Himalaya Spring 2019: Rebuilding and Recovering After Cyclone Fani

This past weekend Cyclone Fani brought extremely high winds to the Himalaya, leaving a swath of destruction in its wake. So much so, that even veteran climbers who have spent a lot of time in Nepal and Tibet are describing it as one of the worst storms they’ve encountered. The winds were so strong that they shredded campsites across the region and made for some long nights in the mountain. Thankfully, those gale forces have subsided for the most part, although with the jet stream now settled in over the summit of Everest, the teams there are now locked firmly into place waiting for a weather window to appear.

Yesterday the Adventure Consultants made an acclimatization rotation up to Camp 2 on the South Side of Everest in the aftermath of Fani. They indicated that there was hardly anyone on the mountain as most teams elected to stay in Base Camp to wait out the winds. After stopping for a rest in Camp 1, they pressed on to C2 late in the afternoon where the team found many tents that had been destroyed by the storm. That means that the campsite will have to be rebuilt in the days ahead and any gear that may have been lost will need to be restocked.

At the moment, it seems that conditions are favorable below 7000 meters (22,965 ft), but going much higher than that finds the winds continuing to blow hard. Worse yet, the forecast indicates that could continue for a few more days, delaying the next round of acclimatization rotations. If those delays extend into the weekend or next week, there could be some serious repercussions for the summit schedule. Should the weather window be a narrow one this year, along with a record number of climbers on the mountain, and things could get a bit dicey. For now though, we’ll just have to wait to see how things play out and there is still plenty of time for things to improve.

Everest wasn’t the only mountain hit by the aftermath of Fani. Over on Annapurna, Felix Berg and Adam Bielecki retreated to BC just before the storm hit and thus missed the brunt of it. Before heading down to Base Camp however, they managed to establish Camp 1 and scout a route through some of the more technical sections of their climb. As a reminder, the two men are attempting a new route along the Northwest Face, and after acclimatizing on Langtang Lirung they now seem ready to go.

Korean climber Sung Taek Hong is attempting the South Face of Lhotse once again this year, but is currently back in BC. Much like on Everest, the route is blocked by high winds for now. Hong has also indicated that there has been a lot of avalanche activity once again this season, which has been problematic in the past too. Whether or not those avalanches will make the mountain too dangerous to climb remains to be seen, but for now he and his squad must wait out the weather along with everyone else.

On Dhaulagiri, Nirmal Purja and his team waited out the storm and are now getting ready to head up. After summiting Annapurna a couple of weeks back he’s more than acclimated for this climb but has had to wait for ropes to be installed and camps to be stocked. The winds are still howling up high, but “Nims” is ready to go once things subside. He’s hoping to nab five more 8000-meter peaks this spring alone, with Everest, Lhotse, Manaslu, and Kangchenjunga still to go after Dhaulagiri.

Also on that mountain are Peter HamorHoria Colibasanu and Marius Gane who are attempting a new route up the Northwest ridge. They attempt to climb part of that route yesterday but before they reached the top of a chimney they were turned back by the high winds. It sounds like Fani was as strong as expected there, but didn’t bring nearly the same level of destruction as it did to Everest. The small team has most recovered and are ready to move up once the weather permits.

The next few days could be pretty quiet in terms of news to report and progress on any of these mountains. If the winds continue to howl into the weekend as expected, most of the climbers will be staying put or only venturing a short distance up the mountain. Right now, there are probably more than a few expedition organizers who are getting a little nervous about the schedule. If the delays push into next week their nerves could be frayed even further. Still, there is roughly three weeks to go in the season, so the time to panic hasn’t come just yet.

More updates to come as the news warrants it.

Kraig Becker