Edmond Joyeusaz and Federico Colli. The two men have been attempting to climb Lhotse and make a ski descent of the mountain. The expedition has been a major struggle from the beginning however with bad weather, inexperienced Sherpas and illness all conspiring against them. Those challenges have all taken their toll over the past few weeks and now as their permit nears its expiration date Ed and Fede have decided to call it quits and head home.
The latest update to the team's blog gives a bit of an indication of what they have been dealing with in recent days. It seems that heavy snows continue to fall on the slopes of Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse, creating extremely tough and hazardous conditions. It has been so bad there this fall that the Italians were never even able to reach Camp 2. In fact, they report that the Korean team that they are sharing the mountain with still have not established C2 after more than two weeks on the mountain. That doesn't bode well for their expedition to summit Lhotse either, although they'll continue to give it a go.
In an attempt to salvage a bit of the expedition, Federico decided that he had to put his skis on at least once. He also knew that he had to climb up to Camp 1 to retrieve their tent and other supplies there. So, he scrambled up the mountain and with the help of a couple of Sherpas, was able to collect what gear they had stashed there. Once the work was complete, he donned his skis and proceeded back to Base Camp, crossing the dangerous Khumbu Icefall in the process. This was the first Italian ski descent of the icefall and only the second ever. The first being made by Davo Karnicar, who is also the first man to ski Everest from summit to BC.
The blog post with the details of the ski descent was posted today but it is dated October 10, which means it is nearly a week old already. My guess is that at this point, the Italians are making their way back down the Khumbu Valley and are now returning to Kathmandu for their flights home. Judging from what was wrote, it seems they are a bit dejected by not achieving their goals, but considering the conditions they have been dealing with almost from the beginning, the deck was most definitely stacked against them. There was simply too much snow and too many other obstacles to overcome.
The fall season is winding down quickly now. There are still a few major expeditions on the mountains but it appears that nearly everything will be wrapped up by November 1, if not sooner. Stay tuned for more.