On the Trail of the Glaciers – Andes 2016

Patagonia is a transformed landscape. It is a land of immense beauty – a strikingly wild and untamed wildness; a mecca of exploration – but from some angles it has changed beyond recognition. The vast glacier-scape invaluably captured by Father de Agostini in the mid-1900s is not the Patagonia of today. The land has been metamorphosed from a relic of the ice age to a visual representation of change in the modern world. The On the Trail of the Glaciers expedition is documenting this spectacle.

Off the back of three expeditions to some of the world’s most important glacial regions – the Karakoram, Caucasus and Alaska – in 2016 the On the Trail of the Glaciers project is undertaking its fourth expedition, to the Andes. The currently ongoing 2-month project began in early February and is nearing its completion, led by talented Italian photographer and documentary maker Fabiano Ventura whose vision it has been to create the world’s first documented archive of global glacial retreat.

Covering thousands of kilometres of Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, Ventura is following the route taken by Italian priest and photographer Alberto Maria de Agostini, who photographed the region’s glaciers in the mid-1900s. Ventura and his team are practicing the art of comparative photography, returning to exact locations of de Agostini’s expedition to visually explain glacial change over a sixty-year period through high-impact comparative photography.

The remarkable extent of glacial retreat in the Patagonian Andes. Photo Source: Fabiano Ventura – http://www.fabianoventura.it/en/news/repeat-photography-from-los-glaciares-national-park-el-calafate

The Torres Del Paine National Park was the expedition’s base in early March, travelling on horseback and on foot into remote regions to begin comparative photography. Following the trail of de Agostini has led Ventura’s team to wild and remote places, including to mountain summits in stormy Patagonian weather where rocks, shadows and natural features are used to determine the exact location and time of de Agostini’s original photographs. Ventura is subsequently producing identically positioned repeats.

More recently the expedition has moved onto the Los Glaciares National Park – the ‘glacier capital’ in the words of Ventura – and with their expedition’s objectives pleasing the authorities of the National Park, vehicles and local rangers have been provided to grant access to the most remote and protected areas of the region.

Researchers within the expedition team are producing ground-breaking 3D modelling of glacial change using a combination of on-the-ground photography and drone and satellite images. This allows for the monitoring of glacial condition and for the forecasting of expected change into the future. Like in past expeditions for the On the Trail of the Glaciers Project, a documentary is also being shot throughout the expedition to document Ventura’s journey and to raise public awareness through high-impact visual recordings of the expedition.

“Once again I noticed considerable ice shrinkage, and where there was once a winding white tongue of ice there was a rock-strewn valley ending four kilometres downstream in a lake four kilometres in length that reaches the present glacial front” – Fabiano Ventura

The On the Trail of the Glaciers expedition has visually affirmed the startlingly change occurring in the glacial regions of the world as a result of climate change and the extent of glacial retreat – captured in Ventura’s repeat/comparative photography – is truly remarkable. The appearance of lakes and forests in areas previously glaciated has transformed the land beyond recognition. Besides the photographic evidence of change, Ventura has also witnessed it first-hand by capturing the rare spectacle of a bursting glacier, with an ice wall of the Perito Moreno glacier collapsing into a lake.

The archive that the expedition is aiming to build will be a world first and Ventura’s high-impact photography has the capacity to transform public awareness of the wide-reaching impact of climate change. However Ventura’s expedition is equally a remarkable journey in itself, exploring and documenting one of the world’s last great wildness areas and the stories and photographs being shared from the expedition prove that Patagonia remains a mecca for adventure and exploration.

The On the Trail of the Glaciers expedition continues next year in the Himalayas, before concluding in 2019 in the Alps. You can follow the progress of the expedition here:




Main Photo Credit: Miguel Vieira


2016 Himalaya Spring Climbing Season Update

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.

Original Article: https://expeditionbasecamp.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/ueli-steck-attempts-new-shishapangma-route/

Expedition Feeds: https://www.facebook.com/ueli.steck/ https://www.facebook.com/David.Goettler.alpinist/


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)





Dhaulagiri 2016: From Serving Britain to Himalayan Heights

Four years on from a successful and pioneering expedition to the South Pole to commemorate 100 years since Scott’s Antarctic endeavours, April and May this year shall host the latest quadrennial Joint British Service expedition, to the Dhaulagiri region of Nepal. Several mountaineering challenges are set for the teams of British servicemen and women this year and with the 8,167m summit of Dhaulagiri the ultimate goal for the expedition’s main team, this year’s expedition shall continue to renew Britain’s stockpile of talented mountaineers.

Joint Service expeditions bear testimony to the continued health of British mountaineering and exploration and this year’s expedition continues the tradition of past years by providing high quality adventurous training alongside important medical research. Participants in this year’s expedition shall take part voluntarily in medical experiments to research the impact of altitude and acclimatisation upon the human body and in the spirit of this research, the team of 12 climbers who shall attempt to reach Dhaulagiri’s summit shall do so without supplementary oxygen, alpine style.

A subsidiary ambition of this year’s expedition is to summit Tukuche Peak, a subsidiary peak of the Dhaulagiri Massif. The climb on this remote and technically challenging 6,920m peak shall be led by the expedition’s main team and involve members of the High Altitude Development Team, helping to foster a group of talented young mountaineers from this less experienced division. Meanwhile eight trekking teams also from the armed forces shall attempt the Dhaulagiri Circuit trek and will be at the heart of the expedition’s medical research into the impact of altitude and acclimatisation.

The main team who shall attempt to summit Dhaulagiri shall climb via the mountain’s ‘normal’ North East Ridge, following the same route which saw the mountain’s first ascent in 1960, achieved by an expedition team led by legendary Austrian mountaineer Kurt Diemberger. The 12-person team shall be entirely self-sufficient and shall attempt the route alpine style without oxygen, led by Surgeon Commander Adrian Mellor, a highly experienced mountaineer from the armed forces who has previously led Joint Service expeditions to the Himalaya.

Dhaulagiri 2016 Teams Prepare for Their Second and Main Objectives

The main team flew to Kathmandu in March and were met, after some weather and technical delays, by the remainder of the Joint Service teams soon after. They then travelled via Pokhara to the Hidden Valley Base Camp where, after a somewhat challenging journey in with illnesses, issues of altitude and intermittent weather, the team successful completed the first target of their expedition with several team members ascending the 6,035m Dhampus Peak in the Dhaulagiri area. With this first objective complete, the teams continue to advance through their stages of acclimatisation and the focus of the main and High Altitude Development Teams is now firmly placed upon a planned ascent of 6,920m Tukuche peak.

Medical research has also begun, with meaures of acute mountain sickness and physiological conditions of the climbers taken with the aim of better understanding cardiac function at extreme altitude.

Following the planned ascent of Tukuche Peak, the main team shall shift focus to the expedition’s main aim, Dhaulagiri, whilst the High Altitude Development Team shall return to the UK. The North East Ridge route by which they will climb involves the challenging navigation of a major icefall above Base Camp, an area particularly prone to rockfall, after which the team shall ascend via airy and exposed ridges towards the summit at 8,167m.

A Joint Service expedition last took place in the Himalaya in 2008, where three mountaineers from the armed forces successfully reached Makalu’s summit via the North East Ridge, whilst an attempt on its south east ridge was made and peaks over 6,000m were successfully climbed by the High Altitude Development Team. The last quadrennial expedition took place in 2012 at the South Pole where alongside important scientific research the team trekked in previously unexplored areas of the Antarctic Peninsula and made first ascents of unclimbed mountains.

The pioneering successes of Joint Service expeditions should therefore not be understated. They pay testimony to the continued health of British mountaineering and foster a new group of talented British mountaineers. With the teams progressing through their stages of acclimatisation and important medical research well underway, expedition Dhaulagiri 2016 is set to be another success.

You can follow the progress of the Dhaulagiri expedition team on its official blog and twitter page:


Carlos Soria: The Remarkable 77 Year-Old Nearing 14 8,000m Summits

In 1990, a 61 year-old Spaniard reached the summit of his first 8,000m mountain, Nanga Parbat. At the age that most mountaineers would be finishing their mountaineering career and publishing their autobiography, Carlos Soria – 17 years after forming part of Spain’s first Himalayan expedition team – was beginning his bid to climb all of the world’s 8,000m mountains. 26 years on, as a 77 year-old, he continues his remarkable bid today.

To date, 35 people have summited all 14 of the world’s 8,000m mountains and the feat – still pursued by many – remains admirable and impressive. However after Messner summited Lhotse in 1986 and affirmed himself as the first to reach this mountaineering milestone, there has been little glory for those who have done so 2nd, 3rd, or 35th subsequently after him.

An abundance of alternative means of collecting the world’s highest mountains continue to emerge instead, with Alpinists attempting to claim a slice of mountaineering history by being the first to climb without oxygen, in winter, by opening new routes, new faces, ascending first a 7,000er, climbing the second highest mountain on each continent, and so on.

But Carlos Soria’s continued assault on the world’s highest mountains is remarkable and should he achieve his long-standing target of 14 x 8,000m mountains it will surely affirm him as a great of Alpinism, adding to his already impressive list of mountaineering achievements. The 77 year-old has only Annapurna and Dhaulagiri remaining on his list of 8,000ers (and arguably Shishapangma too) and following his ascent of Kangchenjunga two years ago, he aims to climb the remaining two 8,000ers back to back this season.

Soria Attempts Annapurna and Dhaulagiri in 2016

Soria and his expedition team are currently preparing at Annapurna Base Camp, awaiting a good weather window in which a summit bid can be launched. The route and camps have been prepared and with limited snowfall and promising conditions on the mountain, only strong winds are delaying a push to the summit. However Annapurna has defeated Soria the last three years and the mountain’s notoriously avalanche prone slopes pose an ever present threat, although it’s summit was one of the few to be reached amongst the 8,000ers last year and several teams are also preparing a bid this season.

Dhaulagiri would follow a successful summit bid for Soria, wrapping up his remarkable bid to summit all 14 8,000m mountains, although disputably Shishapangma would still remain a necessary target. On a past expedition Soria reached the 8,008m central summit of Shishapangma, 19m short of the challenging main summit, which also eluded him in an effort to claim it in 2014.

Breaking New Ground?

Completing the 14 x 8,000m challenge would only add to Soria’s already impressive mountaineering CV. In 2010, aged 71, Soria ascended Mount Kilimanjaro to complete the 7 summits – climbing the highest mountain on all 7 continents – and is also the oldest person to summit K2, Broad Peak, Makalu, Manaslu, Lhotse and Kangchenjunga, the only man to have climbed 10 8,000ers aged over 60 and was the first to ascend Dome Khang (7,260m) in India.

However Soria is not the oldest man to summit an 8,000er. Yuichiro Miura summited Everest in 2013 as an 80 year-old, a record which was challenged unsuccessfully the same month by Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal, at 81 years of age. Carlos Soria holds the record for the oldest man to summit an 8,000er without oxygen, aged 71 on his 2010 ascent of Manaslu, although Russian Boris Korshunov disputably summited Cho Oyu in 2007 aged 72. Although far from being the oldest, British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes added Everest to his record of great exploratory achievements as a 65 year-old in 2009.

Carlos Soria is therefore not breaking new ground summiting 8,000ers as a 77 year-old, but summiting Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to complete his bid for 14 8,000m mountains would prove truly remarkable, especially alongside achievements like the 7 summits completed just 6 years ago. However Soria certainly would break new ground should he complete his bid for 14 8,000m summits this season as a 77 year-old. A piece of remarkable Alpinism history could soon be made.

Carlos is regularly updating his progress on Annapurna this season via his twitter account:


Ueli Steck Attempts New Route on Shishapangma

Following a historic winter in which the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat was achieved, the spring climbing season is set to begin in earnest with the Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck attempting to open a new route on the south face of Shishapangma this month. This marks Steck’s return to the 14th highest mountain in the world, which in 2011 he ascended solo up its south face in a record time of 10.5 hours. On that occasion he had identified a 2,000m direct line to the summit, upon which he and German mountaineer David Gottler shall now attempt to open a new route.

For the Swiss Alpinist, whose preeminent 2015 achievement was the retaking of his Eiger speed record, this spring Shishapangma expedition follows on from numerous high-altitude achievements in recent years. Most notably Steck speed climbed the south face of Annapurna in 2013 solo and in a remarkable 28 hour round trip. Steck described the feat  as his ‘high altitude limit’ and the achievement landed him rightly the prestigious Piolet d’Or. Summiting Shishapangma would mark Steck’s second ascent of the mountain following his 2011 record and Gottler’s 6th 8,000m summit.

Steck and Gottler are making final expedition preparations in Kathmandu, planning to fly to Lukla today, April 1, should the weather hold. From there they plan two weeks of acclimatisation and preparation in the Khumbu Valley, before travelling to Tibet for the planned ascent.

Expeditions Planned Across the Himalaya

Spring 2016 is an important climbing season for Nepal in its recovery from the catastrophic earthquake and avalanche it endured last year, after which the majority of climbing expeditions were cancelled or postponed to 2016. Only two 8,000m peaks were summited last spring – Annapurna and Manaslu – by only three expedition teams and so it is positive news that several expeditions have ascents of numerous 8,000m peaks planned for this spring.

Annapurna is set to experience much early year activity, as teams resume expeditions abandoned last year and begin in early spring to avoid warming of already notoriously avalanche prone slopes. Notably amongst those challenging Annapurna is Turkish climber Tunc Findek, who is attempting Annapurna as his 11th 8000er as part of his bid to climb all 14 8,000m peaks. Findek and his climber partner, Romanian Alex Gavan, have established C2 on Annapurna which they plan to climb without supplementary oxygen, following a period of acclimatisation in the Khumbu Valley which included a 5900m camp on Imja Tse.

However there is much uncertainty over the route above C2, with large crevasses forcing the Annapurna teams right of the normal ascent route and with huge seracs setting off large ice avalanches across the climbing route towards C3. Alex Gavan has described the conditions as ‘totally unpredictable’ and like ‘Russian Roulette’ on his blog and heavy snowfall and serious avalanches have grounded teams at Base Camp for much of the time, plaguing plans for an early spring summit bid.

Other notable expeditions this spring include an attempt to climb Manaslu’s north ridge via a new route. Slovak Peter Hamor and Romanian Horia Colibasanu are returning from an abandoned expedition last year to attempt this new route Alpine style, following acclimatisation on the mountain’s normal north east ridge route. A British Joint Services Expedition on Dhaulagiri is also a spring expedition worth following, with a team of Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Airforce servicemen and women planning to summit the 7th highest mountain in the world whilst simultaneously conducting medical research projects involving the expedition team members.

Finally there is hope that business will return to normal on Everest this season following the avalanche disaster last year and numerous expeditions are planned, including an attempt at a speed record on Everest’s North Face by Spanish ski mountaineer Kilian Jornet this season.