Showing posts with label Everest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Everest. Show all posts

Himalaya Spring 2017: Teams Continue Acclimatization and Look Toward Summit Bids

The climbing teams on Mt. Everest continue to play the waiting game today, watching the weather, waiting for news on the completion of the route to the summit, and plotting their eventual summit bids. Reportedly, conditions are good and things are going according to plan, but it remains unclear as to when the first summits of the season will take place, or when the waves of commercial climbers will follow along. But over the next few days, we should learn a lot about the schedule ahead and have a clearer picture of what to expect later this week and next. 

The rope fixing team continues to make progress and could potentially complete their work today. Yesterday, the group of Sherpas charged with installing the lines on the South Side of Everest reached the Balcony and today they hope to go all the way up to the summit. They'll need to put in a full day's work to finish the task, but they seem poised to make that happen and record the first summits of the season at the same time. 

Once the ropes are in place they'll descend back to Base Camp for a much needed and deserved rest. At that point, the other teams will check the weather forecast and their own health and condition, to begin thinking about when they'll launch summit bids of their own. Right now, that looks like it could start as early as this coming weekend, although ultimately Mother Nature will decide when to grant access to the top of Everest. 

In the meantime, the teams are keeping busy in a variety of ways. For instance, the IMG squad is spread out between Camps 1 and 3, with climbers in each location wrapping up their acclimatization process. It is possible that they are moving into position to make a dash for the summit once the ropes are installed, or they could be finishing one last rotation before returning to BC for a rest before starting their summit bids next week. A number of the other teams are on track for the same schedule, making a mass ascent in the days ahead as has become the norm on Everest in recent years. 

So there you have it. The stage is nearly set, and teams are preparing to make their push. The weather forecasts look good heading into next week, which is pretty much exactly what is expected for mid-May. Now, it is only a matter of time. But first, the Sherpas must finish their work. Hopefully that will happen today, and the summit season will officially begin. 

Good luck to everyone!

Himalaya Spring 2017: Summit Rope Fixing Stalls on Everest and Another Climber Perishes

It is now crunch-time in the Himalaya. We're now a week into May and more than a few teams on Everest are eyeing the weather to determine the best time to launch their summit bids. Those should come very soon now, but thanks to high winds on both sides of the mountain, things have been delayed slightly.



Last week I wrote that the plan was to install the ropes to the summit by this past weekend, clearing the way for teams to begin their final push to the top. Unfortunately, high winds have kept that from happening, forcing the Sherpas in charge of that job to retreat to Camp 4 and wait for better conditions. Reportedly they will make another attempt at reaching the summit today and tomorrow, with the hopes of getting the lines in place before descending back to Base Camp for a much needed and deserved rest.

Himalaya Spring 2017: First Summits of the Season, Fixing Ropes on Everest, and Ueli Laid to Rest

It continues to be a busy time in the Himalaya, where teams are now squarely focused on finishing up their acclimatization efforts and planning summit bids. While it will likely be another week or so before the push gets underway on Everest, elsewhere in Nepal the first 8000 meter summits of the year have been recorded, even as plans are in place to finish fixing ropes on the highest mountain on the planet.

Last Sunday, five climbers managed to top out on Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest mountain in the world at 8167 meters (26,794 ft.). That team consisted of Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Nga Tashi Sherpa, Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa, Liu Yong Zhong and Dong Hong Juan, all of whom stood on top at 12:20 PM local time on April 30. The weather was reportedly good, and other teams on that mountain are now preparing to follow suit, including Spaniard Carlos Soria, who is looking to bag his 13th 8000-meter peak.

On Everest, the rope fixing team has headed back up the mountain and now plans to complete its work tomorrow, May 6. That means that the route will be complete all the way to the summit, allowing the commercial teams to finally launch their summit bids. Ultimately, it will be the weather that decides when that happens, with the earliest window looking like it could come sometime next week. Meanwhile, another rope fixing team is looking to complete its work on Lhotse on May 8 or 9 as well, clearing the way for teams heading up that mountain too. Once this job is done, we'll definitely be in the calm before the storm, as once the weather clears for a long enough period, the rush to the top will truly be under way.

Finally, The Himalayan Times is reporting that Ueli Steck was laid to rest in the Khumbu Region of Nepal yesterday. The remains of the climber, who perished in a tragic accident earlier in the week, were taken to Tengboche monastery where they were cremated. At least nine Buddhist monks oversaw the proceedings, which included a sermon that lasted for three hours prior to completing the ceremony.

In addition to the monks, Ueli's wife Nicole was present, as were his parents, and several close friends. Only those who were part of this close circle were allowed to participate and visit the scene where he was finally laid to rest. A second ceremony will be held in Switzerland for friends and family, as well as the general public, as well.

That's all for today. Next week should be an interesting one for the teams. It looks like the summit season should be upon us at long last.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Sherpas Hold Protest in Everest BC to Demand Summit Certificates

While the mountaineering world continues to mourn the loss of Ueli Steck on Nuptse, life continues on the big mountains in the Himalaya. Over the past few days, teams have continued their acclimatization rotations on Everest, with most now returning to BC to rest up, most likely for one more rotation before summit bids begin sometime around the middle of May. Despite this calm before the storm however, it appears that things are not business as usual on Everest.

On Tuesday of this week, the Sherpas working on the mountain staged a protest demanding that they receive summit certificates for successfully reaching the top of the peaks they climb in the Himalaya, including Everest and the other 8000 meter mountains. According to The Himalayan Times, the lead Sherpas sent a five-page memorandum to the Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, as well as the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Expedition Operators’ Association in Nepal, laying out their requirements and the reasons why this is important to them. Apparently, local climbers in Nepal have not been receiving those certificates since last year, and possibly even earlier.

For the Sherpas, the certificates are a badge of honor, and one that they feel that they have earned as part of a climbing expedition that they have taken part in. But, the Nepali government points to a rule in the 2002 regulations governing mountaineering that states that only paying members of an expedition team will receive such certificates.


For its part, the Department of Tourism has said that it will attempt to amend the 2002 resolution as quickly as possible so that certificates could be issued. The new regulations will reportedly recognize the Sherpas as part of an expedition – and rightly so – allowing them to collect their certificates along with the rest of their team. Last year, there were 256 Sherpas that topped out on Everest alone, none of which have received the documents as yet.

This protest isn't just about the certificates however. It is also a symbol of the growing unrest, resentment, and dissatisfaction that many of the Sherpa climbers are feeling these days. They continue to feel disrespected, both by their own government and many of the foreign climbers that come to Nepal. This could lead to further protests, strikes, and clashes in the future as the Sherpa operators continue to grow more prominent on Everest and elsewhere.

Fortunately, it seems that things have returned to normal, and the Sherpas continue to support their clients. Hopefully this won't interfere with summit bids in the days ahead, but I suspect we'll continue to see more of these types of actions in the future.

Ueli Steck Dies on Nuptse

Incredibly sad news to report from Nepal today. The Himalayan Times has posted a story this morning that indicates that Swiss climber Ueli Steck was killed while climbing on Nuptse. He was apparently making a solo ascent of that mountain as part of his acclimatization process prior to an attempt on an Everest-Lhotse traverse later in the season. It is believed that he slipped and fell more than 1000 meters (3280 ft).

Dubbed the "Swiss Machine," Steck was known for his fast and light approach to mountaineering. He often climbed solo and was incredibly athletic, even at higher altitudes. His daring style made him a favorite amongst mountaineers and non-climber alike, who were often amazed at his exploits in the Alps and the Himalaya. The Everest-Lhotse traverse was to be just his latest big expedition.

According to The Times, Steck's body was shredded into several pieces due to the impact of the fall. Those remains were reportedly taken to Camp 2 on Everest where they were airlifted back to Kathmandu. His wife, who is at home in Switzerland was alerted to his death not long after the accident occurred.

As you can imagine, the mountaineering community is grieving today. Ueli was one of the brightest and most talented climbers of his generation, pushing the boundaries of what could be accomplished in the mountains. His death will cast a long shadow over this season on Everest, no matter what happens from here forward, and the Swiss Machine will be missed on that mountain and his personal playground – the Alps – back home.

I only met Ueli one time, but he came across as a genuinely humble human being. I have always enjoyed following his exploits in the mountain and wondering what he would do next. This is an incredibly sad ending to an incredibly rich life. My condolences go out to his friends and family.

Video: Life at Camp 2 on Everest

In my update on Everest from earlier in the day, I mentioned that a lot of teams were heading to and from Camp 2 as part of their acclimatization efforts. So what exactly is it like at C2 on the mountain? This video gives us a glimpse of what the place looks like and what staying there for a few days is actually like. While there, climbers tend to rest a lot, but also walk around, sometimes even going higher up the mountain, as their bodies adjust to the thin air. It is all part of the process that gets them ready for an eventual summit bid, which is still a couple of weeks off at this point.

Everest Climbing Gear - Then and Now

National Geographic has another interesting article and photo gallery up today, this time taking a look at the past and present gear used on Everest. The slideshow contains a number of fantastic images, and each one focuses on a particular topic, such as "communications" and "insulation layers," with information what was used when Hillary and Norgay completed the first ascent, versus the gear that the rank and file mountaineers are using now.

Today's climbers are outfitted with highly technical apparel, a host of gadgets, and gear that offers an amazing weight-to-performance ratio. Everything from the boots they wear to the tents they stay in have improved dramatically over the past 60+ years. With all of the advanced fabrics and space-age materials at our disposal, it is easier to climb lighter, faster, and more comfortably than ever before, which is part of the reason so many more people are making the attempt.

So just how different was it back in 1953? In the Nat Geo article we learn that Hillary and Norgay couldn't use wireless communications higher up on the mountain, so they communicated by laying out their sleeping bags in a particular pattern that could be seen below. Today, walkie-talkies, sat phones, satellite messengers, and even cell phones can be used to communicate from any point on Everest, including the summit.

Similarly, the tents used on the first ascent where heavy and bulky. Those shelters were made from cotton, and were often crowded, uncomfortable, and very heavy. In contrast, today's tents are surprisingly strong, lightweight, and warm, even at higher altitudes. Every aspect and component of a tent has been upgraded, making them easier to carry and assemble, even when the weather turns bad.

The story is a fun one and well worth a read for Everest fans and gear junkies alike. Lots of good information here comparing climbing now to then. You're likely to come away with even more respect for those early Everest climbers.

Himalaya Fall 2017: Rest and Recovery, Base Camp Pups, and Acclimatization on Everest

It has been a busy week on Everest. Reportedly, the weather has been quite good there over the past few days, allowing a number of teams to send climbers up to Camp 2 to continue their acclimatization efforts as they prepare for the challenges ahead. At this point, most of the teams have now spent at least a little time at that point on the mountain, with some now planning to even higher over the next few days. It is a lot of work, and rest and and recovery in Base Camp are much appreciated at this stage of the game, when summit bids are still a long way off and the grind can begin to take its toll.

The IMG team will be one of the first to head up to Camp 3 for their rotation. Their first squad will begin the ascent to that point on the mountain today, even as another team descends back to BC after spending a couple of days at C2. Sherpas have been steadily shuttling gear up to that point as well, and as a result there is now a wall of bottled oxygen in place there, waiting to go higher. The IMG clients have all been undergoing oxygen mask and goggle training over the past few days in anticipation of the summit push in a few weeks time. All part of the process as they get read for what is to come.

The Adventure Consultants are back in Base Camp after a few days at altitude as well. The team is recovering nicely and enjoying the fine weather after going up to Camp 2 and staying there for a few nights. Unfortunately, on the descent, one of the members of the team – New Zealander Mike Davies – slipped and fell while crossing the Khumbu Icefall. This resulted in a broken wrist and as a result he's now on his way home. Thankfully, the injuries weren't serious, but it was enough to keep him from continuing the climb. The team has also adopted a dog that is living in Base Camp and named him "Blizzard." He has apparently been keeping the group company and playing off the sympathies of the ladies in the group to enjoy some food and water too.

The Mountain Professionals have checked in from C2 on Everest as well, where they report good weather all the way up the Western Cwm. In fact, according to their dispatch, it was downright hot on the ascent as the sun reflected off the ice. The group will now rest for a few days in their current position before moving up to "tag" C3 on Sunday. After that, it is back to BC for some rest. The latest dispatch from the team also indicates that Sherpas are working away on fixing ropes to the summit, and may accomplish that feat by as early as Monday of next week.


The #EverestNoFilter team of Corey Richards and Adrian Ballinger are back in BC as well, where they're spending three days of rest and eating before going up. They're joined by Adrian's Alpenglow team, which are just arriving on the North Side of the mountain. Reportedly the jet stream is hitting the summit there at the moment, making things difficult, but duo have started their acclimatization and are feeling good about their no-O's ascent of the peak.

Ueli Steck has been scouting Everest and Lhotse for his upcoming traverse attempt. He's going solo at the moment as partner Tenjing Sherpa is suffering from minor frostbite and has descended to allow recovery. Ueli says that all is good, and everything is progressing as expected, although high winds are arriving at C2 now, making things a bit more challenging. He reports that the West Shoulder is in good condition at the moment, and hopes that it remains so for the next few weeks.

That's a quick and dirty round-up of where everything is at on the mountain right now. As mentioned a few days back, the season is unfolding very well so far with few problems. The weather has been fairly predictable so far, and teams are acclimating nicely. We're still a few weeks away from a summit bid, but at the moment it has been a textbook season for sure.

Reinhold Messner on the Future of Climbing Everest

Italian climbing legend Reinhold Messner has weighed in on the current state of affairs on Everest, and where mountaineering on the world's highest peak is headed, and as usual his thoughts are quite fascinating. Messner recently spoke with The Diplomat about these subjects and more, bringing his years of vast experience and knowledge to the table. In his typical style, the iconic climber doesn't mince too many words.

In the interview, Messner talks about the crowded conditions on Everest, and the guided climbs to the summit that are now very different than when he made his famous ascents on the mountain. In describing what it is like there, the Italian says that it is not alpinism but is instead tourism. A very different game than previous generations. He also says that with the path more well prepared and set out for the climbers to follow, the sense of adventure and exploration is gone. It is simply a guided trip to the top of the world.

The Italian also discusses the growing sense of resentment amongst Sherpas and how that has led to more locally owned trekking and climbing companies in Nepal. Those companies are able to offer less expensive trips into the mountain, and as a result they are slowly but surely eroding the business of foreign operators. That will have a dramatic impact on the future of climbing on Everest. Those same Sherpa are also now very experienced and talented mountaineers in their own right, and no longer need to follow the foreign climbers up the slopes.

Messner goes on to touch on the dangers of climbing the mountain, the fact that no one listens to the danger signs until it is too late, and the fact that so man inexperienced climbers are traveling to the Himalaya. He also talks about his relationship to Buddhism and his hopes for a free and autonomous Tibet, amongst other topics.

Most of what Messner talks about isn't especially new, and anyone who follows the climbing scene on Everest probably is aware of the things that are going on there. Still, it is always interesting to hear a man of his prominence and stature share his opinion on where mountaineering was, where its at now, and where it is heading. Check out the full text of the interview here.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Season Progressing On Schedule

So far, the spring climbing season in the Himalaya has been a textbook one, with schedules and plans unfolding exactly as expected. That's good news for all of the expedition teams, which are now spread out at various points along their respective mountains working on their acclimatization process. For the most part, things are going about as smoothly as one could expect with some squads already eyeing summit bids in the days ahead.

We'll start with an update on Ueli Steck and Tenji Sherpa, who are preparing to make an attempt at an Everest-Lhotse Traverse. Ueli has been in Nepal for several weeks now, and has been focused on training for the upcoming climb. According to reports, he and Tenji climbed as high as Camp 2 on Everest and spent two nights there before April 12, which is two weeks ago at this point. We're still awaiting a new dispatch to give us an indication of what they've been up to since then, but it is safe to say that the duo have now spent more nights at altitude and may have even touched Camp 4 at this point. It is believed that Ueli will want to begin the traverse ahead of the massive summit push that will come around mid-May so that he can avoid the traffic jams, although the weather will ultimately decide when that happens.

Also on Everest, the big commercial squads are spread out across the mountain. International Mountain Guides has three different teams moving on the mountain with the first descending from C2, while another moves up to that point, and the third treks up to Camp 1. Likewise, the Adventure Consultants team went up to C2 this past weekend and touched the Lhotse Face, while RMI's climbers are currently safe and sound in Camp 1.

On the North Side of Everest, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is getting settled in and will be making his sixth attempt on the mountain. Previously he has climbed solo in the fall, but due to shifting politics on permits he's back for a go in the spring. The #EverestNoFilter team of Corey Richards and Adrian Ballinger are also climbing from that side of the mountain and have now been as high as 7010 meters (23,000 ft).


Over on Annapurna, the mountain is being as stubborn as ever. ExWeb is reporting tough conditions for climbing so far, including a series of Avalanches that struck C2 last week. That forced some of the teams to retreat to BC to regroup and wait for some stability to set in. The mountain is well known for being extremely dangerous with avalanches occurring frequently, but over the past few years teams have attempted early summits while the slopes were still frozen. That doesn't seem to be the case this time out however.

Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger are in BC on Kangchenjunga have begun fixing rope up the mountain. They report high winds on the mountain so far, with one gust even picking up Simone's tent and depositing it down the mountain with the climber still in it. Still, the duo seem to be in good spirits and are plugging away at getting acclimated while establishing the first of their high camps. Their plan is to traverse the entire Kangchenjunga massif this season, which is an incredible 5.5 km (3.4 miles) in length.

Finally, David Göttler and Herve Barmasse are no enroute to Shishapangam Base Camp after completing all of the paperwork needed to make their climb. The two men hope to open a new route along the South Face of the mountain and are now trekking to the start of their climb. Previously they've been climbing in the Khumbu region and topped out on Island Peak to help with acclimatization.

That's all for now. More updates soon.

Video: Scary Footage From Everest Base Camp During 2015 Earthquake

Today marks the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake that rocked Nepal, killing nearly 9000 people and leaving countless others injured. The disaster leveled homes and building, leaving thousands without a place to live, with food, water, and other supplies difficult to find. Even now, we're still hearing new stories about what it was like on that day, and in this video we get some new footage, including shots from Everest Base Camp, where more than 20 people were killed in an avalanche. Nepal, and the mountaineering community in general, are still struggling to recover from this event, which has left an indelible mark on everyone connected with that place.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Jornet Reveals Plans, Sherpa Injured on the Everest

It has been a very busy couple of days since I last shared any updates from the Himalaya. The spring climbing season is proceeding pretty much according to plan, with teams now settled in their respective base camps across the region and now diligently working away at becoming acclimatized. This particularly true on Everest, where the squads are stretched out from BC to Camp 2, and everywhere in between. This is all part of the process of course, and later in the week I'll provide a more detailed update on where some of the bigger teams currently stand, but in the meantime we have some other news that is of particular interest.

I know a lot of people have been waiting to hear what Kilian Jornet is up to this spring. We know that he intends to go for a speed record on Everest, and that due to permit issues on the North Side he was forced to move his expedition up from late summer as he had originally planned. But other than that, we haven't heard a lot of details. Over the weekend, that changed some.

In an email sent out to members of the media yesterday, the Spanish mountain runner indicated that he would first travel to Cho Oyu with partner Emelie Forsberg where the pair will attempt a summit on that 8201 meter (26,906 ft) mountain. This will serve as acclimatization and training for Kilian, who now intends to head to the North Side of Everest in mid-May to attempt his speed record. The benefits of doing it from that side of the mountain being smaller crowds and a more direct route that doesn't include the Khumbu Icefall.

Jornet just left for Kathmandu yesterday after competing in one last race before setting out to the Himalaya. He and Forsberg will likely spend a few days in the Nepali capital before heading out to the mountains.


Meanwhile, The Himalayan Times is reporting that Sherpas working on the South Side of Everest have now fixed the ropes all the way up to the South Col. That means teams are now free to goal high as Camp 4 once their bodies are prepared to handle the altitude. It also means that everything is on schedule to complete rope fixing up to the summit ahead of the final push that will begin in a few weeks time.

The Times is also indicating the a Sherpa was injured in an avalanche on the South Side as well. Climbing guide Furba Rita Sherpa was struck by ice when a serac collapsed near Camp 1 as he and several other porters were making their way up to C2 to drop gear and supplies. He reportedly suffered a broken hand and multiple injuries to his head and wrists as well. Fortunately, others were there to immediately lend a hand and Furba was quickly evacuated back to Kathmandu for treatment. He is reportedly doing well and already recovering nicely. 

That's it for today. More detailed info to come once I've caught my breath from returning from Oregon. 

Himalaya Spring 2017: Kilian Jornet Moves Up Speed Record Attempt as Chinese Play Politics with Permits

As expected, the spring 2017 Himalayan climbing season is delivering all kinds of interesting stories and plot lines to follow. In addition to a record number of climbers on Everest, there are plenty of other expeditions to follow throughout the region. But just as many teams are getting settled into their respective base camps in the mountains, the Chinese have begun imposing permit restrictions that are causing some climbers to rethink their plans and make last minute adjustments to their schedules.

ExWeb has posted more details on the latest move by the Chinese government to impose restrictions on climbing permits in Tibet. In a nutshell, the authorities on that side of the Himalaya have announced that there will be no post-monsoon permits issued for Everest or Shishpangma this year, and only a limited number for Cho Oyu. In addition, the government is also refusing permits to any climber who has visited Pakistan in the past three years as well, causing a number of teams to alter their intended plans for this spring.

We already knew that Kilian Jornet has moved his speed record attempt to this spring, where he'll have to contend with more crowds, and now we know why. Last year, Jornet went to Everest in the late-summer/early-fall, but ended up being turned back due to poor weather conditions. It was expected that he would probably do the same this year, as the mountain is all but deserted during those months. But, since the Chinese won't be issuing permits for that timeframe, the mountain runner is now forced to attempt his speed record in the spring instead.

ExWeb is reporting that the change in permitting has also had an impact on climbers Adam Bielecki and Felix Berg, who were planning to attempt a new route on Cho Oyu. Both men visited Pakistan last year however, so neither is allowed to enter Tibet. Instead, they'll now go to Annapurna in Nepal and attempt a seldom climbed route on that mountain with partners Louis Rousseau and Rick Allen.

All across the Himalaya other teams are now arriving in BC. In addition to large numbers trickling into Base Camp on Everest, others are now getting settled on Annapurna, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, and Kangchenjunga. Most have been acclimatizing in the Khumbu Valley or on smaller peaks already, and thus are arriving in good shape to start their first rotations. It won't be long now and we'll start to receive word of teams moving up as they begin building their high camps, fixing ropes, and generally becoming accustomed to the altitude.

Weather is already playing a part early in the season. Reports indicate that high winds have been common so far, particularly on Everest, Lhotse, and Annapurna. But, that is not unusual for this time of year, and things tend to calm down a lot as the season progresses. Right now, we're about a month away from major summit bids, give or take a week. The plan moving forward will be to slowly acclimate to the conditions and begin preparing for the challenges ahead.

More to report soon.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Record Year on Everest Confirmed

In the months leading up to the start of the spring climbing season in the Himalaya there was a lot of speculation that it would be a record-setting year throughout the region, but on Everest in particular. After two tragic and incredibly bad seasons in 2014 and 2015, last year marked a triumphant return to form in Nepal. Now, more climbers than ever are on their way to the world's highest peak, and of course that is sparking some serious concerns.

According to an article in The Himalayan Times, 41 expeditions from 44 countries have applied for permits to climb Everest this year, which adds up to 376 foreign climbers on the mountain, with more expected to come. That alone doesn't sound too high when you consider about 550+ summited last season. But, as Alan Arnette points out, those are just the foreign climbers, and when you factor in the Sherpa support teams, the number actually rises to about 730 in total.

Alan also says that approximately 200 climbers will be on Lhotse this season as well, which will add to the congestion on the route up. Everest and Lhotse share much of the same route, only splitting off in opposite directions as the teams near the top. That route will be extremely crowded come mid-May, when summit bids traditionally begin. So much so, that current estimates are at about 1000 climbers in the Khumbu Icefall and climbing in the days ahead.

This will obviously cause traffic jams on the mountain. It could also lead to potential problems should the weather take an unexpected turn. That is a lot of people who will potentially be making their attempts on the summit at the same time, and since teams have often tried to get out in front of one another to avoid these problems, we could see some groups setting out early to take advantage of weather windows. Needless to say, its going to be a very interested spring on the Nepali side of the Everest.


The Times article also states that the big teams in Base Camp met this past Saturday to discuss the plan for fixing the ropes, which is traditionally handled by the larger, more experienced squads in a cooperative manner. This year, the Ministry of Tourism in Nepal has allowed helicopters to fly all of the ropes and other equipment up to Camp 2, which cuts down on the number of trips that need to be made through the Khumbu Icefall, making things safer in general.

Speaking of the Icefall, last week there was a partial collapses of the route that prevented some of the early climbers from shuttling gear up to Camp 1. It was a temporary setback however, and within a couple of days the Icefall Docs had repaired the route and things were flowing once again. But, the incident does underscore the dangers of traveling through this very treacherous section of the climb. Apparently, a large serac collapsed, taking part of the route down with it. This happens regularly throughout the season, and the Sherpa teams usually are quick and efficient about repairing it.

That's all for today. We'll have more updates soon on the current status of teams on the mountain. Most are now getting settled in BC and working on acclimation as they start their first rotations higher up the mountain. It should be interesting to see how things unfold in the days ahead.

Video: The Trek to Everest Base Camp

Earlier today I posted an update from the Himalaya on the progress of the climbing teams there. Most of those teams are now en route to Everest Base Camp on the South Side of the mountain. If you've ever wondered what that trek is like, or what the mountaineers see on the way, this video is a great example of that experience. It was shot last year in April and should be a good representation of what is happening in the Khumbu Valley at this very moment. Having made this trek myself, this video brings back some great memories. This is a special, beautiful part of the world and I recommend that everyone visits it at some point.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Teams Arriving in Base Camp on Everest

For the past couple of weeks I've been posting a number of pre-season updates from the Himalaya, essentially setting the stage for the next couple of months of climbing in Nepal and Tibet. But now, its time to get down to business with most mountaineers now having arrived in Kathmandu and are either preparing to head to their respective mountains or are already en route. Some, are even now arriving in Base Camp, particularly on Everest.

The most prominent squad to reach EBC at this point is International Mountain Guides (aka IMG). The company's first team reached Base Camp last Friday and are now settling in, while they await the arrival of two other IMG teams that are still further down the Khumbu Valley and trekking up to that location. The climbers who are already there have been spending the past few days getting settled and resting up, while also working on their skills in a special obstacle course that was set up to prepare them for what they'll face on the mountain, especially as they cross through the dreaded Khumbu Icefall.

The first team has also gone through its Puja ceremony, which involves a Buddhist lama and several monks asking the local mountain gods to protect the climbers as they prepare to head up the mountain. During the ceremony, the mountaineers all receive blessings, as does their gear. They also ask for safe passage up and down the mountain as well.

While the Puja may sound like a superstitious ritual, it is also tradition on Everest and other Himalayan peaks. The Sherpas in particular are reluctant to step food on any mountain without first getting the blessings from the lama, and over the course of the next few weeks, every team will have their own ceremony in anticipation of the start of the climb.


Now that the IMG team has gotten settled, their next step will be to head back down the Khumbu Valley today to trek to Lobuche Peak. This 6118 meter (20,075 ft) mountain will serve as a warm-up climb and acclimatization trek before they start on Everest. Over the past few years many teams have chosen to acclimate on other mountains as a way to avoid passing through the icefall too many times, and it has proven to be a safe and effective way to get accustomed to the altitude before heading up to Camp 1 or 2.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other teams that are still making their way up the Khumbu to BC and are now at various points along the valley. For instance, the Adventure Consultants are on their way to Kongma La after climbing Chukkung Ri as part of their acclimatization efforts. They expect to be in BC by Thursday of this week. RMI has several trekking teams in the area as well, as does Mountain Professionals, who last checked in from Lobuche, which means they should probably reach Base Camp today.

In other news, Ueli Steck should now be in Nepal after departing from Europe this past weekend. He'll spend a bit of time in Kathmandu before heading out to the Khumbu, where he'll undergo his own acclimatization training. From there, it'll be on to EBC before the start of his much-anticipated Everest-Lhotse traverse. There are some rumblings that if all goes well, he may extend that traverse to include Nuptse too. We'll have to wait to see, as it is already a very ambitious project.

On the other side of Everest in the north, the Tibetan border has now reportedly opened and the first teams are driving to EBC in that country. While the mountain is much easier to reach on the North Side, climbers still have to take their time and allow their bodies to become accustomed to the altitude. Most make several stops along the way to try to slowly adjust, but they don't have the same kind of acclimatization trek as the teams on the South Side do. Still, we should see the first climbers trickling into camp on that side of the mountain over the next few days too.

That's it for now. More new from the Himalaya soon.

Himalaya Spring 2017: ExWeb Provides Yet More Expeditions of Note

Yesterday I posted an article sharing some of the more interesting expeditions that will be taking place in the Himalaya this season, most notably on Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. Later in the day I also shared the reveal of the Kangchenjunga Skyline Expedition that will send Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger on an epic high-altidue odyssey unlike anything that has ever been done before. Today, we have another list of interesting climbs set for this spring courtesy of Explorer's Web.

ExWeb's round up includes some of the expeditions that I've already posted about, including Ueli Steck's ambitious Everest-Lhotse Traverse. But, it also includes brief looks at a lot more projects that I haven't mentioned yet. For instance, the article has an overview of everyone who is attempting Everest without bottled oxygen this year, including names like Ralf Dujmovits, Ferran Latore, Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards. Ballinger and Richards are back once again to share their antics on social media, which was closely followed last season as well. The article also mentions that Nobukazu Kuriki will be back on Everest this spring as well, this time making an attempt on the North Side without O's. Kuriki is famous for his solo attempts on Everest in the fall where he has sometimes run into trouble in the past.

The story also mentions that Min Bahadur will be back on Everest this spring as well as he looks to set a new record for the oldest person to summit the mountain. If successful, he'll have reached the top at the ripe-young age of 85.

Elsewhere, Peter Hamor is looking for his 14th – and final – 8000 meter peak without supplemental oxygen as he takes on Dhaulagiri this spring. Carlos Soria will also be on that mountain searching for his 13th eight-thousander at the age of 78. They'll be joined by several other teams as well. Italian climbers Nives Meroi and Romano Benet are returning to the Himalaya too. They're already Base Camp on Annapurna and looking to nab their final 8000-meter mountain as well.

Finally, a four-person team made of Polish climbers is already in pace on Makalu and making steady progress. According to ExWeb they reached Camp 1 at 6400 meters (20,997 ft) on April 4. The plan is to acclimatize and summit that mountain first before moving over to Lhotse later in the season.

As you can see, we'll have plenty of action to follow all spring long. There are probably even a few big expeditions that have yet to be revealed. One thing is for sure, it'll certainly be an interesting season as usual.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Ueli Steck Shares Everest-Lhotse Traverse Plans

One of the expeditions that we'll be keeping a close eye on this spring is Ueli Steck's attempt to summit both Everest and Lhotse in a single push. As most of you probably already know, the two mountains stand next to one another, and are joined by a single long and difficult ridge that sits above 8000 meters (26,246 ft). That means that any climber attempting the double summit will be above the so called "death zone" for an extended period of time, although Steck has shown his ability to move quickly and tolerate the challenges of thin are at altitude in the past.

In a nutshell, here is Ueli's plan. The Swiss climber has already done some acclimatization in Nepal this winter, and has been preparing int he Alps too. But, he'll still have to allow his body to adjust to the altitude before he begin the climb. To that end, he'll depart for Kathmandu this Saturday, April 8. After handling some logistics in the city and finishing his gear prep, he'll then head out to the Khumbu Valley to being the trek to Base Camp.

Once he is fully acclimatized and ready to begin the traverse, Ueli will first depart BC for Camp 1 just like everyone else. He'll make his way up the Hornbein Couloir on his way to the summit of Everest, before descending back down to the South Col at 8000 meters. From there he'll traverse the ridge between Everest and Lhotse and climb another couloir along Denis Urubko's route before approaching the 8511 meter (27,923 ft) summit of Lhotse. From there, he'll descend along the standard route to Camp 2 for rest, before crossing the Khumbu Icefall and returning to Base Camp.


Of course, we're still a number of weeks away from Steck actually launching this ambitious double-summit bid, but at the moment this is his plan. He'll be joined on the climb by Tenji Sherpa, who he has climbed with in the past. The duo have knocked off the Cholatse North Face (6440 m/21,128 ft) together, and have completed the Eiger/Mönch/Jungfrau traverse in the Alps as a team as well. Tenji and Ueli trained together in Nepal this past February when they worked out the logistics of the expedition.

Expect to hear a lot more about this climb in the days ahead. Ueli is just now preparing to depart for Nepal, but we'll likely receive regular updates as he makes his way to BC, prepares for the climb, and sets off on this difficult attempt.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that the Chinese have shut down another attempt on Lhotse's South Face this season. Korean climber Sung-Taek Hong had planned on attempting Everest's neighbor along that route this spring, but was informed by his Chinese trekking company that the expedition had been cancelled and payment was no longer being accepted. No reason has been given, but it is believed to have political roots. ExWeb speculates that the expedition was shut down due to the U.S. military installing a missile defense system in South Korea recently.

Once again, politics get in the way of completely unrelated events. More updates to come soon.

Himalaya Spring 2017: Ice Docs Open Khumbu Route on Everest and Personal Stories From The Mountain

Now that April is finally here, the spring climbing season in the Himalaya is officially underway. Sure, there were a few teams that had already arrived in Kathmandu, with some even already en route to Base Camp, but the flood of climbers will now truly begin as hundreds flock to Nepal in preparation for the season ahead. Soon, we'll have regular updates from Everest and other big peaks in the region as we follow the progress of the various teams as they move up and down the mountains. But before that begins to happen, I thought we'd take a look at some of the more personal stories that will be shaping up in the week ahead.

The Himalayan Times has posted an update on progress at Everest Base Camp and it seems that the tent city that is built there each year is now beginning to form. While the mountaineers themselves are still trekking through the Khumbu Valley to reach their temporary home, Sherpa support staff and porters have been there for a couple of weeks getting everything ready. By the time the first squads begin to trickle in, they'll find some surprisingly comfortable and modern accommodations waiting for them.

The other big news from the article is that the route through the Khumbu Icefall has been established. A special squad of Sherpas known as the Ice Doctors are charged with building and maintaining the route each spring, and the team has already completed that work, providing a safe passage through the icefall for the teams climbing on the Nepali side of the mountain. This section of the climb is often viewed as the most treacherous of the entire climb, and it falls just above Base Camp. To cross through it, the Ice Docs place ladders and ropes across open chasms that regular shift and move throughout the season. They'll maintain that route through the end of May, fixing it and updating it as needed.


According to the THT article, this year's route requires just 21 ladders and uses a path designed to keep climbers out of the way of potentially dangerous avalanches brought on by collapsing seracs. Such an accident occurred in 2014, claiming the lives of 16 porters. This years route reportedly takes about an extra hour to cross through the icefall, but it safer than alternatives.

Next up, ExWeb has an interview with Ryan Waters, who is a guide for Mountain Professionals. Ryan, who has an illustrious career in the world of outdoor adventure, will be leading a team on Everest this year and he discusses the logistics of the expedition, the potential for record setting numbers on the mountain, and more. He also weighs in on the challenges of skiing to the North Pole. Ryan completed that journey back in 2014 with Eric Larsen, the last team to make the full distance trek to the top of the world.

Outside magazine has a profile of Manal Rostom, a female mountaineer from Egypt who will attempt Everest this spring. She's been slowly knocking off the Seven Summits, having topped out on Kilimanjaro and Elbrus, but was turned back on Aconcagua a few months back due to a storm. Now, she'll head to Nepal for the biggest summit of them all. In the article, we'll learn about how some of the particular challenges a Muslim woman faces in such endeavors, including the fact that she wears a special Hijab designed for athletes by Nike.

As always, Alan Arnette is doing a great job of keeping all of us informed about the current news from Everest. Over the weekend he posted a story with a number of updates on the current situation, including photos and quotes from climbers who are trekking in the Khumbu right now and general updates on the state of affairs at the moment. Eventually Alan will also provide ongoing status updates from the various teams too, allowing us to stay abreast of where everyone is at on the mountain.

Finally, we have a story from adventure sports writer Stefan Nestler about the ongoing efforts to remove trash from Everest. This has been a continuing story for a number of years now, but every spring we get an update on it once again. In the past, the teams weren't responsible for cleaning up after themselves and as a result, trash built up on the mountain – especially at the various campsites. But, progress is being made, even as melting glaciers continue to reveal more trash that needs to be brought down.


Himalaya 2017: Everest Summiteer Cory Richards Shares Intimate Challenges of His Life

In the mountaineer world Cory Richards is known as quite a success story. He is an accomplished climber and adventure photographer who has topped out on some of the world's tallest peaks, including Everest. Back in 2011, he was even part of the first team to complete a winter ascent of Gasherbrum II, joining Simone Moro and Denis Urubko on the summit. To all outside appearances, Richards looked like a guy who had the world at his feet, knocking off tall peaks in remote parts of the world and delivering some of the most stunning images of those places. But, as it turns out, he was also battling a lot of demons, which hid just below the surface threatening to bring it all crashing down.

In a new article for National Geographic, Richards opens up about the challenges he has faced in his personal life, revealing that he first ran into trouble as a young teenager who began using drugs and found himself homeless on the street at the age of 13. That would alienate him from his family for a time and send him on a downward spiral that would leave a lasting impression on any young person. But, he would eventually crawl out of that situation and reunite with his family.

Years later, while climbing Gasherbrum II, he would get caught in an avalanche, narrowly avoiding death. Understandably that would lead to Richards developing a case of PTSD that would begin to haunt him on and off the mountain. He started to drink, he battled addiction issues, he got married but struggled to stay faithful. The difficulties continued to mount, even as his career really started to take off. Eventually, it would all come crashing down. He lost his wife, he left the multimedia studio he helped found, he turned away from friends, and it looked like everything would implode.

Then, last year, climber Adrian Ballinger reached out to Richards to see if he would be interested in climbing Everest together. The two men traveled to Nepal and went to work on the highest mountain on the planet, using social media in unique ways to document their climb. On summit day, Ballinger was forced to turn back, but Richards continued upward, reaching the summit alone. It was then that he knew he had to confront the demons that he faced and get his life together.

In the article, Cory shares some very personal stories about his internal battles, how he got to the lowest point in his life, and what it has been like to crawl back out of that spot again. He gives us a stark, honest look at himself with the hopes that his story might help others, even as sharing the truth helps him too. It is an interest read and a cautionary tale for sure.

Check it on in its entirety here.