Monday, March 23, 2015

Himalaya Spring 2015: Early Summit Push on Annapurna Begins

The spring climbing season in the Himalaya is only a few days old and already we have our first summit bid. Last week I wrote about the early arrival of teams on Annapurna, with some climbers already spending a few weeks on the mountain. Now it seems that one of those teams is already prepared to head toward the top even before most mountaineers even leave home.

According to ExWeb, Mingma G. Sherpa and Anggeli Sherpa of the Dreamers Destination expedition  had planned to finish fixing the ropes to Camp 4 yesterday. Behind them, the rest of the squad, which consists of Samuli Mansikka, Reza Shahlaee, Muharrek Aydin Imrak and Zdravko Dejanovic, were making their way upwards as well. That group were planning reach Camp 3 yesterday so that they could be in position for a summit push this week. If all goes well, they could top out as early as tomorrow, depending on weather and surface conditions.

It seems that the current strategy on Annapurna is to get to the mountain early in the spring to avoid some of the dangers that the peak is so well known for. As the season evolves, more snow falls on the upper slopes, making it more challenging to climb and creating increased avalanche danger as well. But by going early, the mountain is still frozen from the winter, helping to keep rocks and snow in place. On top of that, the heavy snows associated with the spring are still a few weeks away, making it safer in general to climb up.

The Dreamers Destination team is the only one to take this approach this year. 76-year old Spaniard Carlos Soria is already on Annapurna as well, and has spent a few nights in C2 as he acclimatizes. Aussie female climber Chris Jensen Burke has also been on the mountain since last week, and has also spent some time in both Camp 1 and 2 as par to her acclimatization.

Annapurna will be a busy place this spring with more climbers due later in the season. Among them will be American Alex Barber who hopes to make a solo summit attempt without oxygen. Alex just let for Nepal yesterday however so he won't be in Base Camp for awhile yet. He will be climbing with BC support from Seven Summits Treks along the North Side but which route he takes will be determined by the conditions of the mountain upon his arrival. Watch for updates on his progress in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of climbers will be preparing to depart for Nepal this week. Most expeditions won't officially get underway until around the April 1, so climbers are in last minute prep mode at home as they pack their gear, make plans for the days ahead, and start thinking about their individual expeditions. It is an exciting time, but it is about to get a whole lot more exciting.

There should be a lot more new to report soon. Stay tuned.

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