Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Himalaya Fall 2015: It's Over on Lhotse

A few days back I posted an update on the progress of the South Korean team that had been toiling away on Lhotse for the past two months. After establishing a high camp at 8200 meters (26,902 ft), the squad was preparing to make one last summit push that was expected to begin today. But now we've received word that they have cancelled that attempt and have now decided to head home after the weather took a turn for the worse.

According to ExWeb, expedition leader Sung Taek Hong had climbed up to Camp 1 today to start the team's fourth and final summit bid. He was joined by a group of Sherpas who were assisting with the climb. Unfortunately, high winds on the mountain made climbing very difficult, with speeds approaching as high as 150 km/hr (93 mph) at C1. That would typically indicate that the winds would be even worse higher on the mountain. The winds were so bad in fact that they destroyed several tents and blew away important gear needed for the ascent. Those conditions are impossible to climb in of course, so Sung and the Sherpas elected to descend back to Base Camp.

During their descent, the team experienced a number of rock slides, which made it all the more dangerous as they went down. One of the Sherpas was actually struck by a rock, and injured badly enough that he had to be evacuated from the mountain to a hospital.

With this fourth summit push thwarted, the team will now gather their gear and begin the return trek home. They have been on the mountain since early October, and by this point they are likely exhausted and ready to return to South Korea. It will take a few days to trek down the Khumbu Valley to Lukla, where they'll catch a flight back to Kathmandu, but they'll most likely depart Nepal early next week.

The ending of this expedition pretty much drops the curtain on the 2015 fall Himalayan climbing season. There are a few small expeditions that are still ongoing, but for the most part the season is over. It has been a very long, and difficult one for sure, with bad weather preventing many teams from achieving their objectives. Now, the mountaineering community will turn its attention to a few major winter climbs instead, although anticipation is already running high for a busy spring in 2016.

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