Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Himalaya Spring 2016: News From Everest, Another Summit Window Opens on Annapurna

Yesterday was a busy – if solemn – one on Everest, as the climbing teams are now in the thick of their acclimatization process. Elsewhere, a similar story is unfolding on a number of other Himalayan peaks, while over on Annapurna the climbers are now eyeing another weather window that approaches in the next few days.

We've reached the mid-way point of the climbing season on Everest, where we get an excellent report on what is happening there via to Alan Arnette. He says that in some ways it is a very normal season on Everest this year, which is a relief considering the challenges of the past few seasons. But it is a quieter time in the Khumbu Valley as well, with about 15% fewer climbers on Everest, and about a 40% drop off in trekking across the region too. That means its fairly quiet there compared to years past.

Alan says that another major change on Everest this season is that the route through the Khumbu Icefall has been altered as well. In the past, climbers spent a lot of time in the Icefall, crossing upwards of 20 ladders as they made their way through this dangerous section of the mountain. But this year, there are just 7 ladders, as the route is shorter while avoiding some of the more dangerous overhanging seracs. The route might be more direct, but it is also more challenging too. Alan indicates that there is actually more climbing involved with passing through the Icefall this season, which is a departure from previous years as well.


As for Alan himself, he's in Nepal to climb Lhotse this season, but his acclimatization process has been slowed by an upper respiratory infection. He tells readers that his team is now on a mid-season rotation up to Camp 2 right now, but he was forced to return to Base Camp after developing a nasty cough. He's hoping to knock the illness out quickly and get back on track soon. With five weeks to go, he still has plenty of time to acclimatize ahead of an eventual summit bid.

Over on Shishapangma, Ueli Steck and David Göttler have now arrived in BC. They finished their trek to the mountain on Sunday and have spent the past couple of days getting settled and rested. The duo have traveled to the Himalaya to attempt a new route on this peak, which they hope to complete in a light and fast, alpine style ascent. They acclimatized in the Khumbu Valley before crossing the border into Tibet, and are now ready to start scouting the line that they intend to climb. It is likely that they'll spend a bit for time acclimatizing and watching the weather before they actually start their ascent.

Finally, the remaining teams on Annapurna are now gearing up for what looks like the next – and possibly final – summit bid of the season. Forecasts now indicate that the jet stream is now starting to move away from Nepal, and as a result winds are beginning to die down to a degree. It now appears that conditions could permit climbers to go for the summit this coming weekend or early next week, although the exact schedule is still in flux.

Time could be running out on Annapurna, where teams have been on the mountain for weeks already. The current strategy for this mountain – which is prone to avalanches – is to climb earlier in the season before it gets too warm there. We're approaching the point in the season when things will start to warm up, making it riskier to climb. With that in mind, most of the climbers are hoping to take advantage of the next weather window to nab the summit while they can. On top of that, a number of the alpinists are also planning on moving on to other peaks in the region, so they're eager to wrap-up their expeditions on Annapurna as well.

Things are really starting to ramp up now across the Himalaya. We're still several weeks away from summit attempts on Everest of course, but it is easy to see how things are unfolding at the moment. It's all about the acclimatization rotations and the weather right now, but things are proceeding about as well as expected at this point.

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