Monday, May 21, 2018

Himalaya Spring 2018: Everest-Lhotse Double Summit Done as Good Weather Continues

It has been a remarkable week in the Himalaya where an unprecedented weather window has allowed numerous teams to reach the summit of Everest and other major peaks. Typically, the summit window only lasts for three or four days, and yet here were are, more than a week after the first successful climbs of the season, and the wave of alpinists continue to go up. The is very unusual, and while higher winds are in the forecast for today, it looks like the next few days will remain very good, meaning there are probably more summits yet to come.

There is a lot of news to report from this past weekend, so we'll dive right in starting with an update on Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas. As you'll no doubt recall, these two men got into some hot water with the Nepali government after skiing the Lhotse Face without a proper permits. For a time, it looked like their expedition was in jeopardy, but last week we learned that they would be allowed to climb after all. The duo have taken advantage of this opportunity by summiting Everest yesterday and Lhotse today, knocking off two 8000-meter peaks in quick succession. Matt now has four 8000-meter peaks on his resume while Willie has nabbed his 13th successful climb of Everest. They are both reportedly doing well and are on their way back down to Camp 2 as I write this.

Matt and Willie were just two of the many climbers who were successful over the past few days. In fact, Alan Arnette now reports that more than 500 climbers have summited Everest from the North and South Sides this season. That's a testament to how wide this weather window has been and how many people are on the mountain. Fortunately, this many consecutive days of good weather has helped keep crowding and traffic jams down.

It hasn't been all good news from Everest however. The Himalayan Times is reporting that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki was found dead on the mountain today. He was making his summit bid and last checked in from Camp 2, which is where his body was discovered. He was attempting to make a solo summit of the mountain without Sherpa support or bottled oxygen, and indicated that he had developed a cough and was struggling some, but it didn't seem like he was in jeopardy.

Kuriki has been a staple on Everest for the past decade or so. This was his eight attempt on the mountain, although usually he climbed in the fall when no one else was there. He liked to climb alone and far from the crowds, but came this spring with the hopes of taking advantage of the better weather. The 36-year old also lost nine of his fingers to frostbite back in 2012 during one of his previous attempts on the mountain. He will be missed and our condolences go out to his friends and family, not to mention very large fanbase back home in Japan.

He wasn't the only casualty on Everest. THT is also indicating that Macedonian climber Gjeorgi Petkov passed away at Camp 3 as well. He suffered a heart attack while climbing up to the Yellow Band on the South Side of the mountain. His teammates are attempting to bring his body down the mountain.

Elsewhere teams are finding success too. A team of climbers from India has topped out on Kangchenjunga, while there are also summits reported on Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, and others. It is starting to look like this will go down as one of the most successful seasons in history, and it isn't over yet. There are still some ongoing expeditions that should come to a close over the next few days as climbing continues.

One team that didn't have successfully was Carlos Soria's squad on Dhaulagiri. Bad weather has been part of the story there all season long and it has struck again, with high winds and heavy snows turning the team back. It looks like Carlos will have to wait to get his 13th 8000-meter peak.

There is still a lot happening and more news to come. I'll bring further updates as the news warrants it.

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