Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2015 Has Been A Difficult Year for Mountaineering

If you follow this blog with any regularity, you probably already know that 2015 has been a tough year for mountaineering expeditions. Climbers have found little success on the big 8000 meter peaks in particular, as poor weather has been a common problem all year long. Additionally, the Nepali earthquake this past spring shutdown climbing operations across the Himalaya, forcing most teams to go home long before they were even ready to climb. In a recent blog post, Alan Arnette breaks down the numbers, showing us exactly where climbers had success, and where they were turned back.

Everest is obviously the mountain with the highest profile, and thanks to the earthquake, there were no summits from either the Nepali or Tibetan side of the mountain this year. The last time that happened was 41 years ago, back in 1974.

But, Everest wasn't the only 8000 meter peak to shutout climbers this year. K2 also saw no summits, although that isn't necessarily uncommon on the second tallest mountain in the world. K2 is far more difficult to climb than Everest, and as a result it can be years between successful summits on that mountain.

But the list doesn't end there. Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat, and Shishapangma all went unclimbed thus far in 2015. None of those mountains currently has an expedition on them, with the exception of Lhotse. A South Korean team is currently on the slopes of that peak, but as Alan points out it would be an impressive display of climbing if they were to be successful this fall.


Manaslu was the mountain were most climbers found success this year. Alan says about 80 people topped out on that peak. Annapurna saw 13 summits, while Gasherbrum I had 3 and Broad Peak had 2. Gasherbrum II rounds out the list with 12 summits as well.

Of course, there were some other circumstances that came into play this year. For instance, the Chinese were not issuing any permits this fall, which is a popular time to climb Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in particular. This prevented anyone from even getting a chance to climb those mountains this fall.

As I reported on climbs throughout the year, bad weather became the common theme. As Alan says in his blog post, warmer temperatures across the Himalaya actually made conditions worse. There was plenty of snow falling, but since it has been warm in the mountains, that snow was actually very soft and prone to avalanches. This raised the danger to unacceptable levels at times, forcing many climbing teams to abandon their attempts altogether. Considering the fact that 2015 is the warmest year on record, we could be seeing the impact of climate change on the Himalaya.

While it is true that the season isn't over just yet, and climbing expeditions are just getting underway on smaller mountains in Nepal, the big peaks are all but shut down, which means we'll have to wait until 2016 for more attempts. Hopefully it will be a more successful and safe year to climb.

2 comments:

Asim said...

2015 is really a difficult year for the Mountaineering fraternity. Although the Chinese authorities took immediate proper precautions by not issuing any permits of climbing in that region, Nepalese authorities showed little consciousness in this affair. The way global warming is increasing there is every possibility of further dangers on the high mountains causing further over there. The effect of severe earthquake in Nepal causing serious damages to human lives & high places should be an eye opener for all concerned.

Kraig Becker said...

Agreed Asim. The Nepalese government – as usual – seems more interested in collecting money rather than being safe.