Autumn climbing season builds up as Nepal cease fire crumbles
11:06 a.m. EDT Sep 3, 2003
The beginning of September brings with it the brand new MountEverest.net autumn expedition list, the usual plump faces of ready climbers, and unfortunately a renewed threat. The ceasefire that has graced Nepal since early this year is now over. With the peace talks between the Maoists and the govt crumbling, what can be expected for the many teams visiting the Himalayas this fall? Well, just last year there were scattered reports of teams being 'asked' for Ďdonationsí by the Maoist rebels armed with guns. One expedition even went so far to hire a helicopter out of BC because of a scary run-in on the way in.
Danger en route
The danger zone for teams has typically been on the way to the mountain while on foot. The trek to Kangchenjunga is right through a Maoist hotspot and is where teams were approached last year. While the spring seasonís Kangch expeditions had no issues, Carlos Pauner reported that villages traveled through on the way are littered with Red flags and have loudspeakers pumping out Maoist propaganda. So far there are three teams headed to the Kangchenjunga region, Romanian, Catalan, and Russian. The Romanians will be on the Kangchís North and the Catalanís on the West. The Russian Big-Wall team will be just a stones throw away on Jannuís wall.
Both the Russians who are on their way and Catalans who are still in Kathmandu report issues with air travel to BC, the former citing political and the latter, a washed out airport. Either way, neither of them has mentioned any concern about the possible threat. For that matter, none of the Himalayan teams have in their latest updates.
A lonely season on Everest
The American snowboard team is still on the North side of Everest and is waiting for another shot at the summit. On the South, some of Wally Bergís expedition are making their way to Base Camp. They are optimistic of being the only South Side team, reminiscent of the olden days when Base Camps were sparsely occupied.
A not-so-lonely season on Cho Oyu
Cho Oyu, however, will not be a mountain of solitude. A handful of commercial expeditions will be there and one American outfit will host 12 clients and a large support staff. New Zealandís Adventure Consultants crew is currently en route to BC and Alpine Ascents have reached Chinese Base Camp. They are doing well with the exception of a few stomach bugs Ė to be expected.
A Crew from Earth Treks will also be on Cho Oyu. The outfitís head, Chris Warner, was supposed to go, but had to pull out last month for some personal and business reasons. You might remember Chris as the original lead guide on last springís Everest survivor show until he took an O2 bottle upside the head during a rescue the team assisted in. Also on Cho Oyu this season will be Juanito Oiarzabal. Should he make it, the veteran will have 19, 8000ers under his belt, tying the current record.
Gnaro's unfinished business
Other 8000er veterans and recent Kangchenjunga summiters will be taking care of some unfinished business on Shisha Pangma. Gnaro Mondinelli and Mario Merrelli, along with a small crew of Italian friends will be there. Gnaro reached only the central peak some years ago and will hopefully make the top this fall. Some of the Italians are planning a ski descent. Also on Shish will be recent Everest summiter Jamie McGuinness and some clients.
Thereís quite a bit happening in the Himalayas this fall. Many teams, however, are still en route to mountains right now - lets hope that the seasonís excitement doesnít happen Ďtill they reach their respective Base Camps.
Image of Stephen Koch 'spinning' a prayer en route to Everest BC courtesy of StephenKoch.com.
Catalan Kangchenjunga website (in Catalan)
Russian Jannu team on RussianClimb.com
Adventure Consultants Cho Oyu
Everest Snowboard Expedition
Gnaro Mondinelli's website
Juanito Oiarzabal's website
Project Himalaya website
Alpine Ascents Cho Oyu
Berg Adventures Everest
Earth Treks Cho Oyu