Friday, October 16, 2015

Himalaya Fall 2015: Poor Weather Continues to Dictate Progress

The fall 2015 Himalayan climbing season has slowed down considerably over the past few weeks. Most of the commercial squads on the big 8000 meter peaks have headed home, with limited success to be had across the region. Other teams are just starting their expeditions on smaller mountains like Ama Dablam and Island Peak, while a handful of independent squads are still pursuing their own goals as well. But as it has all season long, the weather continues to dictate just when and where teams can climb, and right now it isn't being all that forgiving.

Ueli Steck has checked in from Lhotse, where he and his climbing partner Colin Hayley are visiting the Korean squad that is hoping to summit that mountain. The two climbers have their sights set on the Babanov Route on Nuptse this fall, but so far they haven't had much of an opportunity to climb. Ueli has been acclimatized and ready to go for some time, but Colin battled sickness early on and had to descend to the Khumbu Valley to give himself some time to recovery. During that period, the Swiss climber topped out on the Northface of Cholatse.

Now, Ueli has posted a note on his Facebook page that sounds a bit ominous. He writes "Today we visite Lhotse Basecamp (Korean Expedition) Weather is not good and it does not look good. Lets wait and see."

That tells me that neither squad has had much of a chance to go up their respective mountains. Ueli and Colin aren't even on Nuptse at the moment, and the Korean team is waiting in BC for their opportunity. Both groups of climbers have very challenging climbs ahead, and if the weather isn't cooperating, neither of them will get much of an opportunity to even go for their respective summits.

This fall the weather conditions have been warm, wet, and windy. A lot of snow has fallen across the Himalaya, and the warmer temperatures have made it very soft and avalanche prone. Add in high winds at altitude and you start to understand why there have been so few summit windows thus far. Hopefully conditions will improve in the days ahead so that these two teams can accomplish the goals they've set out for themselves.

Meanwhile, Outside Online is reporting that a three-man squad consisting of Sherpas managed to top out on three previously unclimbed mountains. Climbing from Oct. 4 - 6, the trio of Nima Tenji Sherpa, Dawa Gyalje Sherpa, and Mingma Tashi Sherpa managed to knock off Mount Raungsiyar (20,420 ft/6224 m), Mount Langdak (20,407 ft/6220 m), and Mount Thakar Go East (20,184 ft/6152 m) in alpine style.

This expedition marks the first time that a team of all Nepalese climbers made first ascents in the Himalaya, which demonstrates the independence that Sherpas are now feeling to not only climb for a living, but to explore on their own terms as well. As Outside explains, Nima, Dawa, and Mingma translates to Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the days of the week that each of these climbers was born  on. Their three-day summit push took place on those same days, and each man led the climb on the day that corresponded to his name.

Congratulations to the team for their great success in the mountains. Hopefully they will show the way for other Nepalese climbers to follow in their footsteps.

That's all for today. I'll post more updates as the news warrants it.

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