Fingers crossed for Czech climbers on Baruntse

Northwest Face of the seven-thousander Baruntse
Northwest Face of the seven-thousander Baruntse (in good weather)

The cloud cover on Baruntse in eastern Nepal just won’t break. “The situation is unchanged, we are trapped at 7,000 meters and we cannot move,” Marek Holecek informed via satellite phone today. “It’s still snowing, blowing and not visible. We are waiting for a miracle that will hopefully arrive on Saturday.”

Meteorologists expect the snowfall to end and the wind to calm down on Saturday. As reported, Marek and his Czech rope partner Radoslav Groh had completed a new route through the Northwest Face of the 7,129-meter-high Baruntse on Tuesday – in alpine style, meaning no fixed high camps, no bottled oxygen, no Sherpa support.

Three hours of good visibility would be enough

Marek Holecek
Marek Holecek

A week ago Marek and Radoslav had set out from the base camp. Bad weather, caused by the remnants of a cyclone over the Bay of Bengal, caught the two Czechs in the challenging Northwest Face. They struggled through and reached the summit of Baruntse on Tuesday.

Since then, they have been stuck in their tent at about 7,000 meters. “We are tired like kittens, frozen, hungry and thirsty,” Holecek wrote back on Monday, at the time still 50 meters below the summit ridge. “We would need three hours of good visibility and we would be safe down,” the 46-year-old let it be known yesterday. But heavy snowfall is still expected tomorrow, Friday.

Government orders expeditions back

Mount Everest, some 15 kilometers away as the crow flies, is also shrouded in clouds. Some teams are still waiting for a last summit chance. However, the government of Nepal called on expedition operators to “ensure the immediate return of climbers from the mountains” in light of the bad weather. Officially, the spring season ends in early June.

Update 28 May: The waiting continues. “We survived another hellish night in a hurricane and under heavy snowfall”, Marek lets us know. “We had to constantly dig the tent out of the snow. All our prayers go to Saturday.” Then the weather is expected to calm down. 

Update 29 May: The hoped-for improvement in the weather has finally arrived. “Again a crazy, frozen night with a hurricane, but in the morning there is sun and no wind,” reports Marek. “Let’s go down, let’s go down, let’s go down.”

Update 29 May, 9.30 pm: Marek and Radoslav descended 1,100 meters through avalanche-prone terrain and are now on safe ground according to their own assessment. Tomorrow they are to be flown out from Baruntse by helicopter.