Last Chance on Lhotse South Face

As the Himalayan climbing season wraps up, those who embarked on new, epic climbs have left disappointed. All the touted expeditions — Mena and Richards’ new route on Everest North side, Bielecki and Berg’s Langtang Lirung + Annapurna, Hamor et al on Dhaulagiri —  failed. All but one. Hong Sung-Taek has begun a final summit push on Lhotse South Face. Actually, a re-push.

Things have been far from easy for the South Korean climber and his (originally) large team. In the last two months, the expedition set up five higher camps, before first striking for the summit last week. Wind, snow and especially an avalanche that nearly swept the climbers near Camp 3 thwarted their attempt. The team retreated from around 7,700m, between C3 and C4.

Hong SUng-Taek’s route on the South Face of Lhotse. Courtesy of Kyu Dam Lee

“There is nothing more important than being alive,” Uta Ibraini said back in Base Camp. “It seems that I did not understand this simple fact, until I was faced with death.”

She also confirmed that after the close call, almost all members decided to head home, including 14x8000er summiter Jorge Egocheaga. Only Hong Sung-Taek and five climbing Sherpas remained. Frequent ExWeb source Kyu-Dam Lee reported that the six climbers were braving bad weather to continue. “They could reach the top by June 2,” he estimated.