After poor progress last week due to heavy snow, the skies cleared over most of the big peaks and excellent advances were made in route fixing and acclimatization programs. Look for summits early this week on Cho Oyu and perhaps Manaslu and Dhaulagiri. But on Everest, cloudy weather returned and an ominous hanging serac forced some to leave the expedition.
Everest – Climbers Leave Fearing Conditions
Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering is an expert on route conditions on the Nepal side of Everest. This autumn he had the CEO of Mountain Hardware and one of their sponsored athletes on his team plus two other clients.
In a sign of risk management, The MH members have left the expedition fearing a hanging serac above the Khumbu Icefall. This serac has been a source of concern each season and is in the same area as one that collapsed in 2014 taking 16 Sherpas climbing in the Icefall. This is one of the primary reasons there has been a flight from Nepal to climbing from the Tibet side fearing another serac collapse. All that said Garrett will remain in base camp still hoping to take two of his clients to the summit. Here is Garrett’s report:
Today is September 22nd. To recap yesterday: we had a great day, our sherpa team reached Camp 1. But, on the way down they noticed a large serac about 3,000 ft【914 m】. or 1,000m up off of the Khumbu Icefall on the west shoulder of Mount Everest.
We were studying that late last night and again today with some drone footage (shared by the Polish Lhotse team) and, uh, it doesn’t look very safe. So the Mountain Hardwear team has decided to conclude their expedition on Everest and decouple from the Madison Mountaineering expedition. That means Joe Vernachio and Tim Emmett are going to be heading out tomorrow by helicopter, weather pending. [see the @mhweverest2019 Instagram post for their firsthand considerations]
Myself and the other climbers here with Madison Mountaineering, Zac and Kristin, are going to stay and evaluate conditions on a day-by-day basis. So, we’ll have to keep an eye on the serac and also the weather, of course, to see how things progress. But, everyone’s doing well here in base camp.
Today our sherpas decided not to move up look for a route from Camp 1 to Camp 2 because the weather was bad. It was very cloudy with little to no visibility up in the Western Cwm between Camp 1 and Camp 2, which would make route finding very difficult with the deep snow.
Everyone’s here doing well, but we’re sad to have things turn out this way, but we’ll keep our hopes up that perhaps the serac will may come down tonight when no one’s on the route and clear out for the rest of the expedition.
Joe_Vernachio, CEO of Mountain Hardwear posted this on Instagram:
Studying images and gathering opinions to make a tough decision. After careful consideration we determined the icefall was too dangerous to climb through. There is a giant Serac looming overhead. I could not live with myself if something happened to one of the Sherpa. I have decided to end the MHW Everest Expedition. Everyone will go home safe and sound with a great experience and new friends.
And Tim Emmett added this
All through my life I have navigated risk. I try to make good decisions in potentially dangerous environments using education and my gut instinct to guide me. I’ve lost too many friends to turn a blind eye and plead ignorance.
Yesterday the Sherpas finally made it to Camp 1, so good ! But on their return they showed images of a very large (200-300ft) , detached serac looming about 3000ft【914 m】 above our route up the ice fall. ( See if you can spot the 4 climbers in the lower circle of the second shot) In 2014 a smaller serac that was also much lower on the face, broke off and killed 16 Sherpas!
Putting two and two together I lay in bed last night, awake for most of it contemplating our next move, knowing there was no way I could let myself and any of our team be subjected to this potential catastrophe.
After a long chat with @joe_vernachio and @garrettmadison1 this morning both @mountainhardwear and I have decided to end our attempt on Everest for this season. Mountaineering has its own risks which have to be accepted for one to move forward, but this particular one is way outside the norm and a game of roulette, with many bullets.
For sure I am totally gutted to miss this chance to experience something I have been curious about for much of my life, but when you see a red flag, take note and make good choices. Thanks so much for following and supporting me on this quest, I hope there are many more to come
He also posted this zoomed-in photo of the serac in question. It’s not clear to me that this is really about to collapse or just the normal angle, nonetheless, it definitely looks suspicious!
Andrzej Bargiel who wants to ski non-stop, without Os from the summit to EBC posted a great drone video of the Icefall route. Not sure how he feels about the hanging serac
The Polish Lhotse team gave this update on reaching C1. Not sure how they feel about the hanging serac either. There are unconfirmed reports they have abandoned their Lhotse climb. I’m working to confirm this.
On September 21th managed to establish camp I. The event was held by 4 Climbers – Vadim Jabłoński, Maciej Lange, Mariusz Lange and bartosz earthly, who moved to 6000 M (6000 M). 800 m ropes, 20 snow ladders and ladders for the road to Camp II. The plan for the next few hours is to put
Dhaulagiri – Climbing
Sergi Mingote arrived at Dhaulagiri base camp:
We finally reached Camp 1! Today we will sleep here and tomorrow we will continue the ascent to Camp 2. Today the snow was persistent . We have worked almost two hours with the shovel to place my tend, it was a hard labor!
Expedition Base, running the second large team on Dhaulagiri this season posted a positive update along with a great photo::
All expedition base team are at the base camp. Heavy snow over the last few days has now finished. Team is preparing to go up. Everybody is healthy and excited.
Manaslu – Summits Soon
Autumn weather on Manaslu is always difficult and this season is no different. The weather had cleared off Manaslu but seems to have returned on Sunday, September 22. Adventure Consultants reported:
Well, yesterday we had our logistics fine-tuned and our plan made. This morning, however, when the Sherpa team were due to leave Base Camp for Camp 2, heavy snow was falling, and the plan went on hold. By the time the rest of us were up and about, 20cm of snow covered the tents, paths and everything else. It seems this year the humid monsoon weather patterns are refusing to let go of Manaslu.
Zbyszek Bąk posted a picture that captures the Manaslu base camp feeling:
Seven Summits Treks, who has the largest team on Manaslu of over 150 including support says the ropes are set to Camp 4.
Mingma Sherpa who is preparing for a winter K2 attempt is using Manaslu as training for his team. He feels they are ready for the summit push:
Our half team reached camp2 and half team in camp1 now. Tomorrow the Sherpa team will set up camp4 and join all the team at camp3. Rope to camp4 is done today. Everything is going well so far.
The Climbalaya team is also ready:
Climbalaya 1st team moving to camp 1 for the final summit push.The rope fixing team did a good job to fix the ropes to camp 4 today. If all works well , the team will summit on the 26th.. Praying for a good weather. God speed
Cho Oyu – Ropes Plan
IMG posted they hope to get the ropes to the summit in a day or so.
The Fixing Team will head up and fix to Camp 3 in the morning before returning to Camp 2 for the night. The following day, September 23rd, the plan is to fix to the summit. This is a strong team of Sherpa ready to head to the summit.
And who is on the Fixing Team
- Chhewang Lendu Sherpa (IMG)
- Pasang Sherpa (IMG)
- Palden Namgya Sherpa (Alpenglow)
- Nima Tenzing Sherpa (Alpenglow)
- Pemba Sherpa (Climbalaya)
- Lhakpa Ongchu Sherpa (Himalayan Guide)
- Nirmal Purja Purja Purna (Nirmal Purja Purja Purja dai)
- Gesman Tamang (Nirmal Purja Purja Purja dai’s climbing partner)
Nirmal Purja Purja Purja: Project Possible – On the Cho Oyu Rope Team
Nirmal Purja Purja Purja is part of the rope fixing team that expects to summit on Monday, September 23. He left Manaslu to get Cho before the Chinese close it on October 1 – only 11 days from now. Still, no update if he got permission to climb Shishapangma given the Chinese have closed it to all climbers due to their perception of too much danger.
Memories are Everything