Himalaya Fall 2019: Season Nears End as Teams Leave Everest and Dhaulagiri

While I was away in Jordan last week the last throes of the autumn climbing season were playing out in the Himalaya. And while a lot went down during that timeframe, ultimately the news isn’t what happened, but what didn’t happen. As it turns out, there weren’t a lot of summits to report as teams abandoned Everest for good and climbers were turned back on Dhaulagiri due to poor weather conditions.

We’ll start with a quick update on Everest, where all of the efforts this season were stymied by the potential for serious disaster. As previously reported, a precariously balanced serac above the route through the Khumbu Icefall was cause for concern throughout the fall. The massive chunk of ice loomed over the teams that had gathered on the world’s highest mountain, threatening to tumble down its slopes at any time. This caused some climbers to abandon their attempts early on, sending a Mountain Hardwear sponsored team home early, as well as an 11-person Polish squad that was in Base Camp to attempt a fall summit of Lhotse. But still, a few climbers stayed behind, hoping the serac would release from its perch and allow them to safely proceed up the mountain.

Last week, the final two teams gave up and went home, in part due to the serac but also because of ongoing difficult weather. The Madison Mountaineering squad was down to just Garrett Madison himself and one client at that point, but the two men had waited patiently with the hopes that they could get a crack at the summit. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and with the serac still locked in place they decided to pull the plug on the expedition. Spanish mountain athlete Kilian Jornet had a bit more luck, spending some time in Camp 1 as he prepared for a possible summit push. Ultimately however, he also called it quits citing poor conditions on the mountain. It is believed that he was on Everest to attempt a speed record, but it remains unclear what his true objectives were.

Meanwhile, over on Dhaulagiri, a few early summits were quickly followed by a return of very poor weather conditions, forcing the bulk of the climbers to wait for a new window to open. Eventually it did open, but it was a narrow one that slammed shut again before any of the teams could reach the top. That includes 80-year old Spaniard Carlos Soria, who missed out on the summit for the tenth time. He and his teammates went as high as Camp 3 on the mountain before being forced back late last week. Now, they have all packed up and are turning for home as well.

There are a still a few small teams focused on some climbing project in the Himalaya, although it now looks like operations have ceased on all of the 8000-meter peaks. Of course, all of the mountaineer world’s attention will soon turn to Shishapangma however, as Nirmal Purja prepares to take on the last of the 14 8000-meter peaks on his list. As of today, he’s still waiting for his permit to climb that mountain, but all indications are that it is coming soon.

Stay tuned for more updates, particularly on Purja’s progress as he nears the end of his challenge to climb the 14 highest peaks in the world in less than seven months.

Kraig Becker