While Everest gets a lot of attention each spring season, Nepal has seven other 8000-meter peaks that deserve coverage. In some cases, they are more interesting from a pure climbing perspective than the Big E, Makalu, for example.
Climbers are streaming into Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport from all over the world. Many are trekking, not climbing, but most climbers will attempt Everest.
Of the fourteen peaks higher than 26,000-feet or 8,000-meters, eight are entirely in Nepal or straddle the border with either India or Tibet: Everest, Cho Oyu, Annapurna, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Lhotse, and Kanchenjunga. Of the remaining giants, five are in Pakistan: K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum, and Gasherbrum II, while Shishapangma stands alone within the Tibetan borders.
China has closed Tibet to foreigners for the third straight year due to COVID, and the climbing season in Pakistan usually, but not always, starts in June; thus, Nepal has the focus for now.
Dhaulagiri – C1 Established
Following the Northeast Ridge, Sherpas from Mingma G‘s Imagine Nepal have established their Camp 1 on the way to Camp 2 at 6600m. After being with Mingma on last Autumn’s Manaslu climb, the Canadian mountaineer, Jill Wheatley, hopes to summit all fourteen of the 8000ers to break down the stigma associated with traumatic brain injury, vision loss, and eating disorders.
Dhaulagiri was popular last year, with over 78 people on the peak. However, in 2021, no one made the summit primarily due to a massive outbreak of COVID forcing scores to be evacuated to Kathmandu hospitals. Several climbers made valiant attempts on new routes or with small teams but were stopped by dangerous snow conditions, including avalanches. Let’s hope for safer conditions this year.
There is no word yet if 82-year-old Carlos Soria will return for his 13th attempt. He is hoping to finally get Dhaul and end his 8000er quest with Shishapangma.
Dhaulagiri, at 8167-meter high, has seen 559 total summits, 70% without supplemental oxygen, with 185 deaths. The success rate for climbers above base camp is pretty low at 18%. Poor weather or bad climbing conditions are the main reasons for stopping their climb.
Kang at 8586-meters is considered one of the more difficult 8000er with only 446 total summits for a 27% success rate plus 51 deaths. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is stalling the hopes of Slovak climber Peter Hamor, Romanians Horia Colibasanu, and Marius Gane all wanting to attempt a traverse of Kang.
One interesting team will be John Gill with Grand Himalaya Treks and Expeditions owned by Nimgya Sherpa. John tells me their team consists of 14 climbers, 4 trekkers (to BC only), 13 Sherpa guides, 8 BC staff, approx 90-100 porters. And that their climbers come from Canada, Netherlands, Romania, India, Australia.
Statistically, Anna is the deadliest of the 8000ers with 72 deaths and only 365 summits or 20%, Taiwan’s Grace Tseng who was skunked last winter on K2 despite having a massive Sherpa team and being the only client has her sights on Annapurna, then Makalu. She has summited Everest, Lhotse, and Manaslu.
Alpenglow has a team on this highly technical 8485-meter peak. Please see this Podcast I did with Alpenglow’s co-founder, Adrian Ballinger, about Makalu. Only 524 individuals have summited it, totaling 568 summits with 48 deaths.
I’ve not seen any reports for attempts on Manaslu this spring. It’s usually climbed in the Autumn since most guides are occupied with Everest. Manaslu was regarded as one of two achievable 8000-meter peaks, Cho Oyu being the other. However, with last Autumn’s alternate summit route showing the main summit is reachable in these modern days, this alternative route’s difficulty may discourage people from trying. It remains to be seen how popular Manaslu will remain or if people will be satisfied to reach the fore-summit, a bit lower than the main at 8163-meters.
Located adjacent to Everest, Lhotse has become a popular “add-on” for Everest climbers with many planning (and paying for it) but not attempting it after their grueling Everest summit bid. However, climbing Lhotse on its own merits is popular and, I believe, the best style to climb the world’s fourth-highest peak at 8516-meters. Lhotse has 933 total summits with 21 deaths.
Update: South Korean Hong Sun-Taek returns for another attempt on the very dangerous and difficult South Face of Lhotse. He previously tried in 1999, 2007, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2019.
As I previously reported, the Doctors are working hard to set the fixed rope between Everest Base Camp, EBC, and Camp 2 at 21,500-feet/6400m. There is talk about having the entire route fixed to the summit by May 1.
The all-volunteer service based at Everest Base Camp provides medical aid to climbers, Sherpas, porters, and basically anyone in the area. Founded by Dr. Luanne Freer in 2003, they are today part of the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), a non-profit organization formed in 1973 with an objective to reduce casualties in the Nepal Himalayas. Last spring, EverestER treated 364 patients, including 268 Nepalis.
EverestEr is introducing its staff on Facebook, and they are impressive. Some of the team includes:
- Lakpa Norbu Sherpa: team lead. He has his Wilderness First Responder certificate from training in Switzerland, Italy, and the United States. He is one of only four Nepalis trained in Long Line Rescue. He is a Sr. Rescue Specialist at Helicopter Rescue Specialist
- Dr. Sanjeeb Bhandari: is a medical graduate from the Institute of Medicine, Nepal, and a current emergency medicine resident at the Virginia Tech Carilion EM residency program. He grew up in Pokhara, Nepal.
- Dr. Ellen Stein: received her medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School and completed her residency in Emergency Medicine at Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts, USA. She completed her fellowship in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at the University of New Mexico and is a member of various Search and Rescue teams.
4G Service on Nepal Side to the Summit By Autumn
Hopefully, by Autumn 2022, NCELL, the dominant cell phone company in Nepal, will offer enhanced 4G service throughout the Khumbu. They announced they would build five towers: Thame, Somare Pari Hill, Dingboche, Thukla Hill, and Pyramid Hill. One tower will be the world’s highest at 5,204-meters/17,073-feet, according to this article in the Kathmandu Post.
NCELL has had cell service at EBC for several years, but it has been spotty. Also, EverestLink provides fast WiFi throughout the Khumbu, including at EBC. With the new towers, cell service is anticipated to be available for the first time on Everest’s summit route. China has had 5G service on their side, including to the summit, through China Mobile for a few years now. While this is nice, I’d still bring a satellite phone.
I use the Himalayan Database as my primary source of Everest summit statistics. If you are climbing in 2022, they are asking you to fill in an electronic web-based survey. This replaces the time-consuming process of visiting each team in their hotel before the climb. Please use this link to complete the survey. You can now download the HDB for free at their site.
I have begun to create my annual team location table and track climber’s blogs (see sidebar). If you have a team not listed, please let me know and I will add them if I can track them. If you prefer not to be mentioned, please contact me.
I will post a few background articles and interviews between now and early April when the teams arrive at the base camps. If you would like to see anything special this year, post a comment or drop me an email.
Here’s to a safe season for everyone on the Big Hill.
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