Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Himalaya Fall 2014: Ueli on Shishapangma, Double8 Expedition Set To Begin

The fall 2014 Himalayan climbing season is now in full swing, with most teams either already in Base Camp, or well on their way. For many, the acclimatization process has begun, and the first steps towards reaching the summit have been taken. But there remains a lot of work to be done, and autumn hasn't even officially arrived just yet.

We'll start today on Shishapangma, where Swiss climbing legend Ueli Steck has checked in. Ueli has returned to a peak that he has already climbed in record time (10.5 hours!) to give it another go, this time climbing with his wife Nicole. As usual,  Ueli's dispatches are short, and to the point, so few details have been shared on their progress so far. I'm sure we'll get more updates in the days ahead, and something tells me this won't be another speed attempt this season.

75-year old Carlos Soria is on Shishapangma as well, and earlier today his team completed its Puj ceremony. That means the they are free to begin climbing the mountain, and will probably begin their first rotation up to Camp 1 tomorrow as well. Carlos is going for his 12th 8000-meter peak, which is an impressive accomplishment at any age.

The countdown on the Double8 expedition website says the team is expected to launch their speed attempt on Shishapangma tomorrow. According to their latest dispatch, the team of  Benedikt BöhmSebastian Haag, and Andrea Zambaldi have been above 7000 meters on three occasions, and have spent the night in Camp 3. That means that they are acclimatized and ready to go for the summit, provided the weather cooperates. They report that there is lots of snow high on the mountain, which has made for slow, exhausting progress. But, if everything goes as planned, they'll launch their speed attempt tomorrow. If successful, they'll then descend back to BC, and mountain bike and trail run to Cho Oyu, which they also hope to summit in a fast and light style. The ultimate goal? Two 8000-meter peaks in just seven days.


Speaking of Cho Oyu, the commercial teams on that mountain have wrapped up their first acclimatization rotations. Both the Adventure Consultants and IMG teams have been up to Camp 1, and report that all is well. Progress has been sure and steady, and the squads are now happy to descend back to Advanced Base Camp for some rest. The fixed ropes are now in place up to Camp 2, so they'll probably start back up the mountain this weekend. Daily afternoon snow showers are common, but for the most part the weather is good.

Chris Jensen Burke is on her way to join the teams on Cho Oyu. She reached Tingri Village two days back, and spent some time acclimatizing there before moving higher. She is expected to arrive in BC today however, and will proceed immediately up to ABC, with a possible stop over at an interim camp to help with the adjustment to the altitude. Chris is fresh off a successful summit of K2 this summer, and is eager to add yet another 8000-meter peak to her resume.

ExWeb reports that the Korean team on Lhotse has made progress as well. Bad weather had kept them in Base Camp, but the skies cleared long enough for the team to move up to C1 and establish their first camp on the mountain. They are climbing along the South Face of course, sharing the same route to the summit of Everest up to Camp 3.

Over on Manaslu, the Altitude Junkies have returned to BC after spending a night at both Camp 1 and Camp 2. They report that light snow buried their fixed ropes, but they were able to proceed up none the less. The team is splitting the rope fixing duties with the Himex squad, and as of their dispatch, that work was completed to just below Camp 3. Poor weather forced the Sherpas to turn back from that point, although they are expected to return in another day or two to complete the work.

Finally, the British military team heading to Makalu is now en route to Base Camp. They are expected to reach that point on Saturday, when they'll begin their climb at long last. Their attempt on the long, and very difficult, Southeast Ridge will be interesting to follow, as the final approach will be done in alpine style along a route that is 15 km (9.3 miles) in length. This will be one of the more challenging climbs of the year, and it will be quite an accomplishment if they can pull it off.

That's all for now. I'll have another progress report soon.


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