Kami Rita Sherpa and his team reached the top of Everest on May 7, opening the route for the 300 odd people who have taken a permit to climb Everest this season. This summit, like every other year, (un)officially marked the start of the mountaineering season.
But, Nepal’s mountaineering season, which started around mid-March, has already seen a lot. There have been summits on Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Kanchenjunga; climbers have gone missing; people have died and climbers have created records.
So what has happened up to now? Let’s take a look.
The first summit of the season on an 8000er was on Dhaulagiri when Mingma G led his team to scale the seventh highest mountain in the world. Blessed with a great weather window, their summit attempt was quite smooth as 10 international climbers and 12 Nepali climbers reached the summit.
After Dhaulagiri, Annapurna saw a host of climbers reach the top too. On April 28, around 30 people reached the summit of the mountain, most notably Adriana Brownlee and Grace Tseng. The latter did not use oxygen during her summit bid. There were other women too who climbed Annapurna. Baibanou Bouchra from Morroco, Kasturi Deepak Savekar from India, Olga Koroleva from Russia, Allie Pepper from Australia and Kristin Harila from Norway reached the summit of the mountain as women dominated the climb on Annapurna I. Harlia also climbed Dhaulagiri on May 8.
Along with Tseng, Hans Wenzl, Tim Bogdanov and Giampaolo Corona also did not use supplemental oxygen and climbed the mountain ‘alpine style’, informs Chhang Dawa Sherpa from Seven Summit Treks. Bogdanov and Corona lost contact with the Seven Summit Treks team when they descended off a new route but were later rescued off the mountain using a helicopter. Both are alive and well and have been treated for frostbite.
Kanchenjunga saw a host of summits on the mountain on May 5 as around 40 people reached the summit. Most of the climbers who reached the summit were from India. Pakistan’s wonder kid Shehroze Kashif also stood atop the mountain along with Sirbaz Ali Khan, who became the first-ever Pakistani to climb 10 of the world’s 14 highest peaks. Nepali photojournalist Purnima Shrestha also reached the summit of Kanchenjunga making it her 6th 8000-er.
Mingma G and his team, who turned back from the mountain a week ago, also reached the summit on May 7. Nepal Army personnel Raju Shrestha and Amit Thapa also reached the summit becoming Nepal’s first army personnel to summit the mountain.
Qatari princess Asma Al Thani also reached the summit of Kanchenjunga with Nirmal Purja and a team of highly experienced climbers. She is in Nepal to climb Everest and Lhotse, but with time to kill, she headed to Kanchenjunga with Purja and became the first Arab to climb the third highest mountain in the world. But, some are questioning if it can be called a true summit as Al Thani wrote they started their summit bid from Camp 2. Pujra, however, says they started from base camp.
In other news, there has also been summit success on Makalu. Adran Ballinger from Alpenglow Expedition has successfully skied off the mountain as the mountain say many summits on May 9.
In life, death is inevitable, but on the mountains, the risk of dying is extremely high. Take the example of Antonios Sykaris. The experienced Greek Alpinist died on Dhaulagiri on April 12 during the descent of the mountain, shocking the mountaineering world. While he was showered with tributes, the death of Nepali, Nima Tenji Sherpa from Waku, Solukhumbu, went under the radar. Nima Tenji died in the dangerous Khumbu icefall. The reason for his death is still unknown.
Kanchenjunga also saw one casualty. Narayan Iyer, from India, died on Kanchenjunga while ascending the mountain. There are reports that his expedition outfit, Pioneer Adventures, after seeing he was ill, asked him to descend, but Iyer refused and died on the mountain.
Reports have also emerged about Russian climber Pavel Kostrikin dying on Everest due to acute mountain sickness.
A Nepali climber has gone missing on the Lhotse’s South Face. Khudam Bir Tamang, part of Hong Sung Taek’s team, got swept by an avalanche. There have been rescue attempts but it is likely that Tamang has been forever lost in the mountain.
Summit bids underway
There are people still on Dhaulagiri and Kanchenjunga waiting for the right window. Carlos Sori, 83, is still on Dhaulagiri trying to summit the mountain. This is his 13th attempt to climb the mountain. A team of Nepali climbers from Seven Summit Treks are with him on the mountain. Billi Bierling, from the Himalayan Database, is also on the mountain aiming for the summit.
Things are moving forward on Makalu as the fixing team has almost reached the summit. There are teams from Seven Summit Treks, Alpenglow Expeditions and Pioneer Adventures.
Kanchenjunga also has a few teams on the mountain, most of whom are clients from Seven Summit Treks.
The most abuzz place during the mountaineering season is the Everest base camp. After Kami Rita and the team fixed ropes to the summit, a certain buzz can be seen at the base camp. A few teams of acclimatised climbers are already on their way up the mountain trying to beat the traffic. Climbers who had descended down the mountain to Namche Bazar and Pheriche are on their way up to base camp with the aim to fulfil their lifelong dream of reaching the highest point on earth.
Is good weather incoming?
Chronicler Alan Arnett last week spoke to three weather experts who said the mountaineering season is expected to be dryer than in the last couple of years with fewer winds than usual. Arnett himself feels this mountaineering season might be similar to 2018 when there were 11 days of great weather, which meant a total of 802 summits were recorded on both sides of Everest. This is good news for those climbing Makalu and Lhotse too.