Update: Himalaya 500 Ski Project

Luke Smithwick in the Tetons some days ago. Photo: Luke Smithwick

Luke Smithwick spent the spring lockdown in Pokhara, Nepal, watching the Himalayan giants but unable to set foot on them. Now back in the U.S., he is taking advantage of the late snow in the Tetons to train, in case he is able to notch another ski descent of an 8,000m peak in Nepal this fall or winter.

Still lots of snow in July in the high alpine. Photo: Luke Smithwick

He hasn’t unveiled his specific goal yet, but he confirmed to ExplorersWeb that it will be part of his Himalaya 500 Ski Project — opening 500 new lines to showcase the skiing possibilities in the greater Himalaya.

He was skiing one of these lines in the Annapurna Sanctuary in late March when the lockdown began. “I went down from Base Camp together with the locals who were working in lodges there,” he said.

Smithwick owns a room in Kathmandu, where he keeps his expedition equipment, but during the state of emergency, he opted to find a room in Pokhara, from which he had access to trails. “Over April and May, I could work out on the hills behind my place,” he said. Finally, in June, he joined some 200 other Americans on a charter flight back to the U.S.

He had hoped to ski the Karakorum this summer but aborted when he discovered that while the country is technically open, climbing permits are not being issued.

Smithwick on the summit of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

So instead, he has been training intensively both in the gym and in Idaho’s Tetons, focusing on traverses and routes in the Cathedral group. Last week, he moved to Oregon to ski volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest, starting with Mt. Hood. Next, he’ll move on to the snowy summits in Washington and maybe California, depending on the state of the renewed lockdown. He’s focused, however, on returning to the Himalaya as soon as possible.

“I do not think we can guess what will happen in September and October,” he told ExplorersWeb. “Right now, I’d say my chances [of going in the post-monsoon] are 50-50.”

Check his progress through his IG account.

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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