Climbers are on their way to Kathmandu for a rare Everest autumn attempt that includes some famous personalities. Plus there will be potentially record setting action on Dhaulagiri. There could be some interesting storylines this season.
Mountain Hardwear Revival with Madison Mountaineering
I spoke today with Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering. He was on a layover in Paris on his way to Nepal. They hope to arrive in Lukla in a few days to begin the trek to Everest Base Camp.
Garrett has a team of four climbing Everest this season including the CEO of Mountain Hardwear, Joe Vernachio. Joe joined MH a couple of years ago with the remit to turn the company back into a trusted brand for serious outdoor enthusiasts. They will be testing a new series of high-altitude gear on Everest this year and hopefully it will be generally available soon. I for one own a lot of MH gear, especially their sleeping bags and my beloved South Col pack. I’m pulling for Joe and team to bring back the innovative and quality line from clothes to kit that we all sought a decade ago.
Also, on the Madison team is the co-founder of OpenGov, a cloud-based American software company, Zac Bookman, plus American Kristin Bennett and Brit Tim Emmett.
Garett said they will attempt a simple acclimatization program this year with only one rotation to tag 7,000 meters on the Lhotse Face. He hopes to summit as early as late September but is willing to wait into mid October for the right conditions. He feels confident about their plans given his own extensive experience on Everest but is curious what the snow conditions will be above Camp 3.
Garett has hired two of the famous Icefall Doctors to set the route through the Icefall and above. He has two additional Sherpas in support. He said they were already half-way through the Icefall at this point.
Running up Everest
On Garett’s Everest permit is Spanish ultra runner Kilian Jornet. But he his looking at his own program, to do a speed climb on Everest. He has mentioned that he may look at a new route starting at Camp 2 but it all depends on the snow conditions. He will use Gorak Shep as his base camp.
Skiing Down Everest
Seven Summits Treks will also be on Everest supporting a four person Polish team including Andrzej Bargiel what will attempt to ski from the summit of Everest without using supplemental oxygen, and without removing his skis at any point during the descent. If he is successful, this will the first for both of these goals. Of course he caught the world’s attention with his K2 ski descent last year. He has an interesting interview at this link. The other members include Polish climbers Grzegorz Bargiel and Jakub Poburka.
Will Autumn Become Popular?
Of course, much of Everest’s rich history was started in the autumn season. The Swiss made the first national attempt on Everest using the SE Ridge route in 1952. They arrived at EBC on July 10, 1952 and ended the expedition on November 27, 1952 reaching 8100 meters, a bit short of the summit. The first successful autumn summit was on October 26, 1973 by a Japanese expediton lead by Michio Yuasa. They had a huge team of 50 people but only two members summited: Yasuo Kato and Hisashi Ishiguro. In subsequent years, mostly national teams from Korea, Spain, Japan and a few international teams made autumn attempts. American Wally Berg led several commercial efforts including in 1992, 2003 and 2006. Similar, Austrian Kurt Diemberger led several trips: 1978, 1980, and 1981.
With all the crowds on Everest this past spring and the new rules scenario that Nepal put out last month seemingly more and more unlikely to be implemented or enforced, autumn may develop into the best alternative for those wanting to climb from the Nepal side but without the crowds.
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Project Possible – Rare Cho Oyu Route?
Looking to summit all 14 of the 8000ers in seven months, Nirmal Purja, Mingma David Sherpa and Halung Dorchi (Sanu Sherpa) are in Nepal reportedly to try Cho Oyu from the rarely attempted Nepal side. This route is extremely steep with a lot of objective danger compared to the normal route from the Tibet side. After this he will probably get Nepal’s Manaslu leaving on Shishapangma in Tibet. However there are persistent rumors that China will not issue any permits this autumn for Shish and limit the climbing on Cho as well.
Nims has a total of 11 summits of 8000ers in 94 days: Annapurna (April 23), Dhaulagiri, Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II, K2 and Broad Peak (July 26). It appears he has funding now to complete the project, politics aside.
An 11 member Polish team will attempt Lhotse via the standard route through the Khumbu Icefall this autumn. They are already on the trek through the Khumbu.
Dhaulagiri – Carlos is back at age 80!
Carlos Soria Fontán is back on Dhaulagiri for his 10th time. At age 80 he is attempting complete all of the 8000ers and only has Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma left. He is the only person to have summited ten of the 8000ers after turning 60 and the oldest person to have summited K2 (65 years old), Broad Peak (68), Makalu (69), Gasherbrum I (70), Manaslu (71 years old), Kanchenjunga (75 years old) and Annapurna (77 years old).
This has become extremely popular in recent years due to being in Nepal and not dealing with Chinese politics. Also, Seven Summits Treks has heavily marketed the climb as easy and cheap. Similar for other low-end operators like Summit Climb. While it does have a good safety record, Manaslu can be deadly with avalanches killing people who camped in the wrong spot.
Arnold Coster has a 16 person team on Manaslu and is already on the trek in. I expect well over 400 on Manaslu this autumn. We can expect all the Nepali guides to run trips and most of the foreign companies but a few shy away from Manaslu citing the dangers.
Cho Oyu – October 1 Deadline
Another 8000er marked as “easy” but in recent years it has proven to be avalanche prone and deep snow has thwarted success. But I still expect to see hundreds on this mountain. Look for the usual Nepali and foreign guide companies to all run Cho trips this year however persistent rumors have the Chinese requiring all climbed to be off Cho no later than October 1.
Shisha Pangma – No Permits?
Again, the rumors have it that China will not be issuing any permits for Shish this autumn. If so, then Nirmal Purja will be stopped in his quest to get all the 8000ers in seven months.
Best of luck to all.
Memories are Everything