ExplorersWeb Week in Review

Posted: Jul 02, 2006 11:26 pm EDT

Karakorum got its first summits last week - all on Broad Peak. Space shuttle Discovery's launch was postponed this weekend and on Everest, Harry Kikstra's guiding of the disabled climber Thomas Weber came in focus. Check the debate, and Harry's reply after the 4th of July weekend. ExWeb will kick off again Wednesday - Happy Independence Day guys!

(Food for thought: The Declaration of Independence was inspired by Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common sense.)

"I offer nothing but the simple facts, plain arguments and common sense" With an ethical debate raging on Everest, it's interesting to check Thomas Paine's words in Common Sense, 230 years back: "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason."

Chip's Shelter: Looking for rescue solutions at high altitude British Chip Rafferty was on Everest during the David Sharp incident as a trainer for the British services Everest West ridge team. He emailed ExWeb offering a possible solution to future survival situations at high altitude. It just requires each team carrying a high altitude isolation pod and a micro stove with a small gas canister - about 2 lbs total weight."

Thomas Weber: A tragedy on Everest that had the opportunity to be avoided "Oh Harry, why didn't you save my dear Thomas!" Those words were posted on the SightonEverest website, shortly after it was known that Thomas Weber had died on Mount Everest. Last year, Dutch climber Harry Kikstra summited Everest for the first time but barely made it down alive. This year, he returned to Everest - as a private guide for disabled German climber Thomas Weber. Last week, no less than 4 climbers in different interviews with ExWeb left reports pointing to serious negligence and passivity on Harry's part when Thomas died.

Annapurna 2006 new images: Peter Hamor's bivouac in hell With an overall summit/fatality rate of 40%, most 8000er collectors leave Anna for last. Piotr Pustelnik's expedition climbed the 7,5 km (4,4 miles) long East Ridge and Peter was on his own for the most difficult section of the climb which he did completely alone, in the night. He reached the summit at 9.15 pm, solo without gas, food or a radio. He descended in pitch darkness, and was forced to dig a bivouac in a snow cave just below the summit on 8000 meters - right at the hard section between the Middle and the Main summit. Pictures have arrived.

Everest only complete ski descent flashback: Davo Karnicars non-stop ride This year, two Scandinavian expeditions skied down parts of Everests north side. Swede Tomas Olsson fell to his death on the Great couloir while Olof Sundström and Martin Letzter from Sweden, made it safely back down the normal route. None of the skiers had managed a complete ski descent of Everest. While there have been 17 ski descents from Everest with this year's attempts, only one has ever been complete - from summit to BC: On October 7, 2000 Davo Karnicar skied down from the summit on Everest south side. Check the images!

Everest debrief: Martyna and the curse of the Playboy bunny From the moment she announced she was going to Everest, TV journalist Martyna was simply known as the Playboy bunny. With the racy images (posted on her own website) quickly picked up by media and no prior experience at 8000m, Martyna discovered she'd have some tough work ahead of her if she wanted to be taken seriously as a climber. She bagged Everest and returned home with a new spirit: No more posing for Playboy - instead Martyna is planning her next climbing expedition.

Russians on Masherbrum - Leader Odintsov evacuated Just as they were about to begin their climb, team leader Alexander Odintsov fell seriously ill, diagnosed with viral hepatitis, and had to be evacuated. Ruchkin is the new leader. Conditions on the mountain are tough, with avalanches sweeping down its faces on a daily basis. So instead of climbing the NE face as originally planned, the team has opted to for the north ridge instead a route previously attempted in 2003 by Steve House/Marko Przelj/Matic Cartwright.

Broad Peak SUMMIT - first of the Karakorum season! On Sunday, June 25 at 10:27 AM, Ryan Waters, of the FTA team reached the true summit of Broad Peak, via the normal route, the West Ridge, reported team member Alan Arnette. June 28 it was summit time again: We had three more summits last night, reported Alan, John Dowd, Mick Murphy and Marcus Dell all made the true summit of Broad Peak in somewhat difficult conditions. There were cheers in BC for all these summiteers as they are the first non-professionals to make the summit from any team in 2006. Also there were cheers for John and Mick being the first Irish to summit a Karakorum 8000m mountain in history. But late last week FTA leader Jeff Justman (JJ) aborted due to a lung infection and Alan was not feeling well either and decided to go home. Wilco plans a second summit with Gerrard McDonnell, Mark Sheen and one or two porters. They hope to reach the summit on Tuesday.

Nanga Parbat Tom Torkelson: Ready for a summit push While most of the teams on the mountain havent made it past C2, Torkelson and his German client Johannes Neideggen have reached and set C3. Theyll be ready for a summit bid as soon as conditions permit. By the time we were back to the main couloir, the snow was like waist-deep oatmeal. Deadly avalanche conditions. Johannes and I will now rest in BC until our summit push," reported they guys and a few days later, weve had a couple of hard days here. As we were leaving Base Camp for our summit push, the Germans radioed to tell us that there are extremely deep & dangerous snow conditions above Camp 4. They've abandoned their summit attempt. It's our turn now to go up & evaluate. As a team of two, we need to be conservative. Bulgarians Nikolay Petkov and Doychin Boyanov climbing sans porters or O2 established camp 3 Wednesday.

Koblers team on GII north side: Towards GII East The international team led by Kari Kobler on GIIs north side has already set up C2; making it past some of the most difficult sections of the new route they intend to climb. According to Spaniard team member Manuel Gonzalez, two team members left BC last Sunday hoping to reach GIIs East summit (7795m). Afterwards, the team would go on a separate bid for GIIs main summit.

K2 Bad weather forced climbers off the mountain as new mountaineers arrived BC. The arrival of a big Russian expedition (about 16 climbers) will change how things are happening on the mountain. The camps will soon be over-crowded since there is not much room for tents, reported Ian Bergeron. The "K2 Kuzbass 2006" expedition is a team from Siberia led by Yury Uteshev. The Russian team planning a new route on K2s West face has postponed plans until 2007. However, Russian veteran Serguey Bogomolov will be on the mountain, teaming up with Georgian Gia Tortladze the two summited Manaslu together earlier this year. Hugues d' Aubarede, a 59 year old climber from Lyon is teaming up with the Pakistani SAMTL expedition, and fellow French Antoine Girard.

Anna Czerwinska for Hidden Peak (GI) Anna Czerwinska, Darek Zaluski and Tamara Styr are departing Poland on July 4, hoping to summit Hidden Peak (GI). Ace Polish climbers Anna and Darek attempted K2 in 2005, with no success. Actually, things have gone much better for both of them this year, with Anna summiting Makalu and Darek reaching the top of Everest (with Polish Falvit south side expedition).

Batura: Alpinclub Sachsen, "Its over" Markus and Bruce fought with all their strength and attempted three different routes to the summit of evasive Batura II with no success. Extremely dangerous conditions forced them to retreat on the higher slopes (in their last push up, when they tried to reach C4). Finally, there was no other choice left but surrender.

Magnetic South Pole 2007: Hannah McKeand back in Antarctica riding the Blizzard Remember Hannah McKeand? A couple of years back, she decided to drop everything, mortgage the house, and embark on a year long triple-threat that took her to the Libyan deserts, the isolated valleys of Afghanistan - and the South Pole. In 2005, Hannah completed half the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Now she has resurfaced - teaming up with David Prize to launch Blizzard Expeditions, an adventure outfit company focused on the Southern Ocean regions onboard a 20-meter, schooner-rigged, aluminum expedition sailing yacht. In January they will do a Tasmania to King George V Land round trip, crossing the Magnetic South Pole enroute. Blizzard can take on 4 more if you want to join.

Arctic 1000: Roman and Jason nearing their own 'Ultima Thule' Since Ryan Jordan was evacuated due to an ankle injury, the remaining two trekkers Roman and Jason have been making their way across the Alaskan wilderness nearing a very remote location in the U.S. Today we walked the high banks of the broad, meandering Colville River through a virgin green landscape - on the high bluffs, we found chips of flint from ancient hunters who sat, and scanned for game, while chipping their stone tools. Jason pulled out the GPS and read: Hey, 9.2 miles, that way, to the remotest spot in America (USA). We crested the final hill, and there it was: the remotest place in America, situated in the mouth of a shallow draw - with a gravel band above, a cluster of pretty mountains behind it, and a hundred-foot cliff bank below it," they reported. "A clear water river rushed past the cliff and across gravel bars. Really, an idyllic setting, complete with willows and fine grained beaches for camping. We made camp, fixed a big meal, and slept, only 1.2 miles from our Ultima Thule - that farthest place from anywhere.

North Pole: Polar bears could be history by the next century Shrinking ice and polar bears are tough on expeditions but rougher even on the polar bears. With less time to hunt, weight for both male and female polar bears is declining and female bears are having fewer cubs. In addition, male bears are starting to kill the smaller female bears and cubs for food. Environmentalists say the polar bears may be gone before the end of the century. A NASA study found a 2.9% decline in total Arctic sea ice extent over the last decade. However, significant bear population decline has not yet begun.

Marc Cornelissen: The new polar sled maker There are no second chances in unsupported polar expeditions. You make it with what you've got or you bust. The most crucial parts being the skis and the sleds: If they break they are very hard to fix or replace. In the last two years, an increasing number of expeditions have been buying their pulks from Marc Cornelissen. While the sleds have yet to be tested in unsupported Arctic treks, they seem to be doing well on Antarctica's smoother ice. Check the ExWeb report.

Sheperd Ocean Fours: Dense fog keeps crews at bay With weather conditions slightly better but visibility down to less than 100 meters, the crews of the Ocean Fours Race are gradually making their way in dense fog across the Northern Atlantic. The mist is also making it tough for the Race support vessel to pinpoint the exact location of each crew. And because thick fog tends to interrupt sat phone activity, the support vessel has had to plot their projected positions based on each teams speed and course. To make matters worse, Team Hescos Argos beacon was sending false coded messages to Race HQ, forcing organizers to deliver a replacement on Sunday. The Americans of James Robert Hanssen are still in first place with a lead of about 153 miles over British Army teams Yorkshire Warrior and Team Hesco who are tied for second place.

Lack of wind weighs down Anne's solo kite crossing Still not enough wind to spread my wings, says Anne Quéméré. The wait in this thick mist is beginning to weigh on me. Since the launch on June 18th, Anne has spent 2/3rds of her time waiting for the wind. When I told you that patience was the key word of this trip, I never thought it would go to this extreme, she says. The one recurring thought I have is strength is not measured by muscle or the amount of weight we can lift strength is being able to bear hardship without breaking. The way things are looking, I may have to repeat that more than once, Anne dispatched.

The name's not 'Moby', it's 'Migaloo' Ocean rowers, surfers and sailors beware.Migaloo has been spotted - and hes made his annual appearance in Aussie waters off Byron Bay. At 18 meters long and weighing in at 40 tones, he is the only pure white humpback whale in the world. Migaloo, the aboriginal word for 'white fella', was first seen back in 1991, and as mysterious as Moby himself, Migaloo has been known to disappear for up to three years at a time. But just last week, Migaloo was seen swimming among a pod of 35 humpback whales making their annual trip to Antarctica.

Rob Munslow's escape row from 'prison camp' St. John's It was beginning to get ugly. CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) had run a piece on the evening news updating viewers of Robs lack of progress on his North Atlantic West to East row. He was introduced as "Rob Munslow from Wales the idle rower going nowhere". But finally the winds changed; and on Tuesday, June 27, 2006 at 08:11 (Newfoundland time), Rob Munslow left the shores near St. John's aboard his vessel Carnegie X-Stream, passed abeam of Fort Amherst and began his solo row towards Bishops Rock, UK. Inspired by Tom McCleans 55-day record, Rob hopes to beat his predecessor's time and row the 2100 miles across the North Atlantic, West - East from Canada to Europe (Scilly Isles, UK) solo and unsupported. After the long wait my boyhood dream was finally underway, he wrote in his first Contact 3.0 dispatch on the water.

NASA holding its breath: Discovery scheduled to fly Tuesday Weather halted also the planned launch of Discovery this weekend. The launch has been postponed until 2:38 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, July 4. If the weather cooperates this will be the first space shuttle to launch on Independence Day. "If we were to lose another vehicle, I would tell you right now that I would be moving to figure out a way to shut the program down," Griffin told reporters earlier this month. "I think at that point we're done." After a couple of major improvements on the shuttle since last year (a tank redesign and a modified flight plan calling for the shuttle to throttle back earlier as it passes through the thickest region of the atmosphere, thus reducing the strain on the tank's insulating foam) scientists estimate the shuttle is relatively safe with a 1-2% risk of major failure (loss of vehicle, loss of crew). Nevertheless, a whole bunch of NASA folks and 7 Astronauts will hold their breath Tuesday.

Read these stories - and more! - at ExplorersWeb.com!

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