Showing posts with label Lhotse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lhotse. Show all posts

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.

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.

Ueli Steck Training in Nepal Ahead of Spring Everest-Lhotse Attempt

The spring climbing season in the Himalaya is still well over a month from getting under way, but already some of the world's top climbers are preparing for the challenges ahead. Take Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck, who is getting ready for what could be the most difficult undertaking of his illustrious career. And to prepare for that expedition, Ueli is already in Nepal and training for what he expects to be a major undertaking.

This spring, Ueli hopes to summit not only Everest, but its neighbor Lhotse as well. While it is a bit unusual to bag both summits in a single season, it's not completely unheard of with other mountaineers completing that challenging in the past. But, Ueli will attempt to nab both summits in a single go, first topping out on Everest before returning to Camp 4 for a brief rest, and traversing the narrow ride that connects the two mountains, and going straight for the summit of Lhotse as well.

Steck will be joined on this venture by climbing partner Tenji Sherpa, and to prepare for their expedition the duo have already been training in Nepal. Ueli and Tenji recently summited the 6180 meter (20,275 ft) Island Peak. Additionally, while training in the Khumbu Valley, Ueli has also been doing a lot of running, saying that he has covered a distance of 150 km (93 miles) and a vertical climb of around 12,000 meters (39,370 ft).

After spending three weeks in the Khumbu, Ueli will now head home for another three weeks of training in the Alps, before returning to Nepal to attempt the Everest-Lhotse traverse. My guess is that he'll be back in the country early in the season, do some more acclimatization in the valley ahead of the start of climbing season, and will be ready to take on the challenge as early as he can. We've seen Ueli dash up to the summit of Everest before, staying well ahead of the normal crowds, and he is likely to do that again. In fact, a few years back he was amongst the first to summit, following behind the rope fixing team as they installed the lines to the top. I wouldn't be shocked to see him do the same thing again in an attempt to avoid the crowds that would surely slow him down from his normal amazing pace.

It won't be long now and we'll begin to see more stories of training and final prep work for the start of the season. By the first of April, the teams will begin arriving in Kathmandu and things will get really interesting. Right now, it's the calm before the storm, and we still have a winter ascent of Everest to watch closely too.

Ueli Steck Gearing Up For Lhotse Traverse in Spring 2017

It is hard to believe that 2016 is quickly drawing to an end, and soon we'll turn the page to a new year. That means lots of new opportunities of course, and a time to start look ahead to some big adventures to come, including the spring climbing season on Everest, which is sure to be a busy and interesting place after a return to normalcy this year. One climber who is already anticipating his expeditions to the mountain is Ueli Steck, who as usual has some big things planned.

Steck, who climbed Everest without bottled oxygen back in 2012, only to return the following year and find himself embroiled in a high-profile brawl with Sherpa guides, is now gearing up for a very ambitious expedition in the spring of 2017. The Swiss climber will return to the South Side of Everest to attempt what he calls the Lhotse Traverse, which will start with a summit of Everest and continue with him – and his climbing partner Tenji Sherpa – continuing across the saddle ridge to the summit of Lhotse, Everest's closest neighbor and the fourth highest mountain in the world at 8516 meters (27,940 ft). As with his last expedition to the world's tallest mountain, Ueli plans to make the climb without supplemental O's.

Recently, Steck sat down for an interview with journalist Stefan Nestler, during which he talked about this upcoming expedition, which he has already started preparing for. In that interview, Ueli says that he hopes to climb the Everest along the tough West Shoulder, and then after summiting, continue on to Lhotse in a single long, and difficult push. But, that said, he has also acknowledged that conditions might not be right for such a route, so he may shift to the normal route of Everest first, and complete the traverse that way instead. But, he says that this project is one of his dream expeditions, so there is a likelihood that if he does have to take the normal route, he may return in the future to try the West Shoulder again.

In the interview, Ueli also touches on the 2013 brawl, saying that he has now put that ugly incident behind him. It impacted him greatly immediately after the incident, leading to him not trusting other climbers quite so much and taking a different approach to his expeditions. He says that it has shaped his perspective moving forward, but that he is at peace with what happened and is ready to just concentrate on climbing in the High Himalaya instead.

As he prepares for the altitude he'll face on Everest and Lhotse, Ueli says he has begun picking up the volume of his training to get ready for the challenge ahead. Dong lots of vertical climbing at a rapid pace – something he is well known for – allows him to stay in the Alps and still prepare for the Himalaya, and while the start of the expedition is still more than three months away, he is already getting his body ready.

If successful, Ueli will be the first person to complete the Lhotse Traverse without the use of bottled oxygen. He seems very confident that he can pull this off, and knowing what I know about the "Swiss Machine," I wouldn't bet against him.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Season in Full Swing as Teams Move to Manaslu, Cho Oyu, and Lhotse

The fall climbing season in the Himalaya is now full steam ahead as teams continue to gather in Kathmandu and make their way out to their respective mountains. We have already discussed Kilian Jornet's speed record attempt on Everest multiple times and checked in with Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki a couple of times as well. Both of those men should now be in Base Camp on the North Side of the mountain, and have started their acclimatization process as well. But elsewhere in the region other teams are getting settled too, and now it appears that it should be quite an interesting few months in Nepal and Tibet.

On Lhotse, South Korean climber Sung-Taek Hong is back on the mountain for the fourth time in as many years, and his fifth attempt overall. He'll be having a go at Everest's neighbor in the coming weeks as he attempts to go solo and in alpine style to the summit. Last year he made four individual summit pushes, reaching as high as 8200 meters (26,902 ft) but couldn't top out due to poor weather and deep snow on the route. He's hoping to have more luck this year.

Meanwhile, the Base Camp on Cho Oyu is starting to get crowded as commercial teams have arrived there in the past few days. Most of the squads, which include the Adventure Consultants and IMG, are still getting settled as they begin to get acclimatized. Soon, they'll start their first rotations up the mountain as they start to get accustomed to the altitude.

Interestingly enough, climber/journalist Billi Bierling is on Cho Oyu this fall and she reports that the road leading to BC has been extended further into the region. So now, what was once a quiet and peaceful place, has trucks rolling through all night long, causing the setting in camp to be very different. It is likely something the climbers will get use to in time, but for now it is a bit different.

Another popular climbing destination this fall is Manaslu, where the commercial teams started to arrive more than a week ago. It is a very crowded Base Camp as Alan Arnette reports that the Seven Summits Treks squad is more than 130 people, while large western guide company Himex is also there as well. Alan says that the most successful year on the mountain came back in 2011, when there were 140 total summits. This year, one company nearly has that many clients alone.

Cho Oyu and Manaslu are both very popular warm-up climbs for Everest. They are both fairly straight forward climbs for an 8000 meter peak, and are considered good places to get experience before going higher. Some of the climbers that are on these two peaks right now will almost certainly return to the Himalaya in the spring to have a go at Everest too.

The Altitude Junkies are now en route to Dhaulagiri, where it appears they'll be the only team on the mountain this fall. Flight delays and logistical challenges have caused a bit of a later start, but all is good and everyone has started the acclimatization process while driving to BC. They should get there in another couple of days.

That's it for today. We'll have more updates as the teams continue to get settled and the climbing operations begin.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Busy Season Ahead in Nepal

It looks like the fall climbing season in Nepal will be a busy one. After seeing a resurgence of climbers on Everest and other 8000 meter peaks this past spring, it now appears that the trend will continue with a slate of climbs scheduled for the fall as well. And with the official start of the season just a few days away, scores of mountaineers are now arriving in country.

According to this story from The Himalayan Times Manaslu will be the favorite target for the climbing teams this autumn. About 100 foreign climbers have received permits to attempt the 8163 meter (26,781 ft) peak, with the first 40 mountaineers departing from Kathmandu yesterday. They'll spend a few days trekking before reaching Base Camp, but should get there sometime late next week, just as the fall season – which traditionally runs from September to November – starts to get underway.

Other mountains that will be seeing some traffic this fall include Dhaulagiri and Lhotse, as well as non-8000 meter peaks Ama Dablam, Himlung and Putha Hiuchuli. Those mountains won't have nearly as many men and women on their slopes however, as Manaslu remains the big draw.

As has become typical for this time of year, there are no reported attempts on Everest from the South Side at this time. That could change as more climbers apply for their permits, but as of now Spanish ultrarunner Kilian Jornet and Japanese mountaineer Nobukazu Kuriki are the only ones who will challenge the world's highest peak this season. Both will make their ascent from the North Side.

According to the story from the Times, some of these groups will be quite large. For instance, Seven Summits Treks will lead four groups consisting of 60 climbers on Manaslu themselves, which may be as much as half of the number of foreign climbers heading to Nepal this autumn.

Following the tragic earthquake last spring, it was good to see mountaineers returning to Nepal this year. By most accounts, the spring climbing season was a highly successful one, and the fall looks to continue that success. Of course, all of these expeditions employ Sherpa guides and high altitude porters, which brings much needed cash to the economy of Nepal as well. We'll of course be keeping a close eye on the proceedings there, and will report any news moving forward.

Gadd luck to everyone heading into the mountains. Stay safe!

Himalaya Spring 2016: 200 Climbers Head For Everest Summit

While we've seen a steady string of summits on Everest over the past week, today looks like it will be the busies day of the season by far. According to reports, more than 200 climbers are now on the move with the intention of topping out today. That means we can expect long lines and traffic jams at key points of the mountain, but with the weather reported very good, it should be an incredibly successful day on the world's highest peak. 

The Himalayan Times reports in the link above that more than 150 climbers have already been successful in their bids to top out on Everest, with a number of others still pushing to the summit. Their number indicate that 41 foreign climbers and 58 Nepali guides had gone up yesterday, with another 87 foreigners and 110 Nepalis setting their sites on the summit today. After two years of no summits on the mountain, it is safe to say that Everest is back open for business.

No matter how many people summit today, it won't bring an end to the steady stream of climbers that are on the move. More teams have now moving up to Camp 3 and Camp 4 as they get ready to make their final summit push over the next couple of days. 

Meanwhile, on the North Side of the mountain the teams are moving up to take advantage of the current weather window as well. They are still waiting for the ropes to be fixed to the summit, which hopefully will be done today, allowing teams to go to the top at long last.

Sad news from Lhotse as well today, where it was revealed that a Sherpa guide has fallen to his death. Reportedly he was part of the team that was working to fix ropes to the summit on that mountain, and slipped and fell above Camp 2. The guide was helping to take a seven-member commercial squad to the summit at the time. Our condolences to the Sherpa's friends and family. 

Over on Dhaulagiri, Chris Jensen Burke checked in with the news that her expedition to that mountain is now over. After successfully summiting Annapurna a few weeks back, the Aussie climber had hoped to pull off a Himalayan double-header this season, but alas it wasn't meant to be. After making a summit bid earlier in the week, climbers there were turned back by high winds and deep snow near the top. She'll now head home, even as other teams move into place for possible summits over the next few days. 

Elsewhere in the Himalaya other teams are on the move too. With good weather conditions across the region, it now looks like the current summit window is one that numerous teams will take advantage of. The monsoon is looming near the end of May, but for now, things are calm and safe. Hopefully they'll stay that way as all of the teams get up and down their respective mountains successfully. 

Himalaya Spring 2016: Lhotse Face Closed on Everest, Annapurna Summit Push Begins

More news from the Himalaya today where the spring climbing season continues to unfold at a quick pace. But today we learn that acclimatization efforts are at a standstill on Everest, while teams on Annapurna are once again on the move.

The big news of the day is that the Lhotse Face on Everest is closed due to the collapse of an ice ledge on the mountain. The collapse occurred along the route from Camp 2 to Camp 3, where some teams were already moving up as part of their latest round of acclimatization rotations. All teams have reportedly retreated to C2, where everyone seems to be safe. Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be any casualties.

The collapse occurred this morning local time in Nepal. The teams there are now examining their options for climbing higher, which could involve using ladders to climb over the chunks of ice or a longer route that goes around the area where the collapse occurred. It will probably take a couple of days to sort things out, as ladders would need to be carried up the mountain to be put into place or any potential detours will need to be scouted before teams attempt to go around.

In other Everest news, it has also been reported that a Sherpa collapsed in Camp 1 today. He was immediately treated for altitude sickness, placed on oxygen, and evacuated to Lukla. Now that he is at lower altitude, he is expected to recover completely.

Elsewhere, over on Annapurna a new summit bid is now under way. Teams have started to move up this morning with the hope of topping out on Sunday, May 1. About 30 climbers, including 10 Sherpas, have begun to move up, with Aussie Chris Jensen Burke and Spaniard Carlos Soria amongst the group. If all goes according to plan, they should reach C4 by Saturday and launch their bid that evening with the plan of summiting on Sunday morning. Hopefully the weather will hold, allowing them to safely get up and down.

That's all for now. More news as it comes in.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Notable Climbs for the Season Ahead

The 2016 climbing season in the Himalaya is inching ever closer, and by the end of the month scores of mountaineers will begin descending on Kathmandu in anticipation to the start of their expeditions. Many of those climbers will be headed to Everest of course, while others will visit Annapurna, Shishapangma, Makalu, and a variety of other peaks. Most of those climbs will be along well established routes on those mountains, but some will be attempting unique ascents that could be groundbreaking. Here's a rundown of some of the more notable attempts for the season ahead.

One of the more interesting expeditions to keep an eye on this spring will be Ueli Steck and David Göttler's attempt of a new route on Shishapangma. According to ExWeb, they'll be trying a new direct route that Ueli spotted while in Nepal last year. They'll set off at the end of the month.

ExWeb is also reporting that Slovakian climber Peter Hamor, along with Horia Colibasanu, will be attempting an alpine style ascent of Manaslu along a new route after they've finished acclimatizing along the traditional route.

Yesterday on Facebook, popular Everest blogger and accomplished climber Alan Arnette announced that he'll be returning to Lhotse again this spring. Alan's climb on that mountain was cut short last year when the earthquake struck Nepal on April 25. As usual, he'll be climbing in support of the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.

Kilian Jornet is going back to Everest this spring to have another go at the speed record. He'll be climbing from the North Side, and will most likely make a late season attempt, letting all of the traffic get out of the way. Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards will also be on that side of the mountain, with the hopes of potentially making a ski descent as well.

My friend Don Mann will be attempting to summit Everest from the South Side this spring. He'll be climbing to help several charities that support U.S. Navy SEALs and their families, as well as raise awareness of veterans. You can follow his climb with daily updates on Don will leave for Kathmandu in two weeks.

It looks like a number of climbers are already en route to Annapurna to attempt an early season summit on that mountain. This helps to lessen the threat of avalanches on that peak, which is notorious for such problems. The strategy worked well last year, with 13 people reaching the top early in April, more than a month ahead of the schedule for summits on Everest. This year, Carlos Soria, Chris Jensen Burke, Alex Gavan, and Tunç Findik all hope to take advantage of this approach and top out on Annapurna. Soria and Jensen Burke are already in Base Camp on the mountain, while others are still trekking there now. And after he is done here, Carlos plans to head to Dhaulagiri next.

Other interesting climbs include teams returning to Makalu after being shutdown due to the earthquake last year, as well as Spanish climber Juanito Oiarzabel attempting Dhaulagiri. As ExWeb indicates, he became the 6th person to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks back in 1999, but now he's hoping to do them all again. We'll be watching that expedition closely.

This is just a taste of what is to come. Stay tuned for more as we learn about other expeditions taking place in the Himalaya this spring.

Himalaya Fall 2015: It's Over on Lhotse

A few days back I posted an update on the progress of the South Korean team that had been toiling away on Lhotse for the past two months. After establishing a high camp at 8200 meters (26,902 ft), the squad was preparing to make one last summit push that was expected to begin today. But now we've received word that they have cancelled that attempt and have now decided to head home after the weather took a turn for the worse.

According to ExWeb, expedition leader Sung Taek Hong had climbed up to Camp 1 today to start the team's fourth and final summit bid. He was joined by a group of Sherpas who were assisting with the climb. Unfortunately, high winds on the mountain made climbing very difficult, with speeds approaching as high as 150 km/hr (93 mph) at C1. That would typically indicate that the winds would be even worse higher on the mountain. The winds were so bad in fact that they destroyed several tents and blew away important gear needed for the ascent. Those conditions are impossible to climb in of course, so Sung and the Sherpas elected to descend back to Base Camp.

During their descent, the team experienced a number of rock slides, which made it all the more dangerous as they went down. One of the Sherpas was actually struck by a rock, and injured badly enough that he had to be evacuated from the mountain to a hospital.

With this fourth summit push thwarted, the team will now gather their gear and begin the return trek home. They have been on the mountain since early October, and by this point they are likely exhausted and ready to return to South Korea. It will take a few days to trek down the Khumbu Valley to Lukla, where they'll catch a flight back to Kathmandu, but they'll most likely depart Nepal early next week.

The ending of this expedition pretty much drops the curtain on the 2015 fall Himalayan climbing season. There are a few small expeditions that are still ongoing, but for the most part the season is over. It has been a very long, and difficult one for sure, with bad weather preventing many teams from achieving their objectives. Now, the mountaineering community will turn its attention to a few major winter climbs instead, although anticipation is already running high for a busy spring in 2016.

Himalaya Fall 2015: South Korean Team Prepares for Summit Bid on Lhotse

While those of us living in the U.S. celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, the South Korean team on Lhotse was busy pressing forward with their efforts to climb that mountain. While there hasn't been a lot of news to report in recent days, the team has continued to make progress and they are now set to make one final push to the top later this week.

According to ExWeb, the Koreans managed to establish a new high camp at 8200 meters (26,902 ft) that will serve as the launching pad for this final summit push of the season. They built that camp amidst high winds over the past week following a failed summit bid earlier in November. The location of their new Camp 4 will provide more shelter and a better spot to rest before their summit push, making it somewhat easier to go for the top, weather permitting of course.

After establishing C4 last week, the squad descended back to Base Camp where they rested for a few days prior to setting out once again. According to reports, they left BC on Saturday and are now making their way back up the mountain. The plan is to be in position by Wednesday, and make an attempt on the summit on Thursday, December 3.

Of course, the weather will ultimately dictate their chances, and while things look promising for later in the week, high winds have been the norm at higher altitudes on Lhotse in recent days. Still, if Korean team can catch a break, they may yet stand on the summit this fall. And if they do succeed, it will be due to their determination and persistence. They've been on the mountain for weeks now, and have remained focused on their goal despite the fact that many other teams climbing in the Himalaya this fall have gone home without achieving much success.

Other than Lhotse, the rest of the Himalaya has gone most silent this fall. There are still a couple of teams out in the mountains attempting to climb some big peaks, but with winter now closing in quickly, most of the climbers are now looking ahead to the spring of 2016, with a few very hearty souls planning big winter climbs as well. I'll continue to keep any eye on the Koreans' progress on Lhotse, as it now looks like it'll be the last major expedition of the season, and will likely close down the climbing scene in Nepal before what promises to be a very interesting spring.

Stay tuned for more later in the week.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Progress on Lhotse, Looking ahead to Nanga Parbat in Winter

The fall climbing season in Nepal is slowly grinding to a halt. Not many teams remain in the mountains now, and the poor weather conditions that have persisted throughout the autumn continue to make things difficult. While one team continues to labor away on an 8000 meter peak, another begins looking forward to the winter season ahead.

We've finally received an update from the South Korean team on Lhotse, and they have made some progress, despite very high winds on the mountain. According to ExWeb, the team has now established Camp 4 at 8000 meters (26,246 ft). They had attempted to set camp at 8100 meters, but winds in excess of 70 km/h (43 mph) made it impossible to keep the tents standing. They were able to find some shelter a bit lower power, which is where the squad is now as they wait for an opportunity to go up. The winds may not allow for that to happen though, as reportedly the strong gusts are impacting the entire mountain, including Base Camp.

The plan now is to wait and see if a weather window will come. The team is prepared to wait for a few days and watch the forecasts. Considering how late in the season it now is, this will likely be there last chance to summit, but they're not prepared to give up just yet.

Over on Annapurna IV, the Polish team has decided to pull the plug on their attempt to summit that mountain along a new route. The big wall that they were attempting to climb was already difficult enough, but it is now gotten even more difficult due to avalanche conditions. Early in the season, the squad saw great weather and felt confident that their expedition would succeed. But as they prepared to launch their summit bid, conditions on the the mountain took a turn for the worse, with heavy snow dropping along the Southwest Wall that they had planned to climb. The team stayed in BC hoping for a shift in weather, but it never came. Now, they will pack their bags and go home, although they do feel they managed to get some good intel from the route. Perhaps they'll return to give it another go in the future.

Late last week, 76-year old Spanish climber, Carlos Soria reached the summit of Ama Dablam. The 6812 meter (22,349 ft) peak is often used as a tune-up for bigger mountains in the Himalaya, but considering Carlos' resume, he wasn't there for a tune-up of any kind. Still, his team managed to top out in good weather conditions, which is no small feat considering how difficult the fall season has been. Congrats to him and all of his companions on a job well done.

Finally, the fall season may not be quite over yet, but some climbers are already looking ahead to winter. Among them, Spanish climber Alex Txikon, who has announced his plans to return to Nanga Parbat once again. He'll be joined by Ferran Latorre, Daniele Nardi, Ali Sadpara, and Janusz Golab, as the entire squad sets out for Pakistan in late December. The plan will be to reach the mountain as winter official sets in, and start the climb immediately. They are planning to attempt the Kinshofer Route on the Diamir Face, and are preparing to be there until the end of February.

You may recall that the 8126 meter (26,660 ft) peak is one of only two 8000-meter mountain that have to be climbed in winter – K2 being the other. They will likely not be the only team on Nanga this winter, as it has been a prime candidate for a first ascent for some time. Alex hopes to build on the experience his team – which included Ali and Daniele – from last year to finally reach the top.

That's all for today. More to come as any news breaks. Right now, that looks like it will most likely come from Lhotse, although there are a few other expeditions still ongoing as well.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Summit Bid Denied on Lhotse

There are a few updates from the Himalaya today, as a few teams there continue towards their goals on a variety of summits. Most notably amongst them is Lhotse, where the South Korean team has been acclimatizing and preparing for weeks. Today was suppose to be the day that they reached the top at long last, but once again poor weather has denied another squad a shot at achieving their goals.

According to ExWeb, the Korean team was able to climb as high as Camp 3 at 7850 meters (25,754 ft), where they had hoped to make an attempt on the summit today. But, a fierce blizzard hit the top of the mountain, not only creating dangerous weather conditions, but also creating rockslides that made it impossible to go any higher. Now, the entire team squad has descended back to Base Camp, where they will rest for a few days before going up once again.

The plan now is for one or two of the Koreans to go up with a group of Sherpas to establish Camp 4 and fix ropes above that point. That will become their launching pad for another summit bid, once the weather improves. Apparently, Camp 3 is far too crowded, and really only has enough room to cached food and supplies. With C4 firmly established, the team will have a good place to rest and prepare for the final push to the top. Depending on the weather, they could attempt another summit bid sometime late next week.

Over on Annapurna IV, the Polish team has also been forced to descend due to poor weather. They report that over 3 feet (1 meter) of snow has fallen on the mountain in the past few days, and now conditions are unsafe. They have dropped down to lower altitudes to consider their options, as they are now prepared to climb, full acclimatized, but conditions are difficult and unsafe. The team says that they are not ready to come home just yet, but they also need about 7-10 days of good weather to have a legitimate shot at topping out. For now, they are waiting to see what will happen, as everyone is in good spirits, feeling strong, and healthy. It is once again the weather that is not cooperating.

Over on Ama Dablam, 76-year old Spanish climber Carlos Soria is now ready to make a summit bid. His team has been acclimatizing in the Khumbu Valley for a few weeks now, and have been working the mountain too. It appears that he is preparing to launch his summit bid today, with the hope of completing the climb sometime in the next few days.

Finally, Lonnie Dupre and his teammates have now wrapped up their expedition to the Himalaya. Over the past month or so, they have been in the country helping with rebuilding efforts, while also climbing a few mountains. They managed to summit both Ama Dablam and Kyajo Ri, while also providing support for the locals too. The entire crew is now back in Kathmandu, and preparing to go home.

That's it for today. More news as it comes in.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Summits on Ama Dablam, Waiting on Lhotse, and Conrad Anker on Lunag-Ri

The past few days have been busy ones in the Himalaya, with a number of teams on the move as they work towards their goals, even as the season starts to wind down. There aren't too many climbing days left in the big mountains this fall, so climbers are trying to take advantage of them while they can. As a result, there has been some late season success, with possibly more to come.

Late last week, two members of Lonnie Dupre's Vertical Nepal team topped out on Ama Dablam. The group had spent a couple of weeks volunteering in the region before climbing Kyajo Ri at the end of October, which all helped to acclimatize them for the attempt on this mountain. But with a couple of members of the team feeling under the weather, and wind speeds picking up dramatically, only climber Elias de Andrés and a Sherpa named Phurba went to the summit. They managed to complete their ascent at 7:45 AM local time last Friday, before descending back to Base Camp. The squad has now left the mountain and are already volunteering in Lukla.

Elsewhere, we're now awaiting word from Lhotse on the progress of the South Korean team there. Last week the group had fixed the ropes up the mountain to Camp 3, and were preparing to make a summit push based on weather reports that indicated a window would be opening this week. They had expected to go up the mountain this past weekend, reaching Camp 4 on Saturday. The plan is to then work at installing ropes above that point with the expectation of summiting on Thursday (Nov. 12) of this week.

Unfortunately, there has been no update yet to indicate if things are going according to plan. The team has not updated its Facebook page, although that could simply be because they are in the midst of the planned summit push, and don't have the means of sharing their progress. Either way, since the deadline for their final attempt is nearing, we should know more later in the week.

Meanwhile, Bill Burke has shared an update from Burke-Khang, the unclimbed peak that was named in his honor. The team hoping to make the first ascent of the 6941 meter (22,775 ft) peak have now moved up to Camp 1 and are beginning their acclimazation rotations. At the moment, all seems to be going according to plan, and even the weather is cooperating. They'll need a few more days of preparation to allow their bodies to get use to the thinner air, but they should be preparing for a summit bid short as well.

Bill reports that the climb from ABC to C1 was a tough one, as they gained more than 2500 feet (762 meters), on a wall that was often at an angle of about 70º, and was covered in snow, rock, and ice. In other words, Burke-Khang may not be the tallest mountain in the region, but it isn't easy either. And considering they don't know what awaits for them as the move up, there are likely more unexpected challenges ahead.

Over on Annapurna IV, a team of Polish climbers is acclimatizing for a summit push on that mountain. They report good weather conditions after a fall that has been filled with lots of snow and high winds. The squad also reports that time is running out for a summit push, but they are now ready to go when an extended weather window opens. If that happens, they'll set out for what they hope is a fast ascent.

Finally, Conrad Anker has returned to Nepal to attempt an unclimbed route up the Northwest Face of Lunag-Ri with David Lama. The peak is 6895 meters (22,261 ft) in height, and offers some interesting challenges for the two very experienced climbers. They set out for Nepal this past weekend, and should be in Kathmandu now, and preparing for the start of their climb. It is a late season expedition to say the least, but as Conard tells Nat Geo Adventure in this interview, he once climbed Ama Dablam on Christmas Day, and the conditions were perfect. In other words, he's not too concerned about what the date the calendar says.

That's all for today. More updates to come soon as these final expeditions continue to unfold.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Summit Attempts on Lhotse and Ama Dablam Upcoming

The Himalayan fall climbing season isn't over just yet. Today we received an update via Explorers Web on the progress of the South Korean team on Lhotse, while we also get final confirmation on the departure of the squad that had been attempting Nuptse as well. 

It has been awhile since we heard anything from the Koreans who have been toiling away patiently on Lhotse for weeks now. Poor weather had stymied their attempts to acclimatize, and for a time it seemed like they were simply stuck in Base Camp, waiting for conditions to improve. It seems their patience has paid off however, as the team has now set a schedule for their summit push, which should begin later this week, with an eye on topping out next week. 

According to ExWeb, the Korean climber Sung-Taek Hong returned to BC this past Saturday after establishing the route up Lhotse to 7700 meters (25,262 ft). With the way now prepared, he and his teammates will rest for a few days before they begin heading back up. If everything goes as expected, they should set out tomorrow with the hope of reaching Camp 4 at 8100 meters (26,574 ft) on Saturday, November 7. That will put them in striking distance of the summit, which they hope to reach on November 12. 

Weather conditions on the mountain are reportedly good at the moment, with just 15 cm (6 inches) of snowfall in recent days. That will make breaking trail far easier and less exhausting when they do start to go up. It is a bit perplexing as to why they will wait so long above 8000 meters before they launch the final push, but it could very well be that the snow is so deep at that altitude that they'll need those days to clear the route. Either way, this time next week they could be on their way to the summit of Lhotse. 

Elsewhere, we haven't had any official announcement of Ueli Steck and Colin Haley's departure from Nuptse just yet, but Hong has confirmed that they left the mountain. You may recall that the two men had joined forces with French alpinists Ben Guigonnet and Helias Millerioux to attempt the South Face of that mountain, but were turned back last week in poor conditions. Since then, there hasn't been any word from the team at all, but it seems that as expected they departed Base Camp and are most likely headed home. 

Over on Ama Dablam, Lonnie Dupre and his teammates are in position to make a summit push tomorrow. According to reports, the squad is now encamped at 6200 meters (20,340 ft) with everyone feeling good and ready to go up. The plan is to depart at 1:30 AM local time with the hopes of topping out by about noon. 

Finally, Bill Burke has checked in from Base Camp on Burke-Khang, the 6941 meter (22,775 ft) peak that was named after him. The group arrived on the mountain last Friday and they have been preparing for their ascent ever since, including taking part in their Puja ceremony. They will stay in BC for a few more days while they make several acclimation treks, while they also watch the weather and start planning their schedule for the ascent. At this time, it is unclear as to when that will begin.

That's all for today, but as you can see there are some exciting things happening in the Himalaya at the moment. I'll post updates on the progress of these teams when more information is known. 

Himalaya Fall 2015: Ueli and Colin Scout Nuptse Route

There is a bit of progress to report in the Himalaya, where a few teams are forging ahead with their expeditions, despite the fact that weather conditions have not been favorable all season long. But the fall climbing season is far from over, and there is still time for these expeditions to achieve their goals, even if it appears that they'll face some serious obstacles along the way.

Ueli Steck and Colin Haley are back on Nuptse and still hoping they can summit along the very difficult Babanov route. Yesterday, the team did some scouting of that route to check out conditions on the mountain, and Ueli reports on Facebook that "the hope for Nuptse is still alive!" That indicates that the boys are far from wrapping things up, and are still planning to at least have a go at the mountain, despite some difficult setbacks. Colin struggled early with illness, but is ready to climb now, but the weather has dumped fresh, wet snow on the mountain, making it more dangerous to go up. Hopefully those conditions will settle down, allowing the duo to proceed.

Steck and Haley were not alone in Base Camp yesterday. They were joined by a trio of visitors that includes none other than Kilian Jornet. It's not clear what Kilian was doing on Nuptse. It could be that he is just in the Himalaya on a training/scouting expedition, and dropped by to see Ueli, but none the less, they are hanging out on the mountain right now. For many, that would be the Dream Team of climbing, Kilian and Ueli working together on a project. Perhaps we'll see that happen at some point.

Meanwhile, Bill Burke has arrived in Kathamdnu is preparing for a very special climbing expedition of his own. Bill is back in Nepal to have a crack and an unclimbed peak that just happens to be named after him. The 73 year old climber will be attempting to summit Burke-Khang, a 6742 meter (22,775 foot) mountain that has only just recently been opened to climbing. He departs from Kathmandu today for Lukla, and will spend a few days trekking in the Khumbu Valley before arriving in BC on the mountain.

There have been no new updates from Luke Smithwick or Brian Beatty just yet. The duo set out on Sunday to begin their expedition of the unclimbed Saldim Ri (6343 m/20,810 ft) in the Makalu region of Nepal. They should be trekking to the mountain now however, and will arriving in the next few days. Hopefully we'll get another update on their progress than.

Finally, there has also been no word on the progress of the South Korean team on Lhotse. When last they checked in, the conditions on the mountain were unsafe for climbing and the weather was very poor. At the time, they were waiting for a shift in fortunes, but it doesn't seem that that has come there way just yet.

While it has certainly gotten a little quieter in the Himalaya, these expeditions are definitely still worth following. More to come soon.

Himalaya Fall 2015: The Season is Far From Over

Contrary to popular belief, the fall climbing season in Nepal is far from over, despite the fact that most of the commercial teams have picked up and left for home, and summit bids on Everest, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, and Annapurna have been cancelled. There are still several teams that are gearing up for their climbs, and even though the weather continues to be a challenge, there is optimism throughout the region.

One of the climbs that we have been following in recent days is the attempt by Ueli Steck and Colin Hayley to climb Nuptse along the Babanov Route on Nuptse. That climb hasn't been repeated since it was first opened back in 2003, and Ueli and Colin hope to do it in Alpine style. But so far they've only been able to acclimatize a bit, and not work the route at all. Colin has battled illness, while Ueli has kept himself busy scaling Cholatse three times in recent days. But, it seems the boys are now ready to go, provided the weather cooperates.

Ueli has told German adventure sports writer Stefan Nestler that Colin is now healthy and acclimatized to the altitude. He also says that the wall that they will climb on Nuptse had been dry and accessible up until last week, but now precipitation has brought snow and ice to the mountain. Conditions are now unstable, but they will be patient and wait for an opportunity to go up.

When asked about conditions in the Khumbu Valley following the April 25 earthquake, Ueli says that the region is completely rebuilt, safe, and ready for visitors. In fact, he says there are very few signs that the earthquake even occurred, although it remains very quiet there right now.

Meanwhile, another climbing team is now starting to ramp up its efforts. Luke Smithwick from Himalaya Alpine Guides has checked in from Kathmandu where his squad is departing today for Saldim Ri, an unclimbed peak that stands 6343 meters (20,810 ft) in height. He and Brian Beatty will fly out to Tumlingtar today, and begin the trek to Base Camp. He says the forecast calls for plenty of snow over the next ten days, but they will use that time to establish camp, begin acclimatizing, and plotting their route.

Finally, the South Korean team on Lhotse continues to wait for their opportunity. Poor weather has kept them from climbing thus far, but there is hope that things will improve. For now though, they sit and wait, and do the best they can to prepare.

It should also be noted that Polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre is also in the Khumbu Valley at the moment. He and his team aren't there just to climb mountains, although they may bag a peak or two along the way. Lonnie is leading a group of volunteers who have come to the area to help with the rebuilding process, and so far they have been making their way through a series of remote villages, lending assistance where they can. They've passed through Namche Bazaar and Gokyo for instance, and have been trekking in the shadow of Tenzing Peak in recent days. You can find out more about their efforts here.

That's it for today. I'll continue to keep an eye on things as the season progresses. Hopefully these three expeditions will get the chance to start climbing soon.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Poor Weather Continues to Dictate Progress

The fall 2015 Himalayan climbing season has slowed down considerably over the past few weeks. Most of the commercial squads on the big 8000 meter peaks have headed home, with limited success to be had across the region. Other teams are just starting their expeditions on smaller mountains like Ama Dablam and Island Peak, while a handful of independent squads are still pursuing their own goals as well. But as it has all season long, the weather continues to dictate just when and where teams can climb, and right now it isn't being all that forgiving.

Ueli Steck has checked in from Lhotse, where he and his climbing partner Colin Hayley are visiting the Korean squad that is hoping to summit that mountain. The two climbers have their sights set on the Babanov Route on Nuptse this fall, but so far they haven't had much of an opportunity to climb. Ueli has been acclimatized and ready to go for some time, but Colin battled sickness early on and had to descend to the Khumbu Valley to give himself some time to recovery. During that period, the Swiss climber topped out on the Northface of Cholatse.

Now, Ueli has posted a note on his Facebook page that sounds a bit ominous. He writes "Today we visite Lhotse Basecamp (Korean Expedition) Weather is not good and it does not look good. Lets wait and see."

That tells me that neither squad has had much of a chance to go up their respective mountains. Ueli and Colin aren't even on Nuptse at the moment, and the Korean team is waiting in BC for their opportunity. Both groups of climbers have very challenging climbs ahead, and if the weather isn't cooperating, neither of them will get much of an opportunity to even go for their respective summits.

This fall the weather conditions have been warm, wet, and windy. A lot of snow has fallen across the Himalaya, and the warmer temperatures have made it very soft and avalanche prone. Add in high winds at altitude and you start to understand why there have been so few summit windows thus far. Hopefully conditions will improve in the days ahead so that these two teams can accomplish the goals they've set out for themselves.

Meanwhile, Outside Online is reporting that a three-man squad consisting of Sherpas managed to top out on three previously unclimbed mountains. Climbing from Oct. 4 - 6, the trio of Nima Tenji Sherpa, Dawa Gyalje Sherpa, and Mingma Tashi Sherpa managed to knock off Mount Raungsiyar (20,420 ft/6224 m), Mount Langdak (20,407 ft/6220 m), and Mount Thakar Go East (20,184 ft/6152 m) in alpine style.

This expedition marks the first time that a team of all Nepalese climbers made first ascents in the Himalaya, which demonstrates the independence that Sherpas are now feeling to not only climb for a living, but to explore on their own terms as well. As Outside explains, Nima, Dawa, and Mingma translates to Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the days of the week that each of these climbers was born  on. Their three-day summit push took place on those same days, and each man led the climb on the day that corresponded to his name.

Congratulations to the team for their great success in the mountains. Hopefully they will show the way for other Nepalese climbers to follow in their footsteps.

That's all for today. I'll post more updates as the news warrants it.

2015 Has Been A Difficult Year for Mountaineering

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you probably already know that 2015 has been a tough year for mountaineering expeditions. Climbers have found little success on the big 8000 meter peaks in particular, as poor weather has been a common problem all year long. Additionally, the Nepali earthquake this past spring shutdown climbing operations across the Himalaya, forcing most teams to go home long before they were even ready to climb. In a recent blog post, Alan Arnette breaks down the numbers, showing us exactly where climbers had success, and where they were turned back.

Everest is obviously the mountain with the highest profile, and thanks to the earthquake, there were no summits from either the Nepali or Tibetan side of the mountain this year. The last time that happened was 41 years ago, back in 1974.

But, Everest wasn't the only 8000 meter peak to shutout climbers this year. K2 also saw no summits, although that isn't necessarily uncommon on the second tallest mountain in the world. K2 is far more difficult to climb than Everest, and as a result it can be years between successful summits on that mountain.

But the list doesn't end there. Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat, and Shishapangma all went unclimbed thus far in 2015. None of those mountains currently has an expedition on them, with the exception of Lhotse. A South Korean team is currently on the slopes of that peak, but as Alan points out it would be an impressive display of climbing if they were to be successful this fall.

Manaslu was the mountain were most climbers found success this year. Alan says about 80 people topped out on that peak. Annapurna saw 13 summits, while Gasherbrum I had 3 and Broad Peak had 2. Gasherbrum II rounds out the list with 12 summits as well.

Of course, there were some other circumstances that came into play this year. For instance, the Chinese were not issuing any permits this fall, which is a popular time to climb Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in particular. This prevented anyone from even getting a chance to climb those mountains this fall.

As I reported on climbs throughout the year, bad weather became the common theme. As Alan says in his blog post, warmer temperatures across the Himalaya actually made conditions worse. There was plenty of snow falling, but since it has been warm in the mountains, that snow was actually very soft and prone to avalanches. This raised the danger to unacceptable levels at times, forcing many climbing teams to abandon their attempts altogether. Considering the fact that 2015 is the warmest year on record, we could be seeing the impact of climate change on the Himalaya.

While it is true that the season isn't over just yet, and climbing expeditions are just getting underway on smaller mountains in Nepal, the big peaks are all but shut down, which means we'll have to wait until 2016 for more attempts. Hopefully it will be a more successful and safe year to climb.