Expedition Base Camp has been following three of the most notable expeditions taking place in the Himalaya over the past weeks and, with all three in full swing and with some others worthy of note, it is an apt time for an update on the Himalayan spring climbing season.
Ueli Steck and David Gottler Attempt New Route on Shishapangma South Face
The combination of Swiss and German efficiency is an ominous prospect in any situation and this is no less the case in mountaineering. Ueli Steck and David Gottler have looked a formidable duo in their recent preparations for an alpine-style assault on Shishapangma’s South Face, where the experienced duo will attempt to open a new unclimbed route on the mountain in the coming weeks. The planned route follows a 2,000m direct line to the summit, identified by Steck during his record-speed ascent of the South Face in 2011.
The Khumbu Valley was the team’s base for acclimatisation during the first two weeks of April, with the duo staying in a lodge in Chukhung at 4,700m, near the foot of Lhotse and Everest. From there they launched a number of acclimatisation climbs in the surrounding area, including two upon Island Peak (Imja Tse). In case there was any doubt over the style in which the duo plan to climb Shishapangma, the team’s first climb upon Island Peak was completed in a single-day push, having set off after breakfast and returning for ‘a late-lunch’. This preceded a later ascent of Island Peak, where the duo spend some nights at altitude.
The duo appear fit and relaxed with trail running diversifying their acclimatisation programme – including a near-13 hour, 60km multi-valley run on the 13th – and plenty of “podcasts & music, watching movies, reading ebooks, snacking and napping” to pass the long durations spent acclimatising, according to Gottler.
A brief return to Kathmandu for final kit preparations preceded the duo’s return to Lhasa, from where they launched their trek to Shishapangma’s South Face Base Camp. Gottler reported the team’s first sighting of Shishapangma on Wednesday and the team expects to arrive at the South Face Base Camp in the next couple of days. The crux of their expedition is now set to begin.
Carlos Soria Attempts Annapurna as he Nears 14 x 8,000m Summits
It has been typical Annapurna so far this spring and a case of déjà vu for the climbers returning to attempt the mountain this year. Consistently bad weather – particularly strong summit winds – have kept the summit elusive so far this year and blighted any prospects of a viable summit window, despite numerous efforts to move up the mountain made by a number of expedition teams and brief hope of a summit prospect last weekend.
This has equally been the case for 77-year old Carlos Soria, whose bid to summit Annapurna will bring him ever-nearer to completing 14 x 8,000m peaks. Early season signs were good with minimal snowfall and promising mountain conditions – only strong summit winds were keeping teams off the mountain’s higher reaches, with camps fully set up to Camp 3 and fixed routes maintained up the mountain.
A narrow but promising weather window was targeted last weekend, with a possible summit bid proposed for Sunday 17th April, before snow was forecast to set in again the following day. However a late change in forecast offered a bleak outlook of 50kph summit winds and an earlier onset of snow, although there was some conflicting information amongst teams as to the nature of the forecast, with some teams deciding to remain on the mountain as high as Camp 4.
Ultimately the weather did set in, with a wind-chill factor of -40oC atop the summit with snowfall and winds of up to 50kph. The summit proved elusive in such conditions, even though some had reached heights of up to 7,800m before being forced into retreat. Soria, who was already a day behind most teams’ summit bids, had descended to Base Camp the day prior and now awaits a better weather window.
Soria’s team made an early season start, as the avalanche risk upon Annapurna’s notorious slopes increases as spring continues to warm. Therefore with Soria and all other expedition teams grounded at Base Camp, the mountain – which has defeated Soria for the past three years – is only becoming harder and more dangerous to climb. Nevertheless with the majority of teams remaining at Base Camp awaiting another weather window and camps and the route set up to Camp 4, a second summit bid may prove more fruitful.
Soria’s Twitter feed shows him remaining in good spirits and excellent fitness, with his recent exploits on the mountain and continued acclimatisation climbs standing him in good stead if another opportunity presents itself. It is now once more a game of patience and a case of waiting until the mountain decides it is ready.
Original Article: https://expeditionbasecamp.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/carlos-soria-8000m/ Expedition Feed: https://twitter.com/RetoCarlosSoria
Dhaulagiri 2016: British Joint Service Expedition Attempts World’s 7th Highest Mountain
It has not been long since Expedition Base Camp wrote about the latest Joint Service Expedition to Dhaulagiri, but another notable achievement in the team’s preparations for the main ascent has already been made, with a successful ascent of Tukuche Peak’s West Summit by 2 expedition climbers.
Twelve team members made the climb up to Camp 2 on Tukuche Peak, where six remained to assess the route further on the mountain whilst six descended to Base Camp having supplied the camp with gear and supplies. This effort was geared around allowing the less experienced climbers of the High Altitude Development Team (HADT) to undertake a fast alpine ascent of the mountain in the following days, which was the crux of the Tukuche expedition. However bad weather set in and forced an extended stay at Camp 2 whilst the descending six successfully moved through the challenging conditions.
High winds characterised the following days for the team and Camp 1 was largely destroyed by the conditions, but two climbers from the six remaining on the mountain made a remarkable push through challenging conditions to reach the West Summit of Tukuche, whilst ascents of ‘Little Tukuche’ were also made by other expedition team members.
The prospect of further summits on Tukuche is questionable however, as the HADT have only a few days remaining in their expedition with the main team’s focus shifting towards Dhaulagiri itself. Nevertheless, with Dhampus Peak, Tukuche Peak and a plethora of medical research already complete, the expedition appears to be running with predictable military efficiency and the climb at the heart of the expedition is now set to begin.
Original Article: https://expeditionbasecamp.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/dhaulagiri-2016/ Expedition Feed: https://twitter.com/dhaulagiri2016
(Main Photo: Island Peak, Nepal, by Dario Severi)