Himalaya Fall 2019: Nims Bags Cho Oyu, Mountain Hardwear Team Leaves Everest

It has been an interesting few days in the Himalaya, where the autumn climbing season continues to unfold. When we checked in at the end of last week, the teams were stalled out across the region due to poor weather. But, conditions improved some over the past few days, allowing them to continue their acclimatization rotations. But the biggest news is that Nims Purja has taken another step forward in his quest to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks, while the Mountain Hardwear team on Everest has elected to go home.

On Friday, Nims posted an update to Facebook indicating that he had reached Camp 2 on Cho Oyu, but turned back due to poor visibility and heavy snow higher up the mountain. At the time, he said he was feeling fit and strong and ready to go to the summit, but he knew he couldn’t take any mountain for granted and would need to be patient. That patience has payed off, as today he and seven other climbers completed the rope fixing to the summit and reached the highest point of the mountain. Purja was joined on the ascent by Gesman Tamang, Lhakpa Ongchhu Sherpa, Chewang Lendu Sherpa, Pasang Sherpa, Palden Namgya, Nima Tenzing Sherpa, and Pemba Sherpa. Both Purja and Tamang were climbing together as part of Project Possible, while the other Sherpas were from a variety of teams on the mountain who were cooperating with fixing ropes.

This is the 12th 8000-meter peak for Nims, who now has just two left to complete his attempt to summit all 14 of those mountains in a seven month period. Only Manaslu and Shishapangma remain for him to achieve this goal. He’ll next head to Manaslu, where it seems likely that he could summit before the end of the week if the weather permits. He is no well acclimated and prepared, so it should just be a matter of traveling back to Manaslu Base Camp and waiting for a proper weather window.

Shishapangma may not be so easy however. The Chinese government has decided to not issue any permits to that mountain, which sits entirely inside Tibet, this fall. Reportedly there is some high-level negotiations going on between Nepal and China in an attempt to get Nims special permission to attempt the mountain, but right now there is no indication that he’ll receive a permit. If not, he will most likely have to wait until spring and hope that the Chinese open the mountain then to give him access.

While Purja is no doubt enjoying the fact that he is one step closer to achieving his goal, over on Everest things have taken a surprising turn. Over the weekend it was announced by the Madison Mountaineering team that the two members of the squad representing Mountain Hardwear have left the mountain. Company president Joe Vernachio and sponsored athlete Tim Emmett have come to the conclusion that the mountain is not safe this fall due to a serac that is hanging dangerously over the route. Long time Everest observers no doubt remember the accident that occurred back in 2014 during which a serac collared killing 16 high altitude workers. The feeling is that this could happen again, which is too much of a risk for Vernachio and Emmett to take. The duo will depart EBC ia helicopter today.

The Madison Mountaineering squad will stay to lead a few other climbers up the mountain, provided the danger doesn’t grow. There is also a Polish team on Lhotse this fall, which will have to pass through the shadow of that serac at they come and go up the mountain as well. That team is currently acclimatizing in Camp 1 and appears to be continuing its expedition. There is no word yet on whether or not this will impact the plans of Kilian Jornet or Andrzej Bargiel.

With the ropes now fixed on Cho Oyu and the weather said to be improving, expect the teams to be on the move there soon with more summits to come possibly as early as later this week. On Manaslu, the weather has improved but heavy snow is making it dangerous high up the slopes, so teams are holding out for the avalanches to clear the route before installing the lines and eyeing summit dates. It shouldn’t take long before they’re back on the move as well.

That’s all for now. As you can see, things are changing rapidly, so there will no doubt be more to share soon.