Showing posts with label Nepal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nepal. Show all posts

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Outdoor Adventure: Video: Climbing Kangchenjunga

At 8586 meters (28,169 ft) in height, Kangchenjunga is the third highest peak in the world, and yet it few people know about the challenges of climbing the mountain. While the mainstream audience and press focuses on Everest, and others keep an eye on K2 – "the mountaineer's mountain" – climbers on Kangchenjunga tend to toil in obscurity. The mountain offers a formidable challenge in its own right and has a bit of mystique about it in that no climbers have actually gone up to the true summit. That place is considered sacred, and out of respect to the mountain, the first ascenders, Joe Brown and George Band, stopped short of the top – a tradition that has continued to this day.

Filmmaker Philippe Gatta accompanied a team of French and Swiss climbers to the mountain this past spring, and has now released a fantastic video on the experience. You'll find it below, but get settled in, as it is nearly 15 minutes in length. Well worth watching however.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Outdoor Adventure: Himalaya Fall 2011: Summit Bids Begin Today!

Earlier in the week I posted an update on the 2011 fall Himalaya season in which I noted that many teams were now in their respective base camps, resting, and keeping an eye on the weather. Most had completed their acclimatization rotations, and were now enjoying some down time before they started their first summit attempts. Fast forward a few days, and plans are now in place to make those bids, with climbers starting to head back up their mountains as early as today.

It looks like Monday or Tuesday will be summit day on Manaslu. Both the Altitude Junkies and Himex teams are reporting that a weather window is expected to be open on that mountain for early next week, and they're now moving into position to take advantage of it. Heavy snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, but after that, things look good, so both teams are climbing to Camp 1 today, and will proceed higher over the weekend, putting themselves in position to summit on the 26th or 27th. Presently, ropes are fixed all the way to Camp 4, but Sherpas will be working in front of the teams next week to place the lines all the way up to the summit.

The IMG team reported in that Camp 3 was established on Shisha Pangma a few days back as well, opening the door for the climbers to begin their summit attempt on that mountain too. Weather reports are looking good, with little to no snow in the forecasts, so it appears that they'll start their ascents in the next few days. A second IMG team on Cho Oyu, along with a squad from Jagged Globe, are preparing for a summit attempt on the 27th as well after finishing their acclimatization rotation at Camp 2.

With the weather holding steady into next week, it looks like everyone is hoping to top out before an expected shift in the jet stream sometime around the beginning of October. Most of the climbers have been on their mountains for more than a month now, and are eager to stand on top. Hopefully the good weather, and their health, will hold out for a few more days. It looks like early next week will be very busy in the Himalaya.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Outdoor Adventure: Video: Through The Khumbu Icefall

If you ask any climber on the South Side of Everest what the scariest part of the mountain is, most will invariably say that it is the Khumbu Icefall. Ironically enough, this portion of the climb is actually located at relatively low altitude, sitting just above Base Camp. The Icefall is created by the Khumbu Glacier, which begins breaking apart on this section of the mountain. The result, is rather large crevasses that must be negotiated by the climbers in their way up to Camp 1. In order to cross those open areas, a team of Sherpas, known as the Khumbu Ice Doctors, build and continually maintain, a route through the falls using a series of ladders to cross.

So, just how scary is this section of the climb? Check out the video below to get an idea. I've seen these videos, and even the Icefall, for myself, and it never gets any easier to look at.

Thanks to The Goat for the heads-up on this one!

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The Outdoor Adventure: Everest Flight Crashes In Nepal, Kills 19

A small plane that was taking an arial tour of Mt. Everest earlier today, crashed amidst bad weather, killing all 19 people aboard. The flight, which is operated by Buddha Air, went down about 10 miles outside of Kathmandu while returning to the Tribhuvan International Airport there.

The $140 tour takes travelers to Mt. Everest by air and circles the mountain, offering spectacular views of the summit that most wouldn't have a chance to see in any other way. The Beechcraft 1900D aircraft took off from Kathmandu this morning and completed the Everest flight, but was returning in rain and dense fog. Witnesses say it was flying very low and smashed into the side of a hill with a big explosion. Others indicated that they saw flames coming from the plane as it went down, indicating that it may have had mechanical problems that resulted in the crash.

In addition to the Nepali pilot, co-pilot, and flight attendant, there were two other Nepali passengers aboard, along with 10 Indian, two Americans, and one Japanese. One of those passengers reportedly survived the crash only to die at, or en route, to a hospital.

Investigators have only just begun piecing together the cause of the crash, but it could deal a blow to Nepal's plans to lure travelers to the country to help the poor economy there.

My condolences to the friends and family of those who died in the crash.
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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Outdoor Adventure: Himalaya Fall 2011: Weather Window Slams Shut

At the end of last week, the climbing teams in the Himalaya seemed poised to take advantage of a favorable weather pattern to make summit bids early this week. In fact, a number of them had planned on standing on top of their respective mountains today, but that weather pattern shifted, preventing any serious summit attempts. Now, most of the climbers are simply hoping that they'll get another chance before the season ends.

Weather forecasts last week seemed to indicate that a front would move through the region, depositing some snow, but would quickly move on, bringing clear skies and low winds for the first part of the week. That front stalled out over the mountains however, and as a result, most of the teams saw two to three days of snow fall. That heavy snow was the reason that most aborted their summit bids over the weekend, and now find themselves back in Base Camp, watching the skies. 

Not all of the teams missed their window however. ExWeb is reporting that a Korean team topped out on Cho Oyu last Friday after the lines were finally fixed to the summit on that mountain. Their forecasts indicated that the jet stream would change, moving directly over the summit, and if they were going to have a successful climb, they would have to make a dash up the mountain. They did so, and now Jae Soo-Kim can claim to have "legally" climbed all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks. He had previously climbed Cho Oyu without a permit, which is illegal. 

The IMG squad on Cho Oyu wasn't so lucky however. They climbed up to Camp 1 before the snow started flying, and have since retreated back to ABC. The same holds true for their counterparts on Shisha Pangma. For now, both teams wait to see if they'll have the opportunity to go back up, but their forecasts indicate that as soon as the snows leave, the jet stream flow in, bringing colder temperatures and high winds with it. As a result of the continued bad weather, both the Adventure Lovers and Jagged Globe teams abandoned their summit attempts over the weekend as well. 

A similar story is being told on Manaslu, where the Altitude Junkies and Himex teams saw their summit bids stalled out by heavy snows in Camp 1 and 2. Both report that the snow continued all through the weekend and into yesterday, which means that the higher slopes on the mountain are covered with lots of fresh powder. That makes breaking trail a much more challenging task, and at the moment, the fixed lines are all buried. Over the next few days, the Sherpas will be moving back up the mountain to inspect the conditions of the high camps and free the ropes. While the teams wait, some members of the AJ squad will head down to Sama Goan, to rest at one of the teahouses there. Whether or not they'll get the chance to make another summit bid remains to be seen. 

Hopefully this big snow storm isn't the end of the fall season in the Himalaya. The next few days will probably decide the fate of most of the teams, as the skies clear, it'll all depend on where the jet stream falls. If they have a few days of good weather, there is still a chance for some summits. But if the jet stream settles over the region, it usually is in place until the spring, bringing an end to climbing for all but the most experienced and hardy mountaineers. Stay tuned for more updates. 
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Monday, October 3, 2011

The Outdoor Adventure: Himalaya Fall 2011: Snow Stopped, Teams Plan ForNext Summit Bid

Yesterday I posted a rather dire update from the Himalaya, in which nearly every team had retreated to their respective Base Camps after a massive storm dumped snow across the entire region. Today we get news that the weather has shifted once again – this time for the better – and plans are in motion for the next attempt on the summit. At least on Manaslu.

Earlier today, the Altitude Junkies posted a dispatch in which they reported that the snow had finally stopped flying and that conditions were "glorious" in BC. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that they are particularly good higher on the mountain, where heavy accumulations have buried the fixed lines and will make breaking trail an arduous task. On top of that, until the snow settles, conditions will be unstable, which could make avalanches a real possibility.

Because of those unsafe conditions, the AJ team isn't in a real hurry to head back up the mountain, although the current weather reports say that conditions should be good heading into the weekend. The team leaders aren't quite ready to announce their new schedule, but they have indicated that they'll be working with the Himex team to dig out the ropes and re-establish the high camps so they'll be ready to go as soon as possible.

There were some forecasts that indicated that the jet stream would move over the Himalaya around the first of October, so obviously there are some concerns that if that happens, the season will come to a quick end. But for now, it seems that the teams on Manaslu are feeling optimistic about their chances of another summit bid. We'll likely know more about their plans in the next few days.

No word from the teams on Shisha Pangma or Cho Oyu yet, but they were also hit hard by the storm. They're probably evaluating the situation too and hoping that they'll have the opportunity to climb soon as well. Once the jet stream settles in, cold weather and high winds come along with it, which means the end of the fall climbing season. Only a few brave and rugged climbers venture to the region in the winter.
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Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Outdoor Adventure: Himalaya Fall 2011: New Summit Bids Underway!

Extremely bad weather shutdown all summit bids last weekend, but the new week brought clear skies and generally good conditions. That has also brought on a new round of summit bids, with most teams now starting to move up their respective mountains, with an eye on topping out this weekend. They're also in a race against time, as the jet stream begins to move over the region.

Yesterday we received word from Manaslu that the Altitude Junkies and Himex Sherpa teams were joining forces to dig out the fixed lines, which were buried under snow earlier in the week. They hoped to get everything ready for another summit attempt, although the teams were a bit reluctant to say when that bid might happen. Today we learn that they are now eyeing next Tuesday or Wednesday for their final push, and although the weather pattern looks better, they are now expecting much colder temperatures. If they do plan to summit on the 4th or 5th, they'll start the ascent as early as tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, the improved weather over the Himalaya has kicked things into high gear on Cho Oyu. The IMG, Adventure Lovers, and Jagged Globe teams have all started moving back up the mountain, and all are reportedly in Camp 2. Conditions are said to be good, although the deep snow is slowing progress considerably. Still, if they stay on pace, and the weather remains good, expect summits on Sunday.

IMG also has a team on Shisha Pangma, and they've also preparing for a new summit bid as well. The Sherpas climbed to Camp 1 today to dig out the tents and prepare for the arrival of the climbers, who are set to begin their ascent tomorrow. That would conceivably put them on schedule to summit on Tuesday of next week, provided everything goes according to plan. 

ExWeb chimed in with the news yesterday that a Polish team climbing on Makalu was already in Camp 3 on that mountain, with plans to head up to C4 today. If that milestone was reached, than it is likely that tomorrow will be summit day for the 7-man team.

Finally, in the same story, ExWeb reported that an unnamed Czech climber died on Cho Oyu a few days back. The cause of death isn't known, but the body was apparently found hanging in the ropes. The man was an independent climber, but aside from that no one even seems to know his name. As always, condolences to friends and family. 

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