Winter 8,000’ers: High Winds Push Everyone Back

“‘I haven’t seen such a long period of hurricane-force winds in either the Himalaya or the Karakoram since the winter of 2006,” Austrian meteorologist Karl Gabl told Jost Kobusch.

Kobusch is back in Lobuche, patiently waiting again. “It will probably be a while before it makes sense to climb again,” he said. On his latest trip up Everest West Ridge, fierce winds battered his tent and forced him down from his Camp 2 at the Lho La pass.

For something to do, Jost Kobusch used FaceApp software to age himself 30 or 40 years, and added the caption: “I’m still waiting for good weather.” Photo: Jost Kobusch

The real Jost Kobusch in Lobuche. Photo: Jost Kobusch


Jet stream winds have kept all winter teams from advancing everywhere in the Himalaya. Meanwhile, the end of climbing’s winter season is just one short month away. Winter permits expire on February 28, coinciding with the end of meteorological winter. Climbing teams can extend their expeditions by paying extra for a spring/summer permit, but they rarely have the time, funds, or stamina to last through the first part of March.

On Manaslu, climbers have retreated either to Samagaon village or back to Kathmandu. After seven weeks, their climbs have progressed little.

While Simone Moro remains in Nepal’s capital, Alex Txikon’s team and Oswald Pereira have walked back to Base Camp from Samagaon, hoping for an improvement. Nepalis Lama, Nurbu, Thinly, and Gyalu seized a short period of relative calm to carry some gear up to Camp 1, according to Pereira, who followed them. “Conditions were really severe, with strong winds hitting C1,” he wrote.

On a positive note, both Txikon and Pereira note that the snow conditions are more stable, so progress can recommence as soon as the weather improves.

More about Cho Oyu teams

The surprise second team aiming for a winter ascent of the South Face of Cho Oyu has upped the stakes for Gelye Sherpa and his original group of Nepalis. “We will have a separate base camp from the other [Gelye’s] team,” a Pioneer expedition spokesperson told ExplorersWeb. “Since this is challenging for both teams, we might work together with them if the situation calls for it.”

The second team has confirmed that they will climb from Thame. Members include Mingma Dorchi Sherpa (leader), Pemba Ongchu Sherpa (co-leader), Mingma Dorchi Sherpa (same name, different person from the leader), Pasang Tenji Sherpa, Phurba Kusang Sherpa, Pasang Dorjee Sherpa, Lakpa Thendu Sherpa, and Karma Gyaljen Sherpa. Dukpa Chiri Sherpa (cook) and Gelu Sherpa (staff) will support the team in Base Camp.

Pioneer Adventure’s winter Cho Oyu expedition banner.


“Most of the funding comes from Pioneer Adventure,” the company’s spokesperson said. “Some close friends contributed too.”

No border crossing

As for the original Cho Oyu team led by Gelye Sherpa, Gelje confirmed to ExplorersWeb that although the Nangpa La is along their planned new route, they are not intending to cross the border into Tibet at any time.

Before they start climbing, they first need to get to the mountain, and the weather is not making that easy. Even the flight to Lukla did not pan out. The Nepalis had to drive all the way from Kathmandu over a long, bumpy road. They then started trekking.

The weather was decent until Namche Bazaar, when conditions turned for the worse. Yesterday, in snow and increasing wind, they reached the small village of Machermo, located at 4,470m on the trail to Gokyo, their next stopover.

“It was a nine-hour trek with over 20kg on our shoulders,” Lakpa Dendi wrote.

Gelje Sherpa’s Cho Oyu expedition on its way to Machermo yesterday. Photo: Lakpa Dendi Sherpa


Currently, conditions in Base Camp are so rough, with 100-knot winds, that the kitchen staff have had to retreat to Gokyo. Tomorrow they will all meet up in the village. Gelje Sherpa says that they may wait for days before advancing to BC.


Meanwhile, in Pakistan…

Grace Tseng’s expedition on K2 has had its first serving of the mountain’s winter mood. Strong winds forced them to retreat as they tried to reach Camp 1 on Saturday. After sheltering over the weekend in Base Camp, the fixing team of Ngima Tendi Sherpa, Furi Sherpa, Chhiring Sherpa, Ningma Dorje Sherpa, Dawa Sherpa, and local climber Muhammad Sharif, set off again today. They hope to set up their first altitude camp on the Abruzzi Spur route.

Grace Tseng and some of the Nepali team in K2 Base Camp. Photo: Nima Gyalzen Sherpa


Lower down the valley, it wasn’t the weather that stopped Denis Urubko and his Russian friends, but an unexpected illness. The climbers managed to reach 5,000m on an acclimatization trip. After returning to Base Camp at 3,700m, Urubko fell sick with fever and a bad cough. Luckily, he is better now and ready to go up again. The plan is to reach 4,800m tomorrow and the summit on Wednesday.

Climbers at a snowy Koshar Kang Base Camp yesterday. Photo: Denis Urubko