This story first appeared on Outsideonline.
Portuguese climber Pedro Queirós says he stopped speaking to God 20 or 30 years ago. But on Monday night, as Queirós trudged through hurricane-force winds toward the summit of Mount Everest, he restarted his dormant conversation with a higher power.
“I was asking God ‘please stop the wind,’” Queirós told Outside. “If it was just a little bit stronger it would have carried us away, even though we were attached to the rope.”
While the wind did not die down, Queirós and his guide, mountaineer Minga Tendi Sherpa, pushed on through the night. The sky had lightened by the time the two reached the famous Hillary Step at 28,850 feet. It was there that Queirós looked down and saw one of the multiple dead bodies found just below the summit. “It’s like he’s alive, looking at the landscape,” Queirós says.
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At 9:39 A.M., after ten hours of climbing, the duo reached the summit, and Queirós became the first European climber of the 2022 season to reach the top of the world’s highest peak. His ascent kicked off a wave of successful climbs on the mountain, as dozens of teams took advantage of a favorable weather window to push for the top. By Thursday evening, more than 150 people reached the top, according to multiple reports. A spokesperson with Nepal’s department of tourism told Outside that the organization believes another 100 or so climbers will reach the summit on Friday.
The number is high, but nowhere near the record for most ascents in one day on Mount Everest. On May 19, 2012, 234 climbers reached the top, the record on the mountain.
Seven members of the Full Circle Everest team—the first expedition comprised solely of Black climbers—also reached the top, alongside eight of their sherpa guides. The seven successful climbers nearly doubled the total number of Black climbers to reach the peak’s summit.
Teenager Lucy Westlake, 18, of Naperville, Illinois, became the youngest American woman to reach the summit, when she topped out in the pre-dawn hours on Thursday morning. Westlake climbed as part of an expedition led by outfitter Xtreme Climbers Treks and Expeditions. Pemba Sherpa, owner of the operation, praised Westlake’s ability.
“Lucy is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met,” Pemba Sherpa said. “She climbed as fast as her Sherpa did at altitude. This is why they reached the summit early at 5:36 A.M. She is born for the mountains.”
And Antonina Samoilova, the only Ukrainian at Mount Everest this year, also reached the summit.
By Thursday evening, those climbers were descending the mountain to Camp 2. Most of them are expected to reach Everest Base Camp on Friday afternoon, after navigating the Khumbu Icefall for the final time. More climbers will soon follow in their footsteps as teams top out on Friday and Saturday and begin hiking down.
With the favorable weather set to hold for the next three or four days, sources told Outside that climbers may spread their respective summit pushes out to avoid crowding on the peak. Still, with so many climbers pushing for the top, there could be the potential for logjams or slowdowns on the mountain’s narrower sections.
Queirós and Minga Tendi Sherpa avoided the crowds by following a team of climbers that ascended early in the week to repair weather stations on the mountain’s South Col (26,000 feet) and Balcony (27,650) near the summit. Their summit bid was exhausting, and Queirós told website Explorersweb.com that he was awake for 86 hours during the ordeal.
But arriving early gave Queirós and Mingma Tendi Sherpa the rare opportunity to stand on the world’s highest peak by themselves—an experience that was worth enduring the high winds.
“Things crossed the limit of danger that was acceptable to me, but it never crossed that interval where I said ‘OK, this is the end,’” he says.