Mountaineers and trekkers have swarmed into the Himalayas region for the Mount Everest spring 2023 climbing season, among them, a handful of climbers attempting to break a few records.

Two women are trying to break the speed record to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000+ meter (26,242+ feet) mountains. There’s also a Wyoming, U.S., sports medicine doctor who will attempt to reach the peak of Mount Everest 15 days faster than anyone before. And then there’s a Nepalese Sherpa guide who will try to reach the apex of the planet’s tallest peak for the 27th time – more than anyone else has.

But to say there will be challenges is an understatement. Acute mountain sickness, bad falls, twisted ankles, frostbite, gastrointestinal trouble, snow blindness, avalanches and many other conditions will test climbers and trekkers at every step.

[Related Reading: Record Rescues Expected for the Spring 2023 Climbing Season]

Last year, there were a record-breaking number of climbing permits issued, and Global Rescue conducted a record-breaking number of rescue operations. The spring 2023 climbing season should hit a new high water mark.

Record-Breaking Contenders

Kristin Harila, a relative newcomer to mountaineering and a member of Global Rescue’s Mountain Advisory Council, and Allie Pepper, a veteran high-altitude climber, are each attempting to summit the 14 8,000+ meters (26,242+ feet) — Harila, faster than ever before. Nims Purja, also a member of Global Rescue’s Mountain Advisory Council, holds the current record of six months and six days, shattering the old record of seven years and 310 days. Pepper is attempting to summit all 14 peaks faster than anyone without supplemental oxygen, a record held by Ed Viesturs, also a Global Rescue Mountain Advisory Member.

Pepper’s attempt will be her first and is distinct because she won’t rely on supplemental oxygen. Most mountaineers use supplemental oxygen since O2 content decreases at higher altitudes, making breathing difficult. “The fastest time to complete this challenge is just under 16 years by Viesturs. I aim to complete my challenge in just over two years,” Pepper said.

Mountaineer Kristin Harila smiles at Annapurna base camp.
Norwegian Kristin Harila at Annapurna base camp.

Harila is making her second attempt to surpass the speed record to summit all 14 of the tallest mountains. She was six months in and two summits away from making history last year when the Chinese government’s strict zero-COVID policy prevented Harila from entering the country. Undeterred, she plans to do things a little differently this go-round. “I’m going to use a helmet this time,” Harila laughs, “because there have been some close calls.”

[Related Reading: Kristin Harila Gives the 14 Peaks Speed Record Another Go]

And as if climbing all of the world’s 8,000+ meter mountains wasn’t difficult enough, Harila, like Pepper, plans to climb without supplemental oxygen. “I know this is stupid to say,” Harila confesses, “but I didn’t feel challenged enough last year. The mountains and climbing are challenging in the moment, but I want to try something else. It’s the challenge that keeps me motivated.”

Despite her unaided inhalation aspirations, Harila says she will bring oxygen with her just in case bad weather rolls in and she needs to move more quickly to take advantage of a climbing window or avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Mountaineer Allie Pepper Summits a mountain in the Himalayas
Australian Allie Pepper stands atop another Himalayan peak. Photo: Adventure Magazine New Zealand

Pepper and Harila are good friends, and they may climb together if schedules align. “Kristin is a close friend of mine, and we are in constant contact. We will be climbing together when our projects coincide,” Pepper said.

Zeroing in on one summit, Dr. Joe McGinley wants to smash the previous speed record of 35 days to summit Mount Everest and, instead, reach the peak in 10 days, according to a report. McGinley’s taking a health-science approach that could result in a medical research publication. For months, he’s been simulating sleeping and exercising at 6,100 meters (20,000+ feet) using an oxygen-restricting mask.

And Kami Rita, a Nepalese Sherpa guide, plans to break 26 successful Mount Everest ascents, a global record he already holds, according to an article. “I will climb Everest for the 27th time, and my climbing date is tentatively in the third week of May.”

On the Ground in Nepal

Records are meant to be broken. Climbing the world’s highest mountains faster or more often included. But that notoriety should never come at the cost of unnecessary risk. Luckily, Global Rescue member mountaineers and trekkers attempting to surpass personal bests or break records this season know what they’re doing. But, if they do get in trouble, emergency support is at hand.

Global Rescue medical and rescue experts are already on the ground in Nepal to arrange rescue operations whenever necessary, including helicopter and ambulance transports, hospital admissions and looking after individuals admitted to a hospital for care.

Dan Stretch is an experienced high-altitude mountaineer with ascents in the Himalayas, Europe, South America and Africa. He will be part of the on-the-ground operations team that will likely be handling 200 high-altitude rescues or more.

An “average day” during a Himalayan deployment is anything but normal. During the two-month spring Mount Everest climbing season, there will typically be several rescue operations performed each day, keeping the deployment team and Stretch busy from before dawn until nearly midnight. The busiest time is the two-week Mount Everest summit window when the medical and rescue operations team performs up to 25 rescues a day.

After a rescue, the Global Rescue team will often meet the members when they arrive at the medical facility and help them navigate the initial process. “We have close relationships with multiple hospitals. We conduct in-hospital visits and monitor medical reports remotely with our U.S.-based physicians who have expertise in high-altitude illness. All of this ensures that recovery is as fast and effective as possible. If the individual requires prolonged treatment our deployed team may assist them getting home,” Stretch said.

Global Rescue is expanding and enhancing its services for the climbing community by increasing its capabilities to provide emergency services in more regions, committing to longer deployments of medical operations personnel, and extending in-field rescue operational durations.

Implementing the High-Altitude Evacuation Package enables Global Rescue to continue enhancing its current service capabilities for the climbing and trekking community worldwide. Any member planning to travel above 15,000 feet or 4,600 meters at any point during their trip, excluding airplane travel, should purchase the High-Altitude Evacuation Package.

[Related Reading: What Is the High-Altitude Evacuation Package?]

“High-altitude outdoor activity worldwide is reaching unprecedented heights of participation,” said Viesturs, the only American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000+ meter peaks and the fifth person to do so without supplemental oxygen. “Global Rescue’s High-Altitude Evacuation Package supports this expanding interest with greater depth and breadth of services.”