Fall Himalayan Wrap-up

The fall Himalayan climbing season ends with hundreds of summits on Manaslu (plus one casualty), a fistful of successes but mostly failures on snowy Dhaulagiri and some sought-after new lines on Everest that never quite came off because of a giant serac poised menacingly above the Icefall. Finally, Nirmal Purja may still get his permit to rush up Shishapangma.


Climbers wallow on Dhaulagiri

“It’s not failure, just delay,” said Carlos Soria from Base Camp on Dhaulagiri, trying to put a positive spin on his 10th attempt, which ended at Camp 3. All climbers, including the 80-year-old Spaniard, who took part in the second summit push on the “white mountain” (whiter than ever, it seems) were forced back by deep snow and rising winds.

For Spanish speakers, here are Soria’s impressions after returning to Base Camp, together with footage of several key sections of the climb, indicating how snow-laden Dhaulagiri was.


A week earlier, six lucky climbers broke trail through the snow in order to achieve this season’s first and only summits of Dhaulagiri. They included no-O2 climbers Juan Pablo Mohr and Sergi Mingote (on his seventh 8,000’er in 444 days), plus Lakpa Temba Sherpa, Phurtenzi Sherpa and Sanu Sherpa, who became the 42nd and 3rd Nepali to complete all 14 8,000’ers. Finally, Atanas Skatov showed that being vegan is no obstacle to strong high-altitude work.

Sergi Mingote (left) and Atanas Skatov on the summit of Dhaulagiri. Photo: 14×1000 Catalonia Project


Everest: giant serac thwarts big plans

For the first autumn in a decade, a handful of climbers set up camp on Everest’s south side. They had the mountain all to themselves, but for the same reason, they faced major logistic challenges. Madison Mountaineering hired two or three Ice Doctors to help fix the route through the Khumbu Icefall. They succeeded, despite the high risk: A huge serac above threatened to collapse at any moment and likely kill anyone on the route at the time.

After some thought, Madison’s clients decided not to risk it. One after the other, they abandoned the expedition. Garrett Madison himself waited for two weeks more, ready to call some of his clients back in case the serac released. But it remained hanging, and time eventually ran out for Madison, a Polish team aiming for Lhotse and Andrzej Bargiel, whose goal was a complete ascent and descent of Everest on skis.

Kilian Jornet’s boots face Lhotse from high on Everest. Photo: Killian Jornet


One climber took the chance (at least twice) and literally ran under the serac on his way to the upper slopes of Everest: Kilian Jornet kept his plans secret, but eventually reported reaching 8,300m via a new variation of a 1980s Polish route. Excess snow finally forced him down well shy of the summit.


Manaslu: autumn’s “little Everest”

Manaslu was again the most popular 8,000’er of the season, with approximately 260 foreign climbers holding permits and even more summits achieved.

Cristina Piolini reportedly did a nearly complete ski descent (except for a serac section below Camp 2), after climbing to the summit on her own. It is yet unclear whether she climbed and skied down the final summit ridge.

Manaslu was Nirmal Purja’s second summit this season and 13th this year. Leading his own Himalayan Elite team, he summited Manaslu and tried to help a stranded climber on the way down. Donata Vladyko, 55, of Poland was left at Camp 4, apparently recovering, but her state later worsened and sadly, she didn’t make it through the night.

Stefi Troguet queuing on Manaslu. Photo: Stefi Troguet


Purja’s teammate Stefi Troguet achieved her second 8,000’er — after Nanga Parbat last summer — and provided some remarkable visuals throughout the expedition, including a video of her singing and dancing on the summit, another showing the injured Polish climber being dragged down by Purja and his Sherpas, and stills of the endless lines of climbers clipped to the fixed ropes. It conjured memories of Everest during the May zoo.

Valery Myasoedov had hoped to climb Manaslu after most expeditions had gone home, but he and his team reached Base Camp only to find that the fixed ropes along the route had been cut and ladders taken away. This ended their attempt before it started.


Still time for Shishapangma?

Nirmal Purja may still provide an exciting grand finale. With only Shishapanga left to complete all 14 8000’ers in seven months, the Nepali climber is still waiting for a visa and a climbing permit from China. “I have been using the skills of being “patient”, which I’ve learned in the mountains,” said Purja said, who hopes to get good news soon.


Winter is coming

Attention will soon return to the two highest mountains on Earth. On K2, Denis Urubko and Don Bowie have confirmed their intention to grab the coveted first winter climb via a light, no O2 push… but only after climbing Broad Peak! Urubko believes that the previous winter climb of Broad Peak (March 5, 2013) fell outside meteorological winter. He intends to climb entirely in January-February. As an appetizer, check Urubko’s video about his upcoming adventure, below. Do climbers still train by doing pushups?

Mingma G of Nepal also posted plans for winter K2, with two clients and no details about style. Considering that one of them, John Snorri, used oxygen on Manaslu, it is unlikely that he’d try something even more ambitious on K2.

Jost Kobusch of Germany has shared an even bolder plan for winter Everest: solo, via the rarely attempted West Ridge and Hornbein Couloir. “Elisabeth Revol, Adam Bielecki and I had discussed opening up a new route on Everest in winter,” he explained. The trio eventually abandoned the project because they couldn’t get a permit for Tibet. It is unconfirmed whether Kobusch has been any luckier now, but he describes his plan as “a real adventure, real alpinism, not just the usual traffic jam.”

Jost Kobusch: Next winter Everest daredevil? Photo: Jost Kobusch

Related stories:

Dhaulagiri: Soria Abandons

Purja to Get Shishapangma Permit

No Go on Everest

Winter K2 Preview