Himalaya Spring 2019: The Action Away From Everest

While most of the attention on Himalayan climbing focuses on Mt. Everest each spring, there are plenty of other expeditions heading to other peaks throughout the region as well. 2019 is no different in this regard and even now teams are getting settled into their respective Base Camps across Nepal and Tibet. In the days ahead we’ll be keeping a close eye on their efforts too, as some of the most interesting climbs are actually taking place far from the glaring spotlight of Everest. Here are a few that are certainly worth a mention.

The strategy on Annapurna the past few years has been to get to the mountain early and attempt to summit before the spring weather starts to warm up too much. This helps to keep the avalanche-prone slopes a bit safer and has resulted in more summits on a mountain that has been notoriously dangerous in the past. Seven Summits Treks is leading one of the largest teams on Annapurna this spring, with Nirmal Purja amongst the climbers, as is Canadian Don Bowie. As you may recall, Purja the former Gurkha soldier who is attempting to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks in a single year, with Annapurna kicking off that ambitious goal. Right now, the teams are in a holding pattern in BC, waiting for the weather to clear. That is expected to happen around the middle of next week, which is when we could see the first summit attempts on any 8000-meter peak of the year.

Away from the standard Base Camp on Annapurna, climbers Felix Berg and Adam Bielecki are busy attempting a new route up the infamous mountain. The two men will make their second attempt on a line that runs up the steep and difficult Northwest Face, which was the focus of their efforts back in 2017. They’re currently warming up on the 7227-meter (23,710 ft) Langtang Lirung, which is no small feat to climb in its own right.

One of the more popular spring climbing peaks is Lhotse, in no small part due to its location right next door to Everest. In fact, the two mountains share much of the same route, diverging from one another above Camp 3. This year there will be a number of teams attempting that mountain as well, including a squad led by the Adventure Consultants. Korean climber Sung Taek Hong has returned to Lhotse this spring for his sixth attempt on the South Face of the mountain as well, as he looks to open a new route there. So far this spring, Nepal has issued 66 permits to attempt what is the fourth highest mountain in the world.

Remote and challenging, Dhaulagiri will see some attention this spring as well. That’s where Horia Colibasanu and Peter Hamor, who are joined by Marius Gane have set up their camp this spring. The three men will have a go at making the first ascent of Dhaulagiri’s Northwest Ridge. The team has reportedly wrapped up its pre-acclimatization climbs and is now en route to Base Camp on their primary objective.

Kangchenjunga is expected to have at least 33 climbers on its slopes this spring, as ambitious climbers turn their attention to this challenging peak –– the third highest in the world. There hasn’t been much in the way of updates from the mountain just yet, which means that teams are probably still on their way or just now getting settled into BC. I’m sure we’ll hear more about their efforts in the days ahead.

Traditionally, the Altitude Junkies have led expeditions to Everest in the spring, but this year they’ve chosen to go to Makalu instead. The team has just finished gathering in Kathmandu and should be ready to start their trek to Base Camp today. If everything goes as expected, they’re looking for mid-May summit attempt with the hopes of wrapping up the journey by May 25.

Finally, Shishapangma should see some activity in the weeks ahead as well. It is a popular climbing peak, particularly for those who have ambitions to take on higher mountains down the line. The only 8000-meter mountain that sits completely inside Tibet, Shishapangma is a great place for climbers to get some experience in the expedition environment before moving on to more difficult endeavors. Expect to get some regular updates from the teams there as well, although typically things run like clockwork on that mountain.

Those are a few of the major expeditions and mountains we’ll be watching in the days ahead. Stay tuned for further updates.