Monday, November 11, 2013

Himalaya Fall 2013: Last Attempt On Lhotse, Over On Lunag-Ri

Two of the expeditions that we've been following closely this fall season in the Himalaya have come to an end, closing the season at last. With autumn drawing to a close, and heavy snows falling across the region, there will now be a break in the action while we wait for the winter expeditions to arrive on the scene in late December or early January.

One of the late-season expeditions that has been so intriguing this year as been Chad Kellogg and David Gottlieb's attempt to summit Lunag-Ri, the tallest unclimbed peak in Nepal at 6895 meters (22,621 ft). When last we checked in with the team, they had retreated from their first attempt after a large chunk of ice or rock had struck Chad in the shoulder, causing an injury that would prevent them from continuing upwards. The boys went back back to Base Camp and regrouped for a second attempt, which proved to be just as challenging in hits own way.

It took them about a week to get organized for another attempt and they set off once again along a different route that they hoped would allow them access to the summit. Temperatures were starting to drop and snow remained an obstacle, but Chad and David were optimistic about their chances. They proceeded upward and were making steady progress when Gottlieb realized that he couldn't feel some of his fingers. Removing his glove, he could see that frostbite was starting to set in and further examination showed that six of his fingers were in danger. It was a simple choice at that point. Time to abandon the climb and return home.

The two men descended back to Base Camp and on November 6 they started their trek back to civilization. For now, Lunag-Ri remains unclimbed and a lure to other mountaineers looking to make a first ascent.

Meanwhile, ExWeb is reporting that the Korean team on Lhotse was making a final "fast and light" attempt on that mountain at the end of last week. The team was turned back on their initial summit bid two weeks ago due to heavy snows. They hoped to give it one more go and if successful, they should have summited over the weekend. There is no news yet on whether or not the succeeded, but considering how uncooperative Lhotse has been this fall, it seems unlikely. If news of the teams success comes my way, I'll be sure to share it here.

ExWeb also has follow-up information on the French climbers who were evacuated from Annapurna a few weeks back. We knew at the time that they were suffering from frostbite, but we didn't know the extent of those injuries. Yannick Graziani suffered only minor issues and is now on the mend but Stephane Benoist is facing much worse problems. He has been flown home to France where his injuries are being treated, but it now seems he'll face the amputation of one of his feet and the tips of several fingers. Thankfully the injuries weren't more life threatening but this was still quite a price to pay.

In a sign of things to come, ExWeb also says that teams are now starting to gear up for the winter season, with one team already aiming for an attempt on Nanga Parbat, one of only two 8000 meter peaks that have yet to be climbed during the winter season, the other being K2. It should be interesting to see what lies ahead.

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