Well of all the years not to be on Everest, 2012 seems to have been the worst season for some time (since we were there in 2005 on The North side no less). A difficult season with challenging conditions which made for some pretty busy summit days as lots of groups got squeezed in to narrow weather windows.
As a result of some folk sadly perishing on Everest Al Jazeera Live asked me to comment on the situation on telly. Having expressed beforehand that I would be happy to comment, but not about the deceased, the first question that was posed to me was about ... the people who had died. Anyway I tried to field that question in the best and most tactful way. Thankfully the guy didn't press that issue and went towards asking what experience is required. You can see the interview here.
Coincidentally I had just updated my site with this very information about skill levels which is available for you to see on my Everest site.
As it happens I'm out this weekend with a chap who has asked exactly that question. He's approaching the whole experience in a pragmatic and responsible way so that he will know what he needs to do between now and then to give him a better chance of not only summiting the mountain safely but also perhaps enjoying the experience as well. As I always point out to people if you are a liability to yourself then you are also a liability to everyone around you. Not only that but you have to ask yourself what you would do if, for some reason, your summit Climbing Sherpa became incapacitated or perhaps he had to go to the aid of another climber. I'm afraid that most people wouldn't know what to do and they, in turn, pose a very real threat to the safety of those around them. Also the Climbing Sherpas can obviously help in many ways, but they can't eat and drink for you, they can't put one foot in front of the other for you, and they can't have the mental determination that will keep you going.
Our approach to, in particular, summit day is a belt and braces approach. Where some companies quote a 1:1 ratio they don't tell people that they and their Climbing Sherpa may be at different places on the mountain on summit day! So, yes, 1 to 1 ratio but hardly any use to the client. With our approach the Climbing Sherpas do lots of preparatory work earlier on in the expedition getting camps established, supplies up the hill and they have some rest days when possible. This is when we, as a group, are able to be moving lower down on the hill independently going to C1 and C2 (hardly the kind of terrain where a Sherpa is required on a 1:1 basis for everyone in the group). However from C2 to C3 and C3 to The South Col the ratio becomes 1:1. In particular on summit day, from The South Col, the client has a Climbing Sherpa by their side. He is constantly checking oxygen levels, the pace, the awareness of the client and encouraging them to eat and, in particular, drink where possible. They are relaying all the necessary information down to Base Camp about oxygen levels and progress so that the team can be monitored. The Climbing Sherpa is also carrying spare oxygen for their client and then there is more spare oxygen besides (as well as a spare mask and regulator amongst the group as well). Not only do they stay with their client all the way back to the South Col but they then escort them down to C2 and then down to BC as well. This isn't hand holding. It isn't being namby pandy - it is a conscientious approach to safely operating an expedition on Everest.
If you are interested in Everest then please don't hesitate to get in touch and I can advise accordingly.
And if you are interested in Ama Dablam, by the way, you'd better hurry as there are only a couple of places left - the 2012 trip is virtually fully subscribed.
In the meantime I sent a clipping in to The News Quiz on Radio 4 which was read out by Jeremy Hardy - I hope that you enjoy it.