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Wrapping up the 2012 Himalayan Season

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Sitting poolside at the Kathmandu Hyatt in November…. this is the time and place each year that the Alpenglow guides and staff wrap-up and debrief the Himalayan season. At least it is where we begin our defrosting! Then it’s off to Thailand for our “annual meeting”. This autumn season in Nepal has been one of my most memorable since I began climbing in Nepal in 1997. And, as often happens with memorable seasons, it has had both highs and lows. The dark side is well known already – on Manaslu, a mountain I have guided and summited four times, one of the biggest accidents in Himalayan history, an accident guides and sherpa have been fearing might happen but hoping to avoid since the mountain became commercially popular in 2008. Even though Alpenglow was not on Manaslu this year, all of us who work and climb here knew someone involved in the accident, and we feel for their friends and families.

Our decision to guide Makalu for the first time this autumn season was a result of our wanting to move away from Manaslu, and also Tibet’s closure. We are so glad we decided to explore this incredible mountain! Our team experienced safe and stellar climbing conditions, a stunning valley and gorgeous camps. While strong and early jet-stream winds prevented a summit for our team, we all left the mountain happy and healthy, and committed to returning next year. Our entire guide and sherpa team believe Makalu is an excellent alternative to more dangerous and crowded 8000-meter peaks, and we look forward to once again offering the best in food, logistics, camps and guiding on the world’s fifth tallest mountain in 2013.

And then, as every year, we brought a strong team to Ama Dablam, perhaps my favorite big mountain in the world. Conditions were the best I have seen in a decade – perfect neve on our summit push above high camp, lots of good ice on the Grey Tower, and dry granite down low between Camps 1 and 2. Good cooperation between Alpenglow and the other “legitimate” guiding companies on the mountain led to excellent new fixed ropes (a double set of lines on all of the mountain’s exposed terrain) and allowed our members to move with confidence and efficiency. Over three different summit days, Alpenglow had 23 members, guides, and sherpa summit Ama Dablam (including double summits by Dorji Sonam, Danuru, Palden, Chad Peele, and me). Equally as impressive, every climber descended all of the way to Base Camp in their summit day. This must be the effect of having the best chef in the Himalaya (Tashi)! Our climbers were willing to undertake massive effort and 15-hour round trip summit pushes in order to eat dinner in base camp verses Camps 1 or 2.7!

Now, as most of our members enjoy the trek out of the Khumbu Valley to Lukla, and a few of us (thanks to Fishtail Air’s helicopters and pilots) already sit by the pool in Kathmandu, our team is already planning logistics to return to the Khumbu at the end of March, 2013. We will be sending blogs, photos, and videos from our Everest and Lhotse Expeditions. Follow us online, or even better join us for the trek to Everest Base Camp, or one of the climbs! We still have a couple of spots left on our teams.

-Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow Expeditions