Everest 2017: The Teams to Watch
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Feng Wei / Getty Images

The 2017 Everest Climbing Season is officially underway. As of April 16, 2017, Nepal’s Department of Tourism had issued 376 permits for South-side ascents to climbers from 45 different counties. The U.S. holds the most permits, with 77, followed by India, with 65, and China, with 52.

One of the challenges this year will be the sheer number of people on the mountain. Following disastrous seasons in 2014 and 2015 in which more than three dozen people died, 2016 went smoothly, relatively speaking, helping to lure back Everest aspirants. Plus, after the mountain was shut down for the season in 2015, the Nepalese government had allowed those permit holders until 2017 to use them. Or lose them — no small matter, considering a single permit costs $11,000. The result this season is not only a record number of climbers, but also a record number of support staff estimated at more than 1,000 Sherpa.

Another anomaly for 2017 is the lack of snow in Nepal this winter, which could cause icier-than-normal conditions on Everest. “There’s more blue ice showing in the Khumbu Icefall and nearby hanging glaciers,” says American climber Jim Davidson, one of the 2015 permit holders who is back to try again in 2017. “After listening to two to four avalanches per evening while trying to fall asleep in my tent, it feels like there are more unstable ice conditions around Base Camp this year.”

Despite the added risks, Davidson reports the mood at Base Camp is very positive. “We have had great weather for over three weeks, with only a few short periods of precipitation and wind,” he says. “This has allowed expedition teams to stay on schedule, or ahead of schedule, which adds to the buoyant spirit.”

In the next couple days, teams will begin moving up to the higher camps. Nepal’s Department of Tourism reports 41 expedition teams will be in motion, at various stages of acclimatization.