two died on the mountain. A Nepalese climber reportedly died Monday in an ice fall. On May 1, Rick Hitch, who is from Northern California, collapsed and died of unknown causes at Camp 3, or about 23,000 feet.

— Image of Camp 1 wind damage on the Everest’s south slope is courtesy of Asian Trekking. Second image shows Bill Burke, 69, who is attempting to reach the top of Everest for the first time via the northern route