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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon


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Expeditions

Oct 05, 2018

A Historic Ascent and First Ski Descent of Lhotse Couloir

The “Dream Line” on Lhotse had never been skied… until now, by Hilaree Nelson (née O'Neill) and Jim Morrison.

WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

American climbers, Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison, have just become the first people to ski the “Dream Line”, from the summit down through the Lhotse Couloir.

This 7,000-foot ski line has been scouted and dreamed about by numerous ski-mountaineers, but this is the first time anyone has actually done it.

Skiing a 50-degree slope is no easy task. For reference, Corbet’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, known for being one of the most intense ski runs in the world, lands in a 45-degree slope. Then consider the difficulty of dealing with high altitude and low oxygen at 8,000m. Finally, Nelson and Morrison were skiing the line after the Nepalese summer monsoon season, causing extremely high avalanche danger.

“We are here in the fall because there are no other climbers”

Before leaving Base camp, Nelson described the expedition:
“We are here trying to climb and ski the Lhotse Couloir. It is the fourth highest peak in the world. I have climbed it before. It’s one of those things that has been nagging at me, much like Papsura nagged at me for almost 25 years. Lhotse is sort of in that same boat. It is going to be about a 5 week expedition. We are here in the fall because there are no other climbers, which makes it a little easier to ski that coulier. It is about a 7,000ft ski descent, probably averaging about 50 degrees. Obviously high altitude from like 28,000-feet to 21,000-feet. I am really excited. I am sitting at base camp right now looking at the ice fall on the Khumbu Glacier, and Everest is right above me, and yeah, it is just an incredible spot. I love it here.”

Click the image above to read about Hilaree’s expedition to Dharamsura and Papsura, or the “Peaks of Good and Evil” in 2013.

At 27,980-feet, Lhotse is the 4th highest mountain in the world, and a sister peak to Everest. Both Nelson and Morrison had previously summited Everest, as well as multiple other 8,000-meter peaks. As a team, they have completed ski descents of Denali, Cho Oyu, and Papsura, the “Peak of Evil”. The pair could not have been more experienced and prepared for this ascent and ski descent. Both Nelson and Morrison were (very appropriately) named 2018 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year.

Based out of Telluride, Colorado, Hilaree Nelson is no stranger to high altitude ascents. She began climbing when she was 19 year old attending Colorado College. The now mother of two has previously summitted both Everest and Lhotse. In fact, she summitted both peaks in under 24 hours, making her the first woman to summit two 8,000m peaks in that short timeframe. She has skied from the summits of Cho Oyu in Tibet, Papsura in India, as well as numerous notable mountains in South America, Russia, Mongolia, and Pakistan.

California-based Jim Morrison has a ski-mountaineering resume similar to Nelson’s. He has successfully completed multiple 8,000m summits, as well as numerous impressive ski descents all around the globe.

Now that Nelson and Morrison have achieved their goal, we can’t wait to hear what they have to say about their accomplishment.

Cover Photo: Indiver Badal

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Athletes & Explorers

Oct 15, 2018

9 Climbers Die at Gurja Base Camp: What We Know So Far

Even if many questions remain unanswered, a tragedy that seemed bizarre at first has slowly come to reveal itself, as a five member South Korean expedition and four Nepali guides die during a violent snowstorm.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

Since this article was published, The Outdoor Journal has published an update to this story, entitled: Update: 9 Climbers Die at Gurja Base Camp. What Really Happened? The Experts Opinion.

The Himalayan Times were the first to report that “at least nine climbers including five Korean nationals were killed when a massive landslide buried the base camp of Mt Gurja (7,193 metres) on the lap of the south face of Mt Dhaulagiri in western Nepal”. This was according to the expedition organiser, Wangchu Sherpa, Managing Director at Trekking Camp Nepal.

“Endless glaciers under my feet make my heart throb, I feel like I should discover every corner of the Himalayas.” Kim Chang-ho.

It was the deadliest accident within Nepal’s climbing community since 2015, and those that passed away included decorated Korean team leader Kim Chang-ho. Kim had previously topped the world’s 14 highest peaks, in record time, and was of the few that had done so without the aid of oxygen. The rest of Kim’s team, from the Korean way Gurja Himal Expedition 2018, included Lee Jaehun, Rim Il-jin, Yoo Youngjik, and Jeong Joon-mo. The Nepali support team who also lost their lives were named as Chhiring Bhote of Hatiya-2 , Dena Angjuk Bhote of Hatiya-6, Phurpu Bhote of Hatiya-6 all in Shankhuwasabha district, and Natra Bhadur Chantel of Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality-1 in Myagdi district.

The Dhaulagiri Range, home to Gurja Photo: MITESHSTHA

SNOWSTORM, AVALANCHE OR LANDSLIDE

The climbers were waiting out the weather as they planned on a summit attempt, the nearby 24,000 foot Gurja. Only 30 people have successfully reached this peak, in stark contrast to the 8000 people who have made the summit of Everest. The goal of this particular expedition was to establish a new route to the summit, and name it Korean Way: One Korea – Unification of North and South Korea. However, in the early hours of Friday 12th October, a violent snowstorm hit the camp and the BBC reported on a freak accident that scattered the bodies as far as 500m, but contrary to the Himalayan Times did not report a landslide or avalanche.

“Base camp looks like a bomb went off”

The Kathmandu Post reported that upon arriving at the camp, Nepali climbing guide Lakma Sherpa said “When a team of locals reached the site, it was clear immediately that the camp was hit by snowstorm” and that “officials suspect that a massive avalanche on the mountain may have triggered the snowstorm.”

Meanwhile, Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, a police spokesman in Nepal, told the New York Times that it was unlikely that an avalanche had struck the team, because the bodies were not buried.


The reality of what had happened in base camp on Friday night is clearly open for debate. However, all eyewitnesses were agreed upon a scene of total destruction. Helicopter pilot Siddartha Gurung told AFP: “Everything is gone, all the tents are blown apart”. Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a US-based emergency assistance group assisting in the retrieval effort that “Base camp looks like a bomb went off” and “at this point we don’t understand how this happened. You don’t usually get those sorts of extreme winds at that altitude and base camps are normally chosen because they are safe places”. Suraj Paudyal, a member of the rescue team hypothothsised when talking to CNN “It seems that a serac (a piece of glacial ice broke) and barreled down the couloir (a gully on a mountainside) from the top ridge of the mountain and the gust created the turbulence washing the climbers and staff from their tented camp at the base camp”.

There are clearly more questions than answers remaining, but perhaps those questions will begin to be answered over the next few days as investigations continue.

RECOVERY EFFORTS

On Saturday, a helicopter was dispatched to the site and the bodies of the victims could be seen. However, due to high winds, and not having a safe place to land, the helicopter was forced to return to base. Locals reached the basecamp on Saturday evening, but were again beaten back by the weather, before the helicopter again returned in the early hours of Sunday morning, and all nine bodies were recovered within a couple of hours.

Eight of the bodies have now been airlifted back to Kathmandu, whilst the body of local Netra Bahadur Chhantyal was handed over to his kin upon retrieval.

Having become the first Korean to summit Everest, Kim was once quoted as saying “Endless glaciers under my feet make my heart throb, I feel like I should discover every corner of the Himalayas.”

Cover photo: The Dhaulagiri Range, home to Gurja by Prajwal Mohan

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