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Asia, Nepal, Post-Monsoon in the Nepal Himalaya

Post-Monsoon in the Nepal Himalaya. In the post-monsoon in the Nepal Himalaya, the summer monsoon rains and snowfall continued throughout September and into early October, several weeks beyond the normal end of the rainy season, only to be followed by a few mid-October days of more heavy snowfall resulting from a cyclone nearby in India. Many teams on Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Baruntse and other mountains with very limited time at their disposal had to retreat from what they considered unsafe avalanche conditions or simply from snow too deep to manage to get through.

There was very little success on Nepal’s eight 8000ers. Even on Cho Oyu, where success rates are often high, 21 expeditions did some climbing but just nine of them sent anyone to the top and all followed the normal route on the northwest side. The other 12 teams—including cautiously-led commercial ones—withdrew well below the summit because of dangerous snow conditions. And those who were successful were able to reach the summit only from September 26-October 1; before and after those dates, snow conditions were very bad.

One Japanese mountaineer, Toshiyuki Kitamura, tried to solo Cho Oyu’s seldom-climbed southwest face but had to abandon his attempt at 7400 meters in soft snow under a hot sun that defeated him. He moved over to the standard route and followed teammates to the top five days after their ascent.

No one even attempted Annapurna I. Only one team out of seven (a predominantly American group that included Ginette Harrison; see below) had any summiters on Dhaulagiri I. Everest had no summitters at all, and the same was true for Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, which had only one team each, and for Manaslu with four parties.

On Everest, there were only four expeditions this autumn (one Spanish party for Nepal’s Southeast Ridge route, one Spanish and one Italian group for the North Col in Tibet, though they were not there at the same time, and a South Korean group on the seldom-attempted 1983 American Route on the east face, also in Tibet). None were successful. The last previous autumn season in which only four teams came to Everest was in 1985.

There were surprisingly few fatal accidents in the Nepalese Himalaya this season despite the very dangerous snow conditions. But five climbers did die in Nepal, and all were killed by avalanches. The American climber Alex Lowe died with his teammate David Bridges on Xixabangma (Shishapangma), which is entirely in Tibet and covered accordingly later in this journal. The 41-year-old Briton, Mrs. Ginette Harrison, the only woman ever to summit Kangchenjunga, was caught in a danger zone around 6500 meters on Dhaulagiri I on October 24. She was highly experienced in Himalayan climbing and in organizing and conducting expeditions to these great peaks. In addition to Kangchenjunga via its difficult north face in May 1998, she had summited three other 8000ers, including Everest in October, 1993.

A Nepalese Sherpa who was climbing with a French expedition, Dawa Dorje, was also killed by the avalanche that struck Ginette Harrison. The others who died on Nepalese mountains were two South Koreans, Han Do-Kyu and Hyun Myeong-Kun, on the north side of Kangchenjunga and Sange Sherpa with a South Korean team on the normal Northwest route for Makalu.

Elizabeth Hawley