Himalaya Spring 2016: Summits on Annapurna, Avalanches on Everest, and More

Climbers acclimatising and adjusting on Mt Everest

On top of the big news of the discovery of the remains of Alex Lowe and David Bridges on Shishapangma that broke this past weekend, there is quite a few other updates to share from the Himalaya today too. And with May now upon us, the season is rapidly slipping by with potential summit bids now just a few weeks away.

Over on Annapurna this weekend it was already summit day for a number of climbers. The first teams topped out on Saturday, with others following suit on Sunday. The weather was reportedly quite good, with low winds and great conditions on the summit. This followed days of less than ideal weather which had kept the climbers stuck in Base Camp, but once the forecast improved, they were on the move quickly, going from BC to Camp 4 over the course of two or three days. That put them in a position to top out over the weekend, with a good weather window holding long enough for everyone to get up and down safely.

All told, 30 climbers managed to reach the summit of Annapurna this past weekend, with 16 of those mountaineers being Nepali Sherpas. Amongst the foreign climbers were Aussie Chris Jensen Burke and Spaniard Carlos Soria, whom we’ve been following on expeditions for several years. For Soria, this was his 12th 8000-meter peak, and at the age of 77 he is now the oldest to ever summit the mountain.

Elsewhere on Everest the teams are back on schedule following the avalanche that took place last week, temporarily closing the Lhotse Face. Late last week there was also an ice collapse in the Khumbu Icefall which shut down operations through that crucial part of the ascent as well, but the Ice Doctors quickly fixed the route and had teams back on track once again. In fact, a number of teams have now spent time in Camp 3 and are back in BC following their rotation at altitude.

If the weather holds – and the forecasts look good at the moment – the Sherpa team that is charged with fixing ropes to the summit hopes to complete their work by the end of the week. If that happens, we should be on track to begin summit bids by May 15, weather permitting of course.

Alan Arnette has updated readers on his progress on Lhotse, and sadly his expedition has come to an end. You may recall that last week Alan shared the news that he was forced to turn back while climbing in the Khumbu Icefall due to a cough that was a sign of an upper respiratory infection. That cough turned into something worse a few days later when he made an acclimatization rotation up to Camp 2. In fact, the infection became dangerous and debilitating to the point that he had to be flown off the mountain from C2 by helicopter. He’s now back in Kathmandu, starting his recovery, and preparing to head home.

Finally, over on Shishpangma, Ueli Steck and David Göttler are now preparing to make their summit push along a new route. The duo announced that their acclimatization process is complete, they’ve scouted the route thoroughly, and they are now ready to get going. They’re simply waiting for the proper weather window to launch their bid, which could come as early as this week.

As you can see, things are really heating up at the moment with lots of activity taking place. We’ll probably see it quiet down briefly as teams return to their Base Camps, rest up, and start watching the weather. The season is moving along at a steady pace, and things are going about as well as can be expected. So far, it has been a nice change of pace over the past couple of years, as it looks like things are getting back to “normal” on Everest.

Kraig Becker