Himalaya 2011 climbing season – Year in Review.

It has been a tumultuous year in the world of exploration. 

New route attempts were rare on high altitude. There were no victorious expeditions to the North Pole and Greenland had a thin season. At the South Pole, Amundsen’s 100-year anniversary was celebrated largely without explorers.

But we got the first winter ascent of a Pakistan 8000er, a rare ascent of K2, and a fairytale Everest paraglide.

Political events shook the community and this time the Arab freedom fighters were more lucky than the freedom fighters in Tibet.

Adventurers stretched the limits of age as disabled folks overcame the most extreme parts of the world.
We lost some of our greatest profiles and watched a new generation form.

Here go some of the memorable news from the year that passed.

January

In January winter attempts on Denali and in Pakistan grabbed all attention. Over at Antarctica, a Norwegian solo speed skier shattered all previous records.

An ExWeb exclusive added yet another controversy to The Long Walk tale and three Norwegian kayakers made the first unsupported circumnavigation of South Georgia.

Three Kazakhs bagged the first summit in the deep cold of January on Khan Tengri in northern Tien Shan.

A South Korean team arrived at the South Pole after 41 days green-skidoo travel. It would be Park Young-Seok’s last adventure victory.

February

February kicked off in triumph on Gasherbrum II. The first Pakistan 8000er winter summit ever achieved became Italian Simone Moro’s third (all firsts), Kazakh Denis Urubko’s second, and American Cory Richards first winter 8000er top.

The first Pakistan winter summit overall was bagged on Mingligh Sar by 16-year-old Hafiza from Shimshal, in a milestone for Pakistani women.

Out on the Oceans, The Neverending Voyage ended.

At Antarctica, angry fuel strikers and a mechanical problem left 80 climbers & skiers grounded on the ice.

Norwegian yacht Berserk was lost outside the Scott base with three people onboard. Racing towards the coast in two ATV’s, Berserk’s leader/skipper Jarle Andhøy and an 18 year old crew/team member were airlifted.

Arab spring

In a thrilling 24 hour head-spin Egypt’s former President Mubarak finally decided to leave the palace after all, carried off by helicopter and the peoples’ roar of approval. As history was being made, ExplorersWeb was there.

Extreme trekker Arita Baajiens reported to ExWeb from the midst of the revolution at Tahrir square. First Egyptian Everest summiter Omar Samra commented from the summit of Aconcagua. “Gulf States are watching with some concern,” UAE based ‘Three Poles’ Adrian Hayes told ExplorersWeb.

Comparing to a North Pole expedition, ExWeb’s Tina Sjogren promised the Egyptian demonstrators victory after they had stuck it out for 16 days. More though, she revisited other – not so lucky – uprisings.

Khadaffi’s sat phone jam directed at the Libyan freedom fighters affected climbers in Africa and HumanEdgeTech ran a report on the tech used by the dictator.

March

The North Pole season had a dramatic start (and end) with all expedition teams from Canada aborting due to financial implications and too snug pick-up date related to failed logistics.

Christine Feret and Artur Testov debriefed about their Denali “retreat from hell.”

A bomb destroyed a Goldola lift at an Elbrus ski resort, three skiers were shot dead and two more were injured in a machine-gun attack while traveling on a bus. The peak was closed until fall.

April

In April choppers took off for Borneo, on the Russian side of the North Pole. When the runway broke beneath a coming plane, all flights were suspended and Prince Harry was stuck on the ice, barely making it to his brother’s wedding.

Spring Himalaya kicked off. News that Everest climbers would be able to breathe oxygen pumped up the mountain to South Col was April Fool’s hoax.

In a M&I Everest special Pete Poston explained “Why Andrew Irvine Will Not Be Found in a Sleeping Bag” and followed up by a gutsy editorial about the politics surrounding the search.

Adding to the proud collection of foreign correspondents at ExplorersWeb, Yusuke Hirai reported on the Japanese earth quake, tsunami and radiation scare. “Japan will rise again!” Himalaya climber Hiro (Hirotaka) Takeuchi chimed in live from Tokyo.

Mid April ExplorersWeb ran a 5-part Space special while HumanEdgeTech brought news of 3D streaming over satellite. Everest south meanwhile reported 3G with a 2G feel due to overload and charging of the station in Gorak Shep.

In Dubai Alain Robert climbed Burj Khalifa, 828m, antenna and all, with kids below chanting “Spiderman”!

The young and the old

“Be wild and don’t forget to have fun,” Tessum Weber said his advice would be to other adventure kids after becoming the youngest person to ski from land to the North Pole at only 20 years old. Dad Richard Weber’s Top 5 Reasons for North Pole expedition failure became a popular editorial.

Retracing the route sailed by Amundsen, young adventure siblings Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry started their 3000 km kite-ski, sledge-hauling expedition through the Northwest Passage.

76 years old big wall climber Bob Shepton follows in Bill Tillmans wake by combining passions with no consideration to age. ExWeb caught up with him for an interview.

Sarah Outen left London Bridge on April 1st and will have covered 20.000 miles before she sees it again.

At age 70+ Carlos Soria continued to bag 8000ers.

May

May kicked off dramatic.

Osama Bin Laden was found not in a cave in Afghanistan but a fancy mansion close to Islamabad.

In areas where many women are still hidden behind shut doors, he built schools for girls. “No good deed shall go unpunished?” wondered Tina Sjogren in response to Krakauer’s accusations of Greg Mortenson.

A diabetic & former British Royal Air Force jet pilot, Douglas Cairns flew from Alaska to the Magnetic and Geographic North Poles in a light twin-engine, piston powered aircraft.

Erden Eruc returned to his rowing boat on Madagascar to finish the crossing of the Indian Ocean and reached mainland Africa.

Erhard Loretan died in a climbing accident in the Swiss Alps. American ski mountaineer Kip Garre was killed in an avalanche near Lone Pine. Nawang Gombu Sherpa, the youngest on Hillary’s Everest team in 1953, died at age 79.

The climbs

What’s most exciting in Himalaya 8000er climbing this season, we asked? Hang-glides/paraglides, ski/snowboard descents, new routes, youngest/oldest attempts? “New Routes” said 60% of you, of which we got none.

The 2011 Everest spring season brought summits only on 02 and via normal routes. Fatalities showcased the ongoing PR charade in many commercial outfits. Accidents were mentioned – and then in triumphant press releases – only if they happened to independent climbers.

IMG client Rick Hitch died en route to Camp 3. The fatality was made known by local media in California. Nepalese Sailendra Kumar Upadhyaya, 82, died in the Everest icefall. Japanese “Butterfly collector” Takashi Ozaki, 58, died at the Balcony. Irish climber John Delaney became the fourth known (to ExplorersWeb) fatality on Everest during the 2011 spring season.

The good: an amazing paraglide, a ski descent on the Lhotse face, and Everest-Lhotse traverses by Alpine Ascents. Ueli Steck solo-speed climbed Shishapangma in 20 hours tent-to-tent and Abele Blanc, 57, scaled Annapurna, his last 8000er.

The biggest story was a rescue report from Kanchenjunga. An unconscious woman climber – left head down on a slope by her Sherpas – survived only by the tenacity of two of her team mates.

Popular female climber Joelle Brupbacher died on Makalu La May 22. Dutch high profile climber Ronald Naar collapsed during descent on Cho Oyu. Iranian Isa Mir-Shekari died in C4 on Manaslu.

Half leg shorter, full spirit taller Hungarian Zsolt Eross bagged his 9th 8000er – Lhotse on May 21 – with an artificial leg following a serious climbing accident in the Tatras.

Come summer

No team was able to set off skiing from land to the North Pole this year, but two teams made it from the North Pole to land. In summer Greenland was hostile for the skiers. Only 2 Norwegian and one Swedish team made it over.

Brainchild of Bertrand Piccard (first balloon around the world) born with adventure imprinted in his genes (dad Jacques record-dove into the Marianas Trench); after a flight lasting 12 hours 59 minutes, using no fuel and propelled by solar energy alone, Solar Impulse landed safely in Brussels.

ExWeb kicked off “bits from the Silver Bullet” Silicon Valley tech roundups with an adventure edge.

New poll – which is toughest? While most of you checked correctly that a face mask will do a better job than artificial intelligence to protect from Khumbu cough, the next poll showed surprising results: rowing the Atlantic is more difficult than climbing Everest you figured.

In honor of our surprisingly techie polar ancestors HumanEdgeTech brought out two major news. The PDA – for almost a decade King of Antarctica dispatches – got to share the throne with the Polar Pad and Polar Netbook.

James Burwick and his family set an unofficial speed record from Maine to France. The youngest on board was 9 months old.

Paragliding World Cup boss Xavier Murillo was lost while paragliding in Peru.

Final countdown: “why we explore.” A big editorial by the founders of ExplorersWeb touched on the last voyage of the shuttle in the perspective of explorers, and new Americans.

Karakoram

Karakoram had a thin but serious climbing season with new route attempts without gas.

Alexander Odintsov’s Russian Big Wall team summited Latok III at last.

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Darek Zaluski, Vassiliy Pivtsov and Maxut Zhumayev summited K2 via the north pillar. K2 became Gerlinde’s, Max and Vasso’s 14th 8000er without supplementary oxygen.

“Summiting K2 with a small group of friends, through the peak’s wild side, and without supplementary oxygen is almost as beautiful as it gets,” wrote ExWeb founder Tina Sjogren about Gerlinde’s K2 success closing the dramatic and decade-long quest for the first female fourteen 8000ers.

The first female expedition leader from Iran, Leila Esfandyari fell to her death while descending from GII’s top July 22. Deeply admired by her countrymen, “she lived free and died free,” commented a reader the news at ExplorersWeb.

Two female climbers managed to work Nanga’s icy Diamir face in alpine style, via a bold combination of routes, and few aware they were there.

Difficult Arctic summer

On Svalbard 17-year-old Horatio Chapple was killed in a polar bear attack at a BSES camp. 4 other persons were severely injured.

Erik Boomer & Jon Turk traveled 1485 miles in 104 days on bad ice around Ellesmere Island. During the last week they were targeted by polar bears; one bit through the tent while 5 looked on. Knowing that this was his last big expedition, he needed to savor every last moment of the rigor and intensity, 65-year-old Jon Turk told ExplorersWeb. Being attacked by a walrus was much scarier than his 20 encounters with Polar bears Boomer, 26, told ExWeb.

A First Air passenger jet crashed near Resolute Bay, killing 12 people and injuring three. Aziz (Ozzie) Kheraj lost his 6-year-old granddaughter Cheyenne Eckalook, other victims included Arctic researcher Marty Bergmann and South Camp Inn cook Randy Reid.

Autumn climbing in Himalaya

The 8000er fall climbing season was slow to start and then almost over in a week. Simone Moro answered rumors about Himalaya rescue commissions and the world climbing community lost its ultimate reference for excellence when Walter Bonatti passed at the age of 81.

In an unique interview with ExplorersWeb, recent 14x8000er summiteer and climbing partner of late Miss Go, South Korean Kim Jae Soo talked about why he returned to Cho Oyu, language problems, controversies, definitions, why he climbs and how to help locals beyond building schools.

The youngest member in Col Hunt’s 1953 Everest team, Kangchenjunga pioneer George Band passed at 82 years old.

Year’s end

As Himalaya folded and Antarctica kicked off, we lost one of the greatest explorers of both worlds.

Displayed on a screen during his funeral service in Seoul, friends and relatives reportedly broke out in tears when Mr Park’s words came up: “I have the destiny of the explorer – my fate is to explore till I die.” Annapurna, where he pushed for a new route with two mates, became Mr Park’s last mountain.

“He made some very important journeys,” CuChullaine of the Long Riders’ told ExplorersWeb when great French explorer and Guardian angel of Tibet Peissel died in Paris, “and stood up the Red Chinese to his dying.”

In October the Antarctica anniversary kicked off with side-by-side now-and-then dispatches at ExplorersWeb providing interesting and unexpected insights in the evolution of exploration.

As for new technology, ExWeb Poll results showed that explorers would ditch Facebook and Twitter before website and emails if they had to choose expedition comms.

“The future is in the lap of the gods; I can think of nothing left undone to deserve success,” wrote Scott. Paying homage to the ancient polar men, 100 years later explorers from all corners of the world were on track from Hercules, Ross, and Novo to the South Pole.

By December it stood clear that it’s gearing up to a phenomenal winter climbing season with action on all the unclimbed 8000ers in Pakistan.

Over at Antarctica, when the anniversary finally hit no skiers were actually present at the pole. Out on the ice following silently in his tracks and comparing notes, Amundsen’s soul was instead charging them on: Be prepared, be fast, travel light, and keep spirits high!

Salute and have a great 2012 everyone!

* Polish Himalayas – Become a Fan

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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