Friday, September 12, 2014

From Summer 2014 | First Ascent of G-V, Unattempt on G-IV

At the beginning of summer season, we mentioned about a couple of teams that were heading towards less climbed peaks in Gasherbrum massif. Kyle Dempster and Urban Novak’s plan was to craft a new route on Shining Wall of Gasherbrum IV in alpine style. An Chi Young was leading a three member Korean team to G-V; a 7000er with no recorded ascent. However, we heard nothing about them until a few days ago.

In an article to, Kyle Dempster wrote that in third week of July, he and Urban Novak were in Skardu when they heard about disappearance of two Slovenian climbers Ales Holc and Peter Meznar on a 6000er peak in Shaksgam valley. Urban was worried, "Ales is a close friend; he was my climbing mentor when I first started." As the search for missing climbers continued without success, it became obvious that G-IV expedition wasn’t likely anymore. “Urban made plans to go home so he could be with the Slovenian climbing community, offer his support and think about his own relationship with climbing and the death of his two friends, his first experience with the dark side of the sport.”

At the time, when Urban was devastated by the loss of his friends and Dempster was saddened to witness a “lofty dream” falling apart, the Koreans were approaching the virgin summit - 7147m high - right next to G-IV. On July 25th, Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young reportedly stood atop Gasherbrum V, after climbing Southeast wall in alpine style, in three days.

(A detailed report from the team appeared in Korean climbing magazine "mountain" and is available online here.)

Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young on the summit of G V (July 25th, 2014)

Until 2010, as per AAJ, there had been six 7000er first ascents by Koreans - almost all done in capsule or expedition style. However, in 2009, Kim Hyung-il opened a new route on northwest face of Spantik in alpine style. Next year, Kim led a four man team to attempt ‘untouched’ west face of G-V. During a four day alpine style summit push, they reached around 6550m, when their stove malfunctioned and the team was forced to retreat.

G-V has three sub-peaks East I (7120m), East II (7050m) and East III (7006m). In 1978, three Japanese climbers K. Mukaide, M. Sakaguchi and T. Sato made it to East III before turning back. Following day, second summit attempt was abandoned when expedition leader Ryuichi Babaguchi, who went ahead of other climbers, was found dead in a crevasse near the top. Multiple climbers had tried and failed on G-V since then.

Seong Nakjong climbing a mixed section

2014 Gasherbrum V Team left Korea on June 13th. The plan was to climb the mountain via Northeast face. However, upon their arrival, they discovered that the face was in dangerous condition with frequent avalanches. The team’s climb up the wall ended at 6400m due to deteriorating weather, recurring avalanches and difficult climbing conditions.

Knowing that Northeast face wasn't climbable, they now decided to switch to South side of the mountain. It was around mid-July; the team was exhausted by unsuccessful summit push and shifting Base Camp was a difficult task in itself. “After returning to Base Camp, I was worried,” says the expedition leader. However, they didn't have any other opportunity. On July 20th, they migrated to new BC, at the bottom of valley leading to G V from Southwest.

Weather forecast showed a good weather window starting from 20th. The Koreans knew they couldn’t let this opportunity go away. Amidst the hassle of setting up new BC and organizing gear, the climbers had very little time to rest and recover.

The route

On July 23rd, Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young left Base Camp (4700m) at around 5am. The foot of Southeast wall was, however, still 3km away, separated by a maze of complex and towering seracs in upper half of glacier. The two Koreans reached the top of glacier at 09:40am. They roped together and started climbing the face. In the afternoon, avalanches roared down the face. It was already mid night, when the climbers decided to bivouac at around 6600m. They had climbed for 20 hours, gaining an altitude of approximately 1900 meters.

Next morning, on July 24th, the fatigue and exhaustion from previous day’s climb didn't let them go up. They spent the day resting, recovering, eating, energizing and discussing the plans.

On 25th, they woke up early and were out of bivouac at 3am. They were now on mixed terrain, with frequent rock falls. It was late in the afternoon when they reached the summit ridge. Despite exhaustion and bad conditions, the two climbers continue and were on the summit at 07:20PM.

It was getting dark and within ten minutes, they started the gruelling descent. After fighting the hurdles of down climbing in dark, a night without sleep and avalanches during the day, the two summiteers made it back to BC twenty four hours later.

Climbers and BC staff

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Teams Roll On to Base Camps

Mountaineering teams are reaching the big mountains, as monsoon rains recede. Several expeditions have just established the Base Camps, and are about to kick off their climbs.


The Korean Lhotse Team reached South Face BC on September 3rd, amidst persistent monsoon showers. Having established Base Camp and conducted the Puja rituals, they now await weather improvement to start the climb.

The team consists of Sung Taek Hong (leader), Kim Tae Gon, Choi Jin Chul, Yim Jun Ho and Jeon Jae Min.


British Makalu SE ridge team was scheduled to reach Nepal, by now. However the team hasn’t shared any update recently.

Routes on Makalu; British team is attempting SE Ridge, this season. Source


A ten member Slovak “ski-mountaineering” team will be on Dhaulagiri, this season. Expedition leader Janko Matlák, and four members Vlado Švancár, Andrej Harendarčík, Peter Kostelanský and Jirko Švihálek, are currently in Kathmandu organizing the logistics for gear shipment to BC. Remaining members are expected to reach Nepal, today.


First Shishapangma teams have reached the mounatin. Suzanne Husser, leader of Kobler-Partner team, messaged from ABC yesterday (on 8th) that “Yesterday, the ABC was established. It was a very nice camp, location and views are excellent. Still all participants are healthy, fit and in good spirits. Generally, it has a lot of snow.” Two members of K&P team, Russian Sergey Baranov and German Billi Bierling, are currently on the way to ABC.

Double 8 Expedition members are also in Tibet, acclimatizing/training for their challenge to climb Shishapangma and Cho Oyu in seven days.

The 75 year old Spaniard, Carlos Soria, is currently in Kathmandu. He will be pursuing his 12th eight-thousander, Shishapangma, this autumn.

Double 8 team acclimatizing in Tibet; Source


“Manaslu is very quiet this fall, in regards to the amount of teams present, compared to the past few seasons. Many of the old time operators on Manaslu are happy that we have the peak back to normal as the majority of the usual Cho Oyu teams are heading to Tibet this fall.” Wrote Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies from Manaslu BC, yesterday.

Altitude Junkies and HimEx teams are cooperating for rope fixing on the mountain. Route was fixed till C1 on September 6th, and climbers made the first rotation on the mountain. Yesterday, Six Sherpa (three from AJ and HimEx each) were hoping to conclude fixing task till C2. Good weather is reported from the region and climbers are heading up for another round of acclimatization.

While aforementioned teams flew to Sama Goan in helicopters, majority of climbers opt for lengthy, hot and humid trek from Arughat (accessible by road from Kathmandu) to Sama Gaon. Hence, they are still on the way to the mountain. It appears that around 7-8 teams are currently at Sama Gaon or trekking further to BC.

Manaslu BC Trek; Source

Cho Oyu

Like Manaslu, first Cho Oyu teams have also reached Advanced BC while several others are on the way to the mountain. SummitClimb Expedition leader Dan Mazur tweeted from Chinese BC yesterday that heavy rain and wind-storm had hit the BC. Other commercial teams like Alpine Ascents, IMG and Adventure Consultants have also reached the mountain. Rope fixing and higher camps establishment is expected to start soon.

Lastly, after success on Makalu in Spring and K2 in summer, Chris Jensen Burke is heading to Cho Oyu with Lakpa Sherpa. Chris has climbed seven eight-thousanders so far, six of them in past year and a half.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Autumn 2014 | List of Expeditions

Here is the initial list of expeditions, this fall. I shall keep updating it throughout the season, as information arrives about more teams.
Please do let me know if any climber/team/link is missing.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Autumn 2014 | Lhotse South Face, Makalu SE Ridge, Shishapangma Attempts and the Busy Mountains

It’s time for a Korean attempt on mystifying South Face of Lhotse, a British Military tri-services team on Makalu’s challenging SE Ridge, and several expeditions to favorite post-Monsoon mountains - Manaslu and Cho Oyu. Carlos Soria will make another attempt to complete the ascent of Shishapangma. The autumn climbing season kicks off as climbers start their march towards BCs.

Lhotse South Face

Korean team hoped to climb the challenging south wall of Lhotse, last autumn; however, excessive snow restricted them to BC. This year, the team led by Sung Taek Hong left for Nepal on August 22nd. They flew to Lukla on 27th and were expecting to start the trek to BC, today.

The team intends to climb a route, which follows Yugoslavian 1981 route at bottom, then goes right to join French 1990 line in middle section and eventually, following Jerzy Kukuczka’s path to the summit.

Korean planned route estimated in black.


Eight men from British Military and 6 Sherpa will be heading to Makalu with the aim, “to place at least two members of the expedition on the summit of Makalu via the South East Ridge (Ed: first climbed by Y. Ozaki and A. Tanaka in 1970) and for them to return safely to Base Camp.”

Led by Colin Scott, the team will be leaving for Nepal in early September.


Spaniard Carlos Soria will be leaving for Shishapangma, next week. If successful, it will be his 12th eight-thousander. Previously, he reached Shishapangam Central Summit in 2005, and was forced to abandon his climb near C3 due to bad conditions, last year. Soria is oldest person to climb K2 (at the age of 65), Broad Peak (68 years), Makalu (69 years), Gasherbrum I (70 years), Manaslu (71 years) and Kangchenjunga (75 years).

Andrea Zambaldi, Benedikt Böhm and Sebastian Haag have dodged the rains and landslides of Nepalese monsoon, and are done with bureaucratic complications related to entry in Tibet. In Nylam, they were able to acclimatize a bit, by hiking up a 4400m hill. The Italians can now concentrate on their mission to “speed climb Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, and complete the distance between the both basecamps on the bike and in running shoes – within 7 days.”

Danish mountaineer Bo Belvedere Christensen will also be attempting Cho Oyu and Shishapangma, this season. On Shishapangma, he will be on South face.

Carlos Soria on Shishapangma in Autumn 2013.

Cho Oyu

On Cho Oyu, there will be multiple climbers and commercial expeditions. Italian mountain guide Luca Montanari will be leading the team of Luciano Dal Toè, Samuele Santagiuliana and Bogdan Velev. They will be flying to Nepal in a couple of days.

Polish mountain runner Andrzej Bargiel will be going for speed ascent on Cho Oyu and Manaslu, with fellow climbers Grzegorz Bargiel, Darek Załuski and Marcin Kin.

Another Polish climber Olek Ostrowski is currently on his way to Kathmandu for ‘Cho Oyu Ski Expedition’.

Finally commercial teams including Summit Climb, IMG and Adventure Consultants Expeditions will also be on the mountain.
Route up Cho Oyu; source: Satori Expeditions


Arnold Coster is leading an international expedition to Manaslu this season, with members from the Netherlands, UK, Canada, Australia, USA, Poland, Korea, China and Nepal. The team is expected to start BC trek on September 2nd.

Altitude Junkies team also consists of climbers from all parts of the world. “Several of our Sherpas are already at Manaslu base camp establishing our campsite for the team members arrival in early September” Phil Crampton, the expedition leader, wrote a week ago.

Finally, Markus Brand will be leading Amical Alpin Manaslu expedition starting tomorrow.

Here is full list of expeditions, this autumn.
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