For all the bad press about Nepal, those who are over there now are enjoying a stable, peaceful environment for trekking and climbing the lower peaks.
Most of the press articles are about fuel shortages, the new constitution and the state of earthquake area six months later. Yes, Nepal has significant and serious issues, yet this beautiful country has much to offer anyone who will visit.
Post Earthquake Update – Island Peak
I have a great friend, Robert LeClair who just summited Island Peak in Nepal. We have climbed many of the Colorado 14,000 foot mountains aka 14ers together.
I was able to catch him for a quick update. Robert started off by saying that “Tourism is down 70% this year in the Khumbu – good for this years trekkers and climbers but bad for Nepali’s.”
Q: This is your first time to Nepal. What are your largest impressions?
A: Biggest impression is of the resiliency of the Sherpa people. It’s been 6 months since the April 25th earthquake and they continue to rebuild damaged structures with hammer, chisel, and some power tools. As I watched them work, they had smiles on their faces and would take time to speak with me. Amazing!
The entire trek was amazing on so many levels. Every morning walking to Ama Dablam and other mountains was incredible. Never seen anything like it.
Q: Did you see any impact from the April earthquake on the trails, bridges or teahouses?
A: Most of the tea houses were in good shape after the earthquake and/repaired prior to the trekking season. Where I saw the most damage was from Namche Bazaar down valley to Lukla. Some buildings had only damaged walls while others were not habitable. In some villages, you heard the constant noise of hammer and stone chisel rebuilding. Amazing builders. There was minor trail damage from landslides but that has been repaired.
Q: What was the speculation about the earthquake’s impact on the high mountains?
A: Speculation about the high mountains seems to be they’re safe but the fear of unstable rock is there certainly. I know trekking to old EBC, I felt uneasy below large glacial moraine cliffs.
Q: How would you compare climbing Island Peak (Imja Tse) at 20,305 feet with our Colorado 14ers?
A: Island Peak was challenging from an altitude perspective – it’s 6000′ higher than Mt. Elbert. Technically, it’s a Class 2 or 3 up until the crampon point and gets a bit more interesting ascending to the knife edge to the summit. It’s fixed line for the last 400 meters or so but as my climbing Sherpa told me as I started the 2′ wide knife edge – “Stay focused!” Near vertical head walls on either side but what a summit view!
He wrapped up our short conversation with:
For me, the biggest impact is physically realizing, because I saw it daily, how special friends and family are in one’s daily life. Watching the Sherpa people interact openly with each other in discussions, in laughter. Watching the children, who are so poor compared to Western standards, laughing and playing with the most simple toys. But they’re happy. For two nights in Dingboche, it was me and an extended Sherpa family. We didn’t speak the same language but it didn’t matter. We chatted briefly, laughed at jokes, and my Donald Duck impression was a hit with they’re 2.5 year old granddaughter. It’s not about material goods, it’s about family and friends.
Burke-Khang – Climbing
If you’ve never heard of this peak, it’s understandable as Nepal just gave it a formal name last year as it opened 104 new peaks for climbing. Located on the border with China, Burke-Khang at 22,775 feet high is located between Mt. Everest and Cho-Oyu. It was named after the oldest American to summit Everest, Bill Burke, who summited from the Tibet side in 2014 at age 72.
Bill, honored with this gift, felt it was only appropriate to be the first one to summit “his” peak. Bill and team lead by expedition guide Garrett Maddison are moving steadily towards the mountain and are expected to arrive at base camp October 28.
Garrett posted recently:
Enjoying this memorable expedition with my close friend Bill Burke. Bill is the only person to reach the summit of the highest mountain on every continent after reaching age 60. Tomorrow we will reach the base of Burke Khang and begin our ascent of this virgin peak!
Ama Dablam – Climbing
One of the most popular peaks to climb in autumn is Ama Dablam. Success has been reported by many teams already and the mountain appears to be stable at the moment. There were concerns that the hanging “dablam” could avalanche.
Nuptse – Over
Yesterday we went all up to Nuptse. With a lot of fresh snow and persistent high winds, we joined together to try the line of least resistance on Nuptse’s south face. We knew there was probably too much snow, and we knew that the winds were probably too high, but yesterday we started up anyways, as the weather forecast indicated it was our only shot. Ueli Steck, Ben Guigonnet, Helias Millerioux and Colin Haley left the village of Chukkung early yesterday morning, and did 2,200m of ascent, up to a bivy at 6,900m. It began to snow in the afternoon and continued all night. The winds became stronger and stronger during the night, and by the time our alarm went off at 4:30am this morning, it was obvious that we’d be heading down rather than towards the summit. C’est la vie
Lhotse – No Updates
No updates from 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.
According to the USGS on October 26, 2015 a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan (SW of Jarm) as the result of reverse faulting at intermediate depths, approximately 210 km below the Hindu Kush Range in northeastern Afghanistan.
The quake has already claimed more than 400 lives and was felt all the way in Kathmandu.
This could have some impact on summer climbing season in the Karakoram as landslides were reported near Skardu, the city that serves as the gateway for climbers. Also, damage is reported on Karakoram Highway (KKH). I expect all will be fine as the KKH is the main commerce link in this area will will be fixed quickly.
Memories are Everything