Himalaya Spring 2019: Progress Reports From All Over

The bulk of the news out of the Himalaya this past week concerned the dramatic rescue and continuing-to-unfold story surrounding Wui Kin Chin, the Malaysian climber who went missing –– and was later found –– on Annapurna last week. But now that he has been stabilized in Kathmandu and is being sent home to Singapore for treatment, there are other update to share as well. The season is progressing at a quick pace, and things are starting to line-up for eventual summit bids, but as usual there are a few things that could complicate the process, most notably poor weather conditions.

Most of the teams on the South Side of Everest are currently stalled out while they wait for the weather to improve. Down in Base Camp, conditions are good, but up at Camp 1 and 2 the winds are howling a bit at the moment. That means everyone is staying put until things subside. That could slow down the rope fixing teams who have made their way up to C3 and above, but have not yet installed the lines to Camp 4, let alone the summit. Typically they would be closing in on finishing that work about now, and there is certainly no need to panic about schedules just yet, but things seem to be lagging just a bit behind the regular pace at the moment.

Speaking of schedules, yesterday the leaders of all of the teams in Everest BC got together to start talking about their strategy. It seems unlikely that they’ll get another 11-day weather window as they did last year, so figuring out a time for when everyone moves up to the high camps, and eventually the summit, is crucial to success. While they’ll all have to wait to see what Mother Nature offers them in terms of options, the teams now have a tentative plan in place for when the summit push begins.

Over on the North Side, the ropes have now been fixed all the way up to the North Col and the teams there are starting to head further up the mountain as well. The rope fixing duties were running a bit behind on that side of the mountain too, but the Tibetan squad charged with installing the lines have been working hard to play catch-up. As a result, the first teams have now started their acclimatization rotations at the higher camps as they start to get ready for eventual summit pushes too.

Cory Richards and Esteban “Topo” Mena arrived on the North Side last week and have begun scouting their intended route as well. The duo hope to open a new route along the Northeast Face and have started inspecting their potential approaches. In doing so, they’ve spent some time in the Interim Camp and up at ABC as they prepare for the challenges ahead. If successful, this will be the first new route on Everest in more than a decade.

Away from Everest things are starting to pick up as well. Nirmal Purja –– fresh from his summit of Annapurna last week –– has now moved over to Dhaulagiri where he will attempt to climb without the use of supplemental oxygen. He is leading a team of all-Nepali climbers on that mountain, which has just one other team this spring. They’ll share the mountain with Peter Hámor, Horia Colibasanu, Marius Gane, who have already established BC and are currently scouting the unclimbed Northwest Ridge, which is the target of their expedition this year.

Meanwhile, the team on Kangchenjunga is making steady progress towards the summit. The rope fixing squad there has now installed the lines all the way up to Camp 4. There are six teams with 34 climbers on that mountain this spring, all of which are eager to get going. Most are still acclimatizing however, so summits are likely to be another week or two away, weather-dependent of course.

Finally, Felix Berg and Adam Bielecki are wrapping up there acclimatization  efforts by attempting a summit of Langtang Lirung, a difficult and demanding 7227-meter (23,710 ft) mountain that would be the primary target for most climbers. Instead, these two men will use it as a tune-up before heading to Annapurna, where they hope to open a new route in a few weeks time. They should find that mountain all-but deserted by the time they arrive, as most of the squads have already wrapped operations there and are moving on.

That’s the update from the Himalaya for today. Lots of moving parts across the region, but not big summit news to report just yet. We’re nearing the calm before the storm however, as things should start to get very interesting in another ten days or so.


Kraig Becker