“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) once wrote in his famous “Tractatus“. To put it simply: how we say or write something is certainly significant, because language creates reality. In my opinion, this should be taken into account in the discussion about discriminatory names of climbing routes, which has gained considerable momentum in the context of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, especially in the USA.
First-time climbers, who once used the N-word when naming their routes, are therefore not necessarily racists yet – but should be aware that racism starts with the choice of words. What may have been meant funny and flippantly formulated yesterday can be offensive and discriminatory today. Probably it has done so in the past, but it has not been talked about.
He’s back to his passion. In the northwest Italian region of Piedmont and in the Dolomites Carlalberto, called “Cala”, Cimenti, rides his mountain bike again, climbs mountains and flies downhill with his paraglider. In March, the 45-year-old – as reported – was tested positive for the coronavirus. The doctors diagnosed Cimenti with pneumonia, but sent him home from the hospital – with medication and the advice to call if things got worse. For days he lay in bed with a high fever, cared for by his wife Erika Siffredi. “My attention is fixed on the thermometer marks, on every breath that must not be worse than the previous one,” Cimenti wrote on Facebook at the time. He recovered.
First ascent of Gasherbrum VII
In summer 2019, Cala had scaled Nanga Parbat in Pakistan and had skied down from the eight-thousander. He then succeeded in the Karakoram in the first ascent of the 6,955-meter-high Gasherbrum VII – the ascent is on the candidate list for this year’s Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of climbers”. On the descent from Gasherbrum VII, his team mate Francesco Cassardo fell about 450 meters deep. In a dramatic rescue operation it was managed to get Francesco to safety. Cimenti had previously scaled the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu (in 2006), Manaslu (in 2011) and Manaslu (in 2017).
Cala, how are you currently doing, have you recovered from your corona infection one hundred percent?
The corona crisis is widening the gap between what could be and what actually is. In theory, the mountaineering season in the Karakoram would be in full swing right now. Earlier this year, 25 expedition teams had applied for permits for Pakistan’s five eight-thousanders and other mountains in the north of the country. No one has come.
“Pakistan is completely open, including the airports, but there is no tourism at all,” writes Mirza Ali Baig, head of the operator Karakorum Expeditions to me. “Summer adventure tourism is almost off. There is no possibility for mountaineering, trekking is also not taking place. Not even a single local group.”
2020 threatens to become a black year for expedition and trekking operators in Nepal. First they lost the entire spring season because of the corona lockdown, now the same threatens to happen in fall. Just a few days ago, the first operators like Imagine Nepal had announced eight-thousander expeditions for early September. Mingma Gyalje Sherpa’s company wanted to lead climbers to the summits of Manaslu and Dhaulagiri. “We were planning to run the expeditions and booking was quite good,” Mingma replied to my question as to whether there were enough interested climbers for the expeditions.
After all, there is still a small spark of hope for an at least modest fall season in the Himalayas. According to the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism, it is planning to allow foreign and domestic flights again from 1 August – subject to safety requirements. Due to the corona lockdown, all flights to and in Nepal are still prohibited until at least 5 July. Since the beginning of the week, the government has been processing visa applications again – first of all, however, to extend the visas of foreigners living in Nepal.
Suddenly the whole world is talking about dexamethasone – a drug that high-altitude climbers and trekking tourists traveling in the Himalayas or the Karakoram have known for a long time. According to the participating scientists, a British study showed that the death rate of COVID-19 patients on artificial respiration decreased by about one third when doctors administered dexamethasone to them. However, the steroid showed no effect in a mild course of the disease.
British Health Minister Matt Hancock spoke of “brilliant news” and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of the World Health Organization (WHO) called it a “lifesaving scientific breakthrough”. German scientists warn against premature euphoria. Thus, the side effects of the drug would also have to be taken into account. Moreover, it is obviously only useful in severe cases and does not replace a vaccine against the coronavirus that is still needed.
One of the most popular politicians in the region around Mount Everest is dead. Nim Dorje Sherpa, head of the Khumbu Pasanglhamu rural municipality died of intestinal cancer at the age of only 39 years in his home village of Lukla. Nim Dorje had fought against the disease for ten months, in vain in the end. He leaves behind his wife and three sons.
“His death is an irreparable loss to not only the Sherpa community but also to the entire Solukhumbu district,” Ang Dorje Sherpa, chairman of Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) told the “Himalayan Times”. The SPCC takes care of environmental protection in the Everest National Park. Nim Dorje always strived for peace and development believing in teamwork, Ang Dorje added.
The curves speak a clear language. According to John Hopkins University in the USA, which registers all officially reported coronavirus cases worldwide, the pandemic has not yet peaked in Nepal. Since the beginning of May, the curve has been rising continuously – around 5,000 infections have been registered so far, 16 COVID-19 deaths. The number of unreported cases is likely to be very high given the comparatively low number of coronavirus tests in the country. Yesterday, the police in Kathmandu used water cannons to stop a rally of about 1,000 people in front of the house of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli. Among other things, the demonstrators had demanded more corona tests than before. The strict lockdown in Nepal has been in effect since 24 March and will remain in force for the time being until this Sunday. Oli has announced a slight easing of the restrictions.
Successful mountaineering official and entrepreneur
The standstill in public life has hit the mountain tourism industry of the Himalayan state hard. I have asked Ang Tshering Sherpa about this. The 66-year-old was the head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) for many years and is an honorary member of the UIAA, the World Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. Ang Tshering comes from the village of Khumjung in the Khumbu region and was one of the first students at the Edmund Hillary School, financed and built by the Himalayan Trust, the aid organization of the New Zealander who made the first ascent of Mount Everest along with the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. In 1982 Ang Tshering Sherpa founded Asian Trekking, one of the leading providers of expeditions and trekking tours in Nepal. Now his son Dawa Steven Sherpa is the company’s CEO.
Ang Tshering, do you understand people who have put their plans for a trip to Nepal on hold out of concern about the corona pandemic?
The “sprinter”, as he was once called, will return to Mount Everest. In spring 2022 Marc Batard wants to climb the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen – at the age of 70. If he succeeds, Marc would then most likely be by far the oldest climber on the roof of the world without using a breathing mask. So far, this Everest record is held by the Italian Abele Blanc, who reached the highest point on earth in 2010 at the age of 55 years and 264 days. For years, Batard had completely retired from high altitude climbing and devoted himself to painting.
“We are opening tourism, because these three to four months are important for the people associated with tourism. Otherwise more joblessness will occur at these places,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan surprisingly announced earlier this week. The former country’s cricket superstar, who has been head of government since August 2018, specifically mentioned the northern provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There the highest mountains in Pakistan are located, including the five eight-thousanders K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II and Nanga Parbat.
According to Khan, the provincial governments would jointly make regulations under which the tourism industry could be reopened. It almost sounded as if the summer climbing season in the Karakoram could be saved against all odds – despite the coronavirus pandemic. But resistance is stirring in the regions mentioned.
“I was deeply touched. Never before I had felt such a feeling of happiness,” French climber Maurice Herzog later wrote about that moment on 3 June 1950, when he reached the 8,091-meter-high summit of Annapurna I with his compatriot Louis Lachenal – it was the first ascent of an eight-thousander. Both climbed without bottled oxygen on their way over the northern flank of the mountain. The way back from the summit was dramatic.
I have rarely used the word “actually” as often as in the last few months. So much was planned for this spring at the highest mountains of the world, but then fell victim to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. This includes the Everest marathon from the base camp on the Nepalese south side to the village of Namche Bazaar. Actually it should have taken place for the 18th time today. But this event was also canceled.
The marathon is regularly run on 29 May, the International Everest Day, which Nepal has celebrated since 2008. This commemorates the first ascent of the highest of all mountains in 1953. 67 years ago today, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary (1919-2008) and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest. After his success, Tenzing also regularly celebrated his birthday on 29 May. His exact date of birth could not be determinded.
Today it got a little bit fuller on the summit of Mount Everest. According to Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, 14 clients of the commercial Chinese expedition operator Yarla Shampo reached the highest point on earth, accompanied by 21 Tibetan supporters. Mingma, head of the Nepalese operator Imagine Nepal, is in close contact with the Chinese expedition. Among those who stood on the summit was a 16-year-old girl. On her summit video, which Mingma shared on Facebook (see below), you can also see the survey mast that was set up there yesterday. Will they take it down again?
At base camp the champagne corks popped. After the Tibetan rope-fixing team had secured the Northeast Ridge up to the summit of Mount Everest yesterday, a group of Chinese surveyors reached the highest point today. The picture, which was distributed by the Chinese state media, showed nine people. The ascent was broadcasted live on Chinese television thanks to the 5G technology previously installed at the base camp and along the route. The surveyors aligned their instruments at the highest point and stayed there for a total of two and a half hours – which was celebrated in the state media as a record for Chinese climbers. The results of the measurement is to provide information about the exact height of the mountain.
Six Tibetan mountaineers who have been fixing the ropes for the Chinese expedition on the north side of Mount Everest reached the summit at 8,850 meters today. This is reported by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa. The head of the Nepalese expedition operator Imagine Nepal has direct contact with the Chinese expedition. Previously the rope-fixing team had to turn back twice due to bad weather and high avalanche danger, first at 8,600 meters, then at 8,000 meters.