Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Himalaya Spring 2016: Rescue and Summits on Everest, Deaths on Makalu, and Turned Back on Shishapangma

There is lots of news to report from the Himalaya today, where the season is unfolding at a rapid clip. The end isn't quite in sight just yet, but the stage is certainly being set, with summit bids underway throughout the region and weather forecasts predicting good opportunities to come. But there is still a lot of work to do before we're through, and the hard work is yet to come.

Our first story from the Himalaya today is an update on the two Slovak climbers who were stranded above Camp 2. Vladimír Štrba and Zoltán Pál were caught in an avalanche yesterday, with Pál suffering an injury to his eye that prevented them from being able to descend safely. Yesterday we reported that rescue operations were underway, but a team of Sherpas that had been sent to lend aid were stalled out in C2, while evac helicopters failed to be able to reach the two men either. But today we get good news that both men have been rescued, as a team of four Sherpas – Mingma Gabu, Lakpa Thinduk, Ngima Dorchi and Nima Wangdi – reached them earlier today and helped them to safely descend.

Details of what exactly happened are still coming out, but it seems that the two Slovak climbers were hit by an avalanche at 7200 meters (23,622 ft) on the Southwest Face. The two men reportedly clung to a safety screw and a couple of carabiners for several hours before they were able to get themselves to safety. Now, they are headed back to BC to recover.

In other news from Everest, rope fixing efforts are now complete on the South Side of the mountain, with 11 Sherpas from various teams reaching the summit earlier today. Those are the first summits on the mountain in the past two years, an unprecedented streak for the world's highest peak. This now clears the way for the commercial teams to follow, with the first squads hoping to top out tomorrow or Friday. Meanwhile, back in Base Camp, other teams are now preparing to set out for the summit as well, with the weather dictating when they'll be able to move up.

The good news of the rescue on Everest was tempered reports of two Sherpa guides perishing on Makalu, apparently of altitude sickness. Da Tenji Sherpa and Lakpa Wangel Sherpa died in Camp 2 on that mountain after both complained of symptoms of HACE and HAPE. They were part of an 11-person Amical Alpin team. According to The Himalayan Times, the two men join two other Sherpas who have died of altitude sickness on Shishapangma, as well as two foreign trekkers in the Khumbu region near Everest.

In other news, Ueli Steck and David Göttler have returned to Base Camp on Shishapangma after being turned back due to poor weather conditions. Forecasts had called for a good weather window, but conditions changed quickly, forcing them back down. The two men are attempting a new route on the mountain, and say that they are far from done yet. They'll rest in BC and wait for better weather before attempting the summit once again.

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