Himex to pull out of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse has had far reaching consequences for teams on the South Side, who mostly now wait for their opportunity to go higher. Meanwhile, in other parts of the region, climbers are making summit bids at last.
One of the teams that was forced to go home as a result of the Himex decision was the group of injured British soldiers who were on the mountain as part of the Walking with the Wounded organization. They shared their disappointment in an article for the BBC earlier today and as you can imagine, it hasn't been an easy decision for them. While they respect Russell Brice's wisdom and experience, the crew was clearly looking forward to giving the climb a go, particularly after they've spent more than two months in Nepal preparing for it. They did quote Brice as saying that the conditions on the mountain are the worst that he has ever seen, which is very telling considering his vast experience on Everest. (Thanks for sharing this story Alan!)
Another aspect of the Himex pull-out is that now the remaining teams will have to redistribute the workload in terms of fixing the lines to the summit. Himex has always played an instrumental part in that process, and with the team now gone someone else will have to pick-up the slack. That could mean that it will now take longer to open the route to the top, further delaying the first summit bids until much later in the month. At the moment, high winds are making it difficult for anyone to work on the upper slopes of the mountain and it is likely that we won't see the first summits until possibly the end of next week.
All of these delays and changes in logistics have caused 70-year old climber Bill Burke to change his plans on the fly. He had originally hoped to make a double-summit of Everest, once from the South and once from the North. That doesn't seem likely to happen now, so he has left Nepal and is en route to Tibet, where he hopes to have better luck climbing the North Col.
Despite the issues on Everest things are actually progressing nicely on some of the other peaks in the Himalaya. For instance, ExWeb is reporting today that there were several successful summits on Annapurna, including one by Czech climber Radek Jaros who claimed his 13th 8000-meter peak in the process. Jaros, who climbed without supplemental oxygen, says this was the hardest of those peaks so far and according to reports deep snow and avalanches made it a treacherous go all the way to the top. Radek was joined by his climbing partner Jan Travnicek, as well as Iranian cimber Azim Ghaychisaz, and Sechu Lopez of Spain.
Sad news from Annapurna as well, as ExWeb also notes that Hungarian climber Tibor Horvath was swept off the mountain by an Avalanche on Saturday. He was climbing up to Camp 2 in poor conditions and radioed in to say that one of the fixed ropes was missing, but that he was continuing up none the less. He never reached his destination and hasn't been seen since. Condolences to his friends and family.
Another peak that has received more than its fair share of snow this spring is Manaslu, where teams have taken to a novel approach for breaking trail on their summit bid. Reportedly a group of Italian climbers are using snowshoes and skis to open the route up to Camp 2 and most of the teams are moving there today. The feeling is that C2 will serve as Base Camp moving forward and that true summit bids will begin in the next few days, weather permitting.
One of the teams that is in C2 on that mountain is the Adventure Consultants squad. They report hard snow on the way up this morning, allowing them to use their crampons for the first time. It seems the two climbers are in good spirits and are planning on continuing up to C3 tomorrow provided their health and strength allow. If that happens, an attempt on the summit could come before the end of the week.
Presumably Allie Pepper is in the group at C2, or at least on the way as well. In her latest dispatch she talked about the frustrations she has felt this spring due to the large amounts of snow falling on Manaslu that have until now prevented anyone from going too high on the mountain. She hopes to finish this climb off in style and move on to Lhotse next, and fortunately for her work on that mountain will go slow with Himex off the peak too.
That's enough for now. Expect more updates on nearly a daily basis from here on out. Things are definitely heating up and the season will likely continue to be an interesting one right up until the Monsoon returns in early June.