Himalaya 2012: Summits On Annapurna

280px Annapurna South Face

Everest isn’t the only mountain in the Himalaya that has seen progress in the week-and-a-half I was away.  Climbers on various mountains across the region have continued to work their respective routes, establish camps and acclimatize according to their schedules. And on one mountain – Annapurna – there have even been some early season summits already.

We’ll start there. The 8091 meter (26,545 ft) Annapurna is the 10th highest mountain on the planet, but due to unpredictable weather and a predisposition for avalanches, it can be one of the most challenging peaks to climb. That proved the case last weekend (April 21-22) when a weather window opened on the mountain allowing as many as 12 climbers to top out. The climb wasn’t an easy one however and several avalanches were spotted on the peak as the teams went up. Don Bowie wasn’t amongst the summiteers, although he does have his sights set on another attempt this week, weather permitting. He also has a couple of blog posts up on his site that share details on his own harrowing brushes with falling seracs and snow last week.

According to ExWeb, the climbers that did summit Annapurna that weekend included Dawa Sherpa along with four members of his team. They were joined at the top by a Brazilian climber two Chinese, two Indians and two other Sherpas. All went up with bottled oxygen and arrived back in Base Camp without much of an issue. The forecasts for Annapurna indicate that a second window could open in the next few days, granting access to the top once again. If that happens, I’m sure we’ll see a few more climbers stand on top later this week.

Over on Manaslu, the Adventure Consultants have now been up as high as Camp 2 on the mountain, but they retreated over the weekend due to an onslaught of heavy snow. On Saturday of this past weekend they were digging out from under a half-meter of fresh powder and the forecast doesn’t look great for the near-term, so for now they sit and wait for their chance.

Also in Base Camp on Manaslu is Australian climber Allie Pepper, who is using that mountain as a warm-up for an attempt on Lhotse later in the season. Allie reached BC on April 22nd and reported poor weather conditions even then. She hasn’t updated her blog since arriving on the mountain, but presumably she’s waiting out the weather as well.

Speaking of Lhotse, the Peak Freaks posted an interesting tidbit in their Everest dispatch earlier today. Apparently the route up Everest’s neighbor isn’t exactly stable at the moment and as a result, the lines are being fixed to go around a section of the ascent that is typically a part of the route. Rocks that have traditionally been held in place by ice and snow are coming undone and tumbling down the face, which has made for dangerous approaches thus far. It seems there is a way around, and climbers will get their crack at the summit down the line, but it has been a bit dicey getting the ropes in place thus far.

Finally, Ueli Steck and Freddie Wilkinson are continuing their Himalayan Express II expedition. After being turned back on Cholatse last week due to bad weather the pair did successfully summit Ama Dablam on Friday. With that climb out of the way, they’ve now traveled back to Pheriche, where they are enjoying a little R-n-R before setting off for Tawoche. When they’ve finished there, it’ll be on to Everest, where it has yet to be seen what Ueli has in mind for climbing the Big Hill.

Stay tuned for updates. The real excitement of the season is now just a few days away.

Kraig Becker