At End Of Climbing Season, A Reflection On Everest 'Traffic Jam'

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Update at 8:45 a.m. EDT, 5/28: Morning Edition host David Greene spoke today with mountaineer Conrad Anker, who has just climbed Mount Everest for the third time, and did so without supplemental oxygen.

As we've been reporting, it's been a busy and deadly year on the mountain, with several deaths and "traffic jams" due to the large number of climbers.

Anker explained why conditions were particularly difficult: "All the climbers collectively experienced very dry and windy conditions this year. So there wasn't a lot of snow on the mountain. When there's more snow, loose rocks are frozen in place, the snow hasn't turned into blue ice, Which it did this year. Blue ice is very laborious to climb and requires extra protection."

In addition, there were only two "weather windows" with favorable conditions near the summit, Anker said.

"The jetstream that just comes whipping through really limits the ability of climbers to move up on the mountain," he said. "So there's this little window where it's not windy ... and the climbers want to strike on that

"The problem is it's a pretty narrow ridge of climbing, and you can imagine, you get four teams of 24 people, you have 100 people are vying for the summit. And having to pass people, move up on the ropes, adjust for altitude, all these things make the ascent very complicated and in doing so, very dangerous."

Anker also said his decision not to use supplemental oxygen made it particularly arduous: "I've spent three nights above 26,000 feet — what we refer to as the death zone — and i'm sort of out of energy and recuperating and getting my appetite back."

Here's our original post:

We've been reporting about the "traffic jam" on Mount Everest on the roof of the world. That "traffic jam" is likely to have eased this week. This past weekend marked the end of the climbing season on the world's tallest peak.

Morning Edition host David Greene will talk today with mountaineer Conrad Anker who has climbed Everest several times and has just returned from his most recent ascent.

Conrad and his team blogged about their Everest adventure on the National Geographic website. Their account of the ascent is gripping and the images of the mountain breathtaking.

Back in April, NPR's Claire O'Neill of our Picture Show blog blogged about the team's effort.

At the time, she noted: "Some people look at natural wonders and see a challenge. We climb mountains because they are there. We live blog it because we can."

This year's climbing season has been fraught with danger.

As the Two-Way's Korva Coleman reported last week, four people died while trying to climb Everest. That was after some 150 climbers tried to summit at the same time.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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