Monday, October 13, 2014

Himalaya Fall 2014: British Team Preps For Summit Push on Makalu

It was a busy weekend on Makalu for the British Tri-services team. The squad spent the past few days finishing their prep work on the mountain, and are now gearing up for a summit attempt to come later this week. But poor weather has hit the mountain, and could delay those efforts, with heavy snow in the forecast.

The team descended off the upper slopes of Makalu yesterday, and are currently resting in Base Camp while they regain their strength, and wait for a weather window to open. A storm has brought fresh snow to the mountain, shrouding the summit in clouds, and burying the fixed ropes above Camp 1. As a result, the men have been huddling in their mess tent, enjoying hot cups of coffee and tea, while they wait to see just when they'll be able to launch their summit bid. They'll be using bottled oxygen above C4 at 7500 meters (24,606 ft), so they've also been using the time to practice with those systems, and to get accustomed to carrying the load.

If the poor weather passes as expected, the team expects to head back up to Camp 1 tomorrow or Wednesday. From there, they'll start the first real attempt on the summit, with snow conditions dictating their progress. Fresh snow will make breaking trail much more difficult, and slow down the climb, so the squad is hoping that they're just catching the edge of the storm, and it won't deposit too much snow on the mountain. Currently however, the conditions are bad enough that a trekking team on its way to Baruntse is sharing BC with the Brits, as the storm is strong enough to prevent them from hiking the trail.

The Madison Mountaineering team is also on Makalu, and their forecast for the coming days isn't very optimistic. They've just returned from their second rotation on the mountain, and now have their high camps stocked and ready for a summit push as well. They are climbing the standard route up the Northwest Ridge, which is quite a distanced from the Brits, but the weather is similar, and is expected to deteriorate further tomorrow. According to their latest dispatch, the team expects to receive a foot of snow per day through Wednesday, which will certainly have an impact on the schedule, and create a challenge when the climbers get back on the move.

Finally, there has been no update from the Korean team on Lhotse since last week. Their last dispatch indicated that they were working on completing Camp 3, and were holding out for better weather, which they've seen little of so far this season. Other than that, there has been no indication of their current status, nor when they plan to make a summit push of their own. We'll just have to wait to see how things unfold.

That is about all there is to report from the Himalaya to start this week. More news at it is warranted.

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