Showing posts with label Manaslu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manaslu. Show all posts

Winter Climbs 2017: Carlos Rubio Leaves Everest, Elisabeth Revol Departs Manaslu

The list of winter mountaineering expeditions continues to get smaller and smaller this year, as one team has completely abandoned its attempt to summit a Himalayan giant, while another loses one of its climbers due to illness.

We'll begin with an update from Elisabeth Revol, who had been hoping to summit Manaslu this winter. The last we heard from Revol and her teammate Ludovic Giambiasi they had arrived in Base Camp on that mountain, where heavy snow had been falling for the better part of the month of January. It turns out, that snow didn't let up much, and high winds only made the experience worse. According to The Himalayan Times, the duo were able to climb as high as 7300 meters (23,950 ft) as part of their acclimatization efforts, but the weather simply didn't cooperate enough to allow them to continue past that point. Worse yet, the long term forecasts indicate the rest of the winter could very well maintain the current weather pattern, making their attempts fruitless. Revol and Giambiasi have already depart the mountain and are on their way home.

Meanwhile, over on Everest, the team of Alex Txikon and Carlos Rubio have had their own brand of drama. Yesterday, Rubio had to be evacuated from Everest Base Camp due to a severe lung infection. The young ski-mountaineer shared a video update from a hospital in Kathmandu where he assures everyone following the expedition that all is well and that the issue isn't serious. Still, it was bad enough that he did have to seek treatment and abandon his attempt to climb and ski Everest this winter.

While the news of Rubio's departure is a sad one for the team, Txikon has continued climbing at a regular and steady pace. On Sunday, he reached Camp 3 at 7400 meters (24,278 ft) on the mountain, and is acclimatizing nicely so far. Unlike on Manaslu, Everest has been relatively calm thus far, with manageable winds and snowfalls. Txikon is hoping to summit the mountain without the use of supplemental oxygen and so far things are progressing about as well as could be expected. 

With Revol's withdraw from Manaslu and Lonnie Dupre's departure from Mt. Hunter in Alaska, Txikon's Everest expedition is the last major winter climb that we're following this season. Hopefully it will continue to unfold in a safe manner, otherwise we'll be waiting for the spring season for any significant news from the Himalaya. 

Good luck to Alex and the remainder of his support team as the continue to press forward on the Big Hill. 

Winter Climbs 2017: Climbers in Base Camps and Moving Up

Now that the holidays have come and gone, I've managed to move to a new house, and the Winter Outdoor Retailer Show is behind us, we can finally return to some sense of normalcy around here. To do that, we'll get things started with an update from the major winter climbs that are now taking place in various parts of the world, beginning on Everest where Alex Txikon and his team are making solid progress.

Last week, the small group of climbers, support staff, and documentarians arrived in Base Camp on Everest, and immediately went to work establishing a base of operations there. It did't take them long to get ready however, and within a few days they were already moving up the mountain to begin their acclimatization efforts. The team then spent four days building a route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, before they were then presented with favorable weather conditions that allowed them to move up further.

Taking advantage of these good conditions, the climbers moved through the Icefall and up to 5870 meters (19,258 ft), where they spent the night at a provisional location. The following morning, they continued up to 6050 meters (19,849 ft), where they established Camp 1. Since then, they have climbed a bit higher as they scout the route, install ropes, and work to reach Camp 2 further up the slopes.

Reportedly, the climbing is even more difficult and demanding than they had thought, but things are proceeding according to plan. They should return to BC for rest shortly, but are continuing to try to make progress while the weather cooperates. For now, they are happy with how things are going, and the idea of a winter ascent of Everest remains a very high possibility.


Meanwhile, Elisabeth Revol is now in Base Camp on Manaslu too, where she reports heavy snow making progress very difficult. In fact, she says that it has snowed there everyday since the start of January, with 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) of accumulation over that time. Despite that however, she says that everything is going well and as expected on a winter expedition to the Himalaya. There is now indication yet of how much progress they are making in moving up the mountain however.

Finally, the last time we checked in on Lonnie Dupre he was just arriving on Mt. Hunter in Alaska in preparation for a solo winter ascent of that difficult peak. In the brief time I was away, he has already called off that attempt however. It seems that Lonnie made two attempts on the summit, both of which were thwarted by conditions, before taking a nasty fall. That was enough to convince him that it was time to pull the plug and consider some other projects instead. The polar explorer and mountaineer is currently in Canmore, Alberta where he is regrouping, considering what he could do differently, and preparing for some other adventures. Hunter won't be climbed during the winter this season it would seem.

You may recall that Lonnie made a solo ascent of Denali in January a few years back, going up that mountain in alpine style. During that expedition he eschewed the use of tents and used snow caves instead. He had hoped to make a similar approach to Hunter, which isn't as tall as Denali, but is considered more technical. Unfortunately, the mountain was able to win this round, but something tells me Dupre may be back to give it another go in the future. For now though, one of the winter expeditions that we were watching closely is already over.

More updates to come as the remaining teams make progress.

Winter Climbs 2017: Expeditions Now Underway

Winter is here, and that means we'll have some interesting expeditions to follow closely over the next few months. A few weeks back it seemed like there would be little winter action this year, but there are a couple of good stories to watch unfold, including some in the Himalaya, including the first winter expedition to Everest in quite some time. Let's start there. 

Spanish climber Alex Txikon and climbing partner Carlos Rubio, along with a small support team, spent the New Year in Nepal, where they are currently trekking to Everest Base Camp. They plan to climb the highest mountain on the planet during the toughest season of them all. Alex and his team arrived in the Khumbu Valley on December 29, and have slowly been making their way towards Everest ever since. The trek is the start of the acclimatization process, but they should reach Base Camp later this week. Once there, they'll likely spend a day or two getting settled and surveying the landscape before they start the process of moving through the Khumbu Icefall and traveling up to Camp 1 as the climb truly begins.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth Revol has set her sights on climbing Manaslu during the winter. She trekked to BC on that mountain last week, and arrived there on December 28. Since that time, she's been focused on acclimatizing and getting settled in preparation for her first rotation up the mountain, which should come soon. Elisabeth says that conditions are cold and windy, as you would expect in the Himalaya during the winter months. 

Solo climber Lonnie Dupre is preparing to depart on his winter expedition as well. Dubbed Cold Hunter One, he plans to climb the 4441 meter (14,573 ft) Mt. Hunter in Alaska, which is a cold, remote, and technically difficult mountain in just about any season, let alone winter. You may recall that Lonnie made a solo summit of Denali in January a couple of years back, and he expects this expedition to be just as challenging, despite the big difference in altitude. He is preparing to depart for Base Camp today, weather permitting. As usual, he'll catch a bush plane out to this starting point when conditions allow.

Finally, ExWeb is reporting that a pair of climbers have launched a winter expedition in the Karakoram as well. Qudrat Ali and Samiya Rafiq first planned to take on an unclimbed 6200 meter (20,341 ft) peak in the region near Khurdopin Pass. The two climbers will then push on up through that pass as well, which is the highest in the mountain range at 5790 meters (18,996 ft). Conditions are expected to be brutal with temperatures dropping as low as -30ºC/-22ºF, with high winds and heavy snow likely. The expedition began back on December 24, and is set to wrap up on January 12, so it is a brief but tough excursion into the mountains. 

That's it for today. Expect more updates on these expeditions as the season unfolds. 

Controversy Continues: Nepal to Issue Summit Certificates for Manaslu Climbers Who Didn't Reach the Top

Remember the story I posted earlier this fall about the controversy that was brewing on Manslu over whether or not climbers actually topped out on that mountain? If not, here's the cliff notes version.

Back in October, about 150 climbers claimed to have reached the top of the 8163 meter (26,781 ft) mountain, when in reality most of them turned back below the true summit. That's because the approach to the top is narrow and steep, with a dangerous snow cornice making it a tricky climb to actually complete, as you'll see in this video. This caused a bit of a stir in the mountaineering community, with debate going back and fourth as to whether or not the climbers had truly summited Manslu. There was even some finger pointing about whose responsibility it was to fix ropes and so on. That debate extended further into discussion of whether or not the alpinists who didn't stand on the true summit should actually receive summit certificates.

Well, that debate might continue in mountaineering circles, but it for its part, government officials in Nepal have weighed in on the topic. According to The Himalayan Times, the Department of Tourism will indeed provide summit certificates for everyone who went up the mountain back in October, even if they fell a bit short of the actual top of the peak. The DoT had halted the process of handing out the certificates while it investigated the matter, but now it has determined that it will proceed with distributing them once again.

Personally, I'm of the mind that if you didn't stand on the true summit, you shouldn't get a certificate, and I'd be willing to bet that Miss Elizabeth Hawley – the ultimate authority on Himalayan climbing – would agree with me. I respect the decision of the climbers who elected to turn back out of safety concerns, but they didn't reach the summit, which has been the measuring stick for mountaineering for hundreds of years. It is as simple as that.

Of course, the Nepali government likes to avoid controversy where it can, and it likes to keep the money flowing in for the permits it issues as well. With that in mind, it makes sense that they would issue summit certificates, even though not everyone reached the top. I would expect this practice will continue in the future too.

Video: The Narrow Summit Approach on Manaslu

Last week I posted a story about controversy on Manaslu involving climbers receiving summit certificates even though they hadn't reached the true summit of the mountain. That's because a number of climber – particularly on commercial teams – are unwilling to make the treacherous last push to the top along a very narrow and dangerous ridge. The video below, which was shot three years ago, gives you and indication of just how narrow that approach really is. As you'll see, there isn't much more than empty space surrounding the path to the summit. This would be scary under the best of conditions, but add a layer of snow and ice, and it truly becomes a test of will power. The views at the top are utterly breathtaking however.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Controversy on Manaslu - 150 Summit without Actually Reaching the Top

The climbing season on Manaslu may be long over, but the 8163-meter (26,781 ft) mountain continues to garner headlines thanks to this article from The Himalayan times. The story says that of the 150 climbers who summited the mountain this year, only a fraction actually reached the true summit, which is typically defined as the highest point on the mountain. That's because Manaslu's highest point is incredibly dangerous to reach, which calls into question whether or not you actually did get the summit after all.

Those in the know in the mountaineering world understand that there is a narrow ridge that is covered in a snow cornice that runs out to the actual summit of the mountain. That ridge is unstable and difficult to cross, particularly in high winds or other poor weather conditions. As a result, about 90% of the climbers this season turned back approximately 5 to 10 meters below the actual top of the mountain, but still claimed a full summit anyway. This has sparked some debate as to whether or not those claims are actually true.

In writing about a slew of climbing expeditions this fall, Alan Arnette also weighed in on the topic, sharing some of his own experiences. He also reminds us that a Japanese climber perished on Manaslu this year when he fell through the cornice while trying to reach the true summit. That's an indication of just how dangerous the final approach to the top truly is. Although as Alan points out via a quote from Himex boss Russel Brice, the blame is square placed on the team that was put in charge of fixing the ropes to the summit, but failed to complete the final 20 meters, which directly led to this fatality a few weeks back.


When considering where to actually give credit to someone for making the summit on Manaslu, it is important to also note that the incredibly narrow approach to the top serves as a significant bottle-neck for those going up and coming down. It would literally take hours for everyone to shuffle across the approach ridge, even if it were completely safe. That would leave climbers standing in line at the top of the mountain while they waited their turn, leaving them exposed to the elements the entire time. Most of the operators on Manaslu aren't willing to put their clients through that kind of difficulty, so they certify summits at the lower point on the mountain.

On the other hand, getting credit for a summit has always been about reaching the highest point. To take that away from experience doesn't seem completely fair either. Yes, it would mean fewer people climbing Manaslu if they actually had to negotiate that tough final portion of the ascent, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing either. There is a part of me that feels that if you want to actually receive a summit certificate you should have to reach the actual true summit to get credit. Anything else, just comes up short. It is up to the climbers themselves if they actually want to complete those final 20 meters or play it safe and turn back below that point. But if they don't get all the way up, the wouldn't earn full credit either.

Obviously this is a tough call. For safety sake, I understand why they turn back. But for the pure mountaineering aspects of it, they should actually touch the highest point in my opinion.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Commercial Expeditions Head Home, Missing Climber on Manaslu

I'm back from Spain and will resume a typical posting schedule for the foreseeable future now. As I ramp up the content once again here at The Adventure Blog, I felt it was fitting to check in with the fall climbing season in the Himalaya, which is still ongoing but winding down rapidly now. While I was away, there was some news updates to report, although few summits have taken place during that time.

Now that mid-October has arrived, the commercial squad in the Himalaya this fall have pretty much wrapped up their operations and headed home. Prior to my departure for Majorca, most of the busy mountains – including Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, and Dhaulagiri – had seen the bulk of their summits for the season with the larger squads packing up their gear and heading home. Now, they are all but abandoned until spring, when more climbers will arrive to test their skills and resolve on each of those peaks.

Of course, the season isn't quite over yet, and there are a few ongoing expeditions that we'll continue to keep an eye on. For instance, Japanese climber Nobukazo Kuriki is still on Mt. Everest and hoping to pull of a solo summit of that peak before he heads home. When last we checked in on him, he had abandoned a summit push due to heavy snow on the mountain, but had returned to Base Camp to gather his strength for another go. Last week, after regaining some energy, he headed back up to Camp 1 only to find that the winds were too strong to allow a safe ascent up the mountain. He is now back in BC and waiting for conditions to improve. The weather window will start to close soon however, particularly as November draws closer. For now though, Nobu is remaining patient and looking for opportunities to summit, despite very heavy snows.

Sadly, there were a few tragic stories to report from the past week as well. On Manaslu, for instance, a 24-year old Japanese climber by the name of Hirotaka Onodera went missing on October 7 after reaching the summit on that mountain. Reportedly, he topped out along with his team leader, but then slipped and fell while taking summit photos for another climber. All attempts to locate the missing man have failed to turn up any results.

Elsewhere, a guide named Ang Chhongba Sherpa fell to his death after losing his footing while collecting ropes after a successful summit bid on the 6119 meter (20,075 ft) Lobuche East. He was a member of a four-man squad that had topped out previously in the day and were making their way back down the mountain. The accident occurred at about 5800 meters (19,028 ft) and Chhongba's body was later recovered by a recovery team following a 20-hour search.

I'll continue to keep an eye on any developing stories from the Himalaya in the days ahead. Things are definitely getting quieter there, but there are still several teams pressing forward with their expeditions.


Himalaya Fall 2016: More Summits on Cho Oyu and Manaslu, a Double Summit, and Death on Shisha

As expected, there was a lot of news out of the Himalaya this past weekend, where good weather allowed a number of teams to summit their respective mountains. It now appears as if most of the commercial teams are winding down their activities, and it has been a very successful couple of days.

We'll start on Manaslu, where The Himalayan Times now reports that 150 climbers summited over a two day period. 100 of those topped out last Friday, while another 50 completed their climbs on Saturday. Amongst them were the Seven Summit Treks team, which has the largest squad on the mountain this autumn. No small feat considered there were 17 total teams there this year. By all accounts, it was a well scheduled and orderly ascent and descent, with most of the teams now back in Base Camp and preparing to head back to Kathmandu.

Over on Cho Oyu we already knew that the Adventure Consultants had topped out at the end of last week, and the IMG team wasn't far behind. They summited yesterday, putting another 19 climbers on top, and bringing the total close to 40 on the Tibetan side of the mountain. The Adventure Consultants are packed and heading out for KTM today, but the IMG squad will likely rest a bit in BC and begin heading for home later this week.


Speaking of Cho Oyu, one climber performed an impressive feat on that mountain this weekend. Australian Rolfe Oostra managed to summit last Friday, then return to the top again the following day, pulling off a rare double-summit of the 6th highest peak on the planet. An experienced mountain guide, Oostra first went up the peak with two of his staff members, then guided two clients up the following day. That is quite a display of strength and fortitude to say the least.

The news wasn't quite so good on Dhaulagiri. After a few days of radio silence, the Altitude Junkies checked in over the weekend to report that they had aborted their summit bid. The plan was to top out on October 1, but once they reached Camp 1 they discovered very deep snow along the route. In fact, it was roughly a meter (3 ft) deep in parts, making it very tough going. The team has now returned to BC and is discussing what to do next. With more snow in the forecast, the expedition could be over without an opportunity to summit. We'll learn more soon.

Finally, some sad news from Shishapangma, where the Times is reporting that a Sherpa named Pemba who was climbing with the RMI team was struck and killed by an avalanche. The accident took place just below Camp 3 on the mountain as the Sherpa team was moving up with gear and supplies. No one else was injured, and all are safely back in BC at the moment. Our condolences to Pemba's friends and family.

That's all for today. More news as it warranted.


Himalaya Fall 2016: Summits Cho Oyu and Manaslu, Himex Cancels Expedition

As expected, the end of the week has brought a flurry of activity to the Himalaya, where the fall climbing season continues to unfold at a busy pace. A few days back poor weather conditions had stalled out most summit attempts, but just a few days later a number of teams are now finding success, with more to follow suit soon.

We'll start with news from Manaslu, where The Himalayan Times reports that at least 60 people topped out today. Of those, 25 are said to be foreign climbers while the remaining 35 are Sherpas and guides. The Seven Summit Treks squad is one of the teams that is operating on that mountain at the moment, and their latest update indicates that more than 80 climbers from their group alone have topped out today amidst good weather. With more than 151 climbers issued permits for Manaslu this fall, others are sure to follow.

Sadly, the Himex team will not be amongst them. Expedition leader Russel Brice made the move to cancel the entire expedition two days back after the team was turned around between Camp 3 and 4 due to very deep snow along the route. With a narrow weather window only open today and tomorrow, he felt that it was too risky to go for the summit, especially since there were several avalanches taking place over the course of the past few days. The entire squad will depart for Kathmandu tomorrow.

Over on Cho Oyu the Adventure Consultants report a successful summit bid as well. Heavy snow on that mountain caused several teams to turn back from C3 yesterday, but three members of the AC team – including two Sherpas – waited in Camp 2, then went directly for the summit from there. They report absolute calm and quiet on top of the mountain, which has emboldened several other members of the group to make a second summit bid later today.

Other teams on Cho Oyu have been waiting out the weather. For instance, the IMG squad says that they "pumped the breaks" on a summit bid with their clients waiting at Camp 1. Reports of sketchy conditions between C2 and C3 have slowed progress for now, but with the news that things are improving, they'll likely be back on the move today as well. Look for more summits over the weekend.

It has been a few days since the Altitude Junkies posted any news from Dhaulagiri, but that might be a good thing. The last we heard, the weather was dicey but a summit window was expected to open at the end of the week, giving them safe access to the top. If all goes according to plan, the team should summit tomorrow. Look for an update after that.

That's all for now. More news soon.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Bad Weather Delays Summit Bids, Sad News From Manaslu

When last we checked in with the big commercial teams in the Himalaya this fall most were in the process of wrapping up their acclimatization efforts and had started planning their summit bids. Some were even expected to top out on their respective mountains by the end of last week. But as usual, mother nature had other plans, with bad weather hitting the region and delaying any attempts to reach summit on several of the big peaks. But, the forecast calls for improved conditions in the days ahead, and details are starting to emerge on a new schedule.

Over on Cho Oyu, the Adventure Consultants report heavy snow over the past few days. But yesterday, the storm finally broke, and it now appears that they will have five solid days of good weather ahead which should serve as summit window. No word on exactly when they'll depart Base Camp, but it would seem that the team is ready to go and may leave as early as today. That means they should reach the summit over the next few days provided the forecast is accurate and the weather holds. The entire squad is rested, acclimatized and ready to go.

On Manaslu, the teams have pretty much wrapped up their acclimatization rotations and are now preparing to summit as well. That includes the Seven Summits Trek squad and the contingent of Himex climbers too. Interestingly enough, it appears that the teams haven't finished fixing ropes to Camp 4 yet, and there is some dispute over how that process is being handled. Typically, the Himex team – which is amongst the most experienced on the mountain – takes the lead, but with Seven Summits becoming more prominent, their Sherpas have played a role too. Unfortunately, they apparently got lost in whiteout conditions last week and installed ropes to the wrong location – something that has annoyed Himex boss Russel Brice. You can read about that here. Otherwise, the teams seem to be well acclimated and ready to go once the weather improves.

There was some sad news from the Manaslu region last week when it was reported that a landslide claimed the lives of three Nepali citizens and a Spanish traveler trekking in that part of Nepal. Amongst the dead was Dorjee Lama Sherpa, who was a mountain guide that had summited Everest eight times. He also served last the president of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association as well. My condolences to the friends and family of those who were killed.

The Altitude Junkies have checked in from Dhaulagiri, where they report mostly dry conditions. This has caused some problems of their own, including cracked and melting glaciers and challenges with fixing ropes. The team ordered six ladders to be delivered from Kathmandu, which will allow them to safely cross over large crevasses that have opened up along the route, but until those ladders are put into place, the team can't move forward with any summit plans. Hopefully that will happen soon.

Shishapangma is seeing its usual share of visitors this fall, and progress is being made there as well. High winds forced the RMI team to retreat back to BC a day early however, but otherwise everything is going about as smoothly as possible. No summit bids in sight at the moment though.

Finally,  Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki continues his solo Everest expedition, although there have been few updates. He has been acclimatizing as expected, but heavy snows on Everest are making things difficult. This is his sixth attempt at a solo summit in the fall. Hopefully things will go his way this year.

That's it for now. Expect more news later in the week once summit bids truly get underway. Both Cho Oyu and Manaslu should see teams on top in a few days time.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Manaslu the Most Popular Peak of the Season

The numbers are in for the fall climbing season in Nepal, and Manaslu is far and away the most popular peak in the country. Over the weekend, the Nepali Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation released some statistics for the number of permits issued to foreign climbers, and as usual those numbers share some interesting insights.

According to The Himalayan Times, Nepal has issued 277 climbing permits for the fall. Those permits are spread out over 19 different peaks within the country. Of those 277 climbers, 151 have are attempting Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world at 8163 meters (26,781 ft). For some, it will be a testing ground before moving on to Everest in the future, while others are there to add an 8000-meter peak to their resume. In all, there are 16 teams heading to the mountain this fall.

Sherpa teams have finished installed the fixed ropes up to Camp 3 on Manaslu over the past few days, which means the teams on that mountain – including Seven Summit Treks and Himex – will be wrapping up their acclimatization efforts there soon and will begin thinking about summit bids. That could happen as early as next week. Traditionally, the summit push comes in the final week of September or early October, depending on weather conditions.

The Himalayan Times also reports that Amadablam, Saribung and the Putha Hiuchuli are some of the other peaks that have been issued permits this year as climbers look for other challenges in the region that aren't 8000-meters or taller in height. For instance, 39 climbers have obtained permits for Himlung Himal as well, a peak that is 7126 meters (23,379 ft) in height, and a good introduction to Himalayan climbing.


All told, it seems that Nepali officials are happy and impressed with the number of expeditions that have come to the region this year. In addition to the all of the climbers in Nepal, more than a dozen teams have also traveled to Tibet, most to take on Shishapangma or Cho Oyu. While Everest is seeing very little traffic – just a single climber at the moment – business is good elsewhere.

Speaking of Cho Oyu, the weather has been good over the past couple of days, allowing the Adventure Consultants to climb up to Camp 2 as they continue to acclimate as well. They will return to ABC tomorrow for a brief rest before starting another rotation later in the week. That's where the IMG is currently residing as they prepare to head back up the slopes as well.

Over on Dhaulagiri, the Altitude Junkies also report good weather, with nary a cloud in the sky. That made for warm conditions while scaling the glacier, but it allows them to climb up to Camp 2 over the weekend as well. Their Sherpa teams are hurriedly attempting to fix the ropes, while high altitude porters shuttle gear up to the higher camps. If everything goes as scheduled, and the weather continues to cooperate, they'll make their summit push between September 25-30, wrapping up the season on that mountain.

That's all for today. More news as it comes in. The season is proceeding along as expected, with few major issues so far. There are lot of expeditions that are just getting underway though, so there should be a lot to share int he days ahead.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Commercial Teams Planning Summit Attempts, Nobu Alone on Everest

With Kilian Jornet announcing his departure from Everest yesterday, I felt it was time to take a look around at the other expeditions currently going on in the Himalaya to check the status of their progress. In some cases, teams are already starting to look ahead to summit bids, which could come as early as late next week in some cases.

First off, now that Jornet has left Everest, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is the only one on that mountain this fall. He reports that he has now climbed up to 7000 meters (22,965 ft) and his acclimatization process is moving along about as well as can be expected. From the reports we've heard from the mountain, that won't be the challenge for him this year. Instead, it will be the deep snow that seems to be piling up on Tibet's North Side. Kilian mentioned the heavy snows as the main reason for his departure from the mountain, but for Nobu it is just another challenge to overcome as he attempts to climb solo, unsupported, and in alpine style without oxygen. For now, he'll just have to continue acclimating and waiting for his opportunity to push higher.

Alan Arnette is reporting that two climbers are taking an interesting approach to attempting a summit on Cho Oyu. Adrian Ballinger, who owns Alpenglow Expeditions, and his partner Emily Harrington are currently training in Tahoe, and are sleeping in altitude tents as they acclimatize as much as possible before they head to the Himalaya. Once they've wrapped up their preparation, they'll head to Tibet and try to climb the mountain in just two weeks total time. This holds true with the company's philosophy for climbing faster by preparing more ahead of time, which is used on other peaks too. A strategy that has come under fire from mountaineering purists from time to time.

Speaking of Cho Oyu, that continue to be a popular mountain this fall. There are currently no less than six commercial teams there, Base Camp has been a bit crowded this season. Most of those squads have now wrapped up their first round of rotations, with the next coming in a few days when they'll move up the slope to Camp 2.


On Manaslu, the Seven Summits Treks Team is proceeding on a quick schedule. The team is currently in the process of wrapping up its final acclimatization rotation after spending the night at C3. Sherpas from that team are working on fixing ropes to the top, and the large group of clients they brought with them are now preparing for a summit push. It has been rainy on the mountain, but there hasn't been a lot of snow. That bodes well for a potential weather window in another week or so.

Over on Dhaulagiri, the Altitude Junkies have started their acclimatization with a move up to Camp 1. They report several days of rain, but good weather moving into the picture now. Their Sherpa teams are now fixing ropes between C2 and C3, which they hope to wrap up in the next day or two. The team is feeling good, and are now eyeing a summit push on Sept. 25 or 26 depending on weather and wind conditions.

An RMI-led expedition reported to BC on Shishpangma a few days back, after driving to the mountain. They have already moved up to Camp 1, where they are finding conditions on the mountain to be quite good at this stage. It is early in the acclimatization process, but everything looks good so far.

As you can see, it is getting to be quite a busy season in the Himalaya. While not much is happening on Everest, there is a lot going on around the rest of the region. Of course, none of the big commercial teams are trying anything new this year, there are some smaller squads who will be pushing the envelope on some unclimbed peaks. We'll be keeping an eye on those expeditions moving forward too, and bring updates on the entire season as it unfolds. Stay tuned.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kilian Jornet Updates His Progress on Everest

There is no doubt that the expedition that most people are following closely in the Himalaya this fall is Kilian Jornet's attempt to set a new speed record on Mt. Everest. The Spanish ultra-runner left his home for the North Side of the mountain a few weeks back, and while we know that he has been busy working on his acclimatization process in preparation for an eventual crack at the summit, there has been very little word on his progress. But late last week we finally got an update, and while it is brief, it does provide some insight into what is happening at the moment.

Last Thursday, Kilian posted the following message to his Summits of My Life Facebook page. It appears to be a screenshot of a text message sent by phone to his support team that is keeping all of us updated on his current progress. The message reads in Spanish: 
"Bones!! Info Everest: Estem sqguint amb l'aclimatacio. Esta tot molt carregat de neu, xo tot ok!"
Which roughly translates to:
"Good !! Everest Info: We are continuing with acclimatization. This all heavily loaded with snow, x all ok!" 
This small dispatch tells us quite a bit surprisingly enough. For instance, it reaffirms what we already knew that Kilian is proceeding with his acclimatization, which could potentially take another couple of weeks to complete. But, it also tells us a bit about the conditions on the mountain, as it sounds like there is quite a bit of snow there already this fall. That could have a dramatic impact on his eventual attempt at the speed record, although weather conditions can change rapidly, potentially clearing some of that snow out of his way.


While that isn't a lot to go on, it is about the only update we've had over the past couple of weeks, so it is nice to hear something. Hopefully we'll learn more about Kilian's progress and potential schedule soon.

Meanwhile, over on Cho Oyu the Adventure Consultants report that they held their puja ceremony today. This is a ritual during which a Buddhist Lama visits Base Camp and performs a ritual that not only asks permission from the mountain to allow the climbers to go up its slopes, but blesses those climbers and their gear to help keep them safe. Himalayan tradition states that the puja be performed prior to the start of actual climbing operations, so with this detail out of the way, the team will make its first foray up the slopes towards Camp 1 tomorrow.

The Altitude Junkies have checked in from Dhaulagiri, where they arrived in BC last Thursday. If everything has gone according to plan, they should have held their puja today as well, and will now begin fixing the ropes up the slopes. The most recent dispatch from the team says that they will be attempting a different route for that part of the climb due to the dry conditions there. Reportedly, the weather has been very good so far, with just light rain in the evenings. The AJ squad is the only one on the mountain so far, and they report that their BGAN Internet station is not working properly, so updates may be short and sporadic for the length of the expedition.

Finally, the Seven Summits Trek team departed Kathmandu and began their trek to BC on Manaslu yesterday. The expedition's dispatches indicate that the group of Sherpas charged with fixing ropes to the summit are already on the mountain, and should have the route set up to Camp 3 before the climbers arrive.


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: Next Round of Summits Ready on Everest South Side, North Side Waits

After six straight days of summits from the South Side of Everest, high winds prevented anyone from going to the top yesterday. But now, those winds have quieted once again, and it looks like things could be very busy over the next few days once again. In fact, it is now believed that more than 200 climbers from the commercial teams, along with 250 Sherpas, are now expected to go to the summit over the next few days from the South Side alone. That will be in addition to the 88 climbers who have already topped out this season.

If things stay on course, and there are no major issues over the next few days, 2016 is shaping up to be one of the most successful seasons in recent memory. Things seem to be running like clockwork on the Nepali side of the mountain, with no major traffic jams or other issues reported. There does continue to be instability in the Khumbu Icefall, where Alan Arnette reports another collapse occurred yesterday, but the Icefall Doctors seem to be on top of those issues, and are fixing them quickly. But other than that, things are proceeding about as smoothly as possible.

Meanwhile, on the North Side of Everest in Tibet, there have been no summits as of yet. The rope fixing team has not completed the route to the top, and as a result the teams are in a holding pattern. Some have gone up to the higher camps in anticipation of the route being completed today or tomorrow, and as the weather improves there should be a dash to the summit from the North as well. We'll just have to wait to see when that will happen, but with the arrival of the monsoon already looming, the best weather window will probably occur over the next four or five days.

Over on Manaslu, after completing a successful summit last week along the standard route, ExWeb is reporting that Peter Hámor and Horia Colibasanu have moved to the North Side of the mountain to begin work on an entirely new route. On Makalu, a weather window seems to be opening for the end of the week, with possible summits on Friday, while the teams on Dhaulagiri high winds are keeping teams in place in Camp 3 as they prepare to go for the summit on that mountain as well.

Finally, yesterday Ueli Steck and David Göttler came up just short on Shishapangma. According to their dispatch today they reached 7800 meters (25,590 ft) but were forced back by the winds too. The descent was a bit harrowing thanks to thick fog, but they made it back to BC where they are resting and preparing for another go. To put things in perspective, their round trip was just 21 hours, so you know that these two are looking forward to having another go at the mountain.

Stay tuned for more soon.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Slovak Climbers Stranded on Everest, Summit Push Begins

The time is now on Everest, where a number of teams are now on the move with the hopes of making a final push to the summit later this week. Meanwhile, we get word today that a pair of climbers are stranded on the mountain following an avalanche, with rescue operations underway.

According to The Himalayan Times, Slovak climbers Vladimír Štrba and Zoltán Pál were attempting to go up the South-West Face of Everest above Camp 2 when an avalanche hit, injuring one of the men. Which of the two is hurt, and the accident of those injuries is unknown, but it s believed that the other climber is healthy and fine.

Unfortunately, they are unable to descend under their own power, so a group of four Sherpas were sent up to try to help. They reached C2, but have been unable to go up the South-West route due to unstable conditions on the mountain. Rescue helicopters have since been brought in to try to lend a hand, but they have been unable to locate them so far. Poor weather hampered further attempts and for now the rescue effort has stalled until morning.

In other Everest news, the rope fixing teams have now installed the lines up to the South Col and expect to reach the summit tomorrow. Once they do, the first of the guided teams will begin their final push to the top, which means we could see the first summits of the season as early as Thursday or Friday of this week. That is a bit ahead of schedule, and considering the weather forecasts indicate good weather well into next week, we could see summits coming at a slow, steady pace. That will be good for the safety of the climbers, and will hopefully prevent traffic jams on the Hillary Step or higher.


On the North Side of the mountain in Tibet, the story is a similar one. Ropes have been fixed nearly all the way to the summit, with work expected to wrap up there in the next day or two. After that, the teams on that side of the mountain will launch their summit bids as well, and since there are fewer teams climbing from Tibet, the fear of large crowds is greatly reduced. Those squads are acclimated and ready to go, and have already started getting themselves into position.

Finally, ExWeb is reporting that a summit bid is well underway on Manaslu as well, with the team of Peter Hámor and Horia Colibasanu head up to the summit tonight. The weather is reportedly favorable, and the duo are climbing without oxygen or Sherpa support as they make their final bid. If successful, it will be Hámor's 13th 8000-meter peak.

Good luck to everyone as they set off to their respective summits.

Update: Success on Manaslu confirmed on Manaslu. ExWeb is also now reporting that Peter and Horia have now topped out along the standard route, and are now descending along the Japanese route. Hopefully they'll both get back down safely after what was reportedly a very tough ascent.

Himalaya Spring 2016: Summit Bid Launched on Manaslu, Fixed Ropes Update on Everest

The news from the Himalaya just keeps coming this spring as more teams continue to acclimatize on Everest and two climbers prepare for a difficult summit bid on Manaslu. Others are now waiting and watching the weather, hoping for a chance to launch attempts of their own.

We'll start with an update from Manaslu, where Peter Hamor and Horia Colibasanu have reportedly announced that they are leaving Base Camp today to start their summit bid on the 8163 meter (26,781 ft) mountain. The two men will now attempt to reach the top using the standard route, but will help complete their acclimatization prior to attempting a new route without the use of supplemental oxygen. The weather is said to be calm at the moment, and if everything goes according to plan, they should top out this weekend. After that, they'll drop back to BC for a rest before starting their second attempt later in the month.

Over on Everest, more teams, including the Adventure Consultants, have now reached Camp 3 as they continue to acclimatize ahead of eventual summit bids in just a couple of weeks time. Most of the climbers are now descending back to BC for a rest as they wait for Camp 4 to be full established and the fixed ropes to be installed. That process is proceeding, and reports indicate that the lines now reach above the Yellow Band, but bad weather higher on the mountain have stalled due to strong winds at higher altitudes.

Ueli Steck and David Göttler continue to wait for a proper weather window on Shishapangma. The two men have announced that their acclimatization process is done and they are simply waiting for the right time to start the climb. That could happen this weekend as well, although the two talented climbers are prepared to wait as long as necessary before starting their alpine style ascent along a new route.

Finally, there is news from Annapurna as well, were all of the 30 summiteers from this past weekend are now safely back in Base Camp, with most preparing to go home. While they were wrapping up their expeditions over the past few days, a group of 75 local villagers paid a visit to BC. They had just completed construction of a new trail that will cut down the time it takes to trek to the mountain, allowing climbers to get there in as little as three days. That should open up the region to more visitors and bring down the costs for trekking and climbing on Annapurna as well.


Himalaya Fall 2015: Risk and Reward on Manaslu - A Review of the Season

As the fall 2015 Himalayan season slowly grinds to a halt, it is good to reflect on the events that have transpired. If you've been reading my reports with any regularity, you probably already know that the weather has been unpredictable, and generally bad, all season long. As a result, it has been difficult for any teams to summit their intended mountains. This has been particularly true on the 8000 meter peaks, where success has been fleeting this autumn. But way back in late September and early October, there was a lot of action taking place on Manaslu, the 8156 meter (26,759 ft) mountain that saw the most climbers this season.

If you were reading my updates back than, the situation probably seemed a bit confusing. As the climbing season was unfolding, the teams on Manaslu seemed to be making progress, despite poor weather conditions. But as they grew closer to the time when they would potentially make their summit bid, several high profile teams (Himex, Altitude Junkies, Adventure Consultants, and others) decided to cancel their expeditions and head home. It appeared that the mountain simply wasn't safe enough to climb, as heavy snow made the risk of avalanches extremely high.

But as these big commercial teams departed for Kathmandu, a funny thing happened. The weather improved, conditions on the mountain got better, and just a few days after they left Base Camp, other teams went up to the summit. In fact, 80 people managed to top out, although sadly one lost his life and another had to be rescued from Camp 4.

So what exactly happened on the mountain that caused some teams to head home, and others to say and find success? That is the subject of the most recent blog post from Alan Arnette, who monitors the climbing seasons in the Himalaya very closely. Alan has heard directly from a number of people who were there, with each weighing in with their thoughts on how things developed. The article isn't meant to point fingers or cast blame in any way at all, but is instead a study of how teams weigh the risks of the climb, and decide whether or not they should go for the summit, or pull the plug altogether and go home.

For those of us who follow these kinds of expeditions closely, reading Alan's article is very interesting. It offers some insights into how decisions are made in these situations, particularly when the lives of clients are at risk. His conclusion is that the larger commercial teams will be more conservative in their assessments, while the smaller teams may be willing to accept more risk for the chance of successfully summiting.

Read the entire article here and draw your own conclusions. It is definitely a good report on what happened on Manaslu this season, and the thought process that went into making those choices.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Kuriki Moves Up on Everest, Summit Bid Incoming?

There isn't a lot of new news to report from the Himalaya today, but I did want to post about a couple of ongoing expeditions that are still unfolding there. Most namely, the attempt on Everest by solo-Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki.

Yesterday we knew that Kuriki was moving up the mountain and had reached Camp 3, where he rested for another day before planning to move up to Camp 4 today. According to his website, that is where he should be now, in C4 and preparing for a summit push. The question now is, will that summit push come tomorrow or on Thursday.

According to his plans that were revealed prior to moving up the mountain, the 33-year old climber had intended to reach Camp 4 by Sunday. He then hoped to spend yesterday breaking trail before descending back to C4 for a rest. That means he had originally hoped to be making the attempt on the summit today. Obviously he is now off that schedule, which begs the question of whether or not he has encountered worse than expected conditions, or if he is moving slower than planned.

Either way, we should know within the next day or two whether or not he finds success on the mountain. After today, he'll be in striking distance of the summit, and it will all come down to his physical condition and whether or not the route to the top is safe and accessible. For now, we'll just have to sit tight and wait for more news to break.

Over on Dhaulagiri another expedition is waiting for its chance to summit as well. The team is led by French climber Yannick Graziani, who reports that the squad is currently in Base Camp and watching the weather closely. They are now acclimatized and ready to go, but they'll need a four day window for their summit push. At the moment, they are considering when they should move up from BC to ABC to put themselves in position to launch their summit bid. Right now, there isn't a suitable window in the forecast, but they are watching the skies intently with the hope that they'll get positive news soon. So far, heavy rains and high winds have thwarted their efforts.

Finally, Ueli Steck continues to wait for his climbing mate Colin Haley to recover from illness. The two are preparing to take on the very difficult Babanov route on Nuptse, and while Ueli says he is feeling strong and ready to go, Coin was forced to descend to the Khumbu Valley to recover. Hopefully he'll be back on his feet and ready to go soon.

While the fall climbing season is far from over, most of the commercial squads have now left the Himalaya for the season. Manaslu saw the bulk of their attention this year, and last week numerous teams found major success on that mountain. Now, most have packed up and departed, which means moving forward there won't be as much news to share. The remaining teams are doing very interesting climbs however, so there is still plenty of action to follow.