autumn Himalayan Update: 8000ers Over, K2 Dead

Ama Dablam
Ama Dablam

With only two and half months to go in 2015, it is likely that this year will go down as one of the most unsuccessful years in recent mountaineering history.

The highest of the 14 8000 meter peaks, view Everest and K2 saw no summits. The Tibetan giants, look Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, also had no summits as did almost all of the other popular Nepal 8000ers including Makalu and Lhotse.

Of course the April 25, 2015 earthquake stopped the climbing progress and created tragedy across Nepal and Southern Tibet. Over 9,000 lives were lost and millions of homes destroyed. The rebuilding is just beginning now that the monsoons have let up.

For the first time since 1974, Everest had no one stand on the summit by any route from either the Nepal or Tibet side. As a comparison, Denali had 429 summits in 2015. The last time Denali saw no summits was 1957. Mountaineering has become so popular it is rare to see zero summits on the world’s highest mountains.

With autumn now in full season, trekkers are enjoying Nepal, but the visitors are about half of last year staying away fearing the damage from the earthquakes on tea houses and trails. The fears are overstated according to those who are there today. Yet, some governments, for example, the UK, only recently lifted travel advisories that were preventing climbers and trekkers from getting insurance.

Many are now starting climbs of the trekking peaks of Island, Mera and Lobuche. There is still one team currently climbing an 8000 meter mountain, the South Koreans attempting the South Face of Lhotse. They have made this almost an annual affair but that side of Lhotse is extreme with rock fall and significant avalanche danger. Given the experience on other nearby peaks this autumn, Everest and Makalu for example, it will be impressive if they can make it.

There is one team scheduled to attempt Nanga Parbat this winter. It along with K2 are the remaining 8000 meter peaks without a winter summit.

Tough Year

It has been decades that some of the 8000 meter mountains have not seen a summit. Thus far in 2015, nine of the fourteen 8000ers have not been summited. Perhaps we will see a few during the usual winter attempts, but if history is an indicator, most likely not.

2015 summits 8000ers

It appears that warmer temperatures created poor snow conditions throughout the Himalayas. The snow was sugary, soft and avalanche prone. Also sporadic squalls dumped significant volume on already loaded slopes increasing the danger. This was common from Broad Peak to Makalu to Everest this summer and autumn. Most teams never stood a chance and those who did push it, were lucky.

Manaslu was the big winner but it just as easily could have been skunked. Long time teams with years of experience on Manaslu worked for weeks fixing the route crux only to leave when the conditions looked too dangerous. But others, with fresh support, stayed and pushed on during a brief window successfully putting over 80 on the summit during a couple of days.

Meanwhile, there have been and more to come,  several first ascent attempts.  In 2014, Nepal opened up 104 new peaks for climbing. Many of these peaks had no name but one was named after the oldest American to summit Everest, Bill Burke, who summited from the Tibet side in 2014 at age 72.

Located on the border with China, Burke-Khang at 22,775 feet high is located between Mt. Everest and Cho-Oyu. Bill, honored with this gift felt it was only appropriate to be the first one to summit “his” peak. Bill and expedition guide Garrett Maddison will attempt it in late October.

Ama DablamAma Dablam – Starting

Post earthquake reports on Ama Dablam’s hanging “dablam” says it shed some volume but looks stable. Teams will know better with a close look but many are headed there now.

Ama has become extremely popular in the last few years with hundreds attempting this beautiful peak. The high camps are small and can only accommodate a few tents so operators have established new mid level camps or start their summit pushes from traditionally low camps making for huge, long summit days.

Recently there have been a number of deaths from falls and avalanches.

Nuptse – Climbing

Ueli Steck is acclimatizing in Nepal’s Khumbu region as he prepares to climb the south face of Nuptse. He posted” 7804 m. Tenji Sherpa and myself were taking benefits on the good weather. We climbed together Cholatse Northface via the Frenchroute.”

Dhaulagiri – Over

A small team lead by French Alpinist Yannick Graziani turned back due to conditions at 7000 meters thus ending their attempt on Dhaulagiri (26794’/8167m).

Everest – Over

Japanese Nobukazu Kuriki, reached 8150 meters just above the South Col or Camp 4 before turning back. He started very low, about 7800 meters somewhat similar to the traditional high Camp 3 but he was more to the climber’s left to avoid avalanches. He was climbing alone and without supplemental oxygen but did have full support, including the Icefall Doctors from Base Camp to Camp 2.

Nepal provides the Icefall Doctors for anyone who s a permit, even in the autumn when the permit is half price or US$5,500.

Kuriki knew this was a long shot as he got to 7700 meter a week earlier and turned back due to deep snow. But he is very determined and gave it a valiant effort. He lost nine fingers in 2012 when attmepting the West Ridge of Everest. That year he had to be rescued but this time he descended on his own.

K2 Memorial
K2 Memorial

K2 Remains

Following up on another story that generated a lot of interest this summer. Mike Horn, Swiss Adventurer posted a video on Facebook that showed a decomposing head between K2 Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp. Many believed it might be either Marty Schmidt or his son’s Denali. Marty’s daughter, Sequoia di Angelo, traveled to K2 Base camp to take DNA samples and to give the remains a respectful burial.

DNA tests now confirm the remains are not those of either Marty or Denali as reported by this New Zealand site. The identity remains unknown. Schmidt was at Camp 3 when an avalanche hit their tent in 2013. In 2008, 11 climbers were killed from falls and avalanches near the bottleneck.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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2 thoughts on “autumn Himalayan Update: 8000ers Over, K2 Dead

  1. Thanks for mentioning Ama. Last year when I pulled over the last little bump and had my first view of base camp, I thought: ” F@#k!! This is at least 5 times the tents that I would consider reasonable for the mountain. Clearly the government only cares about collecting the permit fees, not making sure that it is not over crowded.”

  2. Alan
    Your website and blog were mentioned in the FT. As a life long Everest student I am very surprised and pleased with the accurate coverage of Everest climbing seasons. Thank you for publishing your thoughts. I look forward to reading your blogs in the future.

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