Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Himalaya Fall 2016: Summit Pushes Begin, No Liaison Officers on Manaslu, Climber Missing After Avalanche

As the fall climbing season continues to unfold in the Himalaya, there isn't a lot of new news to report today, although what we do have is certainly interesting. As the weather improves, teams are about to go back on the move with summits in sight, while we also learn that the more things change in Nepal, the more they stay the same.

First off, now that the weather forecast has begun to improve teams on both Cho Oyu and Dhaulagiri are gearing up for their summit bids. Earlier today, the Adventure Consultants launched their push to the top of Cho Oyu and safely arrived at Camp 1 where they were enjoying a break and airing out their gear in preparation for heading to C2 tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Altitude Junkies – the only team on Dhaulagiri – has announced their schedule as well. The team will leave Base Camp for C1 tomorrow with an eye on topping out on Saturday, October 1 weather permitting.

Other teams are no doubt getting ready to do the same on Manaslu and Shishapangma too. I'll be keeping a close eye on their progress to see how things unfold.

Meanwhile, we have another story from The Himalayan Times that remind us once again just how inept the Nepali government truly is. As you may or may not know, all climbing expeditions that take place in that country are assigned a liaison officer with them that serves as a regulatory advisor and a communications conduit to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. This is a role that should be taken very seriously, as the "LO" is expected to play a part in organizing rescue operations and coordinating with medical and search and rescue staff back in Kathmandu. Unfortunately, in the past most LO's never bother to go to Base Camp with their expeditions, who are charged a fee that pays for his services.

Historically speaking, most expeditions to the big mountains never even see their liaison officer at all. This became a major issue on Everest in 2014 and 2015 when massive avalanches claimed the lives of 16 and 22 people respectively. The lack of LO's in BC made it more challenging to coordinate search and rescue operations, and helped to expose this problem, which had been a well-known secret in mountaineering circles for a very long time.


You would think that in the wake of those two disasters on Everest that things would change, but apparently that hasn't been the case. In the Times article linked to above, it is reported that none of the 18 liaison officers assigned to Manaslu this year have reported to Base Camp. Yep, that's right. There are currently 18 teams on the mountain with 151 clients and an additional 209 guides, porters, and BC staff. But there are zero liaison officers there.

It should be noted that each of those teams was charged $2000 to pay for an LO to be in camp, and yet they still aren't there. Nepal has a lot of work to do in terms of cleaning up its reputation and promoting mountaineering within its borders, but just getting its assigned staff to report for duty, and enforcing the regulations that it has set in place would be a good start. God forbid another accident would occur on Manaslu this year and there wouldn't be a single LO there to help lend a hand. Lets hope it doesn't come to that, and lets hope that the Ministry of Tourism gets its act together soon.

Finally, there is sad news from Himlung Himal, a 7126 meter (23,379 ft) mountain in western Nepal. Earlier today it was announced that a climber is missing following an avalanche on that peak. Mingmar Sherpa was working with a small team that is attempting to climb the mountain when he group was hit by a small, but powerful avalanche that caused minor injuries to the others, and left him missing.

At this time, Mingmar Sherpa's fate is unknown, but it is likely that he was knocked down the mountain and lost his life in the process. Search efforts are still underway however, with teams concentrating on the area between Camp 1 and 2, as that is were the expedition was when the avalanche hit. Hopefully this will have a happy ending, but it seldom does in these cases.

That's all for today. More soon.

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