While I’ve already done one climbing update from the Himalaya this morning, I thought that this story deserved its own post. Over the past few weeks one of the climbers I’ve been following closely is journalist Billi Bierling who has built herself an impressive high altitude resume over the past few years. Billi has been focused on scaling Makalu this fall and probably should have summited this past weekend, but she is currently back in Base Camp and hoping she’ll get another crack at the mountain, after her Sherpa team miscalculated the route and made Camp 4 in the wrong place. Now, with the jet stream predicted to shift within a matter of days, it’s possible that the team won’t have a chance to climb the world’s fifth tallest mountain after all.
In a report posted earlier today, Billi says that none of the Sherpas on the expedition have ever been on the 8481 meter (27,825 ft) Makalu before, but they had studied the route on maps and photographs. Last Monday, after spending several weeks acclimatizing on the mountain, Billi and her team set off from BC amidst good weather and high hopes. Their plan was to spend a single night in each of the first two camps and two nights at C3 to help prepare them for the summit push. While there, the Sherpa team proceed higher up the hill to establish Camp 4.
Only they didn’t proceed up the correct route and they ended up placing the team in a spot that could not be easily or safely traversed to the proper route. That meant the squad would have to descend back down the mountain to find the correct approach, but after expending so much energy just to get to that point on the mountain, there bodies were too tired to do that.
The team leaders made the decision to have everyone return to Base Camp, which is where they are now as they attempt to collect their strength. They hope to rest up and try to give the climb another go, this time along the proper route. But as I mentioned above, the forecast says that the jet stream is now scheduled to shift on October 4 – Thursday of this week – and when it does it will settle directly over the mountain. That means the summit will be closed for the season and it will be time to pack up and return home.
All is not lost however, as the forecasts have been known to be wrong before and there is a possibility that the shift won’t take place until sometime next week. Billi and the rest of the team are hoping that means they’ll get one more weather window before the fall season ends, and with that in mind, they are preparing for second summit attempt around October 7 or 8.
For now, they sit, rest and wait to see what develops.