Himalaya Fall 2014: Season Ends on Makalu

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Just a brief update from the Himalaya today, where we have received word that the British Tri-Services team has canceled their summit bid, and are now preparing to depart the mountain. It seems conditions on the upper slopes above Camp 4 were too dicey, and the team is exhausted from their efforts. They have retreated back to Base Camp, and are now preparing to head home.

The squad was expected to launch a summit push today, with the hope of topping out sometime over the next three days. The weather on the mountain is said to be very good following last week’s storm, and according to yesterday’s dispatch, the team was feeling fine and optimistic. Unfortunately, it seems that as they went higher, the discovered that the route to the top along the Southeast Ridge was not as stable as they would like. This is a long, and exposed, path, which would have been extremely difficult, even when conditions are good.

According to their most recent dispatch, the team has now been working the mountain for seven straight days, and are physically wore down. Typically, they could retreat to BC and rest for a few days before giving it a go, but the men are on a bit of a tight schedule, and there is no longer any time left for another summit push. With bad weather expected to arrive once again this weekend, the group made the decision to pull the plug, and go home.

Staying on Makalu, but jumping over to the Northwest side of the mountain, we have finally gotten confirmation from the Madison Mountaineering team that they to abandoned their summit bid. They launched their attempt to reach the top last weekend, and while there were rumors that they had turned back amidst poor conditions, those are now confirmed with the team’s latest dispatch as well.

Apparently, they made it as far as  Camp 2 at 6858 meters (22,500 ft) before deciding to turn back. At that point, they discovered deep snow deposited by the recent blizzard, that was just too unstable, and nearly impassable as well. They immediately descended back to BC, and are now preparing to depart for home.

It has been a tough fall in the Himalaya. There was some early success on Cho Oyu and Makalu amongst commercial teams, but both Shishapangma and Makalu have proven too tough to crack. The Korean team is still working on Lhotse, but they have been on that mountain for nearly two months, and have struggled to make meaningful progress. Their last report indicated they were hoping to install Camp 4, and prepare for a summit push, but it is unclear if they have accomplished that task. Still, they are a persistent bunch, and until they say the expedition is over, we’ll keep monitoring their progress and hope for the best.

It now appears that the fall season is just about over. Soon, everyone’s attention will turn towards preparing for the spring, and a return to Everest.

Kraig Becker