Spring Himalaya Update: Waiting Out the Storm

The spring Himalayan season has already had its exciting moments, and a couple of tragic ones, with fatalities on Cho Oyu and Annapurna. Now, as Cyclone Fani hits India, teams everywhere hunker down to wait out the worst storm in years.


Base Camp on the north side of Everest. Photo: Furtenbach Adventures

The hard work put in by Sherpa line-fixing teams on both sides of Everest has paid off.

On the south side, a group of climbing Sherpas from Himalayan Guides and Madison Mountaineering fixed the route above 6,400m on April 24. By May 1, they had progressed to just below the rock buttress of the Geneva Spur at 7,600m. The next day, they pushed on to the South Col and Camp 4. At 8,000m, Camp 4 is a significant milestone: From here, teams mount their final push for the summit.

On the mountain’s north side, heavy snow temporarily pushed back those setting fixed lines on the North Col. Since then, they have made excellent progress, reaching as high as 8,300m before descending to Base Camp on May 3 to avoid the winds moving in from the Bay of Bengal.

Climbers on their acclimatization rotations through the Khumbu Icefall. Photo: Madison Mountaineering

An early traffic jam in the Icefall quickly resolved, and since then, climbers have been rotating freely through Camps 1 to 3 on the south side. On the north side, teams have slept as high as the North Col. When Cyclone Fani finally struck Everest on May 3, climbers on both sides retreated to lower camps to wait for gentler winds and monitor the potentially heavy snowfall.


Climber Rupert Jones-Warner approaches the summit of Annapurna. Photo: Don Bowie

Annapurna has justly earned its reputation as the most dangerous 8000’er, so it was a surprise when 32 climbers summited on April 23, including Nirmal Purja Magar, the ex-Ghurka aiming to climb every 8000m-peak in just seven months.

Unfortunately, not all 32 made it down. Malaysian anesthesiologist Wui Kin Chin faded during his descent and was left stranded at approximately 7,750m. His Sherpa climbing partner, Nima Tshering, reportedly left him his remaining oxygen and retreated alone to Camp 4 to seek help. Details of the resulting rescue remain murky, but eventually four Sherpa rescuers were dropped at Camp 3 by long-line. After five hours of climbing, they located Kin Chin at 7,500m and eventually managed to evacuate him to a hospital in Kathmandu. After seven days of intensive treatment, he died in hospital.


Peter Hamor acclimatizing on the French couloir. Photo: Peter Hamor

Peter Hamor, Horia Colibasanu and Marius Gane have been busy fixing ropes on Dhaulagiri. The team are taking a one-day on, one-day off approach as they close in on a summit push. But as on Everest, work has now paused. The trio has battened down their tents in preparation for the storm. “We hope it will not pluck us out or cover with snow the trail we spent the last two weeks preparing,” Horia wrote on May 3.

Cho Oyu

After a fatality, climbers are abandoning Cho Oyu. Photo: Summit Climb

On April 29, the first casualty of the season hit Cho Oyu, when Phujung Bhote Sherpa fell into a crevasse while fixing rope near to Camp 2 at 7,100m. He was part of a five-man Sherpa team setting the route for 10 foreign clients. Expedition members have elected to cancel their climb and are packing up Camp 1 and Camp 2. It does not look like they will be able to retrieve the body.


Spring Himalaya Update: Off We Go!