Himalaya 2008 climbing season – past two weeks in review.

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ExplorersWeb Week in Review.

The past two weeks presented explorers with a roller coaster of emotions. Heroism, courage, compassion, indifference, tragedies and triumphs were all displayed one on top of the other.

Only war can match the simple and direct lessons in human nature offered by the Himalayan giants in times like these.

May 19 the time had come: “For Everest climbers, summit day is the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Olympic marathon….the 7th game of the world series between the Sox and Cubbies,” wrote Tim Warren. “There are over 400 climbers on the mountain waiting for one day of good weather, and double that number in Sherpa’s,” reported Aussie mother and daughter Cheryl and Nikki Bart.

Peak Freaks, Project Himalaya, Mountain Madness and Altitude Junkies with their joint teams of Sherpas fixed the route to the south summit; on the following day a second team of Sherpas fixed the route to the summit with climbers tucking in behind them. 14×8000er summiteer Silvio “Gnaro” Mondinelli with mates Michele Enzio and Marco Confortola had already reached South Col, working for over three hours without supplementary O2 to set up a weather station.

May 20 – Everest breaking news: Sherpas on the summit! Project-Himalaya team leader Jamie McGuinness reported the news from South Col over sat-phone: Namgyal Sherpa, with Jamie’s Project-Himalaya team, and Pemgya Sherpa, with Arun Treks summited Everest at 3:25 pm. Theirs was the first Everest summits attained this season from the south side.

May 20 – Climbers are standing on top of Mount Everest American Mountain Madness reached Everest summit at about 6:40 a.m. Shortly after, Peak Freaks reached the top, some members flying a Tibetan banner. Project-Himalaya Jamie McGuinness called ExWeb from the top, reporting plenty of climbers there or enroute.

Apa Sherpa and other Everest records The current Everest summit record status is (courtesy Rodrigoapa_sherpa-250x300.jpg Granzotto Peron):
Apa 18
Chuwang Nima 15
Lhakpa Gelu 13
Phurba Tashi 13
Big Dorje 13
Mingma Tshering 13
Chuldim Ang Dorje 12
Nga Temba 12
Nima Gombu 12

76-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan from Nepal became the oldest person to summit Mount Everest.
Next up was Yuichiro Miura (75) – true to his strategy of using “emergency camp 5″ above the Balcony.

Western Guides records:

10th summit for Dave Hahn (IMG)
8th summit for Willie Benegas (Mountain Madness)
8th summit for Vernon Tejas (Alpine Ascents)
5th summit for Dave Morton (Alpine Ascents)

The first Saudi Arabian on the top of the World is Farouq Saad Hamad Al-Zuman. Australian Cheryl Bart and her daughter Nicole “Nikki” Bart are the first mother-and-daughter to summit Big E together. All in all, hundreds of summits were reported this remarkable Everest year.

BC: Dancing the night away

“Last night /May 28, 2008 / we wound things up in style as we danced the night away at altitude, stopping every now and again to re-catch our breath,” reported Mike and Laurel. “This morning, some relaxed in the sun while others scrambled to pack the rest of their gear.”

IMG’s Eric Simonson reported yesterday. “Dave, Nicky and Greg Messner, Tucker, Jangbu, and the Sherpas are celebrating tonight at Base Camp. Tomorrow we have 80 yaks coming to BC to start moving the gear down the valley.”

The team also reported about Everest waste management. “Before we can get back our $8000 garbage deposit, we must send burnable garbage to the incinerator in Namche, recyclable bottles and cans to Kathmandu, human waste to Gorak Shep (where it is buried in the soil,) and the oxygen cylinders must be exported to USA – we must show the airway bill to prove that they were removed from Nepal,” Eric wrote.

Along this season, IMG put 31 people on the summit. “This is our second best year on Everest,” the team reported.

Lhotse: To summit – together

Ralf, Gerlinde and David departed BC May 24, hoping to top out on May 27. Ralf’s bronchitis from Makalu proved too persistent, forcing retreat to C4 on the 27th. Wind and deep cold turned back Gerlinde and David at around 8,150 meters the next day. “Gerlinde was also hoping that we could summit Lhotse together, and her motivation weakened after I had to stay behind,” Ralf reported. “We will be back.”

“It was not as cold and windy as on Dhaulagiri, but we had lost weight and our toes were more sensitive after exposure to Dhaulagiri’s freezing temperatures. That fact, together with my wish to step on Lhotse’s summit together with Ralf, made us decide to turn around right below the summit couloir.”

“Lhotse is a wonderful mountain… I shall return, and maybe three will be the charm,” concluded Kaltenbrunner.

Catalan climbers Xavi Aimar and And Xavi Arias topped out as well but dropped their original plans to attempt Everest without bottled oxygen. “Restrictions on the mountain haven’t allowed us to acclimatize enough to consider a summit push without O2.” Arias said. Also Brazilian Rodrigo Raineri decided to use O2 for his summit.

Rumors bounced around the walls of the crowded peak. For once though, information came out quickly, calming emotions. Jamie McGuinness left a voice report from South Col. Peak Freak’s reported that member Sultan collapsed just below the south summit. Tim and two Sherpas were roping him down all night; Farouq later joined in helping too. At about 4:30am they had to abandon him, leaving him in a sleeping bag after fueling him up. An Indian team then found him around 6am and started working on him. Both Sultan and a Korean climber who had continued the ascent in spite of running out of oxygen were initially reported dead, but could be revived. Rescue teams were sent up for both. Jamie kept handing out his own oxygen to various climbers, who had given theirs to other teams.

“There are a lot of messed up people here,” Andrew Brash confirmed from the South Col. “People on their way down had told me 4 deaths yesterday – obviously an alarming thing to hear. Garnering the information though, it seems there was one death yesterday, that of one climbing without O2. Some others certainly had epics.” Mountain Madness assisted in a rescue of Carlos Pauner who turned around 200 meters shy from Lhotse summit. Carlos’ mate Javier Perez went up from BC to C2, in order to help. One Everest climber’s pupils completely dilated covering his iris’s, making his eyes appear black. Fellow climbers placed his feet back onto the South Summit and down until he regained partial sight. One of the Sherpas who supported the 76-year old Nepali reportedly froze all his fingers.

Lincoln Hall rescuer Andrew Brash got his Everest summit at last. Phil Crampton now runs his own outfit, Altitude Junkies,” Jamie wrote. “Previously he used to work for Dan Mazur and while he has summitted Everest a few times, he has missed out on more summits due to dramatic rescues high on Everest. This year he managed to summit on the 21st with one of his team but a day later still make a dramatic rescue of Ryan Waters, a fellow guide, who developed pulmonary edema. Most of Ryan’s team succeeded, including Ryan but he became seriously ill on the way down.” Later American Mike Browder, leader-in-training with SummitClimb, got in trouble on Everest’s higher slopes. With virtually no one else left on the mountain, his expedition team sent five Sherpas to help him down from the South Summit.

Swiss Everest fatality confirmed Swiss mountain guide Uwe Gianni Goltz died May 21 shortly before Camp IV (7.900) after summitting Everest without oxygen. Jamie McGuinness and Uwe’s Sherpa Mingma put the mountaineer (climbing with the Kobler outfit) on oxygen and accompanied him down. Uwe had already taken 4mg dexamethazone on the summit; at the South Summit Jamie gave him 4mg more. Unfortunately, Goltz suffered Cerebral Edema and died of exhaustion on the last easier section to the South Col. The climber had already scaled five 8000ers and attempted two more.

Courage on Everest – a gesture for Tibet at last Asked to define courage, children most often say it is risking your life. On maturing, people will say that courage is doing the right thing when the wrong thing seems to produce better results. This, plus “looking past your personal goals and dedicating your life for the betterment of mankind,” has been voted top reply on Yahoo answers to the question “what is courage.” In the mountains, few climbers own the full spectrum; but they do exist. Inaki Ochoa dared to speak out against the Chinese Olympics in spite of having Himalayan mountains left to climb. A young American climber was expelled from Everest after a commercial guide handed his Free Tibet banner to authorities in camp. French Dominique Gilbert finally, flagged a Free Tibet t-shirt on the summit of Everest at last.

Lhotse: Summits and a rescue A large number of climbers summited Lhotse including Asian Trekking’s Dawa Steven, who – after some rest in C2 – later also summited Everest together with fellow mates from the eco Everest team. A rock slide hit some Lhotse tents in C4; Francisco Borja was hit in the leg and had to be helped all the way down by his mates, who needed the entire night to bring him safely back to BC. A Korean climber was reported to have summited Lhotse already on May 17, later seen dumping gear in a crevasse.

May 19 on Makalu – xx number of climbers reached the top? Portuguese climber Joao García, and a French team along with expedition Sherpas, two Italian climbers, a British Navy team, Catalan climbers Blanca Ardanaz and Jordi Servosa were only some of the mountaineers who reportedly summited Makalu around May 20th. However, climbers’ reports were contradicting. Joao reported only one French climber and a Sherpa with him on the summit, and later Australian Andrew Lock and Hector. (This marked Lock’s 8000er number 13, with only Shishapangma left). The Andalusian expedition led by Lolo Gonzales who aborted due to bad weather reported that the English expedition had turned back before the summit crest and the French expedition was almost blown off the peak. Andrew Lock reported Ted Atkins and Radek Jaros made it but neither Hector nor Neil were able to join him on true summit. Summit pictures and debriefs by Liz Hawley should clear up the confusion for correct summit records.

Makalu: Bittersweet summit – Pasang lost Pasang Gurung, a high altitude porter with the French team, fell sick (probably with HACE) and died while high up on the mountain. “Pasang, 37, passed away while sleeping in C4, at 2:00 am on May 20,” the team reported. “He was waiting for four French climbers and five Sherpas to return from their summit bid.” Pasang, the team said, had been training and learning at Chamonix’s ENSA climbing school, in order to become a mountain guide. Makalu was his first 8000er.

Brazilian team back together in KTM: Waldemar’s debrief Following several chopper incidents on arrival (one filmed by Niclevicz and posted on extremos.com.br), Irivan Gustavo Burda and Waldemar Niclevicz became the first two Brazilians to summit Makalu. Team mate Ecuadorian Santiago Quintero had a narrow escape after topping out without O2, not due to his previously frostbitten toes but HACE possibly acquired by a too fast ascent. In his debrief, Rodrigo underlined that Argentinean Hernán Wilke had a fundamental role in the rescue of Quintero, coordinating the efforts of the Sherpas sent by Waldemar and the assistance of many other climbers. The return to KTM ended just as tumultuous as was the team’s arrival on the peak. An hour and a half into the flight dark clouds mounted in the flight path and a bumpy ride ensued with the chopper brushing razor edge Himalayan ridges while getting hammered by heavy rain. Midway a stop was forced, where soldiers monitored the refueling, until the climbers were dropped in KTM airport at last.

Piotr Morawski’s North-West Face of Annapurna debrief “We finish the ridge and arrive at the summit pyramid: only about 150 metres left! An arm’s length it seems! But the wind is so strong that it’s difficult to stand up and there’s a dark, menacing bank of clouds scudding towards us. Like in cheap films: the climbers are near the summit but a storm is approaching. Sadly, it’s not just a film: what happens afterwards is a complete malignity…” Check out Morawski’s Anna debrief at ExWeb!

Annapurna IV: No-go Bad weather forced the American ski team back down on Annapurna IV. “Wow, it makes me a little sad to write that..somehow putting it into words and making it public makes it seem so final. We have tried really hard. Oh well, that’s what we do best!” said Ben Clark. ”So on to the positive- yes we have gotten some great climbing in and skied totally unskied terrain. Awesome!”

Annapurna newsflash: Iñaki Ochoa in trouble?

May 20, the first report came that Iñaki Ocha de Olza was ill in a high camp on Annapurna’s south side, after turning around 100 meters shy from the main summit due to frostbite and running out of rope. Iñaki and Horia climbed down to 7400m, where they stopped for the night – they had been climbing for 16 hours non-stop. Iñaki called home, explaining, “We had run out of rope to fix, and there was still a delicate section on the way to the summit, we turned around, but the Russian stayed up.” Iñaki seemed to be all right when he called home, but half an hour later he began to vomit and cough, and went near unconscious. Horia called doctors over sat phone and administered high altitude emergency drugs.

Stranded and seriously ill in Annapurna’s C4, a few days later Iñaki Ochoa’s situation became critical. He could eat and drink but not walk or speak. Climbers were rushing to his aid, ready to risk their lives on the south face of the world’s deadliest mountain. Ueli Steck reached Iñaki in camp 4, after two days climbing in bad weather. He released Horia, who – after his prolonged stay on altitude – descended to C3 where Ueli’s mate Simon waited with Alexey Bolotov.

Literally running up next was Denis Urubko, just back from Makalu summit. Russian Serguey Bogomolov came back up with frostbites he had suffered on the wall only two weeks earlier. Don Bowie volunteered to help as well, in spite of leaving the team earlier due to differences between the climbers. Romanians Alex Gavan, still recovering from the summit of Makalu and his mate Mihnea Radulescu, as well as Polish MD Robert Szymczak, just back from Dhaulagiri summit formed rescue team number 3. Maxut Zhumayev, fresh from Manaslu summit, also offered to help but the chopper had already left. Artur Hajzer provided route details and Javier G. Corripio special weather reports. Climbers’ friends and home teams, mountaineering websites, team sponsors and Inaki’s family all worked around the clock from all corners of the world over different time zones in one of the most difficult rescue operations ever in the Himalayas.

Simon and Horia were picked up by heli from C2. Alexey Bolotov, spent from his lonely summit attempt, decided to turn back up and help Denis and Don to carry oxygen bottles to C3. Denis and Don had hiked to the camp in one go from a village after their heli was grounded there by weather. Following only a few hours rest in C2; the climbers tried to reach Inaki in C4 already the same day. Meanwhile, climbers from rescue team number three were approaching camp 2, getting ready to help lower Inaki down.

It’s over: Iñaki Ochoa lost on Annapurna In spite off all efforts, Iñaki couldn’t make it. He passed away at 12.30 pm, with Ueli Steck desperately fighting for his life to the very end, and Denis Urubko only four hours away. Lho Gyelo Inaki, the Gods had their way.

Open letter from Inaki Ochoa’s family “We would like to tell that through the words of so many cheer messages, through the vital cooperation and the work developed along those intense days of personal efforts at fighting his deadly disappearing, have been an important medicine to sooth our pain,” wrote Inaki’s family. “By noticing the help you all wanted to bring him right in front of death, you allow us to believe and feel that there are reasons not to forget his joy, and to hope that his style helps others to build their own love for freedom.”

The tremendous rescue effort caught the hearts of Iñaki’s home town in northern Spain. Navarra’s government agreed to give all the climbers involved – and Iñaki – the Gold Medal to Merits in Sport,” reported Inaki’s webmaster Jorge Nagore. “It is the most important honorific award to be given to the region’s sportsmen.”

“This was such a road, these were such gold splashed peaks.” ExWeb 2008 Pakistan kick-off “I did not just see the skyline of mountains but sensed a crest in my own life as well. Some of us are made that way, to take delight in the wilder, harder portions of the world, while the majority of our brothers prefer the softer charms or richer country fragrant with flowers and rippling brooks.” So wrote CuChullaine O’Reilly about his first view of the Karakoram in his magical book Khyber Knights. The American journalist turned equestrian explorer rode through Peshawar and the surrounding lawless portions of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province in the early 80s, and his tale kicked off the ExWeb 2008 Karakoram climbing season.

Erden Erduc: Pacific record row is over Erden’s 310 day Pacific record row was ended when the planned re-supply fell through and winds carried him further north, “into the counter current la la land again.”

Anasazi Girl update: Full circle in Bermuda! “Arrived in port May 19. All is well. Epic trip. Recovery now. Walking around in the ‘daze’. A broken mast and a whale collision is enough for a sailor’s lifetime. James survived both plus a number of fast rides in just one round around the globe. “I used to have sign on my door in the Silverton House,” James ended his last dispatch: “It read ‘No shoes, no women, no drama’. Now I have only the no shoes part. Life is good.”

North Pole Marathon and the wrecked Barneo tent. The final Barneo journal mentioned that the mess tent floor had to be repaired following the NP Marathon visit. NP Marathon organizer Richard Donovan replied that his competitors always left snowshoes neatly outside. Barneo chief Irina Orlova wrote back that staff members had to lead a competitor wearing crampon boots out of the mess tent, and it was not the first time either. Donovan later wrote to ExWeb that his reply had sprung from a mix-up in dates.

Phoenix Touchdown on the Martian North Pole. May 25, a signal was detected from Phoenix indicating that the lander was on the surface of Mars. The low-budget spacecraft, made of backup hardware, performed a “soft landing” by throttled rocket thrust (instead of airbags) for the first time in 30 years. This step is crucial for human missions to Mars.

Read these stories – and more! – at – ExplorersWeb.com

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