Monday, March 30, 2015

Himalaya Spring 2015: Climbers Streaming into Kathmandu, Summits Delayed on Annapurna

The calm before the storm is over in the Himalaya as the spring climbing season is now set to begin at last. This past weekend marked the start of the arrival of the majority of the teams heading to the big mountains this spring as dozens of mountaineers began arriving in Kathmandu prior to their departure to their respective Base Camps. And while they collect their things – and their thoughts – in the capital city, over on Annapurna the early season arrivals have begun playing the waiting game.

It was a very busy weekend in Kathmandu as visitors have begun streaming into the city. Most will now spend a few days there sorting their gear, meeting with their teammates, and receiving pre-expedition briefings. It is a hectic, busy time, but an exciting one as well. They'll travel to the Thamel District to pick up a last-minute piece of gear, they'll enjoy a good meal in a restaurant, and their final nights sleep in a real bed for two months.

But Kathmandu is a crazy, chaotic place as well. It is hot, dusty, and noisy. Rolling blackouts are a common occurrence, making it a challenge to enjoy your stay there too. So while the climbers will indeed relax a bit before their departure, they'll also be looking ahead to the cleaner air and slower pace of the trekking trails that will take them to the mountains.

Many of the new arrivals have set their sights on Everest of course, and even after they leave Kathmandu they will be hiking for the better part of a week before they reach Base Camp. This will be a time that will not only help with their early acclimatization efforts, but will also prepare them mentally for the challenges ahead. Walking up the Khumbu Valley, in the shadow of some of the tallest mountains on Earth, is an incredibly humbling experience, and it is the perfect way to get in the proper mindset for what is to come.

Among those who have started to arrive in Nepal are the Altitude Junkies, most of whom should reach Kathmandu over the next few days. They'll skip the trek to Everest and Lhotse however, and take helicopters to Base Camp instead. The Himex squad should also be gathering in the city now as well in preparation for their departure. Alan Arnette is en route to the Himalaya as well, and has set his sights squarely on Lhotse this spring. Once he has reached Kathmandu we're sure to get an update on how things are proceeding there too.

Meanwhile, as hundreds of climbers begin arriving in Nepal, there others already on Annapurna who are waiting for a chance to make a summit bid. Both Aussie climber Chris Jensen Burke and Spaniard Carlos Soria are now ready to attempt the climb, but have stalled out in BC waiting for weather to improve. They had originally hoped to launch their push to the top this past weekend, but deteriorating conditions there convinced them to wait for a better opportunity. That could come later this week, marking the second potential wave of summits on Annapurna already this season.

Now that we're on the brink of a new climbing season getting underway, expect lots of news out of Nepal as teams prepare for their climb, and more mountaineers arrive on the scene. It will be a busy week or two in Kathmandu before the teams settle into their routines. It should also be a very interesting time for those of us waiting and watching from home too.

Good luck to all the climbers in the weeks ahead. Get up and down safely.

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