Friday, September 19, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Avalanche on Lhotse, Shishapangma Summit Push and Progress on Other Mountains

Post monsoon climbing season strides forward, as some teams get ready for summit pushes. Contrarily, some climbers are still trekking to the mountains. Snow and weather conditions also vary significantly, mountain to mountain.

Lhotse: Avalanche and Route to C2

The Korean climbers were almost hit by an avalanche, this week; something which isn't uncommon on notorious Lhotse South Face. However, they were lucky to escape the catastrophe unharmed. The incident took place at around 6200m, when the team was working on the route to C2 (which they intend to pitch at 6800m).

Going up Lhotse South Face in difficult conditions; Source: Korean Exp 2014

As of now, the route has been opened till 6400m. For safety, they have fixed approximately 1 km of rope between BC and C1. C1 was set up at 5800m, last week. The weather has generally been bad since their arrival, here. It has snowed consistently and they are forced to climb in bad conditions.

The aftermath of avalanche at 6200m; Source: Korean Exp 2014

Shishapangma: Excessive Snow and First Summit Push

Shishapangma isn’t known for good snow conditions and this year is no different. “Lots of snow and drifting snow,” says Billi Bierling. Yesterday, Billi and her team mates left ABC for their second rotation up the mountain. After spending the night in C1, they are hoping to reach C2 today.

However, the excessive snow was a major setback for Double 8 climbers Andrea Zambaldi, Benedikt Böhm and Sebastian Haag, who were on the summit push. The team left ABC on September 17th at 1400hrs and by next morning, they had reached 7700m. But the snow and avalanche risk forced them to retreat. The climbers are now resting and recovering at ABC for another attempt.

Meanwhile, Spaniard Carlos Soria continues acclimatization on hills near ABC.

Carlos Soria acclimatizing near ABC; Source

Dhaulagiri and Makalu: Base Camps

Slovakian team made it to Dhaulagiri Base Camp as per schedule. Having reached there yesterday, they are currently busy in establishing and organizing the BC.

British team continues its march towards Makalu. Having started their trek on September 14th, they will soon be reaching the BC. But the Brits will not be alone on the mountain, this season. American guide, Garrett Madison is also leading a commercial expedition to SE Ridge, and was expected to fly out of Kathmandu, yesterday.

Andrzej Bargiel skiing down Manaslu; Photo: Marcin Kin

Manaslu and Cho Oyu: Ready for Summit

Ropes have been fixed until just below C4 on Manaslu. Sherpa from Altitude Junkies and Himalayan Experience concluded the job on September 18th. Both teams are now awaiting good weather for summit push.

On Cho Oyu, route is fixed till C2 (7100m) and multiple teams are concluding their acclimatization.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Arrivals at BCs and Acclimatization Continue

Climbers on Manaslu are getting ready for first summit push by next week. Cho Oyu and Shishapangma teams have reached C1. Makalu and Dhaulagiri climbers are still trekking towards BCs, whereas Koreans have kicked off the climb on Lhotse.


After remaining stuck at BC for several days, it appears that the Koreans had the first opportunity to go up the mountain, last week. They worked on the route to C1, before returning to Base Camp. The team is attempting an ascent of Lhotse via challenging South Face.

Korean Climbers heading to C1

Towards Makalu and Dhaulagiri BCs

Apparently, there will be one team each on Makalu and Dhaulagiri, this season. The Slovakian Dhaulagiri climbers left Kathmandu on September 12th and are scheduled to reach the BC on 18th.

British Tri-Service Makalu team has also left for the mountain. The trek to the Base Camp started on September 14th, when they left Num. The team was expected to reach Tashi Gaon, today.


A couple of months ago, we heard that Ueli Steck along with his wife was in Peru, working out for an attempt on Shishapangma. In an interesting incident, the climber aka Swiss Machine’s entry to Huascaran National Park was denied when he forgot his Alpine Club membership card at hotel in Huaraz. He had to send someone back to hotel to get his card.

Ueli Steck stunned the mountaineering world with a historic climb on Annapurna’s South Face, last autumn. The updates from the climber were few and far between throughout that expedition. However, we may be hearing more about him this year as he joins several other climbers at Shishapangma ABC.

“I am back in Tibet. We (are) having a great time. The plan is to climb Shishapangma together with my wife Nicole,” is the message from Ueli Steck, who has already climbed the mountain in a record time of 10.5hrs in Spring 2011.

Majority of other climbers have also reached Shishapangma ABC, now. The Italian-German Double 8 team (Andrea Zambaldi, Benedikt Böhm and Sebastian Haag) reached ABC on 12th. Spaniard Carlos Soria arrived on 14th. Danish climber Bo Belvedere Christensen arrived in Kathmandu on September 9th and was expecting to leave for BC on 11th.

The Kobler-Partner team is in C1, tonight. “Spending night at shisha c1. Ascent was fun but very cold and windy. Everyone feels good and settling in for a clear but cold night.” Billi Bierling ‏tweeted this evening.

C1 on Cho Oyu; Source


Weather on Manaslu has been a bit intermittent in past few days. However, the climbers continue their acclimatization on the mountain. Commercial expeditions Himex and Altitude Junkies are leading the rope fixing process. It’s reported that the route is fixed until just before C3. In next attempt the Sherpa will fix the route to C4. Interestingly, they have also fixed ladders over some large crevasses between C1 and C3.

Phil Crampton, leader of AJ team wrote today, “With our second rotation complete on the mountain we are now resting at base camp in anticipation of our summit push. We hope if all goes well to summit within the next 10 days.”

Several other climbers/teams are still acclimatizing before their attempt to go all the way to summit.

Cho Oyu

On Cho Oyu, multiple teams have completed their first rotation to C1. Summit Climb team is now heading towards C2. Expedition Leader Dan Mazur tweeted this morning, “SummitClimb Cho Oyu expedition (is) at Camp1 (6400m/21,000ft). No teams above us. We open route to C2. Breaking trail; very deep snow.”

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Friday, September 12, 2014

From Summer 2014 | First Ascent of G-V, Unattempt on G-IV

At the beginning of summer season, we mentioned about a couple of teams that were heading towards less climbed peaks in Gasherbrum massif. Kyle Dempster and Urban Novak’s plan was to craft a new route on Shining Wall of Gasherbrum IV in alpine style. An Chi Young was leading a three member Korean team to G-V; a 7000er with no recorded ascent. However, we heard nothing about them until a few days ago.

In an article to, Kyle Dempster wrote that in third week of July, he and Urban Novak were in Skardu when they heard about disappearance of two Slovenian climbers Ales Holc and Peter Meznar on a 6000er peak in Shaksgam valley. Urban was worried, "Ales is a close friend; he was my climbing mentor when I first started." As the search for missing climbers continued without success, it became obvious that G-IV expedition wasn’t likely anymore. “Urban made plans to go home so he could be with the Slovenian climbing community, offer his support and think about his own relationship with climbing and the death of his two friends, his first experience with the dark side of the sport.”

At the time, when Urban was devastated by the loss of his friends and Dempster was saddened to witness a “lofty dream” falling apart, the Koreans were approaching the virgin summit - 7147m high - right next to G-IV. On July 25th, Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young reportedly stood atop Gasherbrum V, after climbing Southeast wall in alpine style, in three days.

(A detailed report from the team appeared in Korean climbing magazine "mountain" and is available online here.)

Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young on the summit of G V (July 25th, 2014)

Until 2010, as per AAJ, there had been six 7000er first ascents by Koreans - almost all done in capsule or expedition style. However, in 2009, Kim Hyung-il opened a new route on northwest face of Spantik in alpine style. Next year, Kim led a four man team to attempt ‘untouched’ west face of G-V. During a four day alpine style summit push, they reached around 6550m, when their stove malfunctioned and the team was forced to retreat.

G-V has three sub-peaks East I (7120m), East II (7050m) and East III (7006m). In 1978, three Japanese climbers K. Mukaide, M. Sakaguchi and T. Sato made it to East III before turning back. Following day, second summit attempt was abandoned when expedition leader Ryuichi Babaguchi, who went ahead of other climbers, was found dead in a crevasse near the top. Multiple climbers had tried and failed on G-V since then.

Seong Nakjong climbing a mixed section

2014 Gasherbrum V Team left Korea on June 13th. The plan was to climb the mountain via Northeast face. However, upon their arrival, they discovered that the face was in dangerous condition with frequent avalanches. The team’s climb up the wall ended at 6400m due to deteriorating weather, recurring avalanches and difficult climbing conditions.

Knowing that Northeast face wasn't climbable, they now decided to switch to South side of the mountain. It was around mid-July; the team was exhausted by unsuccessful summit push and shifting Base Camp was a difficult task in itself. “After returning to Base Camp, I was worried,” says the expedition leader. However, they didn't have any other opportunity. On July 20th, they migrated to new BC, at the bottom of valley leading to G V from Southwest.

Weather forecast showed a good weather window starting from 20th. The Koreans knew they couldn’t let this opportunity go away. Amidst the hassle of setting up new BC and organizing gear, the climbers had very little time to rest and recover.

The route

On July 23rd, Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young left Base Camp (4700m) at around 5am. The foot of Southeast wall was, however, still 3km away, separated by a maze of complex and towering seracs in upper half of glacier. The two Koreans reached the top of glacier at 09:40am. They roped together and started climbing the face. In the afternoon, avalanches roared down the face. It was already mid night, when the climbers decided to bivouac at around 6600m. They had climbed for 20 hours, gaining an altitude of approximately 1900 meters.

Next morning, on July 24th, the fatigue and exhaustion from previous day’s climb didn't let them go up. They spent the day resting, recovering, eating, energizing and discussing the plans.

On 25th, they woke up early and were out of bivouac at 3am. They were now on mixed terrain, with frequent rock falls. It was late in the afternoon when they reached the summit ridge. Despite exhaustion and bad conditions, the two climbers continue and were on the summit at 07:20PM.

It was getting dark and within ten minutes, they started the gruelling descent. After fighting the hurdles of down climbing in dark, a night without sleep and avalanches during the day, the two summiteers made it back to BC twenty four hours later.

Climbers and BC staff

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Teams Roll On to Base Camps

Mountaineering teams are reaching the big mountains, as monsoon rains recede. Several expeditions have just established the Base Camps, and are about to kick off their climbs.


The Korean Lhotse Team reached South Face BC on September 3rd, amidst persistent monsoon showers. Having established Base Camp and conducted the Puja rituals, they now await weather improvement to start the climb.

The team consists of Sung Taek Hong (leader), Kim Tae Gon, Choi Jin Chul, Yim Jun Ho and Jeon Jae Min.


British Makalu SE ridge team was scheduled to reach Nepal, by now. However the team hasn’t shared any update recently.

Routes on Makalu; British team is attempting SE Ridge, this season. Source


A ten member Slovak “ski-mountaineering” team will be on Dhaulagiri, this season. Expedition leader Janko Matlák, and four members Vlado Švancár, Andrej Harendarčík, Peter Kostelanský and Jirko Švihálek, are currently in Kathmandu organizing the logistics for gear shipment to BC. Remaining members are expected to reach Nepal, today.


First Shishapangma teams have reached the mounatin. Suzanne Husser, leader of Kobler-Partner team, messaged from ABC yesterday (on 8th) that “Yesterday, the ABC was established. It was a very nice camp, location and views are excellent. Still all participants are healthy, fit and in good spirits. Generally, it has a lot of snow.” Two members of K&P team, Russian Sergey Baranov and German Billi Bierling, are currently on the way to ABC.

Double 8 Expedition members are also in Tibet, acclimatizing/training for their challenge to climb Shishapangma and Cho Oyu in seven days.

The 75 year old Spaniard, Carlos Soria, is currently in Kathmandu. He will be pursuing his 12th eight-thousander, Shishapangma, this autumn.

Double 8 team acclimatizing in Tibet; Source


“Manaslu is very quiet this fall, in regards to the amount of teams present, compared to the past few seasons. Many of the old time operators on Manaslu are happy that we have the peak back to normal as the majority of the usual Cho Oyu teams are heading to Tibet this fall.” Wrote Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies from Manaslu BC, yesterday.

Altitude Junkies and HimEx teams are cooperating for rope fixing on the mountain. Route was fixed till C1 on September 6th, and climbers made the first rotation on the mountain. Yesterday, Six Sherpa (three from AJ and HimEx each) were hoping to conclude fixing task till C2. Good weather is reported from the region and climbers are heading up for another round of acclimatization.

While aforementioned teams flew to Sama Goan in helicopters, majority of climbers opt for lengthy, hot and humid trek from Arughat (accessible by road from Kathmandu) to Sama Gaon. Hence, they are still on the way to the mountain. It appears that around 7-8 teams are currently at Sama Gaon or trekking further to BC.

Manaslu BC Trek; Source

Cho Oyu

Like Manaslu, first Cho Oyu teams have also reached Advanced BC while several others are on the way to the mountain. SummitClimb Expedition leader Dan Mazur tweeted from Chinese BC yesterday that heavy rain and wind-storm had hit the BC. Other commercial teams like Alpine Ascents, IMG and Adventure Consultants have also reached the mountain. Rope fixing and higher camps establishment is expected to start soon.

Lastly, after success on Makalu in Spring and K2 in summer, Chris Jensen Burke is heading to Cho Oyu with Lakpa Sherpa. Chris has climbed seven eight-thousanders so far, six of them in past year and a half.

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