Ukraine war: Mourning for mountaineers Oleksandr Zakolodniy and Hryhoriy Hryhoriev

R.I.P.

The longer wars last, the greater the danger that outsiders will become numb to the never-ending news. This makes it all the more important to keep reminding ourselves that behind every dead or injured person there is a human fate. Last Saturday, two Ukrainian climbers died in the battle for the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar: Oleksandr Zakolodniy and Hryhoriy Hryhoriev. Both of them became only 35 years old. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine eleven months ago, they – like many other Ukrainian mountaineers – had put aside their ice axes and ropes and taken up arms to defend their homeland.

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Göttler and Barmasse abandon Dhaulagiri winter expedition

Dhaulagiri (seen from the northeast)
Dhaulagiri (seen from the northeast)

David Göttler and Hervé Barmasse have pulled the ripcord on the weekend and abandoned their winter expedition on the 8,167-meter-high Dhaulagiri in western Nepal. The reason was the bad weather forecast for the seventh highest mountain on earth until the end of the month, said Göttler in a video he posted on Instagram: “Very high winds all the way till the end of the month and significant snowfall which could be a real problem if we are in Base Camp and trapped there.” Still, the 44-year-old German said they had “a very good time” during their expedition: “We learned a lot. And I am more than ever convinced that it is possible to climb an eight-thousand-meter peak in alpine style in winter.”

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Terrible airplane accident near Pokhara

Butterlampen_Gebetsmuehlen
R.I.P.

It was a black Sunday for the aviation of Nepal. Approaching the town of Pokhara, a plane of Nepal’s Yeti Airlines, which had taken off from Kathmandu, crashed into a gorge not far from a residential area and burst into flames. All 72 occupants – 68 passengers and four crew members – were most likely killed. Four occupants are still missing, but the chances of finding them alive are nil, an official said.

The cause of the accident is still unclear, it is hoped that the analysis of the black box will shed light on the matter. The flight data recorder was found at the crash site. The ATR 72 twin-engine turboprop aircraft was around 15 years old.

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Style debate after winter success on Manaslu

Manaslu (center) and Pinnacle East (r.)
Manaslu (center) and Pinnacle East (r.)

A style debate has broken out after the winter summit success on Manaslu. How much is Alex Txikon‘s ascent without bottled oxygen worth when his six Nepalese teammates used breathing masks, some ask. Others criticize that Tenjen Sherpa, Pasang Nurbu Sherpa, Mingtemba Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Pemba Tashi Sherpa and Gyalu Sherpa (with bottled oxygen) had done the main work and should therefore be mentioned first – before the Spaniard.

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Txikon without bottled oxygen on Manaslu according to his own words – Cho Oyu winter expedition obviously finished

Manaslu
Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain on earth (in 2007)

“Without a doubt, one of the toughest experiences of my career. But super rewarding!” That’s how Spanish climber Alex Txikon describes his successful Manaslu winter ascent. As reported, the 41-year-old Basque had reached the summit of the 8,163-meter-high mountain in western Nepal on Friday together with the Nepalese climbers Tenjen Sherpa, Pasang Nurbu Sherpa, Mingtemba Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Pemba Tashi Sherpa and Gyalu Sherpa.

First videos and pictures of the ascent show to all appearances the “True Summit”, the very highest point at the end of the summit ridge – around which there had been so much fuss in recent years. A joint summit photo was not possible there due to lack of space, Txikon reported after returning to Kathmandu, adding that one after the other, they climbed to the highest point.

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Alex Txikon and Co. succeed in winter ascent of Manaslu

Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain on earth
Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain on earth

The mountaineering team led by Spaniard Alex Txikon has taken advantage of the short window of good weather on the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal. According to the Spaniard as well as the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST), Alex and the Nepalese Tenjen Sherpa, Pasang Nurbu Sherpa, Mingtemba Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Pemba Tashi Sherpa and Gyalu Sherpa reached the highest point at 8,163 meters at 9.30 local time. “The team braved harsh winter conditions and treacherous terrain to make it to the top,” let SST expedition manager Chhang Dawa Sherpa know. By evening, everyone had returned to base camp safe and sound.

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Göttler and Barmasse will attempt Dhaulagiri this winter

Dhaulagiri
The 8,167-meter-high Dhaulagiri in the west of Nepal

Now the cat is out of the bag. “We’re heading back to the mountains but not to Nanga Parbat as some may have thought,” writes David Göttler on Facebook on this New Year’s Day. “We have decided to go to Dhaulagiri here in Nepal.” His teammate Hervé Barmasse had previously stated that they wanted to attempt an eight-thousander this winter in alpine style – without bottled oxygen, without Sherpas, without fixed high camps. At which mountain, the 45-year-old Italian had left open.

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Moro and Txikon to Manaslu – and Göttler and Barmasse?

Summit of Manaslu (l.)

That Simone Moro and Alex Txikon celebrate Christmas at home is rather rare. This year is no exception. The 55-year-old Italian and the 41-year-old Spaniard, who always climb without bottled oxygen in their projects, are proven specialists for winter expeditions. Alex has been in Nepal for some time, and now Simone has also arrived in the Himalayan state. Both want to try for the third winter in a row to climb the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal.

In the past two winters, their attempts had failed due to large snow masses on the eighth highest mountain on earth. Moro fears déjà vu. “The weather here has been fantastic for the last two months,” Simone said after arriving in Kathmandu. “I’m worried about that because it’s repeating the script that until Christmas it’s beautiful and then when the mountaineering winter starts, the astronomical winter, the conditions change.”

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The good avalanche

Matthias Baumann in front of the new hospital in Phakding
Matthias Baumann in front of the new hospital in Phakding

“It was very emotional,” Matthias Baumann tells me. In November, the chief physician from Tübingen was in Nepal with his family. It was a trip of three generations: Along for the ride were his life partner Eva, their joint two-year-old son and Matthias’ parents, 82 and 78 years old. The family trip took the Baumanns to Phakding in the Khumbu region, where the “Himalayan Sherpa Hospital” was inaugurated after five years of construction. Even state president Bidhya Devi Bhandari was present to cut the ribbon on the front door of the new clinic. “This was special for the people of Khumbu,” Matthias says. “It’s not too often that they get a visit from the head of state there.”

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School up – far west: “Encourage us even more to fulfill our dreams!”

Niruta Hamal, Khom Bahadur Shahi and Puspa Raj Shahi
Niruta Hamal, Khom Bahadur Shahi and Puspa Raj Shahi (from l. to r.)

“Everyone has the right to education.” What is written in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948, also applies to Niruta Hamal, Puspa Raj Shahi and Khom Bahadur Shahi 74 years later. The three teenagers live in the small village of Rama, in Humla District, far in the west of Nepal. And like all children and young people, they have dreams for their lives. Dreams that will probably be shattered without education. Thanks to “School up – far west“, two new school buildings are now being built in their village with your donations.

“Previously, we had a thatched hut with clumsy dark rooms,” says 13-year-old Niruta, who is in fifth grade. “In the past, during the months of June and July, whenever there was thunder and wind, we had to carry our bags and return home due to fear. After building this concrete structure, we hope to regularize our classes and enjoying reading.” Niruta is especially excited about the new separate toilet for girls “that saves our time for study instead of going far distance in bushes”.

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Next Cho Oyu winter attempt of Gelje Sherpa

Gelje Sherpa
Gelje Sherpa

This Thursday, 1 December, the meteorological winter begins. And again Gelje Sherpa is drawn to the 8,188-meter-high Cho Oyu. The 30-year-old Nepali mountaineer wants to try again to climb the sixth highest mountain on earth via its Nepalese south side. The Norwegian Kristin Harila will probably also be there as his client. Gelje confirmed this to me: “Yeah, I’m planning to go with her [to Cho Oyu].”

Also on the team, according to Spanish sports newspaper Marca, is Brit Adriana Brownlee. The 21-year-old has so far scaled ten of the 14 eight-thousanders, with bottled oxygen, always led by Gelje.

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Mourning for American mountaineering legend Ed Webster

Ed Webster (1956-2022)

Ed Webster stands for one of the greatest adventures of all time on the highest mountain on earth. “Our new line up Everest was his idea,” writes British climber Stephen Venables following the death of his former teammate and friend. Webster died last weekend at the age of 66 after suffering a heart attack. The sudden death of the legendary American climber was “a huge shock,” Venables writes adding that Ed had been “a brilliant pioneer rock climber.”

In summer 1986, Webster opened a new route through the southeast flank of the 7,543-meter-high Changtse, located just north of Mount Everest – solo, without bottled oxygen. However, this was only the overture for the great coup two years later. In 1988 on Everest, Webster and Venables, together with Canadian Paul Teane and American Robert Anderson, achieved a milestone of mountaineering in the Himalayas. “The best ascent of Everest in terms and style of pure adventure,” Reinhold Messner later called Webster and Co.’s project.

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Last friendship service for Matthew Eakin

Matthew Eakin
Matthew Eakin (1981-2022)

Not only was he a mountain enthusiast, but he had exceptional charisma. “Anyone who had the pleasure to spend even a few minutes with Matthew Eakin would no doubt come away with a renewed zest for life. A guy that constantly gave his time to others,” Australian adventure photographer and cameraman Rob Norman wrote of his friend Eakin after the 41-year-old fell to his death on 25 July while descending K2. “He lived the life he wanted, wore his heart on his sleeve, made the most out of this precious life we have and always did it with a smile his face.” Similarly, Cassie Davies, also a friend of Eakin’s, wrote: “He was a magnet that attracted people to him. He encouraged many of us to try things, just to dare, to put the investment in and make our dreams real.”

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