Himalaya Fall 2013: Big Changes On Manaslu, Avalanche On Cho Oyu

The climbers in the Himalaya this fall have really started to pick up momentum and this week has certainly been a busy one. Most have started their first acclimatization rounds and things seem to be proceeding according to plan. But this being the Himalaya, things are not always as they seem and there have certainly been some difficult struggles even in the early going.

We’ll start on Manaslu where Alan Arnette has weighed in following his first acclimatization rotation up to Camp 2. Alan says that the mountain is very different this year and that the lack of snowfall is having a dramatic effect on the route. He reports that there are numerous crevasses to negotiate and that the movement of the shifting glacier has forced the Sherpas to find new ways to navigate up the mountain. Apparently even the Sherpas who have been climbing on Manaslu for many years are surprised at how it looks this season. The ascent from Base Camp to C1 and 2 has always been on the technical side, but this year it is even more challenging. As always, Alan’s dispatches from his expeditions are insightful, well written and share a wealth of information. You can read his latest in its entirety by clicking here.

Not far from where Alan is camped in Manaslu BC, the Himex team has also set up shop for the season. Their Sherpa teams have just returned from carrying gear up to Camps 1 and 2 and will now take a day or two off before they proceed higher. The climbing team will sit for another day as well and then head up for their first acclimatization rotation this weekend. Most will spend the night at C2 as they begin to get their bodies accustomed to the altitude. The team reports that the weather is starting to take a turn however with more freezing rain in the forecast. They’ll keep an eye on the sky of course, but for now it just seems to be conditions uncomfortable rather than putting anyone in real danger.
Over on Cho Oyu the climbers are going through their early rotations as well with a number of teams just returning to BC after their first trip up the mountain. The IMG squad is reportedly gearing up for their climb to Camp 2, which may take place as early as this weekend. There was a scary moment on the mountain a couple of days ago when an avalanche hit four Sherpas that were busy fixing ropes up to C2. One of those climbers was seriously injured and had to be evacuated but thankfully no one was killed during the incident. A day later the rope fixing to C2 was complete and the teams now seem confident enough in the conditions to proceed up.

The Italian team of Edmond Joyeusaz and Federico Colli are making some slow progress on Lhotse. The duo are back in Base Camp today and were planning on descending down the Khumbu Valley for a little rest in Gorak Shep. They have just made their first foray up to Camp 1, which involved a tricky climb through the Khumub Icefall, which is made all the more difficult this time of year since the famed Ice Doctors aren’t there to maintain the route. Apparently the two support Sherpas who are accompanying them on this trip are not very experienced at passing through the Icefall without the aid of ladders and ropes. The two Sherpas, both of whom have Everest summits on their resumes, expressed concerns about the dangers of that section of the mountain. As a result, the Italians have requested two other porters with more experience to come join them. While they are climbing in mostly independently, they are using Sherpa support to shuttle gear up to Camp 1 and 2. It’ll take a few days before their new support team will arrive in BC, so for now they’ll rest and prepare for the challenges ahead. The plan is to summit and ski the mountain, which makes this one of the most ambitious expeditions taking place this fall.

The team of Rich Emerson, Dave Etherington and Steve Wilson are also hoping to make a ski descent of Shishapangma this fall. They’ve already completed their final acclimatization rotation and launched their summit bid yesterday with Rich and Dave expected to reach Camp 1 today and then proceed to C2 tomorrow. If all goes as expected, they could be on top early next week and skiing back down shortly there after. It has begun to snow on the mountain, which may be good for the descent, but we’ll have to wait to see if the weather impacts their final push to the summit.

Meanwhile, 74-year old Carlos Soria has arrived in Base Camp on Shishapangma and will spend the next few days resting before he starts his acclimatization. Carlos is an amazing man as he continues to take on big Himalayan peaks well into his 70’s and never seems to take much of a break. He is a staple in the mountains and seems to be constantly on an expedition of some kind or another. I hope that when I reach his age I’m still as active and strong.

Finally, Ueli Steck and Don Bowie are already in and out of Kathmandu. The duo flew to Pokhara yesterday and began the trek to Annapurna Base Camp today. They should arrive on the mountain early next week and start their climb then.

More updates soon.

Kraig Becker