2013 Review Part-2 | The Highs and Lows

Apart from the series of fatal accidents, 2013 has fairly been a typical mountaineering year with usual crest and troughs. A long-pending job has, somehow, been finished off on Broad Peak. One of the most perilous mountain walls in the world staged two unprecedented climbs, back to back. Beyond that there were unfortunate fracas at altitude and hideous killings at BC.

The Best Bits
The Polish efforts on Broad Peak this winter were a fine illustration of determination and endurance, while later in summer the Iranians displayed their strength and will. The Romanians on Nanga Parbat were brave. But the two ascents on Annapurna South Face can safely be termed as the highlight of 2013.

Ueli Steck completed a new route on Annapurna South Face in an astounding time of 28 hours. His ease and perfection made the whole thing look simple and convenient, but Ueli himself thinks, “[I] was at the limits of my physical and mental ability” - “After Annapurna, I now realize what an intense period I was living through. I had completely focused in succeeding on the South Face, there was nothing else for me, I pushed everything else aside,” he adds further.

Ueli’s improvisation was followed by a spectacular show of classical alpinism by French mountaineers. Yannick Graziani and Stephane Benoist ‘repeated’ the route, just two weeks after Ueli Steck. As renowned journalist Lindsay Griffin points out “it's hard to think of another occasion when a route of such magnitude and historic significance on a high Himalayan peak has been repeated so quickly after the event.”

The Lows
Crowds, immature climbers, traffic jams and weird ‘world record’ - some purists label Everest as a tourist’s mountain, where ‘real’ mountaineers no longer go. This spring, however, was a bit different as two groups of strong alpinists were on the mountain to do something different. The ‘Everest brawl’ changed the whole scenario. Not only the Simone Moro, Ueli Steck and Jon Griffith’s No2Limits expedition was culminated, but Everest’s reputation also become more controversial. (Nonetheless, at the end of May, everyone celebrated the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s success on the mountain).

Other mountain that earned ‘notorious’ tag this year was Nanga Parbat. After the massacre at Diamir Base Camp, more than 50 climbers were evacuated from the region. All expeditions to said face of the mountain were cancelled. It was feared that other climbing expeditions to Pakistan may also get hammered, but fortunately it didn’t happened and eventually, four Romanians summited Nanga Parbat via Schell route on July 19th. Multiple climbers will attempt Nanga Parbat this winter, but the scars of the worst incident in mountaineering history will last longer.

Rescues at Altitude
Not long ago, the heli-rescue meant an evacuation from Base Camp or from C1 or C2. However, the things are changing. This spring, Simone Moro along with his companions from Fishtail Air made a couple of marvelous evacuations from above 7500m on Everest and Dhaulagiri.

On April 30th, Chang Dawa reached the summit of Shishapangma to become the 31st person who has climbed all 8000m peaks. He also became the youngest person to do so (aged 30 years and 9 months). Chang is second Nepalese with all 14, after his own brother Mingma Sherpa. They are the only brothers on the list.

Kim Chang-ho also completed his 14x8000ers journey on May 20th. He is the first Korean to complete this quest without supplemental oxygen. Moreover, Kim is now the quickest in 14x8000ers list, completing all 14 in seven years, ten months and six days, around a month ahead of the legend, Jerzy Kukuczka.

Spanish climber Oscar Cadiach summited Kangchenjunga on the disastrous day, when five climbers perished on descent. Later, in summer, he was on GI and abandoned first summit push due to bad weather - on the day when three other Spaniards summited and went missing on descent. A week later, Oscar went up again to bag his 13th 8000er. He only needs to scale Broad Peak to complete 14x8000ers.

Another Spaniard, Carlos Pauner, reached Everest top on May 22nd, which may be considered as his 13th 8000er. Pauner was near the summit of Shishapangma in 2012, but it’s assumed that he couldn't reach the main peak (intially, he did claim the summit). Although, later on, he commented that, “in the darkness of the night did not know if it was the highest point or another very close”.

Away from 8000m peaks, there have been several productive climbs in Himalayas and Karakoram, this year. An overview of such endeavors will be present in third (and final) episode of this series.

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