Himalaya Fall 2019: More Stories and Information Emerges

A few days ago I shared the news about the impending fall climbing season in the Himalaya, including stories about an attempt to ski down Mt. Everest and Spanish ultrarunner Kilian Jornet’s return to the mountain. Now, as the climbers are gathering in Kathmandu, we have more information on what to expect in the weeks ahead.

First off, the mere fact that there will be climbers on Everest in the autumn is fairly big news. The mountain hasn’t seen any visitors in the fall for nearly a decade, and although there will be several teams there this year, it will be far from crowded. In fact, at the moment it appears that there will be approximately ten foreign climbers on the South Side in Nepal this season, which is a far cry from the spring, when hundreds pack their way into Base Camp. As expected, the North Side of Everest will be closed for business, as the Chinese government doesn’t intend to issue any permits for the Tibetan side of the mountain.

Kilian Jornet’s decision to go back to Everest has generated a lot of buzz amongst both the mountaineering community and his followers. While his exact plans aren’t known at the moment –– he likes to keep things close to the vest –– it does appear that he will be attempting a speed record from the South Side. The autumn conditions should be right for such an attempt, thanks in large part to the reduced size of the crowds. The weather isn’t quite as stable post-monsoon however, and heavier snow is a possibility. Still, Jornet feels like he has a reasonable chance at accomplishing his goals, and we’re not about to bet against him. He will apparently use Gorak Shep –– the last stop for trekkers before BC –– as his Base Camp for the fall as he acclimatizes and prepares for the push.

Elsewhere, Spaniard Carlos Soria is on his way back to Dhaulagiri for yet another go. This will be his tenth attempt on the mountain, which has become somewhat of a white whale for the 80-year old alpinist. Bad luck, bad weather, and tough climbing have all conspired against him to keep him from reaching the top, but he is as determined a ever to see it through. So much so that he will acclimatize on a lower Nepali peak first in preparation to help converse his strength and energy. Soria has climbed all of the 14 8000-meter peaks except Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma. Naturally, he’s eager to move on.

Nirmal Purja is of course ramping up his efforts for the fall, with just three mountains left as part of his Project Possible initiative. His goal has always been to climb all of the 8000-meter peaks in just seven months and the three remaining mountains –– Manaslu, Cho Oyu, and Shishapangma –– are all relatively straight forward mountains. That is, if you take on the normal routes. Because the Chinese are possibly shutting down Cho Oyu after October 1 and Shishapangma altogether this fall, he may run into some insurmountable road blocks. But, resourceful and creative as ever, it now looks like Nims will attempt Cho Oyu from the very rarely climbed Nepali side. If so, it would be the first ascent of that route in recent memory. According to reports, he’ll acclimate on Cho Oyu, then go to Manaslu. That would leave just Shishapangma left to summit, which may be out of reach due to no permits being issued.

As mentioned in my previous article, Madison Mountaineering will be leading the team to Everest this fall, with ten people on their permit, although only four of those are actual clients. They’ll be joined in Base Camp by an 11-person team from Poland who will be attempting an autumn summit of Lhotse. Manaslu will be the busiest Himalayan peak of the fall however, with several teams gathering there. Alan Arnette estimates that there will be more than 400 climbers on that mountain, with the first teams already trekking towards BC.

That’s it for now. I’m sure there will be a lot more to share in the days ahead.


Kraig Becker