- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Bridget Belliveau
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Katie Bono
- Lance Colley
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Pepper Dee
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Lindsay Fixmer
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- JM Gorum
- Casey Grom
- Billy Haas
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Mike Haugen
- Andy Hildebrand
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- JJ Justman
- Andrew Kiefer
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Caleb Ladue
- Ben Liken
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Jeff Martin
- Stoney Molina
- Chase Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Sid Pattison
- Tyler Reid
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Mike Soucy
- Garrett Stevens
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Christina von Mertens
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Robby Young
Entries By alex barber
Over the last week we’ve been trekking in the mountainous area above Gorkha. This area was at the epicenter of the quake. The villages we were getting “eyes on” had previously been declared “OK” by the Indian Army by helicopter observations. But these villages were anything but OK. Most were almost totally flattened.
Don Bowie has been our fearless leader. His ability to coordinate with large NGOs, and even the UN, to facilitate supply drops to these hard hit and hard to reach areas has been amazing. And when I say hard to reach I’m NOT kidding. Our first day from Baluwa to Laprak was another precarious scramble up a 10,000′ vertical gain and unknown linear mileage over rough, broken, and treacherous terrain. The heat had us all hurting and in many places landslides made the trek in very precarious. Descending down from Laprak, through the villages of Lapu and Bhirkuna, was straight-up steep no-fall terrain through a thick prickly jungle. Landslides in this area took the trail out, so we had to bushwhack a new trail. All in all, though, we were able to deliver accurate needs assessment reports from these remote villages. Once we made our assessments we would then forward these by SAT phone to the NGOs incident command with the ability to respond by arranging to helicopter in the supplies which was our objective.
Today Don Bowie, Ben Erdmann, Jess Roskelley and Cody Tuttle left to work with the UN’s World Food Program headquarters in Gorkha to assist in coordinating overland aid distribution. For more information, on Don and team check out donbowie.com.
Whats next? Soon I’m headed back to Kathmandu then stateside to begin the guiding season on Mt Rainier with RMI.
RMI Guide Alex Barber
Trekked out to Tatopani yesterday (5/1) without too much difficulty. The UN affiliated NGO has supplied us with jeeps and equipment and we’ve started the effort to access remote areas of Nepal in need of assistance. Don’t know how often I’ll be able to provide updates, but I will when possible.
Since the earthquake I have been mostly holed up at Annapurna Base Camp. After the quake I couldn’t let go of my desire to finish what I’ve started with Annapurna. I’d put in so much focus and taken on so much risk to be in a position to make a nO’s ascent, especially as a team of one. But the reports of the destruction and hardship kept flooding in. Then one morning I could feel myself having let go of Annapurna and my interest shifted to seeing if I could get out of here to assist the people of Nepal. So that’s it, my Annapurna expedition is finished.
Yesterday I went back up on the mountain to pull my cached equipment at Camp 1. I have another cache at Camp 3, but it’s unsafe to go that high on the mountain now, so I’ll be abandoning that cache.
I’ve teamed up with a few other Americans here in Nepal to work with a NGO affiliated with the UN. The plan is to meet up in Pokhara, then head out from there with equipment and jeeps supplied by the NGO. My first hurdle is it get out of base camp and down to Pokhara; which is easier said than done. Naturally, the government here has commandeered all the helicopters for rescue efforts. But we flew into base camp in helicopters for a reason, the trek out is sketchy. The US embassy has offered to airlift Americans out of remote areas, but I’m fit and able so I intend to walk out on my own. Tomorrow morning I and some others from the Annapurna Base Camp will be attempting this trek. We’re headed for Pokhara. Once we arrive there, I’ll meet up with the other American climbers. Our current directive from the NGO is to access some of the remote villages in this region and to report back on their situation, conditions, and immediate needs. Hopefully this will help expedite resources to the people in need.
Just a quick note to you that everyone here at Annapurna is safe. Yesterday everyone came down off the mountain to wait out some heavy storms. It had been snowing steadily all day today when the large earthquake struck just before noon. It was so forceful! It felt as if we were inside a snow globe being shaken by God. The storm kept us from seeing much but we could hear avalanches ripping down the mountains all around us. The roar was so loud I thought we’d surely be hit. Annapurna Base Camp is situated on a muddy ridge clinging to an adjacent mountain. During the earthquake large sections peeled off and cascaded down some 800ft to the glacier below. Totally insane, but nothing made it to us, and everyone is safe here.
My thoughts go out to everyone in Nepal, especially my friends in Kathmandu and over on Everest.
The 24th of April I descend all the way from Camp 4 at 7000m on Annapurna to base camp.
But before I get into why I descended without attempting the summit I’ll talk about the earthquake. It had been snowing steadily all morning today when, at around noon, a large earthquake struck. The earthquake was so forceful, it felt as if we were inside a snow globe being shaken by God. The storm kept us from seeing much but we could hear avalanches ripping down everywhere. The roar was so loud I thought we’d surely be hit. Annapurna Base Camp is situated on a muddy ridge clinging to a adjacent mountain. During the earthquake large sections peeled off and cascaded down some 800ft to the glacier below. Totally insane.
As I write this another roar of what sounds to be a massive avalanche rips down Annapurna.
On the 23rd I made my way up from Camp 3 to Camp 4. The route is straight-forward. It starts with a low angle section of ice up a serac out of camp 3. To a traversing section of steep snow then a long ramp to C4. The ramp connects the German Rib with the summit area of Annapurna. The ramp is a slope of 30 to 45 degrees and it was covered in fresh deep snow up to waist deep.
That afternoon myself and another team set up camp underneath a serac at 7000m. Their plan was to start out that same night with their 4 Sherpa guides to leave at 8pm to break the route and the 4 members of their group to follow at 9pm.
I decided not to attempt the summit because:
- Too cold of a night to climb without supplemental oxygen
- Retreat would be difficult at night as the wind was blowing too much snow and covering the track.
- no previous time spent above 18,000’, so I was not properly acclimatized.
- too much technical ground below us - with forecasted storm by Noon the next day.
- high risk of avalanche if caught above camp 2 after the storm.
I descended from C4 the morning of the 23rd. As I was leaving, the members of the team that had attempted to summit started straggling in from their failed summit attempt. They were too tired to descend from C4. I re-broke the route to C3 in sketchy and quite heavy deep snow. As I dropped down a final steep descent before Camp 3 on an arm wrap rappel, I plunged into a concealed crevasse. I was already feeling quite sick from overheating in my down suit. The sun had come out and started slowly deep frying me in the down suit. But luckily I was stable enough that I could wriggle out of the suit without falling any further. Half way in a hole, about to vomit from overheating and my arm wrap biting into my forearm, I comically rolled down into C3. I was moaning in discomfort, dry heaved a few times, and laid there motionless for a time.
I had to get moving again though, because the weather was coming in fast. I cached a few things at Camp 3 and started rappelling off the serac whose top forms the flat surface of camp 3. The route down the German Rib is steep and riddled with crevasses and alpine ice. But large areas of the route had deep snow blown in from the night prior.
... Another large avalanche is ripping down Annapurna… this place is quite unstable since the earthquake.
Soon after completing my descent from the serac I, twice, stuck a leg into a concealed crevasse while rappelling down the further slope. I shouted to a Sherpa named Pemba from the summit team that we’d better employ the buddy system and re-break the route together. As we started down the visibility went to zero and a heavy fall of snow started.
About midway down we lost our rappel lines and started carefully climbing down without the safety of the lines. Searching the snow with our ice tools for the rappel lines while slowly inching our way down. We were In a couloir with seracs all around and above us, my mind kept telling me we were in a very dangerous place to be moving so slowly. A few minutes before finding the lines again we set off a small slab slide 3 ft to our right. Things were getting spooky!
Finally, we made the last rappel onto the glacier below the German Rib. Now the last hurdle was finding camp 2 in a whiteout. An island of safety in the insanely dangerous glacial field below the crosshairs couloir and sickle ice cliffs. In the reduced visibility we wove through large ice blocks of avalanche debris by GPS. We moved with baited breath - hoping not to hear that tell tale rumble that has become such a familiar sound to me here at Annapurna.
The Korean team a day earlier had had a near miss right in this area.
After having been on the move on a very scary mountain, in terrible weather, for 11 hours I finally arrived at Base Camp at 8:40pm that night. Descending through deep snow and limited visibility all day. At Base Camp I found out that an avalanche had hit the team at camp 4 earlier that night. No one was hurt but they had to cut their way out of their tents. They were also all exhausted from their summit attempt. Including one climber who had frostbite on his hands and one suffering from HAPE. They would later be rescued via helicopter. Three of the 5 teams here at Base Camp are leaving, The team that attempted the summit blew their oxygen supply. Another team’s Sherpas bailed because of concerns that Annapurna wasn’t to be climbed this year. The mountain is angry. Yet another small team’s permit has run out.
I was planning to stay until mid-May as now I am acclimatized and my equipment is cached. However, with recent events I’m not sure what will happen, there’s a lot of hearsay… and Annapurna sounds extremely unstable right now. I’ve heard at least three avalanches while I was writing this.
Climbed up and established Annapurna Camp 4 today.
The other climbers here at Camp 4 are talking about continuing on and making a try at the summit this evening (leaving here at ~9pm), because there is a storm forecast for tomorrow afternoon. This is not for me, so I’ll have to decide whether to make my summit attempt early tomorrow morning and risk being in a storm as I descend, or turn back and wait for a better weather window.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.