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Entries from Guide News

RMI Guide Alex Barber Weighing His Summit Bid Options

Tonight I’m in Camp 3. This camp is hands down the most ridiculous camp I’ve ever made. It’s perched atop a small serac maybe 20’ by 20’ with huge drops on three sides. A 150 feet overhanging ice cliff is what I’m tucked under… to protect from avalanches. Yikes!

The past three days I’ve spent making my way up Annapurna. The first day (the 19th) I left Base Camp with two Sherpa guides to re-open the route after a week of snow. But on the way to Camp 1 and after arriving in Camp 1, I was observing avalanche activity that was just too frequent for my comfort to continue pushing on to Camp 2 (as was our original plan). Shortly after making the call to stop for the day at Camp 1, a massive avalanche broke high on Annapurna. Rumbling toward us, I thought, for a moment, it was gonna hit us but luckily it just dusted Camp 1 with a cloud of snow and a large gust of wind.

The 20th I made my way to Camp 2 and found my tent, that I had set up on April 4th when I first established the camp, buried under 7ft of snow. Three and a half hours later I had my tent unburied and patched up. Today, the 21st, I tackled the most technical and dangerous section of Annapurna. Namely, a 3,200-foot climb through steep alpine ice with large seracs always above you. Just think of ice blocks the size of tractor trailers just waiting their turn to rumble down the mountain side. About mid-way through the climb I broke one of the straps on my Millet 8000m boots. Taking refuge beneath a massive serac I quickly jimmy-rigged a fix and kept climbing. The key in these regions is to move as fast as is safe and possible for you.

This evening at Camp 3 I’m sharing this small ice pedestal with another team. We barely fit. Just as dark set in a large stove fire erupted in a tent adjacent to mine. Luckily I had my down suit and inner boots on and could rush out to help reduce the fire. Myself and a few other climbers rushed to kick gas canisters and oxygen bottles out of the fire; throwing snow on it, and principally focusing on preventing the other tents from catching fire. Unbelievably no one was injured! The tent and many of the occupant’s belongings were lost to the fire, but everyone is safe now.

It’s quite windy here tonight. Not sustained, but you can hear the gusts approaching from the distance. Not sure what my game plan is for tomorrow, either head to Camp 4 and make a summit attempt tomorrow evening; in which case I’d be racing a forecasted storm to the summit, or head back to Base Camp and wait for a more stable window.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

Whoa….....what an interesting trip so far, but slow and steady you go.  Good luck on the judgment call to go forward or take a step back. 

Just don’t quit because my bets are you will make it.  Be cool.

Posted by: Mary on 4/22/2015 at 7:22 am

Good luck; be safe.

Posted by: Lisa on 4/22/2015 at 4:29 am

RMI Guide Alex Barber Ready for Climbing After Long Weather Wait

It’s been awhile here at Annapurna Base Camp waiting out the bad weather. Today dawned clear and warm which sent the mountain into an impressive cycle of purging excessive snow as shown in the photo below.

The forecast is showing a period of reasonably stable weather. The next few days will be clear but windy. As the winds subside on the 22nd the snow returns the 24th. Currently my plan is to head directly to Camp 2 tomorrow with two Sherpa mountain guides. We’re going to attempt to break the route in all the way to Camp 4 over the next three days. The western climbers associated with these Sherpas will be following us up one day behind, eyeing the 23rd for a possible summit attempt. I’m skeptical that the 23rd will remain stable and/or that the conditions (deep snow) will allow a summit. Either way, I need more time spent up high, see the route past C2 (see photos below). And also, I just feel the need to stretch my legs and do some climbing after this long wait at BC.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

I’m glad the weather is giving, even a little.  And good you are following you plans and instincts—not get in a hurry for the summit because someone else is.  Always follow your gut instincts, they are a life saver. 

Can’t wait to see the summit photos/selfies.  LOL.  Be safe.

Posted by: Mary on 4/19/2015 at 5:08 am

RMI Guide Alex Barber Checks in From Annapurna Base Camp

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 8:54 pm PT

I am still in Base Camp waiting out a period of unstable weather. About half a meter of snowfall so far at Annapurna Base Camp with more forecast over the next few days. During a break in the weather, a Base Camp wide snowball fight erupted for about 20 minutes, too much pent up energy around here!

RMI Guide Alex Barber

What a beautiful, desolate place.  Enjoy the journey!!  Wishing you a very successful trip.  :)

Posted by: Mary on 4/16/2015 at 6:57 am

RMI Guide Alex Barber With an Update from Annapurna

Today I carried more gear and food to Annapurna Camp 1 as more bad weather approached. While climbing today I noticed icefall avalanche activity was quite frequent. So far Annapurna has been relatively quiet, hopefully this isn’t a sign of permanent change. As I arrived at Camp 1 around noon it was snowing steadily with low visibility. My plan had been to go all the way up to Camp 2, but the weather was so uncertain at Camp 1 that I decided to drop the equipment at Camp 1 and head back down. Currently I’m at Base Camp sitting out this spell of bad weather.

Tentbound… again

I had considered going directly to Camp 2 today to attempt a possible summit push on the 15th. But the 15th (possibly a decent day at 8,000 meters) is sandwiched between loading events (significant snowfall). The unstable weather looks to persist until the 18th.

General Mtn news: Camp 3 was hit by an avalanche a few days ago, two teams had cached oxygen bottles and other items there a while back. All these items were swept away. The nine-day weather forecast does not look promising. Heavy snowfalls, then some clearing but with high winds. I’m hoping the forecast will change to something more promising in the next few days.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

I thought you lost communications for a while.  I was getting ready to contact RMI’s main office for a rescue request.  :)

You did pick one of the more challenging mountains to pursue hence ‘snow days.’  Keep trying I want to see pictures—but be careful. 

Posted by: Mary on 4/15/2015 at 8:27 am

Thanks for the updates, Random Fan TJ Hiker

Posted by: TJ on 4/14/2015 at 10:03 pm

RMI Guide Alex Barber Feeling Better After Bout with Illness

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted an update. Mostly - ok entirely - because I’ve been ill. The most likely culprit, in my mind, for this bout of illness was the suspiciously under cooked mutton I had a few nights ago. Today, though, I’m feeling better and my focus is returning to Annapurna.

Mountain news: While I’ve been tent-ridden not too much has happened. Camp 1 was hit by a massive wind gust produced by a large avalanche originating from high up the mountain near Camp 3. It ripped a few tents from their guy lines and the group that was there when it happened lost some gear. All my on-mountain gear is cached at C2, though, so this hasn’t affected me. Progress has been made toward Camp 3 by one team, but nobody has yet reached it. Deep snow on the approach to the crosshairs couloir is the main issue. The team using bottled oxygen are planning their first summit attempt for the 15th or 16th.

My plan is to climb directly to Camp 2 on the 12th and Camp 3 on the 13th. The section between Camp 2 and 3 is the most technically difficult and dangerous area. But time spent above 20,000’ is a most important aspect of acclimatization for a no O’s attempt. Until then I’m working on kicking this illness and recuperating my strength for this next push up the mountain.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

RMI Guide Alex Barber Back to Annapurna Base Camp

Yesterday, April 4th, I descended back to Annapurna Base Camp from Camp 2. In total I spent one night at C1 and two nights at C2. The route into C2 was, at times, waist deep powder snow and it’s even deeper above. So for now Camp 3 is inaccessible. Less afternoon snow storms and more sunny days to consolidate the sugar snow will be required before I can push higher. Unfortunately, the forecast for the next couple of days is for heavy falls (20-30”) of snow above 18,000 ft. After that, it looks like we might have a clearing trend.

I’ve attached four pictures. The first shows the route from BC to Camp 1 (note the two climbers at the base of the route). The second photo shows the route from C1 to C2 and then the route continuing from C2 to C3, the third is my tent and equipment at C2, and the fourth is a view up the mountain from C2. This is a awe inspiring and beautiful mountain!

Today in Base camp a herd of wild sheep stopped by and there are rumors of some type of bobcat roaming around as well. For now I’m sitting out stormy weather and looking for my next window to get back onto the mountain.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

Hope the weather is favorable for the rest of the climb.

Posted by: Gerri Seaton on 4/6/2015 at 3:36 pm

Larry Seaton - we are praying for your safety and the safety of your team mates. 
What an adventure you are having and I’m sure you will have many exciting stories to tell us.
Love, Mom

Posted by: Gerri Seaton on 4/6/2015 at 3:24 pm

RMI Guide Alex Barber Climbs to Camp 2 on Annapurna

Made Camp 2 today, it’s quite the distance from BC…and I’m still not even above 19,000’!

The route to Camp 2 starts with a stretch of glacier travel. After which you gain a large cleaver that takes you to Camp 2. I had a leisurely morning in Camp 1, drinking insta - coffee and watching the weather before deciding to try for Camp 2. The weather today was all over the place.

Annapurna’s weather still feels very random and forecasts have been inaccurate. And as usual, what I’ll do tomorrow will be dictated by the weather gods…

RMI Guide Alex Barber

RMI Guide Alex Barber Reaches Camp 1 on Annapurna

Today (April 1st) I moved up to Camp 1 at about 17,000’ from 13,800’ Base Camp. Enjoyed good weather in the morning which turned to light snow in the afternoon. The route to C1 is quite a distance from BC and has some enjoyable climbing. Low angle water ice and low grade mixed climbing, also a precarious arm wrap rappel of some 200’ on the most insane choss… The recent snowfall - plowing through knee deep snow - made some sections of the route very tiring.  I’m hoping the weather holds and I am able to make Camp 2 tomorrow. I’ve got three days worth of supplies including today, so I’d like to spend the next two at Camp 2.

Hopefully the weather plays along…

When I return to BC I’ll post up a few photos for a visual of the route so far.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

How long do you plan for this trip to take?

Posted by: Mary on 4/2/2015 at 1:52 pm

RMI Guide Alex Barber Checks in from Annapurna Base Camp

Yesterday I flew into Annapurna Base Camp. As the pilot and I made our way through the deep valleys from Tatopani, Annapurna I appeared, rising some 12,800ft above. Yikes! A beautiful jumble of rock and ice. I leaned over to the pilot and nervously asked him if he could return me to Kathmandu. He just laughed, assuming sarcasm…

After arriving in base camp and setting up my camp, I went for a slow jog in the evening toward the glacier (see picture) and got my first glimpse of the way to Camp 1. The route looks to follow an ascending traverse across a cliff face of rock and snow which has the advantage of bypassing a 2,500’ glacial ice fall. It does seem like the slightly better of two bad options - although the cliff still holds many things above you that could become hazards.

Tomorrow I’ll attend a Puja (a ceremony in which meditational prayers are offered to the Buddhas and holy beings to request their blessings or help), after which I’ll start pushing uphill. Currently it’s snowing here in base camp with consistent thunder. The weather forecast is predicting unstable conditions until April 4th. However, there seems to be an afternoon trend to the wet weather, which if it holds shouldn’t affect my acclimatization climbs to C1/C2.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now!

RMI Guide Alex Barber

How long is your acclimatize period between C1/C2?

Posted by: Mary on 3/30/2015 at 6:34 am

RMI Guide Alex Barber Annapurna Update

Annapurna Expedition
March 27 - Update

Enjoying the hotsprings of Tatopani while the helicopter does all the heavy lifting… sort of a ridiculous way to start an expedition.

March 26 - Update

In Tatopani tonight, we made several attempts to fly into Annapurna Base Camp today through low visibility and heavy rain. The low visibility prevented us from touching down though. Flying with less than 1,000 m visibility is quite hazardous with cliffs rising high above all around you. Hopefully with the more stable weather in the morning we will be able to fly into Base Camp tomorrow. For now our Helicopter is parked in a rudimentary soccer field in the small village of Tatopani. Pretty comical and has created quite the stir among the local population.

RMI Guide Alex Barber

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