With winter officially here, we see some ambitious climbs begin on Everest, Manalsu, and even Nanga Parbat. So here’s a quick round-up of some of the more exciting activities.
German climber Jost Kobusch has arrived at Everest Base Camp Nepal for his no O solo attempt on Everest’s West Ridge. Please see this video interview I did with him a few months ago, where we discussed his plans in detail. He says his goal is to reach 8,000-meters and not the summit. You can follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and an excellent 3D view of his current location on his website.
He made this post a few days ago:
In Lukla, I first reorganized my luggage, my ten bags. This time I have 200 kg of equipment with me. This may sound like a lot at first, but surprisingly little! There will be no classic base camp this year. So no camp with cooks, food tent and cooking tent, but just my small tent. This means significantly less equipment. Last time we had just under a tonne of equipment with us. “We” then also meant the two cooks, including food, cooking utensils, and the extra tents. It was definitely different. I also think it’s cool when it changes, always so exciting.
70-year-old French alpinist Marc Batard announced in November 2021 that he had found a way to bypass the Khumbu Icefall by climbing on the flanks of Nuptse. Nuptse serves as the southern wall above the Icefall. The Benegas Brothers advocated for this for many years. Still, they could never make it a reality due to objective dangers and the climbing difficulty.
Batard seems convinced he has solved all the issues, including claiming to the Kathmandu Post, “There is no danger of an avalanche in the Nuptse ridge.” Further, he plans to bolt or attach anchors on the route, “…permanently install metal hooks or rock pitons by drilling the rocky spur.” He thinks it will take seven hours to reach Camp 1 in the Western Cwm. They plan to test it in the Spring of 2022.
It’s unlikely this will work, but good on him for trying. The slopes of Nuptse are steep, rocky, and as avalanche-prone as the West Shoulder of Everest. The technical difficulty is significant; thus, Sherpas making “speed” carries to stock the high camps would probably prefer the regular route to go faster. I doubt the Nepal Government will approve bolting Nuptse (but they did for a rap line on the old Hillary Step.) I also suspect that commercial guides will not allow their clients to climb such technical terrain. Most lack the skills to navigate this area safely. Of course, if it proves viable, it might be an alternative for expert climbers, but not the masses, in my opinion.
Batard plans to return to Everest in 2022 to test his new route and set an age record for a no Os summit. In September 1998, Batard summited Everest in 22.5 hours on the Nepal side, establishing a speed record for ten years. He has climbed six of the 8000ers—three of the mountains in a single year with his first, Gasherbrum II, in 1975. In 1987, he made the first winter ascent of Dhaulagiri. He has also summited Makalu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma.
While we are discussing Everest, as I covered in three recent articles:
the spring season is looking stranger and stranger by the day. We are already seeing some operators like Mountian Trip completely cancel their spring plans on the Nepal side citing, “We don’t feel that we can properly mitigate risk to the best of our ability during peak season on the south side of the mountain, for a variety of reasons.”
China is still not confirming to operators they will open Tibet (Everest, Cho Oyu, and Shishangma) for climbing in the spring. And as I note in a moment, Nepal is sending mixed messages about quarantines.
Autumn may be a better bet for 2022. The Benegas Brothers already announced their plans for that season.
Quarantine or No Quarantine?
Once again, Nepal’s decision-making around COVID is inconsistent. The Government did a press release for a new quarantine policy, then promptly canceled it a day later.
They first announced that visitors from 67 countries would have to quarantine for seven days in a hotel upon arrival in Nepal. Then if they test negative (I know, makes no sense), then quarantine an additional seven at “home.” source.
However, a day later, they canceled the requirement. Who knows what the rules will come spring. All visitors should check with their country’s embassy before making final travel plans. Even then, buying cancellation insurance or at least refundable tickets may be the best insurance of all. On second thought, the climbing in Ecuador or Scotland is fantastic!
The world’s eighth highest peak, Manaslu at 26,781 -feet/8162-meters, is seeing more substantial than usual traffic this winter. The Polish/Portuguese climber, Oswald Rodrigo Pereira, is there, as shown on his site. He is climbing with Belgium climbers Stef Maginelle and Sofie Lenaerts.
Also on Manaslu are Alex Txikon, Sendoa Elejalde, and Eneko Garamendia. Simone Moro is reportedly there as well with Iñaki Alvarez. Txikon has made multiple winter attempts on 8000ers over the past few years. But, as usual, it’s the weather that stops most winter summits.
It will be interesting to track these climbs to see if they reach the “true” summit of Manaslu.
Desnivel is reporting German David Göttler, Italian Hervé Barmasse, American Mike Arnold, and the Pakistani Qudrat Ali for the first winter climb of Nanga Parbat by the Rupal route. It’s a 4,500-meters tall wall that terminates at the 8,126-meter summit.
Antarctic Logistics Expeditions, ALE, has the base camp at Union Glacier up and running. Multiple commercial teams have already climbed Mt. Vinson, one of the Seven Summits. The second-highest, Mt. Tyree, is getting rare traffic. On December 4, 2021, those who were there got to experience a perfect view of a total solar eclipse.
By the way, the legendary Ilyushin IL-76 TD is now relegated to cargo-only flights, with a Boeing 757 now taking passengers for the four and half hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to the blue-ice runway at Union Glacier. Garrett Madison is on the continent for a month running trips to Vinson and Tyree. A few days ago, he posted on Facebook this picture of his ride.
Also, the annual Antarctic Ice Marathon was completed yesterday, December 20, 2021.
Speaking of the Seven Summits, the highest peak outside the Himalaya, Aconcagua at 6,960-meter/22,837-feet, is open for business. However, the Argentinan authorities only allow climbs via the Horcones Valley, aka the “normal” route, not the Vacas Valley this season. Nevertheless, teams are already climbing during a shortened season-ending in mid-February.
Plans but No Action
As usual, there are plans out there but nothing concrete to report quite yet. These plans include a winter K2 attempt by Taiwanese climber Tseng “Grace” Ko-Erh. She is to be supported by over five Sherpas through Dolma Expeditions. Also getting some publicity but no activity is Gelje Sherpa’s effort to create a standard route on the Nepal side of Cho Oyu. Currently, it’s rarely climbed from that side due to avalanches and other objective dangers. Of the 3,923 summits on Cho, only 135 have been from the Nepal side.
Best of luck to all on their missions.
Memories are Everything