While I was off exploring California’s wine country last week, things began to heat up in the Himalaya. Dozens of climbers have begun arriving in Kathmandu ahead of the start of the climbing season, with many now en route to various Base Camps, including on Everest and Lhotse. For most, the actual start of climbing is still a number of days off, but they are slowly but surely working towards getting themselves in place for the start of their respective expeditions. But on Annapurna, the teams have now been in place for several weeks, and some are already thinking about making early season summit bids, although as usual the weather is dictating when that might happen.
According to reports, as much a two meters (6 feet) of snow has dropped on the mountain over the past few days, which has resulted in teams staying in place in Base Camp. Right now, they’re playing the waiting game as they watch the weather over the next few days to determine when they’ll have a chance to move back up the mountain.
Australian climber Chris Jensen Burke says that none of the teams have been above Camp 3 yet, which means there is still some acclimatization to be done. And once the weather settles, the climbers will need to scout the route between C3 and C4 to assess the size of the crevasses there. That isn’t likely to happen too soon though, as high winds are expected to buffet the mountain for the next few days too. After that, the teams will no doubt be on the move again.
Annapurna is notorious for its avalanche danger, and this fresh snow will likely create some concerns as well. The higher winds may help blow some of that fresh powder off the slopes, but the climbers will need to wait for things to settle before they start thinking about summit bids. While it is too early to predict when those attempts might start, it seems likely that it could be late this week, or early next before the teams are on the move again.
Fortunately, it is still very early in the season. Last year, 13 climbers managed to summit Annapurna in mid-April, well ahead of the traditional schedule. The theory was that if you climb early in the season, the temperatures will be colder which will keep avalanches at bay. It certainly proved to be a successful approach last year, and it could be the same this year too. Only time will tell.
With the Himalaya climbing season ramping up quickly, we’ll be keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Nepal and Tibet. It should be a very interesting season to watch unfold, particularly considering the challenges of the past two years. Stay tuned for more to come.