Himalaya Spring 2009 Update: Issues in the Icefall, Summit Push on Manaslu

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Time for a late week round up on what is happening in the Himalaya, where throughout the week we’ve been hearing that there are issues in the Khumbu Icefall near Everest. It was widely reported throughout the week that the route through the icefall, often called the most dangerous part of the mountain, had collapsed, preventing teams from making their way up to the high camps. The route was down for portions of three days in a row, but of course, it was repaired fairly quickly, Ice Doctors doing their usual bang-up job, and access was restored to the mountain once again. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the icefall, where the ice shifts constantly, and seracs collapse with regularity. It can obviously be quite dangerous, but the Docs are consummate professionals, and usually have things repaired ASAP.

For most of the teams, it was another acclimatization week on Everest, with many making their way up to C2 for the first time, where they generally spend the night, and sometimes all the next day as well. The process of getting your body use to that altitude is a slow one, so it is important to spend time there before returning once again to base camp. Alan Arnette conintues to update his Everest 2009 page with some great info of where everyone is at on the mountain, plus his own personal insights into what is going on.

ExWeb is also reporting that the Sherpas have fixed the lines as high as Camp 3, opening the door for the climbers to head on up to that point soon, and continue the acclimatization process. They are also reporting that the Kazakh team working the Lhotse-Everest Traverse, are already at 7300m as they make their alpine style go both summits.

The Himex Team has split into several groups, and are heading back to Lobuje Peak for another acclimatization climb according to Billi Bierling, who will be going for her second successful summit there. Of course, Russell Brice know what he is doing in get his clients ready for the big hill, but not all clients are treated the same, as David Tait, who has climbed with Brice in the past, will skip a second trip up Lobuje, and instead climb to C2 on Everest instead. David already has a successful North to South traverse to his name, and is quite experienced on the mountain.

Meanwhile, other teams are weighing in, with the Peak Freaks updating their blog to indicate that they have team members stretching from BC all the way up to C3 where the Sherpa are fixing ropes. IMG is in a similar position with climbers in BC, C1, and C2. They are also helping to coordinate with other teams on fixing the ropes, making sure everyone is contributing something to the cause. The Adventure Consultants are back in BC on the other hand, having already spent four nights on the mountain, including one night in both C1 and C3. The team is well ahead of the game when it comes to acclimatization and are feeling good at the moment.

On the North Side of Everest, things are still gearing up. The Summit Climb Team reached ABC this week, and there are several other teams strung out between base camp and advanced base camp, with an interim camp in between. ExWeb is also reporting that the Canadian team led by Manuel Pizarro have elected to go for a permit to climb from the Tibetan side of the mountain, rather than their planned South Col route. They are en route to North Base Camp, and hope to be there early next week.

Moving away from Everest and to some of the other peaks, it looks like it is go time on Manaslu, where teams are in the midst of a summit push at this very moment. There is reportedly a lot of snow on the mountain, and that is making things treacherous, but despite those conditions, teams hope to top out on Monday.

Meanwhile, over on Annapurna, the weather conditions are forcing teams to abandon the mountain altogether. There is a lot of snow on the upper slopes, and Annapurna is notoriously dangerous when it is prone to avalanches. Base camp is reportedly nearly empty already.

On Dhaulagiri, the Polish Tatra Rescuers Expedition has already made a run up to C3 and are currently back in base camp, resting, and waiting for a weather window to make a go at the summit. ExWeb also reports that sadly, Peter Hamor has returned to Kathmandu and is filling out reports on climbing partner and friend Piotr Morawski, who died on the mountain a few weeks back.

Finally, Ben Clark posts a dispatch on the Ski The Himalayas website with an update on their progress. He, along with friends Josh Butson and Jonathan Miller, have their hopes set on as summit, and ski descent of 23,390 foot Baruntse. The team is still two days away from BC, but it has already been quite an adventure, with plenty of rain and snow so far. Ben notes that yesterday alone they had to traverse three 14,000 foot passes, in whiteout conditions no less. The best part is that all of that hasn’t dampened Ben’s enthusiasm for the adventure at all, and just reading his words you can tell how excited he is to be back in the Himilaya. We should all be so lucky.

Kraig Becker

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