Himalaya Fall 2015: Summits on Ama Dablam, Waiting on Lhotse, and Conrad Anker on Lunag-Ri

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The past few days have been busy ones in the Himalaya, with a number of teams on the move as they work towards their goals, even as the season starts to wind down. There aren’t too many climbing days left in the big mountains this fall, so climbers are trying to take advantage of them while they can. As a result, there has been some late season success, with possibly more to come.

Late last week, two members of Lonnie Dupre’s Vertical Nepal team topped out on Ama Dablam. The group had spent a couple of weeks volunteering in the region before climbing Kyajo Ri at the end of October, which all helped to acclimatize them for the attempt on this mountain. But with a couple of members of the team feeling under the weather, and wind speeds picking up dramatically, only climber Elias de Andrés and a Sherpa named Phurba went to the summit. They managed to complete their ascent at 7:45 AM local time last Friday, before descending back to Base Camp. The squad has now left the mountain and are already volunteering in Lukla.

Elsewhere, we’re now awaiting word from Lhotse on the progress of the South Korean team there. Last week the group had fixed the ropes up the mountain to Camp 3, and were preparing to make a summit push based on weather reports that indicated a window would be opening this week. They had expected to go up the mountain this past weekend, reaching Camp 4 on Saturday. The plan is to then work at installing ropes above that point with the expectation of summiting on Thursday (Nov. 12) of this week.

Unfortunately, there has been no update yet to indicate if things are going according to plan. The team has not updated its Facebook page, although that could simply be because they are in the midst of the planned summit push, and don’t have the means of sharing their progress. Either way, since the deadline for their final attempt is nearing, we should know more later in the week.

Meanwhile, Bill Burke has shared an update from Burke-Khang, the unclimbed peak that was named in his honor. The team hoping to make the first ascent of the 6941 meter (22,775 ft) peak have now moved up to Camp 1 and are beginning their acclimazation rotations. At the moment, all seems to be going according to plan, and even the weather is cooperating. They’ll need a few more days of preparation to allow their bodies to get use to the thinner air, but they should be preparing for a summit bid short as well.

Bill reports that the climb from ABC to C1 was a tough one, as they gained more than 2500 feet (762 meters), on a wall that was often at an angle of about 70º, and was covered in snow, rock, and ice. In other words, Burke-Khang may not be the tallest mountain in the region, but it isn’t easy either. And considering they don’t know what awaits for them as the move up, there are likely more unexpected challenges ahead.

Over on Annapurna IV, a team of Polish climbers is acclimatizing for a summit push on that mountain. They report good weather conditions after a fall that has been filled with lots of snow and high winds. The squad also reports that time is running out for a summit push, but they are now ready to go when an extended weather window opens. If that happens, they’ll set out for what they hope is a fast ascent.

Finally, Conrad Anker has returned to Nepal to attempt an unclimbed route up the Northwest Face of Lunag-Ri with David Lama. The peak is 6895 meters (22,261 ft) in height, and offers some interesting challenges for the two very experienced climbers. They set out for Nepal this past weekend, and should be in Kathmandu now, and preparing for the start of their climb. It is a late season expedition to say the least, but as Conard tells Nat Geo Adventure in this interview, he once climbed Ama Dablam on Christmas Day, and the conditions were perfect. In other words, he’s not too concerned about what the date the calendar says.

That’s all for today. More updates to come soon as these final expeditions continue to unfold.

Kraig Becker