Himalaya 2011: News From All Over

The 2011 Himalayan climbing season is starting to wind down for another year, but there is still plenty of things happening on peaks throughout the region. With so many expeditions taking place at this time of the year, it is a real challenge to keep up with all the activity, so apologies in advance if I’ve neglected someone or failed to mention an expedition.

We’ll start once again on Everest today, which is where the bulk of coverage has been on the South Side, but the teams approaching from the North are finally getting their chance. As reported yesterday, the 7 Summits Club  topped out not long after the ropes to the top were fixed and apparently the Asian-Trekking squad was also there at about the same time. It is unclear which team reached the summit first from the North Side, but in the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. Both teams enjoyed summit success, and the North Side is open for business. Most other teams are looking for summit bids late this week, and there is no news on when Ueli Steck and Don Bowie will make their attem32pt. My guess is that they’ll go for it before the crowds, but it depends on how they feel and what the weather dictates.

On the South Side there are still a few teams making their summit attempts as well, including the Jagged Globe team, who are on the move today. Edurne Pasaban and her team are hoping to head back up later this week as well. They turned back at Camp 4 over the weekend due to illness on the squad and windy conditions, which can be tough to endure when climbing without oxygen. The Spanish climber, the only woman officially recognized for climbing all fourteen 8000-meter peaks, also took part in a rescue on Lhotse of fellow countrymen who ran into trouble while descending that peak.

Speaking of summitting without oxygen, ExWeb is also reporting that a monk by the name of Bhakta Kumar Rai spent 32 hours on the summit of Everest, meditating for 27 of those hours. He was on oxygen for just 11 of those hours as well. Impressive feats all around, especially when you consider most people only spend a few minutes on top.

There is sad news to report this morning from Cho Oyu, where a number of sources are saying that Dutch climber Ronald Naar has died. Apparently he had given up on his summit bid due to bad weather, and on the descent he was feeling ill. He later collapsed in Camp 3. Naar had previously conquered the Seven Summits, as well as K2, and also enjoyed polar exploration too. This was to have been his last expedition.

There was also alarming news from Kangchenjunga as well, where Alex Gavan reported a dicey situation involving a Serbian climber named Dragan. Apparently, he was suffering from both HACE and HAPE, and had to be evacuated from the mountain via helicopter. No news on his condition as of yet, but it sounds like a very serious situation. Keep your fingers crossed!

Finally, on Lhotse, the previously mentioned Spanish team that was in trouble over the weekend included Manolo “Lolo” Gonzalez, who had to be evacuated from the mountain following a harrowing descent in bad weather. Lolo, and the rest of his squad, reached the summit, but conditions made for a slow descent, which left them exposed at altitude for far too long. Gonzalez ended up spending the night alone on the mountain until he was discovered by another group of climbers the following day.

Ryan Waters and his teammates also topped out on the mountain, as did Zsolt Eross, who claimed his ninth 8000-meter peak. What made this one special however, is that Eross suffered a climbing accident in 2010, which required that a leg be amputated. He earned this summit with an artificial limb. Congrats to Zsolt and the rest of the Lhotse summitteers. 

More news to come in the next few days I’m sure. There is still a lot happening, despite the end of the season looming. Lets hope there aren’t any more causalities or serious accidents. 

Kraig Becker