“It was the best of times and the worst of times.” With all respect to Mr. Charles Dickens, I’m talking about the 2022 climbing year, not the French Revolution in 1775. Oh my, what a year. Hundreds of new people tried out the sport, while old hands showed up after a couple of down years. Operators and countries generated much-needed revenue, and some people accomplished their lifetime dreams.
As I’ve written several times while covering the high-altitude mountaineering world, I believe history will consider 2022 as an inflection point in the evolution (or devolution) of mountaineering.
Does anyone care that Jane and John Smithe became the first couple from rural Northland to summit Mount Impossible?
The comments posted on my blog show a declining interest in today’s climbing world and the highest level of disdain I’ve seen in covering the climbing world since 1999. And it appears that even the general media world is adjusting. Long-time climbing publications have sold to the lowest bidder. As a result, they are transitioning from print to online publications that feature captivating stories like “The Best Biodegradable Bag for your Poop” or the “Top 10 Ways to Wear Socks.”
Climbing forums have plenty of pithy comments citing fast food restaurants on the summits, paved trails, and men (and women) in kilts (and stilts) doing the ordinary. And, of course, a fan favorite, “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory,” where the author thinks they invented the saying (apologies to Mr. Viesturs.) Everyone is a comedian, it appears, even me.
This summer, a reporter researching an Everest story asked me to “explain the difficulty and significance of Barney being number 646th American to summit Everest.” I politely explained that even the magazines sold at a grocery store checkout lane wouldn’t cover it.
So what’s going on?
Climbing in the Himalaya continues to set records. Sadly another death. Some previous records are being questions while others continue their pursuits.
The popular 6000 meter Nepal peak, Ama Dablam, 22,349 feet is currently swamped with climbers and their support, some estimates are over 800 will be the final total. The Nepal Ministry of Tourism has officially issued 250 permits to foreigners as of October 19,2022. You can double that for support climbers so we are already at 500. However, as one climber told me, they were there with few people thus far. so like I always say, you can still enjoy climbing Nepal, or Pakistan, if you go at the right time, on the right route wit he right team.
Only days after a deadly avalanche between Camps 3 and 4 on Manaslu, this Sunday morning, October 2, 2022, Manaslu Base Camp was hit by a new release destroying six camps and 30 tents but no lives. However, one Sherpa died in a different avalanche while descending from Camp 2 to Camp 1. That makes two deaths taken by avalanches this season. Historically, avalanches occur near Manaslu base camp but rarely hit it. Obviously, Manaslu is so loaded that being anywhere on the mountain is a gamble with lives.
It’s a grim time on Manaslu with bodies being found related and unrelated to the avalanche earlier this week. Some teams have wisely ended their expeditions while others press on. Time will tell if there will more another release given the ongoing snows. Manaslu has experienced heavy snowfall this season. One of the Sherpas managing the route, Yukta Gurung, told The Kathmandu Post the avalanche was triggered by continuous snowfall. “It had snowed unceasingly for 15 days. The area was covered in at least five to six feet of snow; the piled-up snow ultimately gave way triggering the avalanche.”
A major avalanche similar to 2012 occurred high on Manalsu, between Camp 3 and 4, while several teams were climbing higher to be in position for summit bids around September 27 and 28. It appears that Sherpas ferrying loads to Camp 4 took the worst of the avalanche. Poor weather is hampering rescue efforts.
Let me warn readers from the outset that when these incidents occur, the first news is almost always incorrect or at least incomplete. The details will become clear as teams return to camps and communications are established. According to my sources on the mountain, it is unclear if the season will continue. It’s too early to make that decision.
The Himalayan Times reports that “As many as 12 climbers were injured … Sherpa climbers from Seven Summit Treks, Satori Adventure, Imagine Nepal Treks, Elite Expedition, and 8K Expeditions are among others were injured. Gorkha Police said the deceased has been identified as Anup Rai.”
The Kathmandu Post reported that Icefall doctor Yukta Gurung, who is at the base camp, said that the avalanche was triggered by continuous snowfall. “It had snowed unceasingly for 15 days. The area was covered in at least five to six feet of snow; the piled-up snow ultimately gave way triggering the avalanche.”
Seven Summits Treks reported in with injuries, “We witnessed an avalanche this afternoon between C3-C4 while team were reopening the trail to C4 in Manaslu. More than 13 climbers (including Sherpas) were swept along with the avalanche. 4 Sherpas, including 2 from our team need urgent rescue from higher camp, however rest of all have minor injuries. ”
Slowly teams are checking in. At the time of this post, around 10:00 PM Monday, September 26, Nepal time, we know that Furtunebach, Climbing the Seven Summits, Elite Expeditions, Imagine Nepal, Madison Mountaineering, Pioneer Adventure, and Wild Yak have all checked in with their teams safe.