autumn Himalayan Climbing Update 6 – Winding Down

Manaslu summit , 2013

Record summits continued over the weekend on Manaslu while Cho Oyu saw many summits plus some interesting twists. Japanese Nobukazu Kuriki is still on Everest but continues to fight deep snow while tough weather stopped the Junkies on Dhaulagiri.  Finally RMI ended their effort on Shishapangma after the death of one of their Sherpa members.

For all practical purposes the main action is over on the Himalaya 8000ers but there is still Oscar Cadiach’s late October Broad Peak attempt (update: now canceled due to security concerns) and a few teams are still looking at other peaks including Ama Dablam and first accents on smaller peaks.

According to Himalayan Times reporter Rajan Pokhrel,  the Korean team lead by Sung Taek Hongon for Lhotse’s South Face never applied for a permit thus is not climbing Lhotse this year after all.

Cho Oyu routeCho Oyu

The world’s sixth highest peak at 26, 907’/8201m is always popular attracting hundreds of climbers each autumn season. After Everest, it is the most summited of all the 8000 meter mountains with 3,331 summits thru 2014 according to the Himalayan Database.

UPDATE: This late September/early October weekend was a good one on Cho Oyu with perhaps over 100 summits including Adventure Consultants (5), Alpine Ascents (6), 7 Summits Club (9),  and Summit Climb (?).

International Mountain Guides (IMG) reported 19 summits on Sunday but didn’t break out the specifics.  German climber and Himalaya Database principle Billi Bierling summited thus achieving her fifth 8000er.  Australia’s Rolfe Oostra summited twice in 24 hours, both times with members. His second summit started from Camp 2.

Alpenglow’s owner Adrian Ballinger and North Face Athlete Emily Harrington summited after leaving the U.S. about 10 days ago. They used supplemental oxygen and leveraged the fixed ropes already in place by Sherpas as well as camps already set up by their other team.

This was part of Ballinger’s marketing program to promote his rapid ascent program for people looking to minimize time away from home but still bag a peak.

Another Aplenglow team lead by Zeb Blasis put one member (Brooks Entwistle) and two Sherpas with a more standard, yet swift, program of 21 days on the top.

Rapid climbs are becoming more common these days. American David Roeske climbed Cho Oyu without supplemental oxygen in 2 weeks and 3 days from the US, and 2 weeks from Kathmandu in May 2015.


Lakpa Rita, AAI, leading on Cho Oyu
Lakpa Rita, AAI, leading on Cho Oyu. Courtesy of Ben Jones
8,156m (26,670'), Manaslu
8,156m (26,670′), Manaslu


Similar to Cho Oyu, Manaslu is regarded as attainable and in recent years has seen a dramatic increase in traffic. Both of the mountains serve as precursors to Everest for many climbers thus are a leading indicator of the interest in Everest for the following spring season.

Seven Summits Treks, the dominate Nepali owned and based guide service, posted they had 130 members and Sherpas for the 2016 season including a 60 member Chinese team. This is astounding in that the year ever, 2011, Manaslu saw 140 total summits. Since 1956, Manaslu has had 980 total summits.

UPDATE:  It looks like a record was set on Manaslu with over 150 summits over the past few days. The majority were under the logistics of Seven Summits Treks but Nepali based guide services Ascent Himalayas and Dreamers Destination Treks also reported success. Russell Brice’s Himalayan Experience reported eight on the summit. Benegas Bothers noted six on top. Carina Ahlqvist became the first Swedish woman to summit Manaslu. Please listen to her message from the summit on her Facebook page.

New Route on Manaslu

No update from Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galván who split up as they made their attempt. It was reported that Galvan continued alone on the new route and Zerain made another attempt on the normal route. update: Mariano Galvan turned back 300m for the summit. See this interview

Manaslu Climbers Courtesy of Mingma at Dreamers Destination
Manaslu Climbers Courtesy of Mingma at Dreamers Destination


Altitude Junkies appeared to be the only team on this 8000er this autumn season. At 26,794’/8167m, Dhaulagiri was considered to be a hard peak to climb but nowadays is considered in the lower half of the 8000er list for difficulty. The normal route has some short technical sections and avalanche danger, but overall it’s a quite straight forward climb. 469 climbers have reached the summit thru 2014.

UPDATE: Phil Crampton’s team has been stopped by snow conditions and may not get another chance according to this last report:

We started our summit push and were at Camp 1. We then had very deep and unexpected snow at Camp 2, 3 feet to be exact. This meant we had to abort our October 1 summit push. All the team members are ok but disappointed. There is the possibility of new snow coming, so we may have missed our summit window. The team is now back in base camp contemplating their next move.

UPDATE 2: Snow has stopped them according to this October 3/4 update:

Excessive snow has made reaching the summit too risky this time. The team is headed back to Kathmandu and will report fully when they return.


Shish is the world’s lowest 8000 meter peak at 8027 meters or 26,335 feet. It is also the only 8000er totally within Tibet. It is one of the 8000ers with a checkered history of people claiming the summit but only reaching the fore-summit. The last bit is across a sharp ridge that is avi prone so some people call it good at the fore-summit. Usually only those attempting to summit all 14 8000ers will push for the true summit.

UpdateRMI‘s team has ended their effort after a Sherpa died in an avalanche near Camp 3. His name has not been released. Shishapangma is well known for killing climbers with avalanches. In 2014, climbers Sebastian Haag and Andrea Zambaldi died in 1999, Alex Lowe and David Bridges also died from an avalanche.


There are no teams attempting Everest from Nepal this second half of 2016 but there is one climber on the north side. As previously reported, Kilian Jornet, attempting a speed climb via the Horton or Hornbein Couloir, ended his effort citing deep snow on the North Face.

Nobukazu Kuriki
Nobukazu Kuriki

Nobukazu Kuriki

As I posted a few weeks ago, Japanese climber, Nobukazu Kuriki, is climbing from the north side. This is his sixth autumn (post-monsoon), no O’s, climbing alone, attempt on Everest. His previous efforts have been met with drama and injury. He has lost nine fingers on Everest in 2012 during a thwarted attempt on the West Ridge of Everest. In 2015, he reached a bit above the South Col before deep snow forced him to stop.

Update: Kuriki continues to climb but notes extremely difficult conditions with deep snow and unstable terrain.  He had reached Camp 2 on the North side but is now back lower but plans on returning higher on October 5. The translation from Japanese is  difficult to understand but this was his last post:

Today, we come down to camp 1. And riding the snow on top of the hard ice of Blue ice, change the still route because there is not stable the snow. Since in an avalanche when you move to the side, again climb from the bottom. I found another route that might have climbed this time, has been confirmed in a carefully binoculars. Again from the day after tomorrow, I would like trims to the wall. In order to climb Everest alone, since the aim of the timing of the condition basis of weather and snow, “Here it is”, it takes absolutely time. Not return still! I will do my ! !

Everest Tibet 2016 Courtesy of Nobukazu Kuriki.jpg
Everest Tibet 2016 Courtesy of Nobukazu Kuriki

First Ascent Attempts

Burke Khang

Bill Burke, the oldest American to summit Everest and live, announced he is returning to attempt a first ascent of a peak named after hm by the Nepal Government. Burke Khang is in the Gokyo Valley at 6,942 meters (22,775 feet). He attempted it last year but found the summit blocked by opposing cornices. I wrote an long article about their attempt last year.

Update: They are enroute to Nepal.

Tenzing and Hillary Peaks

Tenzing and Hillary Peak from Gokyo Ri.
Tenzing and Hillary Peak from Gokyo Ri. Courtesy of Elia Saikaly

Canadian Elia Saikaly and Pasang Kaji Sherpa are attempting a first ascent on two recently opened points along the ridge between Cho Oyu and Gyachung Kang.  They were previously called Ngozumba I and III but renamed Tenzing Peak (7,916 m) and Hillary Peak (7,681 m) and opened for climbing.

Update 8 October: They ended their effort due to difficult conditions.

Update: They continue to climb but are finding more and more difficult conditions, especially an ice wall. Saikaly is filming the attempt for an 8 part series that is showing online. He dramatically posted on Facebook:

PK leads the pitch and I watch in awe as he masterfully and almost effortlessly climbs high and disappears from my viewpoint. I nervously wait, trembling in the early morning mountain environment. Unfortunately, my gloves and socks are only half dry from the night before and I worry about my fingers as I sit and wait patiently for word from Pasang.

We’ve been working on this route for a week straight and we are less than 150m beneath camp 1. The current problem is that there are giant ice walls surrounding us and we have no idea which one to climb to access the upper part of the mountain. If we go left, we need to traverse a dangerous pass and then scale a 70-degree ice wall with no guarantee of an access point to camp 1. If we go right, according to PK, it’s a 90 degree ice climb, again with no guarantee of what’s on the other side. We decide as team that we’re going to go right, climb vertically through deep snow and use the higher vantage point to scout the line to reach camp.

If his last effort turns out to be another impasse, we’re likely going to have to turn around and descend and look for another gateway to the upper part of the mountain…

Cups of Tea

Finally for those who have followed the saga of Greg Mortenson, there is news. He gained fame with his work to build schools in Pakistan and his book 3 Cups of Tea but in 2011 60 Minutes did a report with Jon Krakauer claiming Mortenson was a fraud.

Now journalists Jennifer Jordan and Jeff Rhoads who traveled to Pakistan to get background have made a documentary telling the other side of the 60 Minutes report. It is a fascinating story of “he said, she said”. Here is the trailer and link to the website 3,000 Cups of Tea.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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2 thoughts on “autumn Himalayan Climbing Update 6 – Winding Down

  1. Hi Alan,

    I recently stumbled upon your blog and I am still trying to understand the climbing culture. I am from Slovenia and we do love our mountains, but our peaks are baby climbs in comparison. I would love to read your opinion on rapid climbing. I think it works only with professional climbers who have been to these mountains before, as they know what to expect. Yes, there are plenty of climbers who shouldn’t be climbing in the first place, but can you really prepare the majority of able climbers in such way? I remember your blog on climbing khumbu icefall-you came well-prepared and still needed a few trips up and down to build your strenght. Could rapid climbs only apply to the select few?

    1. Thanks Sandra,

      The ‘rapid climbs’ seem to be attractive to a small segment of the market – people with a lot of money but no time. Many people have time but no money 🙂 I agree with you that if the climber is not well prepared, strong and experienced; the experience can go bad quickly due to the accelerated acclimatization schedule. But just like the low-cost/low-support climbs, there are many ways to climb mountains and many guide services that are wiling to take your money.

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