Monday, October 19, 2015

Himalaya Fall 2015: The Season is Far From Over

Contrary to popular belief, the fall climbing season in Nepal is far from over, despite the fact that most of the commercial teams have picked up and left for home, and summit bids on Everest, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, and Annapurna have been cancelled. There are still several teams that are gearing up for their climbs, and even though the weather continues to be a challenge, there is optimism throughout the region.

One of the climbs that we have been following in recent days is the attempt by Ueli Steck and Colin Hayley to climb Nuptse along the Babanov Route on Nuptse. That climb hasn't been repeated since it was first opened back in 2003, and Ueli and Colin hope to do it in Alpine style. But so far they've only been able to acclimatize a bit, and not work the route at all. Colin has battled illness, while Ueli has kept himself busy scaling Cholatse three times in recent days. But, it seems the boys are now ready to go, provided the weather cooperates.

Ueli has told German adventure sports writer Stefan Nestler that Colin is now healthy and acclimatized to the altitude. He also says that the wall that they will climb on Nuptse had been dry and accessible up until last week, but now precipitation has brought snow and ice to the mountain. Conditions are now unstable, but they will be patient and wait for an opportunity to go up.

When asked about conditions in the Khumbu Valley following the April 25 earthquake, Ueli says that the region is completely rebuilt, safe, and ready for visitors. In fact, he says there are very few signs that the earthquake even occurred, although it remains very quiet there right now.

Meanwhile, another climbing team is now starting to ramp up its efforts. Luke Smithwick from Himalaya Alpine Guides has checked in from Kathmandu where his squad is departing today for Saldim Ri, an unclimbed peak that stands 6343 meters (20,810 ft) in height. He and Brian Beatty will fly out to Tumlingtar today, and begin the trek to Base Camp. He says the forecast calls for plenty of snow over the next ten days, but they will use that time to establish camp, begin acclimatizing, and plotting their route.

Finally, the South Korean team on Lhotse continues to wait for their opportunity. Poor weather has kept them from climbing thus far, but there is hope that things will improve. For now though, they sit and wait, and do the best they can to prepare.

It should also be noted that Polar explorer and mountaineer Lonnie Dupre is also in the Khumbu Valley at the moment. He and his team aren't there just to climb mountains, although they may bag a peak or two along the way. Lonnie is leading a group of volunteers who have come to the area to help with the rebuilding process, and so far they have been making their way through a series of remote villages, lending assistance where they can. They've passed through Namche Bazaar and Gokyo for instance, and have been trekking in the shadow of Tenzing Peak in recent days. You can find out more about their efforts here.

That's it for today. I'll continue to keep an eye on things as the season progresses. Hopefully these three expeditions will get the chance to start climbing soon.

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