Himalayan Update: Annapurna Caution, Nepal Smoke, Everest Icefall Fixed

Phewa Lake near Pokhara yesterday, under a pall of smoke. Photo: Nepali Times

As wildfires turn normally crystal clear Himalayan skies grey, climbers approach their base camps. On Annapurna, the action has already started.

Climbing has already begun on Annapurna, where Pakistani climbers Sirbaz Khan and Abdul Joshi have gone up with the Sherpa team. Today, they spend their second night at altitude in Camp 2 (5,590m). They are part of Mingma G’s Imagine Nepal expedition.

Other climbers are scattered between Base Camp and C1, and more reach BC tomorrow. Four complete teams make Annapurna particularly busy this season.

Annapurna’s north side. Photo: Lakpa Dendi

Expected climbers include veteran Marc Battard, currently in Pokhara, and his team — Pasang Nuru Sherpa, Yorick Vion, Bertrand Delapierre, and Deny de Almeida. They are climbing with Nirmal Purja’s Elite Expedition Logistics.

Six Nepali women scattered over different teams will also be on Annapurna, points out journalist Chhabi Pokhrel. They are Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, Maya Sherpa, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, Dabuti Sherpa, Sharmila Shyangtan, and Purnima Sherstha.

Don’t underestimate Annapurna

According to Lakpa Dendi of Seven Summit Treks, the ropes to Camp 2 were fixed yesterday. Camp 3 is next; a fourth camp remains uncertain. It might seem that preparations are already half-complete. However, Annapurna is the most lethal of the 8,000’ers for a reason. The hardest, most dangerous part comes right after C2. Every time Ralf Dujmovits reads that the climbers are in Camp 2, he remembers his first Annapurna experience:

“Exactly 30 years ago, when I was a young mountain guide with big ambitions, I offered Annapurna as a commercial trip,” Dujmovits recalls. “We did not make the summit on that trip due to horrendous weather and high avalanche hazard. However, after having had a glimpse of the mountain, I decided never to offer it to paying clients again.”

Dujmovits’s commercial 1980s expedition to Annapurna proceeded in the style of the era: no ropes, no O2. Photo: @ralfdujmovits

In Dujmovits’s opinion, the mountain bristles with danger, no matter which route climbers choose above Camp 2. (The north side offers several variations.)

“There is no safe line through the huge, serac-riddled north slopes of Annapurna,” he says. His advice to those prepared to risk their lives, anyway: “Come fully acclimatized and climb quickly!”

Actually, most climbers currently on the mountain have not previously acclimatized but they may largely circumvent that difficulty with supplementary O2.

Smoggy Nepal

Meanwhile, flights between Lukla and Kathmandu have resumed after four days of poor visibility from the wildfires raging in the south, according to Stefi Troguet. The Andorran had a bumpy flight back to Kathmandu after her trek to Everest Base Camp. She moves to Dhaulagiri in a few days.

Back from the Khumbu, Stefi Troguet found her “Nepali twin sister” in Lukla, while waiting for visibility to allow flights. Photo: Stefi Troguet

Smoke has blanketed most of the country, ramping up air pollution to worrisome levels. The fires started in November and after three months with little rain, some have burned for months.

The situation worsened in February and March, when smoke from fires in Chitwan, Makwanpur, and Parsa reached Kathmandu, Pohkara, and the mountains. In Nepal’s capital, the smog cleared a little today, but pollution levels remain high and residents are suffering from watery eyes and shortness of breath. Face masks are useful for something besides COVID.

All ready at Everest

On Everest, the Icefall Doctors have fixed the route through the seracs to Camp 1. Everything is ready for the Sherpas to continue up to Camp 2, where climbers will spend at least a night on their first acclimatization round. Many foreign climbers are currently trekking to Base Camp, with more expected next week.

Sheika Asma Al Thani of Qatar.

Today, Nepal’s Department of Tourism issued three new permits for Everest. A mounting number of Middle Eastern royals are showing up in the Himalaya. Besides the Bahraini Prince, a Qatari princess, Sheikha Asma Al Thani, will be on Everest too. Her focus is the Seven Summits and she has already summited Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro. According to Everest News, she climbs “to inspire women and young people in the region to challenge stereotypes and fulfill their dreams.” Qatari prince (and relative?) Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Thani climbed Ama Dablam with Madison Mountaineering last fall.

Nepal’s 8,000m permits so far. Photo: Everest Today

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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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Tenzin
Tenzin
20 days ago

I know this might be an unpopular opinion but I wouldn’t give the Bahrainian team much publicity or ExWeb time (personally).

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Michelle
Michelle
3 days ago
Reply to  Tenzin

Why not?

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