Friday, May 18, 2018

Himalaya Spring 2018: Lhotse Face Skiers Free to Climb, More Summits!

I'm still traveling home from the press event I've been at over the past couple of days, so this might be the only post I get to make today. That said, it's a good one, with lots of news from the Himalaya as the climbing season continues to unfold with more summits, not to mention an update on the two climbers who found themselves in trouble with the government for skiing the Lhotse Face.

Let's begin there. If you're a regular reader of this blog you probably already know that Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas climbed up to Camp 3 on Everest back on May 2, then proceeded to ski back down the Lhotse Face to Camp 2. This was a great accomplishment for the duo, who have come to the Himalaya to summit not on the world's highest mountain, but its next-door neighbor Lhotse too. The only problem was, they didn't have a ski permit, which created quite a stir with the Nepali government.

When officials got word of the "illegal" ski descent, they threatened to pull Matt and Willie's climbing permits, putting their expedition in jeopardy. But as the situation continued to play out, we also learned that there was no mention of the need for such a permit in the mountaineering regulations. In fact, the only mention of it is found in another regulatory section, which is in Nepali, making it very difficult for foreigners to even know that such a permit was needed.

Last week we learned that 150 climbers, including many Sherpas, signed a letter to the Nepali government requesting that Matt and Willie be allowed to climb. The group argued that the two skiers did not put anyone in jeopardy, nor did they cause any problems on the mountain. Even better, Willie has been guiding on Everest for 20+ years, contributing to the economic well-being of the country.

Apparently someone in Nepal came to his or her senses, because we have now learned that Matt and Willie will be allowed to climb after all. Yesterday, The Himalayan Times reported that the duo will have to pay for the ski permit, which costs $1000, and a $500 garbage deposit. Additionally, their expedition support team will be charged Rs 50,000 ($465) and the team's liaison officer will be warned for not being on the mountain to oversee these kinds of activities.

This announcement puts an end to the drama surrounding this story. Matt and Willie should now be on their way up the mountain to attempt their double summit. We'll look for more updates on their progress over the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, teams are reaching the summit on mountains across the Himalaya. Everest saw 39 climbers summit on Monday alone and another 94 followed suit on Sunday. More have gone up over the past couple of days too with 7 Summits Club and relative newcomer Transcend both finding success. IMG is one of the teams that is currently heading up and looks to reach the top this weekend.

Amongst those who summited yesterday were Shivangi Pathak, who at 16 is now the youngest woman from India to scale Everest. She topped out with the Seven Summits Treks team, along with several Sherpa guides.

It wasn't all good news though. Adrian Ballinger's Alpenglow team has pulled the plug on their expedition after the regulators on 14 of their oxygen bottles failed while approaching 8500 meters (27,887 ft). The team descended as quickly as they could and avoided any major health issues, but they are now too exhausted from their efforts to try again. They're already packing up and getting ready to head home.

Over on Makalu, Swedish alpinist Carina Ahlqvist had to be evacuated from the mountain. She suffered snow-blindness on her summit push and had to be rescued from Camp 2. She was there as part of a team researching the impact of climate change on the region.

Finally, 79-year old Spanish climber Carlos Soria has launched his summit bid on Dhaulagiri and hopes to summit in the next couple of days. If successful, it'll be his 13th 8000-meter peak. We'll be keeping an eye on his progress closely.

More to come soon.

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