Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn 2014 | No Summit Push on Makalu, Canadians on Nuptse South Face

Yesterday, British Makalu team decided not to go for the summit. They are getting off the mountain and preparing to leave Base Camp. With the exception of Korean team on Lhotse South Face, the eight-thousanders are empty now. Nevertheless some climbers are still active on lesser peaks. One such team is the Canadian pair, Ian Welsted and Jason Kruk, on South face of Nuptse (7861m).

Makalu Southeast Ridge
Makalu Southeast Ridge is a long route, with considerable time to be spent at around or above 8000m. Despite the efforts of Sherpa and climbers, the British team wasn’t in a position to launch the final summit-bid. Without specific details, the last dispatch from the team announces the retreat.

“Unfortunately, time, weather, and the debilitating and degrading effect of working such a challenging and problematic route has got the better of us, and forced a retreat off the mountain. With the onset of poor weather and the expedition time limitations, the reluctant decision to get everybody safely off the mountain and call it a day has been made!”

British BC at Makalu's Southeast Ridge; Source

Nuptse South Face
Canadians Ian Welsted and Jason Kruk arrived in Khumbu valley at around mid-September to climb the challenging Nuptse South Face in alpine style. They acclimatized on nearby crests and ridges before actual onslaught. However, their first attempt on Nuptse failed because of bad ice conditions. The two climbers are still at BC, awaiting improvement in conditions to launch another summit push.

Nuptse South Face; Source

Ian and Jason have been tested by adverse weather, alike the Koreans on nearby Lhotse South Face. The weather had continuously been snowy, and the situation was further worsened by cyclone Hudhud’s offshoots.

“Crazy, convoluted snow climbing, messed-up, massive cornices, make these the most heinous features to climb in the Himalaya,” commented Jason Kruk. “The Cyclone Hudhud dropped a ton of snow on an already snowy October. We've decided that the open snow slopes and ice lines are currently suicide.”

The climbers eventually decided to launch the summit attempt at the start of this week, only to be turned back next day. “We were forced down on day two of an attempt by poor steep ice conditions.”

The expedition, however, doesn’t end here. Jason wrote on Facebook, “Nuptse South Face is a hard mountain... I guess that's why it took the most prolific Himalayan climber alive, Valeri Babanov, three trips here to send... And he fixed rope...

We've resolved that despite the difficulty of the line, it's our only safe option for an ascent. As I type this (on Oct 22nd) it's currently snowing (again) on our mountain. This time we'll trade out some ice screws for more rock gear and give 'er hell.”

Ian Welsted on Nuptse South Face; Source
Jason Kruk on Nuptse South Face; Source

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Makalu SE Ridge Summit Push; Video from Lhotse South Face

Excessive snow on Makalu's normal route forced all climbers to retreat. However, the British team is reporting good conditions from Southeast Ridge. They are likely to leave for the summit from C4, tonight. There hasn’t been any update from Korean team, who were on the way to set up C4 on Lhotse South Face. Meanwhile, the home-team of Koreans has published a compilation of video footages from the expedition, majorly covering the massive avalanches on this notorious mountain wall.

Makalu
British tri-services team’s progress on SE Ridge has been led by a group of Sherpa, who established C3 on Monday. Yesterday, they worked on the route to C4. It's hoped that two members and four Sherpa would have made it to C4 earlier today, and they shall launch the summit push at night. In today's dispatch Base Camp, the expedition leader wrote.

This morning the summit team set off to establish camp four and stay there the night for a planned early next morning attempt at the summit. The summit team radioed in this morning to report they were in good form and with the weather window holding good for the next three days were optimistic for having a good crack at it.

C2 on Makalu SE Ridge; Source

On normal route, the bad conditions didn't let the climber go above C2. “We felt it unreasonable to press on in such difficult / dangerous conditions, so have called off our climb. Currently we are packing up our base camp and preparing to head out in a few days.” Garret Madison wrote on Tuesday.

Lhotse
Lhotse South Face is steep, difficult and dangerous. Korean expedition led by Hong Sung Taek has been working on the mountain since the start of September. Prolonged bad weather, excessive snow and frequent avalanches have made the climb further demanding. The team has now published a compilation of video footages (in Korean language) from the expedition. Watch the interesting movie "Surviving Avalanches" here.

Prior to bad weather stimulated by cyclone Hudhud, Koreans had established C3 at 7500m. They were planning to install a final camp C4 at 8200m before summit bid. However, there hasn't been any update from the team, recently.

Koreans on Lhotse South Face; Photo: Outdoor News

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Makalu Summit-Bids

The winds recede and there appears to be a summit window on Makalu around the mid of this week. The teams have already launched the summit attempts; British tri-services team on Southeast Ridge and Madison Mountaineering team via normal route. However, it appears that bad snow conditions forced normal route climbers to retreat. British climbers are all set for a final push in next couple of days.

Southeast Ridge
The Sherpa and climbers of British tri-services team left BC on Oct 16th and are currently in C3. They had to reinstall C1 as the tents collapsed during bad weather. In a minor accident between C1 and C2, one of the Sherpa sustained a knee injury. He had to be assisted down to BC.

The team spent a night in C2 (6700m) during previous rotation. Their plan is to establish C3 and C4, and push forward to the summit. The home-team of the expedition shared following summit-push plan.

“Expectations are running high now, with Camp 3 established and a window of good weather with light summit winds forecast on the 22nd and 23rd. Colin, Dick and two Sherpa will push on “Alpine style” to camp four, beyond the crux of the Gendarmes, with a summit bid planned during the good weather window predicted. Chris and Gav plus two Sherpa will be in support close behind. The rest of the team will be strategically placed in support on the mountain.”

Going up SE Ridge on Makalu; Source

Normal Route
Garrett Madison, Vibeke Sefland and Lhakpa Sherpa started the summit attempt via normal route and were last 'tracked' near C1 on Oct 19th. However, as per recent dispatch from British team, it appears that the team was forced to retreat.

“News is that on the North side of Makalu, avalanche conditions have caused teams to retreat back to Base Camp with little likelihood of summiting from that side.” 

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Two Slovaks and Three Nepalese Missing on Dhaulagiri

The severe weather stimulated by cyclone ‘Hudhud’ recedes in Nepal, leaving a catastrophe of great magnitude behind. Blizzard and avalanches killed several trekkers, climbers and natives in Western Region, whereas dozens are still missing. Rescue operation continues for retrieval of bodies and search and evacuation of missing persons.

An enormous avalanche hit Dhaulagiri BC on Tuesday, where the Slovak climbers was waiting for improvement in weather to resume the climb. They had already established C1 and C2 on the mountain. It’s reported that two Slovaks and three Nepalese have gone missing after the avalanche. Other stranded members of the expedition (07 Slovaks and 01 Czech) have been evacuated to Pokhara. Exact details of the accident are still vague.

Slovakian Expedition was only team on Dhaulagiri, this season. Image

Slovakian's website expedition.sk wrote on Wednesday night:

"We have new information directly from Sonam Sherpa, from the agency that provided services to our expedition in Nepal. Sonam unfortunately confirmed that Jan Matlák and Vladimir Švancár along with three Nepalese helpers remain missing after the avalanche. Other members of the expedition were flown to Pokhara by helicopter. Three local Sherpa unsuccessfully searched for them today (Wednesday). Tomorrow (Thursday), two members of expedition will also join them.”


Nepalese weather base camp
Photo from Base Camp. Source

Missing Nepalese have been identified as Bhoj Kumar Rai of Mauling VDC-5, Okhaldhunga; Dorje Sherpa of Juling VDC-2, and Gopal Rai of Gudin VDC-8, Solukhumbu district.

Last dispatch from Slovakians read, “Snowing, snowing, still snowing .... still waiting in BC for better weather :( We all believe that the weather will improve.

Ján Matlák (left) and Vladimír Švancár (right); File photo

Ján Matlák is a climbing and ski-mountaineering instructor. He led several expeditions to Tatra, Alps, Caucasus and Pamir. In Himalayas, he has attempted Shishapangma and Annapurna. Vladimír Švancár is also a seasoned mountaineering professional with multiple winter and summer ascents in Tatra, Alps and Pamir. 

Update:
Unfortunately, the hope of finding either of five missing persons (Jan Matlák, Vladimir Švancár, Bhoj Kumar Rai, Dorje Sherpa and Gopal Rai) alive didn't materialize. expedition.sk reports that the bodies of  Slovak climbers and the BC staff were found at Dhaulagiri BC, today. It appears that only Jan Matlák and Vladimir Švancár were inside their tent when avalanche came down. Other members of the expedition were in "social" tent which avalanche probably didn't hit with full force.

Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of deceased men. Rest in peace.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Bad Weather Halts the Progress

Cyclone ‘Hudhud’ hit the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday. While the cyclone didn’t reach Nepal directly, its effect stimulated condensed clouds towards Nepalese sky, resulting in rainfall throughout the region. Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM) anticipated the effect to recede by Thursday.

The post-monsoon climbing season has already concluded on Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. While the former two mountains were in good condition and fair weather allowed majority of climbers to reach the summit, Shishapangma remained unclimbed because of dangerous snow conditions.

However, few teams are still active on less busier eight-thousanders, like a Slovak team on Dhaulagiri, the Koreans on Lhotse South Face and some teams on Makalu. All the expeditions remained in Base Camps during past few days because of bad weather and snow.

Makalu SE Ridge Base Camp in bad weather; Source

Dhaulagiri

The Slovak team has established C1 and C2 on Dhaulagiri. However, bad weather forced them to retreat to BC on Oct 10th. “Snowing, snowing still snowing ...” the team wrote on 13th. They are well rested and ready to push towards C3, as conditions improve.

Lhotse

The Korean Lhotse South Face team has installed C3 at 7500m during latest foray up the mountain. The team is currently back at BC due to bad weather. They are planning to set up a final camp, C4, at 8200m before summit push. Koreans have been fighting difficult weather and frequent avalanches on challenging Lhotse South Face since early September, where the steepness of the wall averages around 65 - 70 degree.

Koreans heading up Lhotse South Face; Source

Makalu

Makalu teams also remained in Base Camps recently due to bad weather. Until now, the British tri-services team had spent a night C2 (6700m) for acclimatization. The Sherpa have fixed and provisioned C1 and C2 and would be working on route towards C3 in coming days.

While the Brits remain on SE Ridge, couple of weeks ago Garrett Madison, Vibeke Sefland and Lhakpa Sherpa decided to switch to Makalu normal route. During first rotation on normal route, they spent a night in C2 (6400m) before returning to Base Camp.

Sherpa fixing route to C2 on Makalu SE Ridge. Source

Update:
The severe weather in Nepal resulted in a large scale catastrophe. Around two dozen trekkers, mountaineers, mountain guides and locals have lost their lives, whereas several others are still out of communication. Many groups have been evacuated to safe locations. Search and rescue is underway and the exact magnitude of disaster will be clear only in coming days.

Amongst the tragic updates from Nepal, there are reports about a tragedy on Dhaulagiri. It's reported that two members of Slovak expedition and three of their local helpers (BC staff) have been missing since Tuesday night. However, no further details are available as of now.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Success on Manaslu and Cho Oyu, Bad Season on Shishapangma

It is another successful season on Manaslu and Cho Oyu, where majority of teams made it to the summit in a period of around 8 days. Contrarily, the conditions have been fatal on Shishapangma. All, but one fresh inbound team, have already left the mountain.

Shishapangma Arrivals

It has been a difficult season on Shishapangma. Double 8 team made two unsuccessful summit bids and during final push, an avalanche killed two members of the team. Kobler Partner team abandoned their expedition earlier this week. Ueli Steck was also on the way back to Kathmandu. Now, Carlos Soria has also decided to retreat due to dangerous conditions.

However, while all these teams have withdrawn from Shishapangma, few climbers are just reaching the mountain. The arriving climbers are coming after Cho Oyu, where they reached the summit last week. Danish Bo Belvedere Christensen wrote from ABC, “surprised to see that we are the only ones in the camp (ABC). Now I am going to rest a few more days; Cho Oyu is still in the body.”

Facilitated by Snow Horizon Expeditions, the team consists of Nadav Ben Yeduda, Gilian Kit Wai Lee, Alice Cavallera, Alberto Pacellini, Nicola Bonaiti, Ivan Broun and Bo Belvedere Christensen.

No success for Carlos Soria on Shishapangma, yet again; Source

Manaslu Summits

The good weather on Manaslu has been holding as several climbers reached the summit in past few days. Spaniards Antonio Jesús Vélez, Carlos Carvajal, Fernando Fernández-Vivancos and Pepe Saldaña reached the top on September 30th. Two members of Amical Alpin team, Martina und Stefan, also summited the same day, along with their Sherpa team.

Mountain Professionals reported that, “the entire Mountain Professionals Manaslu 2014 Expedition reached the summit at 8:20 in the morning October 1st.”

American climber Alex Barber stood atop Manaslu, a couple of hours after MTN Professionals, “the pace was pretty grueling: Base to Camp 2 in 8 hours, Camp 3 to Camp 4 in 3 hours and 45 minutes, and Camp 4 to summit in just over 4 hours. I have the summit almost entirely to myself. Just one other climber up here.”

On the summit Alex was joined by Italian Samuele Sentieri, who reached there at 11:09 AM on October 1st.

French climbers Franck Candelier and Purna bahadur Tamang were also alone at the peak. They summited at 11:04AM on Oct 2nd. Third member of the team Jean-François Durazzo had to retreat before reaching C4.

Manaslu; Source

Summit Push on Cho Oyu

Several climbers summited Cho Oyu last week, as detailed in our previous update. Mexicans Laura González and Yuri Contreras were also amongst those who reached the top.

Another wave of summit pushes is currently underway. Chris Burke wrote on Oct 1st, “many summits have occurred in the last 48 hours. The Iranians left ABC today with a 2nd October summit in mind. Our team will leave today (1st) and Lakpa and I may consider a summit push from C2 if everything comes together, which would mean a 3rd Oct summit. Margaret and Bill want to push from C3 which means a 4th Oct summit day.”

Lastly, Andrzej Bargiel who recently climbed Manaslu in record time, wanted to attempt Cho Oyu. However, China Government didn’t issue him visa and the Polish climber had to fly back home.

AC Team members Da Jangbu and Danny on Cho Oyu Summit; Source

Makalu: Change in Route

British team continues acclimatization on Makalu SE Ridge, where the Sherpa have fixed the route to C2. However, the Madison Mountaineering team has decided to switch to normal wrote due to unknown reasons.

“We have decided to change our climbing route to the Northwest side of the mountain or what is the normal route via the Makalu La. This means we will move our base camp tomorrow up the Barun Glacier about 2500′ higher than our current camp, to approximately 18,500′ (5639m). We are looking forward to exploring this side of the mountain as we have not yet seen it from this angle. It’s great that our climbing permit allows us to climb on both sides.”

Madison Mountaineering team consists of Garrett Madison (as expedition leader), Vibeke Sefland and Lhakpa Sherpa.

Makalu BC at night; Photo: Madison Mountaineering
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Season at its Peak, Updates from Makalu to Shishapangma

The post monsoon climbing season is at its peak, as summit-bids continue on Manaslu and Cho Oyu. Multiple summits have already been witnessed on both mountains, since last week. Meanwhile, the progress on Lhotse, Dhaulagiri and Makalu has been slow and steady. In a tragic incident, a Japanese climber died on Manaslu after suffering a fatal slide.

Firm Against Lhotse South Face

The last communication from Korean Lhotse South Face team has been about a week ago, when they were at BC after establishing C2 (6800m). Despite bad weather and frequent avalanches, the team has been advancing bit by bit. C2 was only reached after 12 hard days of setting up C1. However, as monsoon is over, the climbers expect an improvement in meteorological conditions.

Currently, it appears that the team has gone up the mountain again. They are hoping to establish C3 by the end of September and C4 in early days of October. The expedition is led by veteran explorer Sung Taek Hong, whereas the team consists of young and ambitious climbers.

Koreans heading up towards C2; Soure: Korean Expedition

Slovakians Face Difficulties on Dhaulagiri

The Slovak Dhaulagiri expedition has been facing difficult condition on the mountain. “Progression to Camp-1 is annoying, due to cracks. We have fixed 1200 m stretches. Tomorrow (on Sept 29th) we should finally begin to build the camp. The weather is pretty decent during the day, only to retract in the evening, and sometimes it rains,” wrote the team on 28th.

Makalu: Smooth Progress

British Tri-services team is making good progress on Makalu SE Ridge. The Sherpa have fixed the route till C2, whereas the members have returned to Base Camp after tagging C1. The weather has been favorable since Saturday; a sign of monsoon’s recede.

The second Makalu team, Madison Mountaineering Expedition, have also reached the BC. As per expedition leader Garrett Madison, they will spend a few days acclimatizing near BC before going up the route.

Garrett Madison also mentions that there is a small team of Slovenian climbers camped next to British team.

Sherpa (in middle of photo) heading to C1; Photo: Tim Taylor of British Exp

Cho Oyu Summits

Danish climber Bo Belvedere Christensen was first to reach Cho Oyu summit, this season. He launched the summit bid from C2 on 26th, and reached the top at around 4PM next day. Bo is now travelling to Shishapanmga for his attempt on second eight-thousander.

Another climber from Denmark, Ivan Braun, will also be heading to Shishapangma, soon.  Ivan summited Cho Oyu, yesterday (on 29th).

Several more summits have been reported from Cho Oyu, during past few days.

Three Italians Alice Cavallera, Alberto Pacellini and Nicola Bonaiti were successful on 28th. From Second Italian expedition, Luca Montanari and Bogdan Velev topped on 29th, whereas Luciano Dal Toè and Samuele Santagiuliana were expected to reach the summit today.

Polish climber Olek Ostrowski stood atop at 12 PM (Chinese time) on Sept 29th.

From larger commercial expeditions, Summit Climb team summited on 28th. The IMG Team’s summit equation says “2 IMG guides, 7 climbers, 6 sherpas = 15 summits”. Alpine Ascents exclaimed, “we all summited at 7am Nepal time the 29th of September!” Adventure Consultants were up there, today, “that's eight Sherpa, two AC guides and six team members.” Also Six members of Kobler Parter team reached the top on 29th.

Basque team (Oier Plazaola,  Xabier Urrate and Pedro García) was also on summit push, but further updates are awaited.

However, some teams - including Russian 7 Summit Club and Chris Burke’s team - being the “late comers” are still busy in acclimatization.

Cho Oyu; Source: Unkonwn

Death on Manaslu

As per reports from BC, Japanese climber Yoshimasa Sasaki (59) passed away on Manaslu near 7300m after suffering a fatal fall. He slid around 25-30m and died immediately. It appears that an operation is being launched to retrieve his body.

Manaslu Summit Bids 2

Altitude Junkies, HimEx and Arnold Coster Expeditions summited during first wave of summit-bids on Manaslu, whereas other teams - Amical Alpin, a Spanish team of seven climbers, Mountain Professionals led by explorer Ryan Waters, two members of Italian Expedition and four French climbers - are currently heading towards summit.

Also, American Alex Barber’s couldn’t succeed in his first summit attempt. However, he is back on the mountain, “On the 27th I dropped back down to Base camp and took a single day’s rest. Today, the 29th, I went from base camp to Camp 3 in a single 8 hour push.” Alex hopes to reach the summit on Oct 1st.

Worse Conditions on Shishapangma

Considering the persistent bad snow conditions and after the deadly avalanche last week, some climbers are returning home. Billi Bierling is on the way back to Kathmandu. Kobler Partner guides are retrieving material from C1 and C2, “they will not climb to summit, this fall. By heavy snow, the avalanche situation is too dangerous.”

Spaniard Carlos Soria, however, hasn’t given up, yet. He has completed the acclimatization to C2. Carlos intends to climb Iñaki variant instead of normal route.

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