Himalaya 2013: High Winds Across The Region, Summit Push Begins On Dhaulagiri

Dhaulagiri from ramrekha

While everything has come to a standstill on Everest, I thought it was best to check how things are progressing on some of the other mountains across the region. Turns out high winds are pretty much the hot topic everywhere as climbers struggle to complete the acclimatization efforts ahead of eventual summit pushes ahead. But for now, many of them are stuck in Base Camp, just like their brethren over on the Big Hill.

There is good news from Pawel Michalski, the polish climber who is attempting the 8167 meter (26,795 ft) Dhaulagiri. After waiting out some nasty weather last week, it seems things have taken a turn for the better. Michalski launched his summit bid yesterday, arriving in Camp 1 at 5800 meters (19,028 ft). He reports that snow conditions are good and that the forecast is favorable for him to continue up the mountain. With any luck, he’ll be topping out late this week. Good luck to Pawel and his team.

Unfortunately, nearly everyone else is reporting bad weather that is preventing them from moving higher. For instance, Kinga Baranowska reports that she and her climbing partner Rafal Fronia are back in BC on Makalu. They have managed to establish Camp 2 at 6670 meters (21,883 ft) and have carried a load of gear up to the location of C3 at 7200 meters (23,622 ft). Those efforts have helped with acclimatization, but high winds have now forced them down. The forecast for the next few days remains sketchy as well and it looks unlikely that they’ll be able to move back up before the weekend at the earliest.

Also on Makalu this spring is Don Bowie, who will also be returning to Base Camp today, although he’ll be coming from the other direction. In his latest dispatch, Don says that just as he was getting ready to begin the actually climbing part of his expedition he got ill from a bug going around BC. He was so sick in fact that he temporarily abandoned the mountain in favor of the village of Yanglekharka, which is found down the valley at 3962 meters (13,000 ft). Don spent four nights in the tiny settlement as he let his body get healthy once again. With his strength finally returning, he’s heading back up to truly get his expedition started, but with the high winds in place, it may be tough to make much progress in the next few days.

800px Kanchenjunga

The winds are keeping 72-year old Spaniard Carlos Soria in Base Camp as well. The grizzled veteran of numerous climbs in the Himalaya is on Kangchenjunga where he is looking to nab his 12th 8000-meter peak. Updates from Nepal indicate that Carlos is in BC and watching the weather. When the winds shift sometime in the next few days, he’ll launch his summit bid at last.

Oscar Cadiach is also Kangchenjunga this spring and managed to establish Camp 3 on the mountain. But his team also reports nasty winds that are keeping them in Base Camp where they occupy their time playing cards and chess or just about anything else that will keep their mind off of the work that still lies ahead. Forecasts indicate improvements are coming on Friday, Oscar and his companions will look to be on the move again then.

Italian climber Annalisa Fioretti and her team have returned to BC on Kangchenjunga too with the same reports of extremely high winds on the mountain. After establishing Camp 3 at 7000 meters (22,965 ft) earlier in the week, the group now waits for a weather window too. The entire team is attempting the climb without the use of supplemental oxygen, so they are being cautious about when they begin their ascent.

Finally, the news from Lhotse obviously mirrors what is taking place on Everest. The lines are now fixed up to Camp 4 and the Sherpa teams are expected to finish placing the ropes up to the summit by Friday. After that, the road will be clear for the climbers to begin their ascents. A narrow weather window is expected to open this weekend, but I suspect most of the Lhotse climbers will delay until a second – longer – window is set to open sometime next week.

That’s all for now. The winds are dictating when anyone can move at the moment, so like these teams, we mostly sit an wait.

Kraig Becker