Following founders’ and friends’ expeditions, other adventure websites were added in fast pace: ThePoles, TheOceans, K2Climb, AdventureStats, BaseCampMD, AdventureWeather, HumanEdgeTech and finally Pythom.com. By 2003, all sites had merged under one umbrella: ExplorersWeb.
In 2009, ExWeb will get a 10-year anniversary makeover: outdated content will be scrubbed; while new, exciting stuff will be added.
It’s been a wild ride, with 2008 the most dramatic yet. Inaki’s rescue attempt on Annapurna and the K2 tragedy a few months later would be plenty for a normal year. But it was Everest, China and Tibet that would keep us really on edge.
Meanwhile, other great adventures and issues took place. ExWeb was there, too. Here goes a Year in Review of those, excluding Everest/China and the awarded expeditions/events.
No luck on winter 8000ers
The year kicked off with aborted winter climbs. Italian Simone La Terra gave up Nanga Parbat already on December 21, after a blizzard blew away his kitchen tent.
“It was an inferno,” Luca recalled from winter Makalu. The wind almost lifted the climbers up in the air, ripped their supply tents off the ground and scattered their gear all over the mountain base. The Italian/Kazakh summit attempts were finally aborted in January.
Agreements broken and gear stolen, the three climbers headed by Italian Simone Moro still gave Broad Peak their best shot but a very late start finally forced also this team to abort short of summit in February.
“Faking an accomplishment;
Claiming something is a first, when it’s not;
Pretending that an expedition is all about something socially relevant;
Claiming that an expedition proves something it doesn’t;
Hiding the fact that an expedition is guided;
Telling your audience that all it takes to live this life is the courage to follow your dreams, when you’re sitting on a trust fund…”
…Jerry Kobalenko finished his top-ten expedition BS countdown and left to paddle 1000km from Goose Bay, Labrador to Blanc Sablon, Quebec.
The only sailor who sailed a catamaran non stop around the world; the first single-handed attempt to sail the Northeast Passage and the only who wintered over in the ice of Siberia, “how insignificant man-made records are,” Henk de Velde chimed in.
And how much BS is involved, Henk noted, offering some examples: Philippe Monnet; Olivier the Kersauson; Vendee Globe – all making their own “records” along with iffy claims. “It’s all vanity,” Henk said. “I see small boats sailing around the world. You never hear about them. In marinas nobody looks at their tattered hulls. For me those men and woman are world champions.”
Everest clients fight back; Piolet d’Or suspended; Alpinist folds; Hillary dies
Everest clients fought back: Volker Kuebler said his outfitter on Everest North side Kari Kobler pushed his clients to climb higher when they were ill, and used all available summit Sherpas for a favorite client and his own summit attempt. “To me this was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I used parts of my life-savings for it and expected responsible guiding and treatment,” said Volker. Kari Kobler denied the accusations and said that he has new guidelines for evaluating clients.
Following her expedition with Himex, aired by the Discovery channel, Betsy Huelskamp posted her own version of the events online. Mates and guides cursed at her, Betsy said. The leader threw her things around and on camera accused her of misrepresenting her experience – an accusation Betsy disproved by posting her intro letter to Brice.
ExWeb founders told their own story of young Michael Matthews – whose tragedy didn’t end with his death on Everest – but, according to the father, continued in cover ups all the way to the British Alpine Club. The case almost went to criminal court until a London judge ruled that it should be dismissed after conferring with “British mountaineering experts.”
Piolet d’Or was finally suspended after organizers reported unable to obtain everybody’s agreement on new standards. The Piolet d’Or domain was purchased by Grivel. Later in 2008, Alpinist announced that the October 2008 financial crisis forced them to suspend operations.
Everest legend Edmund Hillary died at age 88. In his honor, Nepal re-named the Lukla strip to Hillary-Tenzing Airport.
Other spring news
The Pakistani people voted for Democracy …and the Dictator let them. Yet as Musharraf was key to keeping insurgents at bay, on the eve of Pakistan’s election, ExplorersWeb’s Karrar Haidri sat down with Pakistan’s Minister of Tourism Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, for a chat about the Chitral zone (and increasing Baltoro trek pollution).
There were several interesting M&I entries. In a Q&A with ExWeb, Everest historian Tom Holzel revealed his battle with media and the British climbing establishment.
Debriefs and stunning pictures arrived from remote Patagonia: Pablo Besser and friends explored the little known north-east side of the Patagonia ice cap, made a number of first winter ascents and built igloos for camps. Cristian Donoso led an expedition in little explored Western Patagonia, kayaking among drifting ice, camping on deserted beaches, caving, scuba diving and dragging 400 lb sea kayaks across glaciers and through rain forests.
It took 155 days, but in February Expedition Amazonas became the fourth ever team to successfully navigate the entire length of the mighty Amazon River from its ultimate source at Mt Mismi to where it meets the Atlantic ocean some 6800 Kilometers away.
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.
Himalaya spring 2008
Chinese restrictions forced Himalaya climbers to reroute in a hurry this spring.
A record 50 foreigners plus a large number of Nepalese climbers attempted Makalu this spring; with several close-call chopper landings in BC.
The peak became Juan Oiarzabal’s 22nd 8000er, an outstanding world record. The Spaniard, who lost all his toes on K2, said that he climbed Makalu “to prove I am not yet over, (and I want to let everybody know that).” The mountain became 8000er no 13 for Denis Urubko, Ralf Dujmovits and Andrew Lock. At 69 yeras old, Carlos Soria became the oldest person to summit Makalu.
In spite of extensive frostbite from an Aconcagua winter climb, Brazilian Santiago Quintero summited Makalu without supplementary oxygen. Suffering from HACE on descent, he was helped down to high camp by German Ralf Dujmovits, with Argentinean Hernán Wilke coordinating efforts and assistance by other climbers lower down.
Pasang Gurung, 37, high altitude porter with a French team died while sleeping in C4, probably of HACE. Makalu was his first 8000er.
On Dhaulagiri, a large number of climbers summited in bad weather. Rafael Guillén fell to his death while helping climbing mate Jesús Morales. Argentinean expedition leader Christian Vitry suffered frostbites after spending a night in a crevasse and was finally rescued by a Lithuanian team. Vitry’s team mate Dario Bracali was lost. Climbers on the mountain and international contributors helped ExWeb to compile the dramatic events.
Russian Alexey Bolotov reached Annapurna east summit and dedicated his ascent to President Dmitry Medvedev’s inauguration.
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. Francisco Borja was hit in the leg by a rock in C4; his mates needed the entire night to bring him safely back to BC.
Brazilian writer and chronicler Rodrigo Granzotto Peron compiled a season’s end report with all the latest names on the 14, 8000ers quest, new routes and difficult repetitions in 2008, the national firsts/oldest/women/repeaters/etc records, and the absolute numbers of all Himalaya summits this spring.
“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 in his magical book Khyber Knights about his first view of the Karakoram. The American journalist turned equestrian explorer kicked off the ExWeb 2008 Karakoram climbing season.
There were 10 expeditions to K2; 50 total to 8000+; and about 25 to the spires & lower peaks.
French extreme skier Jean Noel Urban, 47, was killed in a crevasse fall on Gasherbrum 1. Jean-Noel and Nicolas Brun planned to attempt an ascent of the Japanese couloir on the NW side of Gasherbum 1; and later a ski descent of Nanga Parbat.
Italian ace climber Karl Unterkircher fell into a crevasse when scouting a new route at 6000 meters on Nanga Parbat’s Rakhiot face. His mates Walter Nones and Simon Kehrer were airlifted to BC following a very difficult climb back.
Slovaks Dodo Kopold and Vlado Plulik split up at around 8000 meters on Broad Peak; after which Vlado went missing – possibly in a fall. Vlado had no head lamp, no radio and no satellite phone. Dodo called home from 6000 meters two days later, reporting only that he had made the summit alone and that Vlado was probably descending. In the following days, Russian/Canadian Valery Babanov climbed in stormy weather to C2 looking for the mountaineer and 4-5 more climbers were searching around C1 while Dodo attended dinners in K2’s BC.
American climber/skier Dan McCann fell on Broad Peak. Dan’s three buddies including expedition leader Chuck Boyd performed a very difficult high altitude rescue of their mate.
Japanese top climber Hiro Takeuchi summited the mountain that nearly took his life in 2007. In spite of a collapsed lung, one vertebra and five ribs broken in an avalanche; Hiro bagged GII this summer as a triumph to his rescuers and a tribute to mountaineering.
An Iranian team summited five climbers on the normal route on Nanga Parbat but lost team mate Saman Nemati in unclear circumstances.
Italians Roby Piantoni and Marco Astori summited G1 and went straight for GII from Gasherbrum La, the col connecting both peaks. Ugly weather and deep snow ended their goal of linking GI and GII across the ridge.
“Dos Pedros” Hamor/Morawski did a spectacular G1/G2 double header, starting with a full traverse of G1 in pure alpine style, alone on the route, followed by the normal route up to the summit of G2.
Luis Stitzinger climbed Nanga Parbat as a guide via Kinshofer route. He climbed until Manzeno Peak, descended via Messner route on the Diamir wall and later made a speed climb up the Kinshofer route, had to abort short from summit but skied down the whole Diamir face in a 24,5 hours roundtrip.
Other Karakoram news
American Greg Mortenson became one of the very few foreigners to receive the Sitara-e-Pakistan award since it was established in 1957, shortly after Pakistan proclaimed its independence.
Following the terrorist attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on 22 September, British Airways cancelled all flights into and out of the capital providing the Dream Free International team on Trango’s Nameless Tower with a final crux; to get home.
ExWeb’s contributor Brazilian writer and chronicler Rodrigo Granzotto Peron once again compiled a season’s end report: with all about the 14, 8000er quest climbers who bagged a Karakoram summit this season, promises vs. accomplishments, fast triples, ski descents, tragedies and rescues, firsts and record breakers, absolute numbers of ascents and curiosities.
The Pakistan Ministry of Tourism has decided to continue the reduction in Royalty fee for the year 2009. There’s zero royalty fee for peaks up to 6500 m; 10% on mountains situated in Chitral, Gilgit and Ghizer except on Spantik/Golden Peak; 5% fee on all peaks during winter; and 50% discount on all peaks such as K2 during summer.
Himalaya fall 2008
“New rules imposed by the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association have made it very difficult for expeditions with several different nationalities of climbers to obtain a climbing permit,” reported mountaineers and made Manaslu “the new Cho Oyu.”
20 climbers summited Manaslu October 3-5, while two large commercial teams’ reported success was rejected by summiteers’ debriefs (see below).
With Nives and Edurne’s Manaslu summit, Edurne Pasaban, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Nives Meroi are now on an even 11, 8000er summits each. However, Edurne’s Al Filo team stated it is not returning to 8000+meters climbing, but will instead focus on smaller, technical peaks.
With 8, 8000ers, Everest twice (both sides) and Manaslu twice, Yoshinobu Kato (32) had one of the best records in Japanese mountaineering. Susumu Nakamura (62) skied to the North Pole in 1978 (with resupplies and dogs) and to the South Pole in 1994. With Everest in 1988, the Japanese explorer accomplished one of the earliest expeditions to the Three Poles. The two climbers and a young camera man were found dead after an avalanche struck above camp 1 on Kula Kangri in Tibet.
Guy Leveille and Miha Valic were lost on Cho Oyu. Two climbers died while rappelling down the Grey Tower on Ama Dablam. Sky-runner Corinne Favre was seriously injured on Pumori. One of the teams on Island Peak reportedly began to take down a rope that someone was still rappelling down. Littering was reported on Pumori and Makalu.
Climbers’ reports about the massive Makalu summit push on May 20th were contradicting. Summits of an English and a French expedition were questioned.
On Gasherbrum 2, Romanian Alex Gavan reported that only a fraction of those reporting success July 6th actually made the true top. According to Gavan, Kobler’s guide told climbers he didn’t know how many in his team had summited, as the weather was foggy. Out of around 20 summits originally reported during the period on G2, only 6 ended up confirmed.
Following emails from ExWeb, commercial outfitter Amical corrected their website while commercial outfitter Kari Kobler stated he had heard from “Henry and Russel” that ExplorersWeb “have issues against us commercials” and refused to comment. (*Check Ed note below.)
On Manaslu, several large commercial teams’ reports didn’t add up to other climbers’ tales cutting numbers of success down to barely half. In detailed debriefs clearly stating timelines and names of actual summiteers, five different teams reported crowds of people, most of them on O2, leaving empty canisters all along the route and turning back before an exposed corniced ridge that leads to the true summit.
Jagged Globe and Himex reported successes (Himex in addition stating it was the first team to push the route to the summit) were rejected. ExWeb contacted both for a comment but received no reply.
(*Ed note: The “issues” mentioned by Russ and Todd are previous stories made by ExplorersWeb about Henry Todd’s ongoing manufacturing and sales of undisclosed supplementary oxygen. Russell Brice/Himex was featured in stories regarding independent climber David Sharp’s death on Everest. On Nangpa La, Brice and Todd also reportedly threatened a guide who emailed ExWeb about the killing of a young Tibetan nun.)
New routes, partial lines and variations
Rolando Garibotti and Bean Bowers made a new line on the West Face of the North Pillar (no summit) on Fitz Roy. Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley did the first ever traverse of Torre.
Ueli Steck and Simon Anthamatten completed a first ascent of Tengkampoche (6500m) north face, in alpine-style, without bolts or fixed ropes. The climb took 4 days and a hard final bivouac on the razor-edge summit crest. Later Ueli Steck also free-climbed “Paciencia” (patience), the most difficult and demanding sports-climbing route on the Eiger north face with difficulties up to 8a. Ueli and Stefan Siegrist free-climbed the route in a single push without bolts. Leading all the difficult ones; Ueli ended up free climbing all 27 pitches.
Francisco Fazzi and Santiago Padros scaled the west wall on Ama Dablam near the Japanese route from 85 traversing left midway up and following the bastion to the top. The climbers named the route “Free Tibet.”
Simone Moro and Herve Bramasse made the first ascent of Beka Brakai Chhok without high camps and in less than 48 hours.
Korean Kim Chang Ho and Choi Suk Mun summited Batura II, in the first complete ascent of the mountain. The climbers were part of a large team who climbed expedition-style up the peak’s South face. Kim Chang Ho told ExWeb his next goal is a return to Nanga Parbat next year, for the Mazeno Pass. In 2005 on Nanga Parbat, Kim and mate Lee Hylin did the first repetition of the fateful 1970 route set by Reinhold Messner and his brother Günther – a climb that would cost Günther his life.
Denis Urubko, Boris Dedeshko and Gennady Durov climbed a new route on Tien Shan’s Eight women-climbers Peak (6110 m), in alpine style. RussianClimb reported the peak had been unclimbed since its first ascent, 34 years earlier.
Vince Anderson and Marko Prezelj made a new route on the unclimbed west face of Kanchungtse (Makalu 2, 7,600 m). Vince reported mostly mixed terrain, with difficulties increasing on what turned out a very long climb just below the visiting jet stream.
Patrice Glairon-Rappaz and Stéphane Benoist forged a new line (no summit) up the South face of Nuptse. The two climbed the 2,300 meters-long wall up to the summit ridge in a 4-day alpine style non-stop push. “The route demanded all the stamina, will-power and experience we had assembled through our entire lives as alpinists,” they concluded.
Manuel Córdova, Silvestre Barrientos and Sidharta Gallego climbed up an ice ramp (70º/90º) to the saddle between Tengkangpoche’s and Ramdung’s summits, opening a new, 2300 meters-long route on the north face of Tengkangpoche. The climbers turned back only meters shy from the summit ridge, due to bad ice conditions.
David Gottlieb and Joe Puryear made the first ascent of Kang Nachugo (6,735 m) in the Rolwaling Himal over 5 days alpine style. The climb was illustrated by stunning images in the debrief.
Garhwal Himalaya: Japanese Kazuaki Amano, Fumitaka Ichimura and Yusuke Sato were awarded the Asian Piolet d’Or for the first complete ascent of Kalanka’s north face (6,931m). The nearly 2,000 m route was named “Bushido.” Kazuya Hiraide and Kei Taniguchi reported “Samurai Direct”, a new 1,800 m route on Mount Kamet’s SW face, climbed in alpine style.
It’s an iPhone? It’s an iPAQ? It’s…an 8000+ solid-state laptop! Team HumanEdgeTech gave ASUS, the fastest and cheapest of the solids a sharp expedition cut.
“How do I charge my laptop from a solar panel?” Small enough to fit in your pocket and approved flight carry on – HET Power 50 is a Lithium/polymer battery that will charge all your devices including your laptop – and recharge from a small solar panel. P50 is the smartest battery on the market today, with almost unlimited versatility. It recharges from solar power ranging from 1W to 100W and allows you to choose 5-19V; comes with 8 adapter tips for major brands of computers and plugs for all sat phones/BGANs.
Following the successful August 18 launch of its third (I-4) satellite; Inmarsat will increase coverage to include almost the entire Australian and Pacific region. The I-4 satellites will also be re-positioned for better overall performance by Feb 24. North America, with Alaska and Canada especially, will get markedly better coverage, as will North East Russia. Australia, New Zealand, Papa New Guinea and the Pacific Islands will get almost complete coverage. Arctic and Antarctica will still not be covered with the exception of some coastal areas of Antarctica. Greenland is one of the few places that will actually get less coverage.
Wideye Sabre was introduced this spring. The unit has since undergone extensive HumanEdgeTech tests and joined its first expeditions. The BGAN is capable of data speed up to 384kb/s and comes at half the price of other satellite modems.
Combined, the components of HET’s brand new 8848 High Speed Package are a giant leap: Wideye Sabre High Speed Modem & handset; ASUS EEE Solid State laptop with webcam; FEATHER 20 Solar Blazt; P50 Polymer battery and CONTACT Dispatch System delivered in a single Pelican case with all the data possibilities you’d want at a regular office. At less than 4 kg (8.65Lbs); the introduction price is $3999, all included.
Following summit of Mera and Baruntse, and walking out via the Amphu Laptsa pass, Contact user Louis Kosztelny wrote that the ECO card worked perfectly in the Hunku valley. “With daily dispatches and phone calls I still only managed to use up less than two ECO scratch cards, so it is very economical.”
HET introduced a series of new smart products such as customized heat pads for 8000+ mountaineering and hard to find lightweight face masks with wire mesh to fight the Khumbu cough.
“My brother in law, a farmer, was in the middle of an open field. When a thunderstorm approached, he went under his tractor. Don’t ask me why but I think he also wanted shelter from the rain.” When ExWeb made a call for simple solutions that would work in lightning situations, Henk de Velde heard us but following 30 years at sea including ball lightning and St Elmos fire, his experience still comes down to – rubber boots. (And stay away from tractors.)
Other fall news
She has an IQ level of only 80, no hands and feet, and spent most her life in an institution. Yet this year Danijela Jovanovic summited Mount Elbrus and will head to Aconcagua in January with the ultimate goal of Everest, which could make her the first disabled woman to climb all the way to the top of the world. Danijela is supported by the Extreme Sport Club “Pozitiv” and Federation for Sport and Recreation for People With Disabilities of Serbia.
A massive serac swept part of the Mont Blanc du Tacul. 8 climbers perished on the popular climbing route.
Lukla was blanketed in fog when the Yeti Airlines plane snapped a security fence with a wheel, skidded 50m along the simple airstrip and then caught fire. By the time the flames were extinguished by onlookers some 2 hours later, all 18 passengers – trapped inside – had perished.
The new Elbrus race kicked off in September with a record number of attendants. Roman Gubanov (K2 Abruzzi ridge climb in 2007) won the extremes at 4 hours and 53 minutes.
Belgian Louis-Philippe Loncke crossed the 170 000 square kilometers Simpson Desert solo and without support, pulling an aluminum framed, two-wheel cart behind him. According to his home team, Louis-Philippe is the first man ever to cross the world’s largest parallel sand dunes desert unassisted in its length (North-South).
For many years, Captain Phil’s dream was to navigate with his family from Colombia to the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. But when his ship “Amazon Queen” sank last year, the American Vietnam veteran did something he swore he’d never do again – he went to war at the forward operations base know as GABE in Iraq.
Reid and Soanya left New York Harbor on April 21st last year for a three year long non-stop Mars Ocean Odyssey voyage. After 305 days, Soanya decided to leave the ship, reporting bouts of sea sickness. Back home, Soanya gave birth to her and Reid’s son Darshen.
In 2007 American aviator adventurer Steve Fossett was reported missing after failing to return to an airstrip at a southern Nevada ranch while piloting a light aircraft solo. The ensuing search was fruitless, leading to speculations that the adventurer would have faked his own death for financial reasons. This year, the plane was found shattered about 3,200 meters up the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Mammoth Lakes, California.
A ship loaded with Russian arms brokered by Ukraine, headed for Kenya and flying a Belize flag became just one of the many targets for Somalia pirates. A pirate network is believed to stretch from Europe to Dubai, identifying targets and feeding intelligence to the gangs based along Somalia’s coast. Cash raised from ransoms is used to fund war in the area, plus for business investments in the United Arab Emirates and Kenya. Shipping companies and merchant marines however often resist international or private protection; preferring to pay the ransoms.
ExWeb ran a special “in-situ” report from the launch of Endeavour; the last shuttle night launch scheduled by NASA.
Flat against the rules of survival posted at ExWeb; blame was tossed around with panic when the stock market plummeted. It brought to mind an explorer’s story on hurricane Ivan’s visit to the tiny tropical island Bequia in 2004: the Prime Minister reassured his people that all would be saved and safe if they just stayed indoors, after which they would play Bob Marley’s “Everything’s gonna be all right” on the radio, while at the same time the PM was flown out of the state to a waiting British warship.
After the US Senate passed the first bailout bill, question arose how good the bill would be for the rest of us, because – says the Chinese proverb – “If I don’t lend you money, you’ll be sorry, but if I lend you money, I’ll be sorry. Better you are sorry.”
Out on his never-ending shoestring voyage Henk de Velde commented, “By the end of this month my new mast will be ready and I keep hearing, ‘was it not possible to have this done a bit faster?’ My answer is, ‘no! Because it had to be done on a budget’. It’s not about the right amount of money,” Henk said, “it’s about the right attitude.”
Currently stuck with a broken mast in South America, Henk took time all fall to write stories about ice conditions, money, bolt lightning, freak waves, unconditional freedom and a world beyond the local news. These days, when climbing won’t mix with human rights, sports won’t mix with politics, and business won’t mix with ethics – the old sailor stated simply, “what happens to the world, happens to me.”
Late fall the Shackleton Centenary team was invited to a house in Punta Arenas, which used to belong to a local influential family. In their visitor’s book was an entry from Ernest Shackleton written in July 1916 after the Endurance journey when he was arranging the rescue from Elephant Island. The poem closes this edition of ExplorersWeb’s YIR:
“We were the fools who could not rest
In the dull earth we left behind
But burned with passion for the South
And drank strange frenzy from its wind
The world where wise men sit at ease
Fades from our unregretful eyes
And thus across unchartered seas
We stagger on our enterprise.”
Happy New Year explorers!
Exweb Week-In-Review is sponsored by HumanEdgeTech the world’s premier supplier of expedition technology. Our team helps you find ultra light expedition tech that works globally.
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** Read these stories – and more! – at ExplorersWeb.com
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Filed under: Climbers, Expedition, Himalayas, Week-In-Review | Tagged: Artur Hajzer, Broad Peak, Climbers, Himalayas, HiMountain, Ice Warriors, Karakoram, Krzysztof Wielicki, Nanga Parbat, Pakistan, Piotr Morawski, Polish climbers, Simone Moro, Travel, Week-In-Review, winter expedition |