Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Himalaya Fall 2014: Summit Bid Underway on Makalu, New Rules for Trekking in Nepal

The fall climbing season in Nepal is rapidly coming to a close, and as such, teams are making final preparations for their summit bids, particularly on Makalu. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of that massive blizzard that claimed the lives of more than 40 people in the Himalaya last week, the Ministry of Tourism has announced new regulations designed to help keep trekkers safer in the mountains.

We'll start today on Makalu, where the British Tri-Service team has put a team of climbers in place high on the mountain with the hope of reaching the summit as early as tomorrow. Climbing along the very long, and difficult, Southeast Ridge the designated 4-man summit team has now reached Camp 4, where they are currently resting before setting off for the top tomorrow morning. The weather forecast indicates three good days ahead, and they hope to take advantage of that open window if possible. The team is reportedly in good spirits, and fine health, and expectations are riding high as they begin the final stages of the expedition. A support team is standing by to lend aid should the summiteers need it, but they are anticipating a good approach to the top of the mountain. Heavy snows may have created unstable conditions however, and break trail to the top could be exhausting and time consuming. Still, they are ready to proceed in alpine style above C4. Watch for more updates over the next few days.

There is still no word from the Madison Mountaineering team, which was also attempting Makalu along the Northwest side of the mountain. They launched a summit bid last Saturday, but have not posted any status updates since. There have been some rumors that indicate that they were turned back high on the mountain due to unstable conditions, but we have not received confirmation of that at this point.

Over on Lhotse, the Korean team is back in Base Camp after another rotation up the mountain. Conditions on the mountain continue to be challenging, but they are forging ahead with their plans. There are no indications of when the team will launch its summit bid, but they have been on Lhotse for weeks now, with slow progress being made. Fortunately, the squad seems very patient, as they wait for their opportunity.

Finally, in the wake of the disastrous blizzard that swept through the Himalaya last week, Nepal has announced some changes to help protect trekkers visiting the country. They have once again reiterated that all hikers will need to be accompanied by a local guide, which is something that they have said in the past, but seem to not enforce all that tightly. Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism have also said that trekkers will be required to carry GPS tracking devices, which will make them easier to locate should another emergency situation arrive. Furthermore, the government is promising better weather forecasts to help more accurately report conditions prior to trekking groups setting off. All of these efforts are designed to keep travelers safer of course, while continuing to allow access to the best trekking routes the country has to offer.

Anything that helps make the experience safer is, of course, a good thing. It is important to acknowledge that this was a freak and unexpected storm, and while I'm sure there were some poor choices made on the parts of guides and trekkers, the blizzard that hit the Himalaya last week was not in any way typical for this time of year. Still, these moves will hopefully ensure a safer environment traveling in Nepal. The country has seen its share of tragedy this year, and its tourism industry could take a hit because of it. That would be a shame however, as the country is beautiful, accommodating, and filled with wonderful adventures.

That's all for today. More to come from Makalu in the next day or two.

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