Showing posts with label Nuptse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nuptse. Show all posts

Ueli Steck Dies on Nuptse

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

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

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

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

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

Himalaya Fall 2016: One First Ascent Expedition Begins, Another Ends

As I've mentioned in previous updates, most big commercial climbing expeditions have wrapped up for the fall climbing season and there are very few people left on the big 8000-meter mountains. But, that doesn't mean that everyone has gone home. Quite the contrary in fact, as several teams continue to ramp up operations to start their own adventures on unclimbed peaks in November.

Take Bill Burke for instance. The American climber has returned to Nepal to attempt the first ascent of Burke Khang, a mountain named in his honor. He is making the attempt with David Liaño, and the two men, along with their support team, are still trekking towards the mountain. They got their first look at the peak a few days back, and it will be another couple of days before they arrive in Base Camp, but they are eager to get started on this 6942 meter (22,775 ft) mountain.

Last year, Bill and a team of climbers attempted Burke Khang as well, but came up just a bit short of the summit. That was the first real scouting trip up the slopes of the mountain, and this year – armed with intel from the previous expedition – he hopes to complete the first ascent. We'll be keeping an eye on their progress in the days ahead.

Polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre is also in Nepal where he is wrapping up operations on Langju, another unclimbed mountain that reaches 6365 ft (20,885 feet) in altitude. The expedition launched back at the beginning of October, at late last week the team moved all of their gear up to High Camp to prepare for a summit push. But, unfortunately the path to the summit was very dangerous, with a high likelihood of avalanches, so feeling that the conditions were to treacherous to push forward, so they decided to pull the plug on the expedition and head home. The team is now descending the valley and are currently in Jagat Village and preparing to continue on back to Kathmandu.

Finally, Alan Arnette tells us that French climber Frederic Degoulet has aborted his attempt to make the first ascent of the South Face of Nuptse. The team made a five-day push toward the summit, but overestimated their chances and ended up finding it impossible to continue upwards. The route was harder than they expected, and conditions were not good, but they fully admit they made some strategic errors in their approach that prevented them from topping out. They'll now head back to Kathmandu and go home to ponder another attempt in the future.

That's it for now. More news as we receive updates.

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: Summit on Kyajo Ri and Kuriki Shares Details on Everest

The fall climbing season may be winding down in the Himalaya, but there are is still news to share. Weather remains dicey across the region, but teams have continued to press forward with their climbs on peaks lower than 8000 meters. It has been an up and down season to say the least, but it has not been without its success stories, and the trend of traveling to remote, unclimbed peaks is a promising one to say the least. 

One such expedition has been led by polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre. His team has been in Nepal for several weeks now, but spent much of their time assisting in the rebuilding process that continues post-earthquake. Those efforts also allowed them to acclimatize to the altitude however, as they couldn't leave the county without first completing a climb. 

Earlier in the week, Lonnie updated his blog with the news that the squad and successfully summited Kyajo Ri, a 6186 meter (20,295 ft) peak located to the west of Everest and Lhotse. The team topped out at 11:04 AM local time on Tuesday, but details of their climb didn't come until a dispatch was released today. As you would expect, it wasn't an easy climb, with team using double ice axes to make progress on a slope that averaged an age of about 55 degrees. 

In order to reach the summit, the squad made a single push from their high camp at 5700 meters (18,700 ft). That came after establishing Base Camp at 4528 meters (14,858 ft) and an intermediate camp at 5268 meters (17,285 ft). Because they had acclimatized before their arrival on the mountain however, they were able to launch their summit push immediately, and complete the climb in a single go. 

Congrats to Lonnie and his entire team on a job well done. 

Meanwhile, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is back home in Tokyo, and has now shared more details about his recent attempt on Everest. Posting to Facebook a few days back, Kuriki gave a longer account of his second summit push on the mountain, which ended with him turning back after reaching 8000 meters (26,246 ft). 

In his report, he talks about the challenges he faced along the way, not the least of which were his own doubts and fears. The route was relatively clear and easy up to 6400 meters (20,997 ft), but above that point the snow started to get deeper and the winds began to howl So much so that even at 7000 meters (22,965 ft) the winds felt like he was above 8000 meters. That took a toll on his body, which was still exhausted from a previous attempt to summit just a few days earlier. 

At one point Kuriki could see the path to the top, which was still very far away, and began to worry about whether or not he would have strength to descend. It as at that moment that he told his team that he had had enough, and was turning back. Considering his previous experience on the mountain, that makes perfect sense. Back in 2012, he had to be rescued from Camp 4 after a failed summit attempt. He had suffered frostbite in his fingers and toes, and couldn't make his way down on his own. A team of Sherpas came to get him, but he ended up losing 9 of his fingers in the process. That experience had to weigh on him as he returned to that spot on the mountain.

If you followed Kuriki's climb this fall, you'll find his account of the summit push enlightening. It provides us with some real details on what he was thinking and feeling as he went up Everest, completely alone and on his own. That has to be a difficult thing from both a physical and psychological stand point. Read the whole report here

Finally, there has been no word from Ueli Steck or Colin Haley following their aborted attempt to climb Nuptse earlier this week. Their last dispatch seemed to hint that they were calling off the expedition, but there has been no confirmation of that just yet. They could still be in Base Camp, waiting for another weather window to arrive. But considering how unpredictable the conditions have been this year, that window might not ever come. 

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

Himalaya Fall 2015: Ueli and Company Turned Back on Nuptse

There isn't a lot of new news to report from the Himalaya as we start a new week, but I did want to take the opportunity to post an update on the expedition to Nuptse, which launched a summit bid over the weekend, only to see the weather turn back all attempts to climb the mountain.

We have been following Ueli Steck and Colin Haley's expedition to Nuptse for several weeks now. The pair joined forces in Nepal to attempt to repeat the very difficult Banavov route, which hasn't been repeated since it was first opened back in 2003. When the duo first arrived in the mountains, the weather was actually quite good, but it took them some time to acclimatize, as Colin battle illness early on. By the time they were ready to go, the conditions took a turn for the worse and the weather deteriorated, dumping a lot of snow on the mountain. So, they have been waiting for an opportunity to make an alpine style ascent ever since.

Last week, they were joined in Base Camp by Ben Guigonnet and Helias Millerioux (and Kilian Jornet!), two French climbers who had also come to Nepal to attempt Nuptse this fall. The teams immediately joined forces and started scouting the route, and when the forecast for this past weekend indicated that they had a small weather window, they decide to go for it.


On Friday, the four climbers set off from BC to get themselves into position to possibly summit on Saturday or Sunday. They climbed 2200 meters (7217 ft) to establish a camp at 6900 meters (22,637 ft). That would have put them in good position to go to the 7861 m (25,791 ft) summit. But, as they climbed the snow started to fall, and by the time they woke up the next morning to start their push, it was already clear that it was not safe to proceed. They have already descended back to BC, and from the tone of their dispatches, it seems they are preparing to go home. That hasn't been confirmed yet, but it seems that once again conditions are poor enough on the mountain that they'll call off the expedition.

To get an idea of what the route looks like, take a good look at the image above. It was shot by Ueli on the Nupste's Southface during the climb on Friday.

Elsewhere in the Himalaya, another expedition is about to get underway. Polar explorer/mountaineer, Lonnie Dupre has been in Nepal helping with rebuilding and relief efforts from the spring earthquake. But yesterday he posted that his team had established Base Camp on a peak called Kyoja Ri, a 6186 meter (20,295 ft) peak near Namche Bazaar in the Khumu Valley. They'll be attempting that mountain over the next few days, before eventually moving on to Ama Dablam. At the moment, all is well, conditions are reportedly good, and everyone is feeling strong. If all goes as planned, a summit bid could come later in the week.

I'll keep you posted of any developments. The climbing season is starting to rapidly wind down now, but there are still a few interesting ongoing expeditions. Success has been fleeting in the Himalaya this fall however, so the odds seem stacked against these climbers. Hopefully there will be some good news to come however.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Ueli Steck and Kilian Jornet Share Nuptse Base Camp

Just a quick update today from the Himalaya to shed a little more light on the amazing scene we caught a glimpse of in yesterday's post on the ongoing climbing operations in Nepal at the moment. It may have slipped under the radar for some readers who skimmed by that story, but two of the best alpine athletes in the world were actually sharing Base Camp on Nuptse over the past few days.

Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck and Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet met up in the Himalaya and had the opportunity to spend a bit of time together. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, these two men could compose quite the "Dream Team" of climbing if they were ever to team up on a project. Ueli is probably the better climber of the two, but Kilian is probably the faster man in the mountains. Both are known for their speed however, and have accomplished amazing things in the Alps, Himalaya, and beyond.

Ueli commented on the back that both men were in BC on Nuptse in a Facebook post. He said:
"We had a great day today. Colin and Ben went have a look at Nuptse on the lower part. Helias Kilian and myself did a little tour climbing. Its just great to hang out with this Guys. Very inspiring to me. And the hope for Nuptse is still alive!"
The other people that is speaking of include Colin Haley, his climbing partner on Nuptse, Ben Guiguonnet, and Hélias Millerioux, two young French mountain guides who staged a dramatic first ascent on Siula Chico, and are now hoping to find a new route up Nuptse as well.


As for Kilian, he appears to be back in the Himalaya simply to enjoy some time in the mountains. He has not announced any major plans for while he is there, and does't appear to have any intentions of climbing any big peaks. He is perhaps doing a bit of training to prepare for the spring 2016 season, where he will most likely attempt a speed record once again on Everest. This year that attempt was cut short when the April 25 earthquake brought an end to all climbing expeditions on the mountain.

Is there a chance we could see Ueli and Kilian team up in the future? Anything seems possible, and I believe there is a great deal of mutual respect between these two athletes. As I said above, this would be quite a team, and I'm sure fans of both men would like to see it happen. Only time will tell.

In other climbing news, 76 year old Spanish climber Carlos Soria is back in the Himalaya this fall, although he isn't there to take on an 8000 meter peak this time out. Instead, he hopes to climb Ama Dablam, the striking peak that is viewed so prominently throughout the Khumbu Valley. The mountain is 6812 meters (22,349 ft) in height, and is often used as a warm-up for other big climbs in the region, something Carlos doesn't really need.

That's all from the Himalaya today. More new soon I'm sure.

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.

Himalaya Fall 2015: It's Over On Everest and Dhaulagiri

The fall 2015 Himalayan climbing season continues to unfold, even while I was off connecting with other outdoor bloggers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. As most of you probably know by now, Nobukazu Kuriki has ended his attempt to scale Mt. Everest, and while he is now heading home, others are still pursuing their summit dreams.

Last week, Japanese climber Kuriki managed to put himself into position to make yet another attempt on scaling the highest peak in the world completely alone and without oxygen. After a slow, and measure ascent, the final push to the top began last Wednesday, October 8. According to his dispatches, Kuriki managed to climb as high 8200 meters (26,902 ft) before turning back. Once again, the weather was not very cooperative, as high winds and deep snow prevented him from moving up the mountain. After turning around, he was back in Base Camp by Friday.

This second attempt on the summit has taken its toll on the Japanese climber. He reported yesterday via Facebook that he has been quite sick over the past few days, and has even struggled to eat. We already knew that this second push would be the last, but that has now been confirmed. Kuriki has taken a helicopter back Kathmandu, and has already returned home to Japan – ending his fifth attempt to climb Everest.

The end of Kuriki's expedition marks a milestone in climbing on Everest. Thanks to the spring earthquake in Nepal, there hasn't been any summits of the mountain at all this year. The last time that happened was back in 1974. Even last year, when the season was interrupted by the loss of 16 porters on the mountain, there were summits from the North Side and a single summit from the South. But this year there have been none. Hopefully, 2016 will prove to be a safer and more successful year.


Meanwhile, another team is also calling it quits on Dhaulagiri as well. French climbers Patrick Wagnon and Yannick Graziani launched their summit bid on that mountain late last week, and had hoped to top out today. But once again weather has kept them from reaching their objective, as Yannick reports 30 cm (11.8 inches) of fresh snow has fallen on the mountain, baking it difficult to progress upwards, and adding to the danger significantly. So, the duo has decided the summit is out of reach this year, and are now descending back to BC before heading home.

ExWeb is reporting that a Korean team is attempting to climb Lhotse this fall. The squad arrived in Kathmandu back on Sept. 21, and had hoped to fly to Lukla on Sept. 23, but had to wait until the 28th due to bad weather. They were then planning on spending 10 days acclimatizing during the trek up the Khumbu Valley before starting their rotations on the mountain. That means that they should be in BC by now, and have camp well established. Considering that the route up Lhotse follows the same path as Everest for much of the way, it'll be interesting to see how they fare.

Finally, Ueli Steck is enjoying his return to the Himalaya. While he waits for climbing partner Colin Hayley to return from the valley following a bout of illness, the Swiss climber has continued with his acclimatization efforts by bagging the North Face of Cholatse. He should be back in BC on Nuptse now however, and hopefully Colin has rejoined him so they can begin the actual expedition they came to Nepal to complete.

That's all for today. I'll keep an eye on these remaining expeditions and post news as it is warranted.

Himalaya Fall 2015: More Summits on Manaslu, Progress on Everest, and Makalu Ski Expedition Ends

There was lots of news from the Himalaya this weekend where the climbing season continues to unfold. It is October now, so most of the major commercial teams will be wrapping up operations, but the good climbing opportunities should continue to exist for another month or so. But for the most part we should start to see most of the groups start heading for home.

A week ago it seemed that things were looking grim on Manaslu. That was where the bulk of the climbers had convened this fall, and after three major commercial squads (Himex, Adventure Consultants, and Altitude Junkies) left the mountain, it appeared that there might not be any successful summits. But last week the climbers finally broke saw some good weather and improved conditions, and as a result ExWeb now reports that there have been more than 80 people who have reached the top between September 30 and October 2. Than means that thanks to a little patience and perseverance, the bulk of the Manaslu expeditions were successful this fall.

There was a bit of sad news on the mountain however. According to reports, a member of the Summit Climb team died in Camp 4 last Thursday. The diseased as been identified as Zoltan Benedek of Australia, who apparently took ill after descending from the summit. Benedek's climbing partner also had to be helped down from C4 to C3 before being flown off the mountain. Apparently, both men were climbing without support above Base Camp.

Over on Makalu, the Alpenglow Expeditions climb and ski squad has officially pulled the plug on their attempt on the mountain. The talented group of athletes had hoped to become the first to make a full ski descent of the mountain, but unstable conditions high on the slopes prevented them from topping out last week. Now, they're all off the mountain safely and preparing to head home.

The team did have one very scary moment while on their summit push. While up above 8000 meters (26,246 ft) one of their guides – Mingma Chhiring Sherpa – was caught in an avalanche and fell quite a distance. Luckily he didn't suffer any major injuries and was ultimately okay, but that was the fifth avalanche the team encountered, which convinced them it was time to go home.

Over on Everest there hasn't been much word from Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki over the past few days, although his website has been updated with the word that he reached Camp 3 on Saturday, and spent the day there yesterday while acclimatizing. That means he should move up to C4 today, which would put him in position to potentially summit tomorrow or Wednesday depending on conditions. His last proposed plan indicated that he might try to break trail above Camp 4, than return to that point for a rest, before setting off for the summit. Either way, we should know the result of his efforts within the next few days.

Finally, Ueli Steck is fully acclimatized and ready to climb on Nuptse, but unfortunately his climbing partner Colin Haley is having a more difficult time of it. Haley apparently got sick, so he made the decision to descend down to Deboche in the Khumbu Valley. Hopefully this will allow him to rest and regain his strength before heading back to Nuptse Base Camp so that the expedition can truly get underway.

That's it for now. I'll keep an eye on Everest over the next few days. Hopefully we'll have good news there soon.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Kuriki Preparing for Another Attempt on Everest

Yesterday I – and a number of other outlets –  posted the news that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki had abandoned his attempt to summit Everest over the weekend, and was now preparing to leave the mountain altogether. That seems to have been a bit premature however, as we have news today that he has not left Base Camp at all, and is preparing to launch another summit push later this week.

At the moment, Kuriki is said to be in good physical condition, and is resting in BC. His most recent summit attempt was thwarted by deep snows, which caused him to have to turn back due to slow going while breaking trail. The hope is that conditions will be better this time around, allowing the solo climber, who is going up without supplemental oxygen, to move faster and gain access to the summit.

According to Kuriki's expedition manager he is now preparing to leave Base Camp on Thursday, October 1. That means that if he can hold to the schedule, Nobukazu will be looking to top out on Sunday or Monday of next week. Hopefully the conditions won't be quite so dangerous on this ascent, and he'll have the weather window he needs to finish the climb safely. I will of course be following very closely.

Elsewhere, the Alpenglow team on Makalu is still on the move, and climbing up the mountain. The weather is said to be quite good there at the moment, and they hope to top out tomorrow, and then make the first full ski descent of the mountain. There hasn't been a lot of updates from the team since they left BC on Sunday, but we should expect to get an update tomorrow or Thursday. Hopefully it brings good news of their success.

Finally, Ueli Steck and Colin Haley are somewhere in the Khumbu Valley. The duo last checked in from Namche Bazaar, and should be continuing on the trail to Nuptse, the 7861 meters (25,791 ft) peak that will be their target for the fall climbing season. The plan is to attempt the very difficult Babanov route, which was pioneered by Russian climbers Valeri Babanov and Yuri Koshelenko back in 2003, and hasn't been repeated since. Ueli and Colin hope to follow that route to the summit once again.

With most of the major commercial teams now departing Manaslu, the Himalaya are about to get a lot quieter. Still, there should be some interesting climbs to follow in the days ahead, so I'll keep you posted on all of the action.

Himalaya Fall 2015: Update From Everest!

Yesterday I shared some updates from around Nepal on the ongoing climbing season there. Poor weather is expected in the mountains once again this week, so chances are there will be little movement over the next few days. But, we do have news from Everest, were the lone Japanese climber is now getting ready to his first attempt at reaching the summit.

According to this story from the Himalayan Times, the Icefall Doctors are working very hard to maintain the route through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. As usual, that stretch the mountain is proving very tricky, but their efforts are helping to earn them the money they need to rebuild their houses following the April 25 earthquake.

The docs are working in support of Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki, who is reportedly now on the move on Everest, despite fresh snowfall across the region. According to the article linked above, Kuriki was expected to climb up to Camp 2 yesterday with a support team in tow. From there, he plans to climb to C3 today, then on to Camp 4 tomorrow, with the intention of launching his summit bid from that point on Thursday. If all goes as expected, he could top out and be back down by Friday.

But, as Alan Arnette points out in his latest blog post, it would be very unusual for someone who hasn't fully acclimatized to go straight for the summit. Kuriki did warm up on nearby Lbouche, but only went as high as 20,000 feet (6096 meters). In order for his body to be ready for the challenges it'll face above 8000 meters (26,246 ft), he really should make one more high altitude rotation, then return to Base Camp for a rest, before setting out for the summit.

There were some indications that the Japanese climber had gone up the mountain last week, so perhaps he completed a rotation at that point. We'll just have to wait to see how he performs over the next few days.

Meanwhile, Swiss climber Ueli Steck is setting off for Nepal today. He, along with climbing partner Colin Haley, will be attempting the very difficult Babanov route on Nuptse, a 7804 meter (25,603 ft) peak that is another popular mountain in the Himalaya. The Babanov route hasn't been done since it was first completed by Russian climbers Valeri Babanov and Yuri Koshelenko back in 2003 however, something Steck and Haley are hoping to change. Expect to hear a lot more about that expedition in the days ahead.

That's it for today. Now we wait and watch Everest to see how Kuriki does. Good luck to him on this summit bid. Hopefully he gets up and down safely.

Himalaya Fall 2016: Ueli Steck Prepares to Return to Nepal

No major news to report today in terms of progress on Manaslu, Makalu, or Everest. The climbers there are currently taking advantage of a break in the weather as they continue to acclimatize to the altitude and push towards their respective summits. If all goes well, we could have reports of positive results sometime in the next few days.

As the big commercial squads look for early season success, other smaller teams are preparing for expeditions that are yet to come this fall. They include Swiss climber Ueli Steck, who will be returning to the Himalaya for the first time since he made a daring solo-summit of Annapurna back in the fall of 2013. Ueli says that he is done with those kinds of escapes, but he does have another exciting climb in the works.

Next week, Ueli will depart for Nepal where he'll join American climber Colin Haley for an attempt on the 7804 meter (25,603 ft) Nuptse East along the very difficult Babanov Route. That challenging path has only been completed once in the past, when Russian climbers Valeri Babanov and Yuri Kosholenko completed it along the Southeast Pillar back in 2003. Those two men were able to reach the summit using the typical siege tactics that are common in the Himalaya, but Ueli and Colin will make the attempt in alpine style.

In a recent interview with Stefan Nestler, Ueli says that he is in good physical condition for returning to the Himalaya, after all he is coming off a successful summer campaign to climb all of the mountains in the Alps that exceed 4000 meters (13,123 ft). That project saw him summit 82 mountains in 61 days, once again showing us all why he has earned the nickname of the "Swiss Machine."

In that same interview Ueli talks about his history in Nepal. Not only his triumph on Annapurna, but the infamous encounter with a mob of angry Sherpas who were out to cause him, and his climbing partners Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith, physical harm back in the spring of 2013. But the climber has put both of those events squarely in the past, and he is focused on other challenges now. He also says that he wants to return to Nepal to help the people there. By making this climb he is not only showing that it is safe to go back, but he is also putting Nepali people to work.

Of course, we will be following this expedition as closely as we can while it unfolds. Ueli is expected to leave for Nepal on September 22, after which he'll spend a few days getting his gear prepared for the climb, as well as trekking to Base Camp on Nuptse. Look for updates to start sometime around the first of October as he and Colin look to make another bold climb in the Himalaya.

Himalaya Fall 2014: The Season is Over

It has been a long, and often difficult, fall season in the Himalaya, where poor weather, unstable conditions, and challenging routes have made for a less than successful year in the big mountains. While I was away in Ecuador, the last remaining teams wrapped up their expeditions, and the season has come to a close at last. But before we close the book on another year in the Himalaya, I wanted to post a couple of updates on things that took place over the past couple of week.

Before I departed for South America, we were watching Lhotse closely, waiting for new from the South Korean team that has been struggling for two very long months to make progress on that mountain. In the first week of November, the team set off on a summit push, installing Camp 4, and hoping to move to the top of the 8516 meter (27,940 ft) peak. According to ExWeb, the climbers reached as high as 7800 meters (25,590 ft) before they were once again turned back by high winds and poor conditions. One of the team members was also said to be in deteriorating health as well, which eventually forced the abandonment of the entire project.

One other expedition that had been ongoing was the attempt by Canadian climbers Jason Kruk and Ian Welsted to summit Nuptse along the South Face. The duo spent four days on their summit push, but were forced to turn back after encountering conditions that prevented them from reaching the top. Later, Welsted feinted on the trail and had to be airlifted out to safety. He seems to be in good condition, and all is well, but it did put a scare into Kruk for a time. The episode took place on November 3, and was the result of fatigue after living above 5000 meters (16,404 ft) for five weeks. The boys are home now, and doing much better.

This report brings a wrap to the 2014 fall Himalaya climbing season, and now all eyes will turn towards the spring, when Everest will sure dominate the scene once again. Considering how unusual the past few seasons have been on the Big Hill, I suspect we will not lack for drama once again in 2015.


Himalaya Fall 2014: Korean Lhotse Team Prepares For Summit Push

While only one team remains on an 8000-meter peak in the Himalaya this fall, the season isn't quite over yet. The Korean squad on Lhotse continues to battle poor weather, and unstable conditions, in an attempt to reach the summit on that mountain. The clock is ticking however, and after nearly two months in the Himalaya, time is starting to run out. With that in mind, the team is in the final stages of their preparation, with the hopes of summit bid to come.

Information on the team's current status has been hard to come by in recent days, but according to ExWeb, the Korean climbers set off up the mountain once again today with the hopes of establishing Camp 4 at 8200 meters (26,902 ft). This will be their final camp on the mountain, and will serve as their launching pad for the summit. It is unclear whether or not they'll attempt to go straight to the top, or will instead descend back to Base Camp, and wait for a proper weather window.

Considering the length of time they have been on the mountain (they arrived in the first week of September), and the patience that they have shown thus far, it seems likely that they will wait for the proper window to allow themselves the best opportunity of topping out. That said, temperatures have begun to drop across the region, and Lhotse has reportedly gotten much colder following the recent blizzard brought on by cyclone Hudhud.

Avalanches remain a concern as well, as they have all season long. The team has already faced several significant slides, and have been extremely careful in their approach so far. They could find even more unstable snow as they move up above C4.

Meanwhile, Canadian climbers Jason Kruk and Ian Welsted are still in the Himalaya as well, and attempting to summit Nuptse, the 7861 meter (25,791 ft) peak located in the Khumbu Valley, not far from Everest itself. A few days back, Kruk posted to his Facebook page that they duo were taking one last crack at the summit along the South Face before they pack up camp and head home. If everything is going according to plan, they should top out sometime over the next few days, but we'll have to wait for a new dispatch to report on their success.

The fall climbing season is nearly over, and in a few days, I'm sure we'll be wrapping up the last of these reports. It has been a strange autumn in the Himalaya to say the least, but there were some good success stories, most notably on Manaslu and Cho Oyu. Hopefully we'll have a few more summits to add to the list by this weekend. Stay tuned.

Update: In other Himalayan news, climbers Mick Fowler and Paul Ramadan have completed a new route along the Northeast Face of Hagshu, a 6515 meter (21,374 ft) peak in the Indian Himalaya. The mountain had been previously climbed back in 1989, but despite several attempts, has remained unclimbed ever since.