Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hibernating for a While

I will be away for approximately 03~04 weeks because of some personal reasons. During this period, please expect no (or minimum) updates on this Weblog, at Twitter and Facebook. (Coincidentally today's April 1st, but this isn't an April Fool message.)

However, Spring 2014 coverage shall resume at this blog by end of this month.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring 2014 | The Climbing Season Kicks Off

We are now formally into spring season and the climbers have already started reaching Kathmandu for pre-monsoon climbing. Everest and Lhotse will be busy mountains, expeditions to Annapurna and Makalu have also been announced, whereas Kanchenjunga will also be the centre of attention, this spring.

Kangchenjunga North
Denis Urubko, Alex Txikon, Adam Bielecki and Artem Brown will attempt a new route on Kangchenjunga Northwest Face in alpine style. The project is conceived by Denis Urubko. Last year, Denis and Alexey Bolotov were on Everest hoping to climb a new route on SW Face in alpine style. However the new line couldn’t be attempted due to Alexey’s unfortunate death.

In Spring 2013, Alex Txikon attempted Nuptse and summited Lhotse, whereas Kangchenjunga will be Adam Bielecki’s first major expedition since first winter ascent of Broad Peak. Russian Artem Brown is a friend of Denis.

As per initial information, it appears that team will acclimatize on British 1979 route and use the same for descent. The planned new line is estimated in blue.

Red: 1979 British route. Blue: Proposed new route

Kangchenjunga SW Face
In spring 2013, fifteen climbers reached the summit of Kangchenjunga via SW Face, but unfortunately five of them died on descent. However, Spaniard Carlos Soria was one of those climbers who estimated the risk and decided to turn back from 8300m. The 75 years old climber is back in Nepal to re-attempt the mountain. If successful, it will be his 11th 8000er.

Finnish Samuli Mansikka was amongst the few Makalu summiteers in 2013. He was solo and climbed to the top on May 22nd, when majority of commercial expeditions turned back. Mansikka intended to attempt Kangchenjunga Northwest Face, however, due to logistics issue he switched to normal route on SW Face.

Italian expedition consisting of Marco Confortola, Marco Camandona, Favre Emrik, Cazzanelli Fran├žois, and Nicolini Franco will also be working on Kangchenjunga’s SW face.

The 2013 summit day on Kangchenjunga; Source

Chinese Liang Zhang will be leading an expedition to Annapurna I. Mingma Gyalje Sherpa will be guiding the team up the mountain. Yongzhong Liu, Norwegian Tore Sunde Rasmussen and Macedonian Zdravko Dejanovikj are other members of the expedition.

Several climbers will be attempting Makalu this year. Chris Jensen Burke and Lakpa Sherpa successfully climbed four eight-thousanders in 2013. Their Makalu expedition will start in less than two weeks.

The German couple, Alix von Melle and Luis Stitzinger, will also be on Makalu this spring. They summited Shishapangma last year, which was the sixth eight-thousander for both.

The members of an international Makalu expedition have also started reaching Kathmandu. Indian climbers, Krushnaa Patil and Arjun Vajpai who were unsuccessful on the mountain last year, are part of this team.

Ms Hawley’s assistant Billi Bierling will also be reattempting Makalu. Her previous attempt was in autumn 2012.

Makalu; Source

Anna Pfaff is well known for new routes on lower peaks; however, this time she will be attempting the fourth highest mountain on earth. She will be climbing the normal route but “I will be climbing solo with minimal support. This will be my second attempt on an 8,000 meter peak. I climbed on Cho-Oyu in 2011, completely unsupported and without oxygen.”

British mountaineer and writer, Mark Horrell, will be leaving for Kathmandu in a couple of days. He will be climbing Lhotse with four other climbers. Mark has previously summited Manaslu in 2011 and Everest (from North) in 2012.

A Polish-Croatian expedition, consisting of four Poles and four Croats will also be on Lhotse this season.

Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse; Photo: Stuart Holmes Source

On Everest, there will be many expeditions . However, Horia Colibasanu and Peter Hamor will be amongst those few climbers who will not be using bottled oxygen.

In another interesting adventure, American wing-suit jumper Joby Ogwyn intends to launch from the summit of Mount Everest. The event will be live telecasted on Discovery channel. While the affair itself may appear too mainstream - someone doing something ‘silly’ on world’s highest mountain - Joby Ogwyn is a seasoned climber, “a new line (variant) on Makalu with the Spaniards and Inaki in 2004; one year later with Simone Moro on Batura II (at 7.762m then the highest unclimbed peak); Everest speed climb, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, attempts on K2 and Broad Peak”, Tina Sjogren summarized his mountaineering accomplishments.

Read more about Joby’s journey from mountaineering to BASE jumping and wingsuit-ing in this Exweb interview.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Attempting Makalu and K2/Broad Peak in 2014 | Interview with Chris Burke

On October 2nd, 2013, an audio message in female voice reached us, announcing, “Our team summited Manaslu, today”. She was Australian/NZ climber Chris Jensen Burke from Manaslu C2. It was her fourth eight-thousander ascent in less than six months. Chris Burke had previously climbed Lhotse in May 2013 and the two Gasherbrums in July.

After spending the Himalayan winter in Australia, Chris is back in Kathmandu. Her life in Nepal's capital has been interesting; she attended a wedding and was stalked by a tiger.

Chris Burke is now getting ready for Makalu and will attempt Broad Peak/K2 in Summer, this year.

1. Tell us about your passion for climbing. When and how did it start?
Chris: I grew up in a small town in NZ, the youngest of 8 kids. I had parents who in their younger days were considered quite adventurous for their generation. Many of our adventures as kids saw our Dad taking us on ridiculously long walks and rock scrambling in and beyond our town and also into the hills of Central Otago in the South Island of NZ.

As I got older, I found that I was taking myself on similar adventures. After a 1998 trip to Nepal and with injuries from my high impact sports mounting up, I decided that maybe it was time to change to a low impact activity. Since I was already spending lots of time in the mountains, I decided to take it up a notch.

Chris at Lhotse BC in 2013.

2. At what point, did you realize that you are going to Himalayas and climb the big peaks?
Chris: I experienced a few life-changing events in 1999-2000. So, I re-evaluated. The changes I decided on took time to implement. While I was getting money together to get back to the Himalaya, I spent my time in the bush around Sydney pounding trails and climbing, knowing that I would be heading back to the Himalaya on a much bigger mission.

3. 4x8000ers in 2013; must have been a great feeling!
Chris: I’m really grateful for the outcomes, Lakpa Sherpa (Himalayan Ascent) and I had in 2013. I was pretty blown away, [when] we made the summit of Lhotse because the weather on our summit day got pretty fierce. But, we kept checking in with each other and we both felt we could continue safely and get down.

I had not planned another expedition after G1 and G2, thinking I would need a rest. But, when Lakpa and I got back to Kathmandu, we felt good and decided to return to Manaslu. We had some unfinished business there since we left after the tragic avalanche in 2012. We had a fantastic expedition - it was a particularly fun team.

4. An orthodox question, how do you finance your climbs? You have been climbing/traveling all the time, in past couple of years.
Chris: I have taken a slightly unorthodox approach to reaching my climbing goals. I spent 5 years saving up money in order to take a period off working in an office to climb full time. In that 5-year period, I had 4-5 months off work each year, plus weekends, in order to climb intensively. I sold up nearly everything I had. I try to spend extra time in Kathmandu in the lead up to climbs because it is more budget friendly for me than Sydney. I also have some sponsorship for certain climbs, and I do public speaking engagements.

5. Your plans for 2014 include Makalu and K2, which are considered more challenging than 8000ers you climbed, last year. Is it part of some long term strategy?
Chris: I think it is a sound strategy to have a good number of peaks behind me before considering going to Makalu or K2. The more you have in your toolkit the better. Also, having a regular climbing partner in Lakpa has been part of our strategy - we know each other’s strengths and we do not need to spend time and energy on a mountain second-guessing each other.

I would not say a long-term strategy, though, simply because of my age for the big mountains. But, certainly, we have a strategy - I keep in my head to help me quietly focus.

Makalu as seen from Baruntse C1; Photo from Chris' 2009 expedition

6. Your team for Makalu?
Chris: Lakpa Sherpa and I are climbing together again on Makalu. We did have a few others but their plans have had to be deferred for various reasons. We now plan to team up again later this year and/or in 2015.

7. Will you be using bottled oxygen?
Chris: I have a history of 2 bouts of pneumonia at sea level in 2009 and 2011. After one bout of pneumonia in 2009 I nearly ‘fell off the perch’ after then going on an expedition to Cho-Oyu. I learnt my lesson the hard way. I’m also quite atopic. So, I have to manage that too.

All credit to those who can climb 8,000ers without O’s - its no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination - but my physiology and risk profile dictates that I will use O’s on Makalu and in Pakistan. The best thing about O’s for me is the warmth, as I’m not so good in the extreme cold!

8. About summer 2014, you plan to climb Broad Peak and K2. The K2/BP double header is a challenging one. Given the circumstances, which mountain will be on priority?
Chris: I will focus on one at a time - that is how I talk to myself about the climbs. If I am lucky to reach the summit on Broad Peak, feel strong and healthy when I come off, I will move across to K2. But, if timing dictates we need to move across to K2 before any summit push on Broad Peak, then that might happen as well. I’m not underestimating the challenges to be faced on either peak.

Gasherbrum II Camp-2; Photo: Chris Burke

9. Are you targeting 14x8000ers, too?
Chris: If I were 30 years old, I would hope that I would say ‘Yes’ to that question. At 45, I have to think very carefully. Most important to me is to take one mountain at a time and to make sure I am climbing each mountain for the right reasons. If I feel good after the last one and am still enjoying the mountains then I will move onto the next one, and so on. I’m not aiming to be the first, fastest or to tick boxes or anything like that. I’m on this adventure for the sheer pleasure of experiencing the mountains, being able to set challenges for myself and then try to achieve them.

10. Any other message?
Chris: I’m a strong advocate for the mountains being there for everyone. It’s just a matter of building up the knowledge, skills and experience - and that is all part of the fun and adventure – choose your mountains having regard to what stage you are at, which mountain will provide you with a fun experience, and have the right team around you, as required. So long as you are climbing safely and responsibly, having fun and having regard to protecting the environment then why not enjoy the mountains?

Chris Burke is an Australian/NZ mountaineer currently based in Sydney and Kathmandu. She has completed the Seven Summits and has climbed five eight-thousanders, so far.

In 2013, Chris along with Lakpa Sherpa (Himalayan Ascent) became one of only a small handful of people in the world to reach the summit of 4 x 8000m peaks in a 12-month period.  Of dual nationality, she is the first Australian or NZ woman to reach the summit of the 4th highest peak in the world (Lhotse), and to complete the ‘Gasherbrums double’ in Pakistan.

She is also the first Australian or NZ woman to complete the Carstensz ‘7 Summits’ list and the 4th and 1st respectively to complete the Kosciuszko ‘7 Summits’ list.
Since 1998, Chris has climbed mountains in more than 12 countries, including reaching the summit of Mt Everest in 2011. Chris is passionate about mountaineering and for mountains to be open and accessible to all who wish to experience them.

She supports charitable endeavours in Nepal, including the Australian Himalayan Foundation. She is an ambassador for 2 Australian charities, the Eggtober Foundation and Streetwork.
 Chris' weblog: chrisjensenburke.com/blog/

Monday, March 17, 2014

Winter Climbing Nanga Parbat | An Unfinished Anecdote

IT has been attempted by the renowned climbers and by less-known adventurers; by the men with extensive experience in Himalayas and by the fresh mountaineers; by large teams, by light expeditions and by solo alpinists. It has been attempted from Rupal side, from Diamir side; by Schell route, via Messner’s lines, by Mummery Rib, by Kinshofer route and by unclimbed lines.

The mountain forced some people to quit even before reaching Camp 1, however, one person made it to 7850m. It had been explored by men led by Maciej Berbeka, by Andrzej Zawada and by Krzysztof Wielicki. It had been attempted by Artur Hajzer, Simone Moro, Darek Zaluski and by Denis Urubko. Some attempted it once, others twice or thrice and few even four times. It has been the winter-dream-home of Tomek Mackiewicz and Marek Klonowski since 2010. Despite all the efforts by Poles, Italians, Germans, Brits, Americans, Hungarians, Russians and French, Nanga Parbat stands unclimbed after 26 seasons and 21 expeditions.

Maciej Berbeka led first winter expedition to Nanga Parbat in 1988/89
The western face of Nanga Parbat receives little sun in winter and is often packed with hard ice. However, the major cause of concern, this season, has been the seracs near 6000m in the middle of Diamir face. Ralf Dujmovits and Daniele Nardi couldn’t launch their ‘light and rapid’ attempts on Messner 1978 and Mummery Rib lines, respectively, due to dangerous conditions.

Diamir Face; Source

Unfortunately, 2013 was a terrible year for Polish winter climbing. Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski were lost on Broad Peak. Artur Hajzer, the head of Polish Winter Himalaism project (which receives funding from PZA and Polish government), died on GI. Consequently, there wasn't any PZA team on 8000ers, this winter. However, another Polish team - Justice for All - made the fourth consecutive attempt on Nanga Parbat.

Simone Moro also returned to Nanga Parbat. Denis Urubko didn’t accompany him because of security concerns. But Simone and German David Gottler blended perfectly. Both Polish and Italian-German teams worked on Schell route. There had been multiple summit attempts, but the bad weather halted their progress well below the top, every time. In final attempt, Tomek Mackiewicz and David Gottler retreated from 7200m.

Rupal side; Photo: Simone Moro

Next winter
The next winter climbing season is still far away, but the climbers have expressed their intentions to return to the mountain.

Simone Moro hopes returning to Diamir face and reattempt the (unclimbed) line, he and Denis tried in 2011/12. Simone will try to convince Denis Urubko for the expedition. He thinks that, with Denis and David, the team will be in a stronger position to negotiate the challenges of winter Nanga Parbat.

Meanwhile, Janusz Majer has reorganized the Polish Winter Himalaism and announced two projects for summer. The K2 and Nanga Parbat expeditions will do the homework for winter attempts. Hence, the ‘official’ Polish teams are also expected to attempt Nanga Parbat or K2 (or even both!), next year.

Although, Tomek and Marek haven’t talked much about next year but the possibility of a fifth ‘Justice for All’ Nanga Parbat expedition cannot be ruled out. Winter Nanga Parbat is their dream.