Summarizing the Spring 2014

The Spring 2014 climbing season is over now. It’s the season that will primarily be remembered for the catastrophic avalanche on Everest, Sherpa strike, the bureaucratic failure to handle the proceedings after the accident and the cancellation of all South side expeditions. Nonetheless, there have also been exciting stories beyond Everest.

The Accident
On April 18th, when majority of Everest climbers were about to begin their acclimatization rotations, a huge serac from Everest’s West Shoulder broke off and triggered a massif avalanche. 16 Sherpa died and several others were injured. British mountaineer Mark Horrell was about to enter Ice Fall for the first time when avalanche came down. His eyewitness account of the accident can be read here. This photographic illustration further helps in understanding the cause of avalanche.

18 April avalanche sweeps across the Khumbu Icefall. In red is the position of the serac which broke off from the West Shoulder.
The avalanche that took 16 lives; Photo: Mark Horrell

‘Bureaucracy’ at its Best
The avalanche incident was a disaster by nature for which no one can be blamed. Climbers, Sherpa and everyone else were equally touched by the loss of precious lives. However, some rebellious personnel hijacked it for political reasons and personal gains. Despite a series of announcements to regulate Everest BC, the Nepalese officials failed to neutralize the situation. Mark Horrell masterly summed up the details in his posts “A mountain of deceit: introducing Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism” and “The Everest Base Camp summit meeting: an eyewitness account”.

The Helicopters
After negotiations with militant elements failed and Nepalese officials couldn’t guarantee the safety of climbers and Sherpa community, everyone packed their baggage and returned home. All the Everest South side expeditions concluded without any climbing.

However, two ladies Chinese Jing Wang and American Cleo Weidlich decided to bypass the unfixed Ice Fall, by flying to C2. Wang reportedly summited Everest on May 23rd, whereas Cleo didn’t go for Lhotse summit. The flights to C2 resulted in debate whether such summits should be acknowledged or not. Interestingly, Wang claims that she never used a helicopter to bypass Ice Fall. However, the Italian pilot Maurizio Folini has previously told that he took both ladies and their support staff to C2.

The Inaccessible
Lhotse, Annapurna and Manaslu remained unclimbed this season. While bad weather and excessive snow prevented Annapurna and Manaslu climbers to reach the top, Lhotse expeditions were cancelled after Everest avalanche incident.

The meeting at EBC that resulted in nothing; Photo: Mark Horrell

No New Routes
The meteorological and mountain conditions were not favorable for the new route attempts, this year. On Kangchenjunga, strong Russian-Polish-Spanish team decided not to attempt new route in the middle of Northwest Face in alpine style. The ice towers on the face were in very dangerous condition. “The two serac barriers spit virtually every day,” exclaimed Alex Txikon.

During first phase of expedition, the team worked on British 1979 route and made an attempt to reach the summit. Adam Bielecki and Alex Txikon retreated a couple of hundred meters short of summit on May 18th; Denis Urubko topped, next day.

On Everest, Peter Hamor and Horia Colibasanu wanted to attempt a new route and Ralf Dujmovits intended to repeat the Messner’s solo ascent line. But the bad conditions forced them to switch to normal route. Unfortunately, none of the three made it to the top.

Age Record on Kangchenjunga
On May 18th, 75 year old Carlos Soria reached the summit of Kangchenjuna, becoming the oldest person to climb the third highest mountain. It was also his 11th eight-thousander.

Carlos Soria en el momento de salir el pasado día 13 mayo del campo base hacia la cima del Kangchenjunga que alcanzó el 18 a las 9 de la mañana.
Carlos Soria; Source: BBVA Expedition

Summits Summary
Due to change in weather pattern, the summit windows on eight-thousanders were few and far between, this season. First summits on Everest were extraordinarily late. Nonetheless, by the end of the season, more than one hundred climbers topped the highest peak on earth; all using supplemental oxygen. High wind, snow and generic bad conditions forced the no O2 climbers to turn back before reaching the top.

Apparently, Shishapangma’s main summit witnessed eight summits, this season; half of them from North side and others from South. At least ten climbers reached Dhaulagiri summit. More than 30 summits are reported on Cho Oyu.

Despite difficult conditions, around 50 climbers made it to Makalu’s top; majority of them using bottled oxygen. It appears that only Fred Roux, Mike Horn and Florian Hubschenberger could reach the summit without supplemental oxygen. They were the first to summit Makalu, this year.

On Kangchenjunga, there were more than 25 summits, this season; many of them without use of supplemental oxygen.
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