Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Himalaya 2014: Progress Reports and More Tragedy In The Mountains

The spring season is progressing reasonably well in the Himalaya, where teams have been going about the business of getting acclimated for their summit pushes ahead. The weather has been stable across the region, and this has allowed the climbers to make real progress on their respective mountains. With the calendar now turning to May, things are about to get much busier, but as always, the weather will dictate when any summit bids can begin.

We'll start today with a bit of sad news. Explorer's Web is reporting that two climbers have died on Ama Dablam after suffering from high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or altitude sickness. They were Russian guide Victor Igolkin, and a Russian journalist by the name of Pavel Ivanovsky. They were in Base Camp at 5000 meters (16,404 ft) at the time. The 6812 meter (22,349 ft) mountain is a popular climbing peak for those testing their skills in the Himalaya, and it has one of the more well known, and dramatic profiles of any of the peaks in the Khumbu region. The two men were preparing to make a summit bid when they took ill. My condolences to friend and family.

In the same report, ExWeb also says that a team of Ukrainian climbers have put up a new route on Lobuche East. Details are a bit sparse, but apparently they spent 8 days on the ascent, with 3 nights spent out on the big wall. After completing the route, which they named Two Arrows Flight, they made a harrowing descent in heavy snow, with no visibility. Thankfully, it seems that they were able to get down safely.


Elsewhere, Mike Horn and Fred Roux have returned to Advanced Base Camp on Makalu, where they are preparing to make their summit push over the next three days, weather permitting. They hope to make an alpine style ascent, without bottled oxygen or Sherpa support. The two men have already been as high as 7700 meters (25,262 ft) in a bid for the summit last week, but were turned back due to  high winds and a looming storm. They're hoping to have more success this time out.

Chris Jensen Burke is also on Makalu, and her latest audio dispatch says that her team has just returned to ABC after spending a few nights in C1 and C2. She says that they are about five days behind some of the lead teams, and that there are a few teams that are about the same number of days behind hers. That means that everyone is staggered out nicely across the route, which should eliminate any traffic jam issues when summit day comes.

Over on Cho Oyu, Mike and Matt Moniz are back in ABC after spending some time at Camps 1 and 2 as well. They are now waiting for a weather window to open so they can launch their summit bid as well. The next couple of days look dicey, but they may be able start the ascent later in the week. You may recall, this father-son team were hoping to acclimate on Cho Oyu in Tibet, then go back to Nepal to attempt an Everest-Lhotse double header. While Lhotse remains out of reach, the question is whether or not they might get a shot at Everest from the North Side. We know that China is not allowing anyone to cross over into Tibet who wasn't originally scheduled to be there, which has left those climbers from the South Side out in the cold. But perhaps Mike and Matt will be successful in getting on someone else's permit for Everest since they are already on the Tibetan side of the border. They are squarely focused on the challenge of Cho Oyu at the moment, so we'll just have to wait to see how things progress.

Of course, things on Everest are moving ahead as well. Expect a longer update from that mountain in the next day or two, but the teams have now moved up to the North Col, and have done some acclimatization there, while they wait for the Sherpas to fix ropes to the summit. The installation of the ropes will likely be complete sometime late next week, which frees up the teams to start their summit bids as well.

Lots of things happening at the moment. I'll keep you posted of any new developments.


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