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Asia, Nepal, Nepalese Himalaya, Peak Bagging and Other Activity in the Post-Monsoon

Nepalese Himalaya, Peak Bagging and Other Activity in the Post-Monsoon. This autumn’s weather seemed unremittingly bad for climbing, without the normal break of a couple of weeks of fine days and nights between the end of the monsoon rains/snowfall in late September and the onset of fierce westerly winds in mid-October.

This autumn, success came to some of the men going for all of the 8000ers. A Spanish Basque, Juanito Oyarzabal, summitted Manaslu in early October and thereby knocked off his twelfth 8000er; he says he may finish off all of them by 1999. It also came to a South Korean, Park Young-Seok, who reported that he reached two 8000-meter summits this autumn, Cho Oyu in September and Lhotse in October. Since April, Park now claimed an unprecedented total of five 8000-meter summits in only six months (adding these to two others, including Everest, which he had climbed previously), and he is getting ready to go to Manaslu in December. Before Park, Carlos Carsolio was the only person to have summitted as many as four 8000ers in one calendar year (1995).

A new pair of peak-baggers suddenly appeared on the scene this autumn with ambitious plans for the fast track. They are two Spanish brothers, Jesus and Jose Antonio Martinez, who set for themselves the goal of summitting all the 8000ers without Sherpa helpers or bottled oxygen within a year from the date of their first success. That first was achieved on Dhaulagiri I, which both of them scaled on September 24. They then went to nearby Annapurna I but stopped that climb at 6400 meters on October 15 when a huge avalanche roared down the mountainside. Next they crossed the Nepalese border illegally, and Jesus summitted Cho Oyu from the Tibetan side on a Nepalese permit on November 6. In mid-November, they left Kathmandu for Shishapangma in Tibet before going home for Christmas.

Two prominent Italians, Sergio Martini and Fausto De Stefani, have been much slower in scaling their 8000ers, having begun together with K2 in August 1983, and they are not in their 20s like the Martinez Brothers or in their 30s like Park, but are 48 and 55 years old. Now close to completing the job with 12 successes already, Martini still had Everest to climb, De Stefani had not yet summited Kangchenjunga, and neither of them had climbed Lhotse yet.

This season, they came as a two-man team to climb Lhotse by its normal West Face route without artificial oxygen or help from Nepalese Sherpas. They had a one-month struggle to go for the top under unhappy conditions (“much wind, much snow, no satisfaction,” as Martini described it). But at last, on October 15, they reported, they had gained the summit. Or to be more precise, they elaborated, they had been so very near the top that they considered they could rightfully claim a successful ascent. They were unable to say exactly how near they had gotten because wind was blowing snow in their faces and they were in mist at the time, but they decided they were as close as they could possibly get to the summit without being blown away by the fierce wind.

“For me and my friend, we feel that we reached very, very near the summit,” Martini said when they came back to Kathmandu. “We are convinced that with the bad weather and without fixed rope we could not have gone higher. In this condition, for us this is the summit. We know we were not at the very last point, but for us this is the summit.”

But the South Korean climber Park Young-Seok, who followed their footprints in the crusted snow three days later in clearer weather, does not consider that they actually gained the summit. While Martini and De Stefani indicate they were perhaps only a few meters below the top, Park claims that their footprints stopped about 30 meters below a small foresummit and 150 vertical meters below the highest summit, which, he says, was slightly to the right and behind the lower point; he asserts he himself did get to the very top.

The well-known Frenchwoman, Miss Chantai Mauduit, the only woman currently engaged in the contest to climb all of the 8000ers, has claimed success already on six of them, including Gasherbrum II in July, and this autumn had hope of summitting two more, Dhaulagiri I and Annapurna I, without bottled oxygen but with one Sherpa climbing with her. However, she reported failure on the first, and she never actually went to the second one. Dhaulagiri I had been successfully summitted by the Martinez Brothers and one Bulgarian in late September, but when Mauduit started her climb of the mountain at the very end of the month, she managed to reach no higher than 7500 meters, where she arrived on October 18, because of heavy new snowfall and very low temperatures. She had considerable difficulty even getting away from her base camp through very deep snow in the passes and had to leave all her climbing gear behind, so she was unable to attempt Annapurna I and had to return to Kathmandu instead.

A Briton who should have come to Nepal to add several summits to the nine 8000-meter “conquests” he claims, Alan Hinkes, failed to turn up at all. He had been disappointed in the spring by having been able to get to the top of only one of the three he planned to summit that season. His program for the rest of the year included one during the summer in the Karakoram, Nanga Parbat, and two in Nepal in the autumn. But his hopes of quickly becoming the first Briton to top all the 8000ers were thwarted by a sneezing fit. He had gone to Nanga Parbat in July to knock that one off when the flour covering the chapati he was eating got up his nose, and he sneezed so violently that did some sort of injury to his back. He was unable to move and was in great pain; he had to be removed from the mountain by helicopter and hospitalized in Britain. He told his agent in Kathmandu that he would definitely come to Nepal in the autumn, but he never showed up, and finally his British sponsor informed the agent that Hinkes would not be coming.

Elizabeth Hawley