Thursday, May 03, 2012

Himalaya 2012: Everyone Watches The Weather

There has been a fairly consistent theme across the Himalaya climbing updates the past few days and it almost always revolves around the weather. Across the region the weather conditions have played a direct impact on what is happening at the moment, with a number of teams stalled out as they wait for conditions to clear.

On both sides of Everest high winds are causing issues and keeping the teams in Camp 2 or lower. The winds are so bad that that the Sherpa teams haven't had the chance to finish fixing the ropes to the summit on either side of the mountain yet, and until those gusts die down, access to the top will be extremely limited. Numerous teams are also reporting that conditions have been colder, windier and dryer than normal this year, which has not made life pleasant on the mountain. Because it is so dry, the climbers are looking at the possibility of climbing in crampons on bare rock, which is very challenging and dangerous. Snow and ice would be much more preferable to that, but it seems unlikely that they'll see any significant snow fall before the summit push begins.

Ueli Steck has announced that he is on his way to the Big Hill and he gets a bit philosophical in his latest dispatch from the Khumbu. He notes that while his ascent of Ama Dablam with Freddie Wilkinson was a good warm-up expedition, now that his plans for the Khumbu Express II have fallen apart, he is now completely focused on Everest. He's still weighing his options for the climb and is flirting with the idea of going up the West Ridge. He isn't ruling out a speed ascent of some type, or possibly going up without fixed ropes. He says that he feels that he isn't quite as driven as he has been in the past and he can accept what ever comes his way. He also says he is examining other challenges (The New York Marathon!) and is less prone to taking risks at this point. Still, this is the Swiss Machine we're talking about here, and we all know that if conditions are right, he'll still do something special.

A few days back I mentioned that the route up Lhotse was especially dangerous this year due to the lack of snow and ice keeping loose rock in place. The Sherpas fixing the ropes on that peak were going to have to route around the area to lead climbers up a different way this season. Apparently this new route will present some unique challenges of its own but work on those ropes has stalled out as well due to the same winds that are affecting Everest.

On Manaslu, the Adventure Consultants team has returned to Camp 1 where they've found plenty of fresh snow. In fact, several meters have dropped on the area, completely burying their camp. Further up the route has plenty of snow blocking the way, so while the conditions are currently good, it is going to be tough breaking trail to Camp 2.

Also reporting in from Manaslu is Allie Pepper who is hoping to top out on that peak before heading over to Lhotse. Her latest dispatch talks about the heavy snow there this season and also mentions that the Sherpa teams have not been able to fix ropes up to C2 just yet. She says that they hope to resume that work tomorrow and are keeping their fingers crossed that the sun will help clear the way for that to happen.

The teams on Annapurna came across similar conditions as they made another summit bid yesterday. They found that there was too much snow between Camp 2 and 3 on that mountain, and they determined that the chances of an avalanche were simply too high for them to proceed. They've now retreated back to Base Camp where they'll wait for another shot at top.

All of these reports are simply business as usual in the Himalaya. There is a lot of "hurry up and wait" progress at the moment, which is typical for this stage of the season. Weather reports indicate that things could improve over the weekend, and if they do, we'll probably see a lot of action. Stand by for updates.

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Big show said...
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