Showing posts with label First Ascent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label First Ascent. Show all posts

Himalaya Spring 2017: Bill Burke Heading Back to his Namesake Mountain

Over the past couple of climbing seasons in the Himalaya, one of the mountains that we've watched closely has been Burke-Khang, an unclimbed 6942 meter (22,775 ft) peak located in the  Solukhumbu region of Nepal not far from Mt. Everest and Cho Oyu. The mountain is named after American climber Bill Burke, who has spent the past couple of years trying to complete the first ascent of the peak that bears his name. Those efforts have been stymied by bad weather, and in some cases bad luck, so far but, and after not being able to summit last year, it looked like it might be awhile before anyone would try again. But, it turns out that a new expedition is in the works, and Bill will once again be taking a crack at the mountain.

In a recent blog post on his website, Bill wrote "It's a Go!" regarding a new expedition to take place this spring. Apparently, the team of Sherpas that he works with on this climb have made a reconnaissance flight over Burke-Khang and have spotted a route that will take the team up the mountain more safely. Last year's attempt was blocked by a dangerous icefall, but in the months since they were last there, the seracs that made up the icefall have collapsed, clearing the way forward.

Bill says that there are still a few crevasses to traverse, but the snow is reportedly in good condition and the route up is much safer and more straightforward. There are a few sections of blue ice to climb, and the headwall on the way to the summit is described as "steep," but everyone is feeling much better about their chances heading into the 2017 season.

Burke left for Kathmandu on March 1 and should now be in Nepal and making plans for the start of the expedition. Hopefully, after two years of being denied the chance, he'll finally stand on top of his namesake mountain at long last.

We'll be following Bill's progress and adding a number of other expeditions to our line-up in the days ahead. The start of the season isn't as far off as it would seem at this point and things will start to get very interesting in just a few weeks time. Stay tuned.

Video: Climbing a New Route in Tibet

This past October, mountaineers Nick Bullock and Paul Ramsden traveled to Tibet to make the first ascent of Nyainqentangla South East, a tough 7046 meter (23,123 ft) peak that has seldom been visited in the past. As you'll see in the clip below, the two men faced incredible challenges and were pushed to their limits on this expedition into the unknown as they approached the climb not in a fast and light style as has become the trend, but in a more thoughtful, methodical pace that adheres to the mantra of slow and steady wins the race.

Nyainqentangla South East, Nick Bullock from MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT on Vimeo.

Nepal to Take Action Against American Climber without Permits

Sticking with news from the Himalaya this morning, we have a follow-up story on the article I posted a couple of weeks back about American Sean Burch who claims to have summited 31 unclimbed peaks in just 21 days. That alone would be an impressive feat of course, but unfortunately Burch didn't have the proper permits to climb any mountains in Nepal, and according to The Himalayan Times, he now faces charges from the tourism department there.

The incident has been under investigation by Nepali officials for the past few weeks, and apparently they have decided to move ahead with initiating legal action against the climber. A letter was sent to both the Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation (Shankar Prasad Adhikari) and the head of the Department of Tourism (Jaya Narayan Acharya) advising them that Burch was in violation of the law, despite the American claiming that he had received permission from the Department of Immigration, which doesn't have the authority to grant that permission or issue climbing permits.

It does seem that officials are recognizing Burch's claims of making first ascents on 31 unclimbed mountains in 21 days, which would be a world record. But, since he did so without proper authorization, and entered restricted areas along the way, it appears he'll face substantial fines and mostly likely a ban on climbing in Nepal. That ban could be for up to 10 years, while the fines would normally go on a peak by peak basis.

For his part, Burch has already left Nepal and returned home to the U.S., which complicates matters in enforcing the rules. He did send out a tweet on November 30 thanking the DoT for recognizing his achievement, but he still finds himself in hot water moving forward. His fines could equal the cost of a climbing permit on Everest – the most expensive that Nepal charges – which is currently at $11,000. In theory, he could be charged that for each individual mountain that he did not have a permit for, although it is unclear just how much he could be fined.

Personally, I think Nepal needs to make an example of these kinds of actions to ensure they don't happen in the future. The country banned the Indian couple who faked their Everest summit for 10 years, and to me what Burch has done is worse. It appears that he has climbed 31 mountains illegally, and to me that should be worth 31 individual sentences. That means $11,000 per summit and a 10 year ban for each too. Too harsh? I'm not sure, but there should be zero tolerance for mountaineers that circumvent the laws.

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 6)

Discovery Canada has released another episode of their fantastic series of mountaineering videos entitled Unclimbed. If you've been following along with the series, you know that it has been following climbers Gabriel Filippi and Elia Saikaly as they prepare to attempt the first ascent of several unclimbed peaks in Nepal. Up until now however, we've seen very little of the third member of the team – Pasang Kaji Sherpa. That changes with this episode however, as we are introduced to Kaji and learn more about his way of life. Born and raised in the big mountains, he is an expert mountaineer, and a crucial part of the team. Learn more in the clip below.

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Part 4)

In the latest episode of the ongoing YouTube series from Discover Canada entitled "Unclimbed" we join mountaineers Gabriel Filippi and Elia Saikaly as they continue to train and prepare for their attempt on three never-before climbed peaks in the Himalaya this fall. In this clip, we learn how the two men prepare for the unexpected and the worst accidents imaginable, something that is a real possibility whenever you venture into the mountains. As usual, this episode provides us with some great insights into what life on an expedition is all about, and the amount of work and planning that goes into an attempt to summit a big peak.

If you haven't watched the previous three episodes in the series, I suggest you do so. They are all excellent, and well worth your time. You'll find them here: Episode 1 - Episode 2 - Episode 3

At the moment, Gabriel and Elia are in Nepal where they are joined by Pasang Kaji Sherpa, as they prepare for their first ascents. We'll be following their progress closely in the days ahead.

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Episode 3)

We continue the excellent series of mountaineering videos from Discovery Canada entitled Unclimbed: Reaching the Summit today with episode 3. As you may recall, this set of clips follows mountaineers Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly, and Pasang Kaji Sherpa as they prepare to take on two unclimbed peaks in Nepal this autumn. In this episode we see how Gabriel and Elia train for the high altitude conditions that they'll face on their expedition. Extreme may not be a good enough word to describe their approach.

Video: Unclimbed - Reaching the Summit in the Himalaya (Episode 1)

Earlier today I posted a story about three climbers  – Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly and Pasang Kaji Sherpa – who have traveled to Nepal this fall to attempt to summit two unclimbed peaks named for Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. But the story of this climb doesn't begin with their arrival in Kathmandu, but instead it starts last year when all three were on Everest when the April 25 earthquake created an avalanche that killed 22 people there. That put an end to their efforts on the mountain, but not their ambitions to climb in the Himalaya again.

This video is the first of a series that will follow the team as they head back to Nepal to take on these two unclimbed peaks. Over the coming weeks, we'll be able to follow their progress, and hopefully continue to see more videos like this one. It is a great introduction for what Gabriel, Elia, and Pasang Kaji are trying to accomplish there, and I'm already looking forward to further installments.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Climbers Heading to Tenzing and Hillary Peaks

The fall climbing season in the Himalaya is still ramping up, with lots of climbers heading to places like Cho Oyu, Manaslu, and Dhaulagiri. But, the big 8000 meter peaks aren't the only ones garnering attention this year, as it appears that several teams are heading out to attempt first ascents on some unclimbed mountains.

According to this story in The Himalayan Times, a three-person team consisting of Gabriel Filippi, Elia Saikaly and Pasang Kaji Sherpa will be attempting to summit both Tenzing Peak (7916 m/25,971 ft) and Hillary Peak (7681 m/25,200 ft). Both mountains, which are named after the two legendary climbers who were the first to summit Everest, hold a special place in the hearts of Nepalis but until now have not drawn much attention from climbers.

According to the story, Hillary Peak can be found close to Lhotse and Nuptse, while Tenzing Peak is located between Cho Oyu and Gyachung Kang. That means the team will have to travel a bit in order to get to the summits of both mountains. It appears that they will first acclimatize on Hillary and make an attempt on the summit, before proceeding toward their second goal.

Neither of the two mountains has been climbed before, and the route to their summits remains a bit of a mystery. While the two peaks have been scouted, the trio of mountaineers will have their work cut for them. They will likely be creating the path to the summit that others will follow in the years ahead.

In a push to draw some attention away from its 8000 meter peaks, and spark some interest in more mountaineers coming to visit, Nepal recently opened up more than 100 peaks that had previously been closed to climbers. A number of those mountains remain unclimbed, which is a big draw to even the most experienced alpinist. The plan seems to have worked to a degree, as I have heard from several mountaineers who will be attempting one of these "virgin" peaks this year or in the near future. That includes American Lonnie Dupre, who will head to Nepal next month to lead a team up Langju, a 6365 meter (20,885 ft) mountain that has yet to be summited as well.

I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about the big peaks in the days ahead, but I'll try to keep an eye on this smaller expedition as well. Some of the boldest and most impressive climbs are coming on other mountains, and the teams attempting them deserve plenty of attention too.

Expedition Recap: First Summit Attempt on Burke-Khang

If you followed my updates of the fall climbing season in the Himalaya, you probably saw me mention an expedition to the Nepali peak Burke-Khang on more than one occasion. The 6942 meter (22,775 ft) peak is one of more than a hundred mountains that Nepal opened to climbers for the first time back in 2014, providing mountaineers with the opportunity to post first ascents on some peaks that even now remain mostly uncharted. And since the mountain is named for American climber Bill Burke, who better than the man himself to help spearhead the first expedition to have a go at the summit?

Our friend Alan Arnette has posted an excellent expedition recap of the climb, starting with how Burke and Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering began scouting Burke-Khang last spring to look for potential routes to the top. Bill had received an assessment of the mountain from some of his Sherpa friends who had deemed in "unclimbable" but after flying over in a helicopter, taking hundreds of photos, and surveying the area fort themselves, Burke and Madison thought that they had spotted a safe way to approach the summit.

This fall, they returned to the remote region of Nepal to attempt the climb, spending several weeks fixing the route and exploring the best way to ascend. Eventually they made a summit push, and came up about 30 meters (100 feet) shy of the top. Apparently, they could have easily finished the route, but the snow cornice on top of the mountain was deemed unstable, so they elected to safely descend first. Burke hasn't ruled out returning to the mountain however, as it is clear he'd like to personally be the one to get the first ascent.

Reading Alan's piece is not only a good recap of everything that happened this fall, but it offers nice insights into how an expedition conducts its research and scouting prior to the launch of their mission. It also provides solid background on what happens during a climb, and what it is like to be live on a mountain while working towards your objectives. It is definitely a good read for anyone who not only follows mountaineering, but is interested in the logistics of the climb too.

Check it out in its entirety here.

Winter 2016 Climbs: Nanga Parbat Will Be Busy, K2 Will Be Empty

Last week I shared the news that Spanish climber Alex Txikon would lead an expedition to Nanga Parbat this winter in an effort to complete the first ascent of that mountain during the coldest, most difficult season of all. Turns out that group won't be alone, as ExWeb now reports that as many as five teams could be on the mountain, all trying to achieve the same objective.

In addition to Txikon's mix of climbers form all over the world, there will be a Polish-Pakistani team attempting the Rupal Face all on the Schell Route. That squad is already in Pakistan and according to ExWeb is preparing to acclimatize now ahead of the actual official start of winter on December 21.

Meanwhile, the team of Elisabeth Revol and Tomek Mackiewicz will be back on the mountain this year, along with Arslan Ahmed. They will be attempting an alpine style ascent along the Diamir side of the mountain. Reveal and Mackiewicz spent considerable amount of time scouting the route last year, and are hoping to return to complete unfinished business.

ExWeb doesn't have many details yet, but they are also reporting that Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger will be on Nanga Parbat this winter as well. Their route, schedule, and plans have yet to be revealed however. Hopefully we'll get more word on their intentions soon.

And finally, Adam Bielecki and Jacek Czech will acclimatize on Ojos before heading over to Nanga for the season. They'll be the fifth confirmed squad on the hill this winter, although ExWeb doesn't have any information on their intended route yet either.

At 8126 meters (26,660 ft) in height, Nanga Parbat is just one of two 8000-meter peaks that have yet to be climbed in winter. And while there will be quite a few teams attempting to put up the first winter ascent of that mountain, at this time it appears that there are no plans for anyone to attempt the other unclimbed eight-thousander this winter. That peak is K2 of course, which is perhaps the most dangerous and deadly of all of the big mountains. It's summit remains elusive in the best of weather conditions, and in the winter it is nearly unclimbable. I'm sure some day someone will reach the top, but it doesn't look like the winter of 2016 will be that time.

Of course, we'll be following these expeditions closely as the winter season approaches. This just might be the year that someone finally summits Nanga in winter.

Video: Climbing the Polar Bear Fang with Mike Libecki

The Polar Bear Fang is a massive rock face located in a remote region of Greenland that climber Mike Libecki had been planning to climb for the past decade. Earlier in the year he finally made the pilgrimage to the mountain to attempt the first ascent of that virtually unknown wall. As you'll see in the video below, it turned into quite an adventure in a wilderness setting that is strikingly beautiful. In addition to overcoming the climb itself, the team faced other challenges that include trekking across glaciers, wandering polar bears, and training a younger brother who is not a climber on how to go up such a big wall.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Summit Success on Jabou Ri, Movement on Manaslu

It has been a slow, challenging start to the fall climbing season in Nepal. Until recently, poor weather had kept teams from moving as freely as they'd like, and as a result acclimatization efforts were a bit behind schedule. But last week a weather window opened on several mountains, allowing teams to finally get back to work. As a result, most of the climbers were on the move this weekend, with one team even finding success on an unclimbed peak.

We'll start with the duo of Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters, who have been attempting to make the first ascent of Jabou Ri, a 6000-meter peak located in a remote region of Nepal. Last week the two explorers made two other summit bids but were turned back do to poor weather conditions. But last Wednesday they were finally able to break through and move to the top. The duo are currently in the village of Thame, and they shared the story of their summit in more detail yesterday. You can read about it here. Eric and Ryan managed to take advantage of the good weather and get up and down safely, but they were certainly exhausted by their previous efforts, making their 13-hour round-trip trek quite the slog. Now they're resting in the village while they decide their next move, which could involve another climb, or simply calling it quits and heading home. Either way, it has been a successful expedition.

Meanwhile, over on Manaslu, the Adventure Consultants resumed their efforts to climb that mountain. Over the weekend they climbed up to Camp 2 at 6200 meters (20,341 ft) as part of their acclimatization efforts. After spending a night there, they descended back to Base Camp yesterday, where they now plan to rest for a few days while watching the weather forecasts. If all goes well, the team could be on the move back up the mountain later in the week.


The Altitude Junkies have also checked in from Manaslu, and report plenty of snow and rain in BC. Their squad hiked up to Camp 1 over the weekend, but have been keeping themselves busy with other treks in the region. Their latest dispatch indicates that Camp 3 has now been established on the mountain, and while some of the other teams may be ready to move up to that point shortly, the AJ squad is still working on their acclimatization process.

The Himex squad just returned from Camp 2 within the past few days as well, and they had information to share on the upcoming weather forecast. Apparently teams should expect relatively good weather to start the week, but heavy snows could return soon. That means they may be sitting in BC again for a few days while they wait for improvements. This is all typical of expedition climbing of course, but it can be frustrating none the less.

Over on Makalu, the Alpenglow team is resting up in preparation for their summit push. The small team hopes to top out soon, and then make the first full ski descent of the mountain. Alpenglow founder Adrian Ballinger shared his thoughts on the expedition with Outside magazine last week. Read about it here.

Finally, there has been not update from Everest yet where we wait for news on the progress of Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki. He is making a solo climb of the world's tallest peak, and was expected to head to Camp 2 to start his summit push last Thursday. Where he is at on the mountain now is unclear. He could be in the middle of that push, but poor weather may have delayed his summit as well. For now, we'll just have to wait for news.

That's it for the start of the week. More to come soon as the season unfolds.

Himalaya Fall 2014: Brits Depart Makalu Base Camp, First Ascent in the Indian Himalaya

As the fall climbing season in the Himalaya slowly grinds to a halt, we continue to receive a few updates from the mountains. At this point, there are only a matter of days left before the season begins to shift, but there are still a few bits of news to share.

First up, the British Tri-Services team posted a dispatch from Makalu indicating that they have now departed Base Camp on the Southeast Ridge, and are making their way back to Kathmandu. They report that poor weather continues to be the norm, with heavy snow, and rain, making it challenging to trek through the mountains once again. They are still a few days away from KTM, and the porters carrying their gear are a couple of days behind the climbers, but they expect that they should be on their way back to the U.K. by next week.

A few weeks back, the Slovenian team of Aleš Česen, Luka Lindič and Marko Prezelj became the first men to climb a new route on Hagshu, a 6657 meter (21,840 ft) peak in the Indian Himalaya. The team completed the climb in alpine style, first making the ascent of the North Face, then traversing the mountain to the main summit. While that was the main objective of the expedition, the trio first acclimatized on two other nearby peaks, making first ascents on both Lagan (5750 m/18,865 ft) and Hana's Men (6300 m/20,669 ft). It is safe to say that this was a successful expedition, considering they made first ascents on three peaks, and did all of them in light alpine style. Well done, and congratulations to the team.

Finally, there continues to be no word from Lhotse on the progress of the Korean Team. A few days back we received word that they were heading up to Camp 4, where they intended to stash gear in preparation for a summit push to come. Since then, there have been no updates, but presumably everything is going according to plan. The team has been on Lhotse for nearly two months now, and have faced bad weather and avalanches almost since the day they arrived. But time is running short now, and if they intend to make a summit bid, it will have to come soon. Hopefully we'll get an update over the weekend.

Various reports continue to indicate that the weather has been poor in the Himalaya once again. It has been a tough season there, and not an entirely successful one. Hopefully things will improve in the spring, when more teams head to the mountains, and Everest becomes a hive of activity.

More updates coming soon, as warranted.