It looks like predictions of the end of the fall season in the Himalaya are proving to be true. This past weekend there were summit bids scheduled on several mountains across the area despite the fact that the jet stream had begun to settle in at the higher altitudes. But those summit attempts were stalled out, at least on Makalu, due to high winds.
One of the climbers who saw her climb brought to an abrupt end was Billi Bierling. She had been on Makalu for the past six week and expected to top out last week until her Sherpa team put Camp 4 in the wrong place. Billi and the rest of her squad had hoped to rest up and give it one more go this past weekend, setting out for the summit on Friday with the hopes of topping out today. Unfortunately they only made it as high as Camp 2 before returning to Base Camp due to the high winds on the upper slopes. The weather forecasts didn’t look promising for the days ahead, so the expedition was cancelled and the climbers started for home. After 10+ hour trek to Yangle Kharka yesterday and a brief helicopter ride to this morning, Billi is already back in Kathmandu and promising more information on her experience soon.
Commercial guide service Alpenglow Expeditions posted a dispatch explaining the situation on Makalu as well. They note that they decided to pull the plug on their climb due to the dire forecasts which show no break in the winds for the next two weeks and beyond that it is impossible to tell. Sitting and waiting for two weeks without knowing what lies beyond simply wasn’t an option, so they pulled up camp, collected their gear and hit the trail for home. The dispatch hints at more than a little frustration with the situation but such is the experience when climbing in the Himalaya, where the weather is always unpredictable and even more so at this time of the year.
There is also late season news from Manaslu, where EpicTV reports that amidst the tragedy of the avalanche, and the triumph of the summits that followed, one success story was over looked. Last week, German skier Benedikt Bohm became the first person to successfully climb and make a ski descent of the mountain without the use of supplemental oxygen. More impressively, he also made the climber from Base Camp to the summit and back in under 24 hours. Bohm is part of the Dynafit ski team, which also played an instrumental role in helping aid the survivors of the avalanche. Strong members of that team were amongst the first on site in Camp 3 when word of the accident reached the other teams. This is a tremendous achievement on the part of Benedikt and congratulations are certainly in order.
The other two mountains that were expecting summit attempts this past weekend were Everest and Lhotse. I haven’t seen any updates on the progress of the teams on those two mountains yet, but it is likely that the jet stream may have prevented them from going up as well. We’ll just have to wait for dispatches from Nepal to get word on their success.