Himalaya Fall 2019: Teams Trekking to Base Camps as Expeditions Begin

The 2019 fall climbing season in the Himalaya is now officially underway. Over the past week or so, we’ve posted some updates on several major expeditions, sharing plans for notable climbers like Kilian Jornet and Andrzej Bargiel. But the rank and file climbers are now on the move as well, with most having more modest plans for the weeks ahead. As a result, things are starting to get busy in various Base Camps across the region as we prepare for what promises to be one of the more interesting autumn seasons in quite some time.

One of the big reasons this year will be so much fun to watch is that there are actually climbers heading too Everest. That doesn’t happen often in the fall, but Madison Mountaineering is leading a team that hopes to top out on that peak this autumn. Right now, the squad is trekking up the Khumbu Valley and are in Namche Bazaar, where they report that things are on the quiet side. The trekking season doesn’t start for another few weeks, so at the moment they have the place mostly to themselves. It will likely be another week before they reach BC, but for now they’ll enjoy the walk.

Ahead of them on the trail is Bargiel and his team, who are planning to climb and ski Everest without the use of bottled oxygen. They have reportedly reached Gorak Shep, which is the end of the road before going to Base Camp. It is a lonely, desolate spot so I wouldn’t expect them to stay there for long. They’ll probably head to BC as early as tomorrow to get started on setting up camp.

Elsewhere, the big news is the number of climbers arriving on Manaslu. According to the Nepali Ministry of Tourism, more than 400 climbers are either in Base Camp on that mountain already or are headed that way. One of the climbers who will be heading there is none other than Nims Purja, who has just three peaks left on his Project Possible endeavor, which is an attempt to climb all 14 8000-meter mountains in a seven month period. The current speed record for that feat is 7 years, 10 months, so he’s well ahead of schedule.

Manaslu should be a relatively easy ascent for Nims, but the other two mountains –– Cho Oyu and Shishapangma -– could prove more difficult, mostly due to bureaucracy. The Chinese government is reportedly imposing an October 1 deadline on all attempts on Cho Oyu, while rumor has it there will be no permits issued for Shishapangma at all. I’ve heard that Nims isn’t giving up on trying to obtain that permit, but he may try climbing Cho Oyu from the Nepali side of the mountain, which is virtually unheard of. As usual with Purja, he is keeping his plans a secret for now.

Speaking of Cho Oyu, a team of climbers led by IMG is already on the mountain as they race to beat that October 1 deadline. They’ve already gone up to Intermediate Camp as they work on their acclimatization and preparation. They hope to head up to ABC over the next few days, where the entire team will be united for the first time. From there, the real work will begin.

On Manaslu, the teams are already moving fast. Seven Summit Treks has taken charge of installing the lines and paving the way up the mountain, and to that end the ropes are already in place all the way up to Camp 3. Poor weather has been the norm so far for the teams on Manaslu, but the first rotations are now heading up to C1 for the first time.

Carlos Soria is on his way to Dhaulagiri for his tenth attempt on that mountain. He is trekking in the Khumbu now and hopes to be in BC sometime over the next few days. This year, the 80-year old Soria has decided to acclimatize on a 7000-meter peak before giving Dhaulagiri a go. He has just two mountains left on his attempt to climb all 14 8000-meter peals, with Shishapangma being the other holdout.

On Lhotse, Everest’s neighbor, a strong team of 11 Polish climbers are attempting a fall ascent as well. That group is already trekking up the Khumbu Valley as well and should arrive in Base Camp sometime in the next few days. Rumor has it Jornet will be leading a small team up Lhotse as well, no doubt as a warm-up to his attempt on Everest.

That’s the quick and dirty round-up of everything that is happening at the moment. As already stated, it promises to be quite a busy season in the Himalaya, so it should be fun to watch things unfold in the days ahead.

Kraig Becker