Friday, October 03, 2014

Himalaya Fall 2014: Second Summit Push Begins on Cho Oyu and Manaslu

Things are moving quickly in the Himalaya at the moment, where a number of teams are on the move once again, with the summit on their respective mountains in sight. A good weather pattern has descended over the region, and this is allowing safe passage to summits on both Cho Oyu and Manaslu. At this pace, within a few days, many of the principal climbers will have wrapped up their expeditions for the season, with just a few squads staying behind to continue towards their objectives.

We'll start to day on Manaslu, where teams have been topping out once again over the past few days. Amongst them was the commercial squad led by the Mountain Professionals, who reached the top on Wednesday, with a 100% success rate amongst clients and guides. The entire team descended back to Base Camp yesterday, and as of this morning they have already departed the mountain for home.

ExWeb is reporting that a number of other climbers have also topped out in the past few days, including Spaniards Antonio Jesús Vélez, Carlos Carvajal, Fernando Fernández-Vivancos and Pepe Saldaña. They were joined on the summit by a pair of climbers from the the Amical Alpin team, as well as American Alex Barber, who says that he stood on top of the mountain with just one other climber, giving him a sense of having the summit all to himself.

While the teams are wrapping things up on Manaslu for the year, others are just launching their climbs on Cho Oyu. Chris Jensen Burke left Base Camp on October 1, and may summit as early as today, depending on weather conditions. The window to the top is expected to be open through the weekend however, so if progress is slow, she will possibly reach the summit tomorrow instead. She reports that a team of Iranian climbers set out for the summit on Wednesday as well, and were hoping to push all the way to the top yesterday. No word yet on their success, but we're likely to hear more from the mountain soon. Burke also has two other climbers with her, and they are expected to top out tomorrow as well.

Over on Shishapangma, Base Camp is all but deserted. Following the tragedy that claimed two lives in an avalanche last week, most of the teams have elected to go home due to unsafe conditions near the summit. That includes Ueli Steck, who had come to the mountain to climb with his wife, and was with the Double8 team when the avalanche claimed two team members.

Danish climber Bo Belvedere Christiansen has arrived in BC on Shishapangma, fresh off a successful summit on Cho Oyu. He still intends to attempt a second 8000-meter peak this fall, although he is taking a few days to recover before he launches his push on Shisha. Hopefully he'll find conditions there safer than those who had gone before him.

Over on Makalu, we get word from the British Tri-Service team that the weather is good, and everything is proceeding according to plan. The squad is working on establishing Camp 2 at the moment, while their support team begins fixing ropes to C3. The group is acclimatizing nicely, and there have been now issues to report thus far.

Also on Makalu is a commercial team led by Madison Mountaineering. They only just arrived in BC last week, and have just started their acclimatization rotations. All is going well on their part as well, but the team has decided to change their route to the  Northwest Ridge, which is the more typical path taken to the summit. That means that they are moving the BC over to the Barun Glacier at about 18,500 feet (5639 meters). That move was expected to start yesterday, so over the weekend they will likely get settled into their new Base Camp, and start exploring that side of the mountain.

It now appears that the summit bids are all but over on Manaslu, and after this weekend, Cho Oyu is likely to be quiet as well. With little action remaining on Shishapangma, we can begin to see the season start to wind down already. There are obviously some big expeditions still on the mountains, and we'll continue to bring you updates in the days ahead. But the fall season has, for the most part, gone as expected. Soon, the Himalaya will be abandoned once again, until the very busy spring season arrives next year.

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