When altitude sickness knocks

Our turning point at 5,000 meters, in the background Renjo La

At about 5,000 meters, it was over. My daughter, who walked in front of me, suddenly tilted sideways and spat out the little she had been able to eat in the last 24 hours. All her strength seemed to have disappeared from her body. Only about 300 meters difference in altitude were missing to Renjo La, from which – despite some clouds – an incomparable panorama with three eight-thousanders would have opened up to us: Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu. But suddenly the mountain pass had become out of reach. Our Nepalese mountain guide estimated the time my daughter would need in her condition to reach the highest point at two and a half to three hours – if she made it at all. And then another 500 meters down to Gokyo and a night at 4,800 meters.

High time to turn back. My daughter would probably have been a hot candidate for a (life-threatening) high-altitude cerebral edema. Finally she showed classic symptoms of acute mountain sickness: severe headache (also in the back of the head), nausea, vomiting, tickle of the throat, loss of performance. Actually, we should have pulled the rip cord much earlier. But who wants to give up an attractive goal? You don’t want to believe it, you reach for every straw that promises hope.

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Giant flag on Ama Dablam divides opinion

Kuwaiti flag on Ama Dablam

Nailing one’s colors to the mast is actually regarded as something positive. But does the flag have to be 100 x 30 meters and fly from a 6812-meter-high summit? That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday last week on the beautiful Ama Dablam in the Everest region. A giant flag of Kuwait was rolled out from the summit ridge down the striking hanging glacier. Even in the village of Khumjung, a good ten kilometers away as the crow flies, the flag was still visible. Since then, the mountaineering scene has been discussing the action fiercely. Some see the mountain desecrated and the alpinistic values betrayed, others cheer the daring of the action.

Purja: “Nobody hampered”

The flag weighed 150 kilograms. Six Sherpas deployed by the Nepales expedition operator “Elite Himalayan Adventures” had carried it in 25 kilogram parts to the summit, assembled them there and unrolled the flag, Expedition leader Nirmal “Nims” Purja – who recently made headlines worldwide when he scaled all 14 eight-thousanders in just a little more than six months – does not understand the excitement about the action. It “has definitely strengthened the relationship between Nepal and Kuwait.definitely strengthened the relationship between Nepal and Kuwait,” Nims wrote on the social networks.

Everyone takes some flags onto the summit, Purja says: “I apologize our flags was definitely bigger but unlike many we didn’t leave the trace up there.” The Kuwaiti flag was completely brought back to the valley, says the 36-year-old, adding: “The mission didn’t hamper anyone’s climb at all. We put the flags up once all other mountaineers descended.”

Hillary: “Shame on you!”

Eye-catcher Ama Dablam

Alexander Hillary, grandson of Edmund Hillary, the first ascender of Mount Everest, was at Ama Dablam at the same time, contradicting Purja on Facebook. He heard that other climbers had been asked to leave the spot quickly when Nims’ team filmed the flag from the helicopter, Alexander commented on Facebook. “Not only that, you and the clients left Ama Basecamp before your exhausted Sherpa team that were carrying the 25kg flag pieces arrived back down. I’m appalled by the lack of respect that you have shown your countrymen and employees, not to mention the inappropriate placement of a foreign flag on Ama Dablam. Shame on you.” The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism is investigating the incident. The expedition team did not have permission to unroll such a large flag, a representative of the Ministry told the “Nepali Times”.

Pandora’s box open?

In the first daylight

Purja has by no means covered himself with glory with the flag action. He may even have opened Pandora’s box. How long does it take until a mega flag of a state or a sponsor flies from the summit of Everest? Who needs such a thing, with the exception of politicians or profiteers? On Monday last week I myself admired Ama Dablam in the first daylight from the nearby Tengboche monastery – without a flag at all. What a beautiful mountain! I was at the right place at the right time. One day later I would have been upset.

Big celebration in the 2015 earthquake region

Festival on the grounds of the new school in Sangachok

I’m reminded of a Hollywood movie: The vice-president enters by helicopter. A handful of bodyguards pave the way for him. The Secret Service men are wearing grey suits, dark glasses, earphones – and they keep a straight face. I’m tempted to shout to the wannabe Clint Eastwoods: “Hello, wake up! You’re on a school compound, there’s no danger here, just partying!” But then I deny myself to do it. That’s probably how it must be when a high-ranking politician attends an event in Nepal. And after all Nanda Bahadur Pun is the second man in the state as vice-president. In his posh suit one hardly believes that he once commanded the Maoist rebels in the Nepalese civil war (from 1996 to 2006).

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Nirmal Purja completes eight-thousanders in six months

Nirmal Purja: “Mission achieved”

Nims did it. “Mission achieved”, Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja announced today, after his “Project Possible” team had reached the 8,027-meter-high summit of Shishapangma in Tibet. The 36-year-old former soldier of the British Gurkha Regiment has thus successfully completed his plan to climb all 14 eight-thousanders in seven months. It was even faster than planned. Only six months and six days passed between his first eight-thousander success on Annapurna on 23 April and that on Shishapangma. For comparison: The fastest eight-thousander collector to date, the South Korean Kim Chang-ho, needed seven years, ten months and six days.

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Felix Prokop: Without breathing mask on Cho Oyu, down with skis

Felix Prokop during the ascent to Cho Oyu

Felix Prokop was among those who met Nirmal Purja on the mountain this fall. The 28-year-old German mountaineer crossed the way of the Nepalese – who is expected tp successfully complete his “Project Possible” (all 14 eight-thousanders in less than seven months) on Shishapangma in the next few days – below Camp 1 on Cho Oyu. “Nims” had just ticked off his twelfth eight-thousander. “I congratulated him on his summit access,” Felix writes to me. “He was quite friendly and visibly in a hurry to descend as quickly as possible. I think he wanted to be back at Manaslu Base Camp the next day. On site, he’s a little bit like a rock star. Even the Sherpas seem to be very impressed by him.” Not without reason: Four days later, on 27 September, Purja stood on the summit of Manaslu, his 13th eight-thousander since the end of April.

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Nirmal Purja: Toothache before Shishapangma summit attempt

Nirmal Purja at Shishapangma Base Camp

Every slight movement of the jaw hurts up to the ears, even speaking. Anyone who has ever had toothache at high altitudes knows what Nirmal “Nims” Purja is going through in Shishapangma Base Camp. “I’m having a massive trouble with my wisdom tooth. It’s so bloody painful and it’s getting me fever,” the 36-year-old Nepalese climber writes on Facebook, adding ” Yes I have been brushing my teeth and have been using dental floss too.” Toothaches are anything but ideal conditions for a summit attempt on the 8,027-meter-high mountain in Tibet – the last one that Nims still needs to successfully complete his ambitious “Project Possible” (all 14 eight-thousanders in seven months).

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Exciting attempts on Chamlang and Hongku Chuli

Base camp at the foot of Chamlang

“I’m fine. The mountain is traversed”, Frederick II said on 17 August 1786. Reportedly these were the last words of the Prussian king. Even though it is not known that he chose them on his deathbed because he had a passion for mountains, many climbers would subscribe the statement of “Old Fritz”, as the King was called at that time. The traverse of a technically difficult mountain is still considered a special achievement. Not far from the eight-thousander Makalu in eastern Nepal, two teams are currently trying their hand at traverses.

The professional climbers David Göttler from Germany, Hervé Barmasse from Italy and the Colombian Andres Marin, who lives in the USA, have set themselves the goal of crossing the three peaks of the seven-thousander Chamlang. The trio already set up their base camp at the foot of the mountain last weekend. According to Hervé, their acclimatization is completed. Last week, the three climbers had got used to the thinner air in the mountains around the village of Chukhung in the Khumbu region.

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Nirmal Purja is allowed to climb Shishapangma

Nirmal Purja (l., in K2 Base Camp)

The week-long adjourned game has come to an end. “With full of mixed emotions ; I feel very humble, thankful and proud today. Finally me and my team has got the permit to climb Shishapangma,” the Nepalese climber Nirmal “Nims” Purja  announces on the social networks. His patience had been put to a hard test in the last weeks.

Since the end of April, the 36-year-old former soldier of the British Gurkha Regiment has scaled 13 of the 14 eight-thousanders in an unprecedented tour de force. Only the 8,027-meter-high Shishapangma is missing to successfully complete his “Project Possible” (all 14 eight-thousanders in seven months). The Chinese-Tibetan authorities had actually closed the lowest of the eight-thousanders for this fall season – for safety reasons, it was said.

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Summit attempt on Dhaulagiri abandoned – Purja still waiting for Shishapangma permit

Summit area of Dhaulagiri

Camp 3 at 7,250 meters was the end of the lines. The Nepalese operator “Expedition Base” informed on Facebook that all mountaineers who had set off on Tuesday for another summit attempt on the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri descended towards  the base camp today. The Spaniard Carlos Soria and his teammates were among those who turned back. “The wind was very strong, and the weather forecasts for the summit area have not turned better,” the 80-year-old let us know via Twitter.

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Moeses Fiamoncini: Fall on Dhaulagiri

Broken helmet after the fall

The Brazilian climber Moeses Fiamoncini, according to his own words, has cheated death on Dhaulagiri last Thursday. “Due to an accident at 8,120 meters, I was unable to reach the summit of Dhaulagiri. I was only 47 meters short to conquer my fifth eight-thousander,” the 39-year-old informed after returning to Kathmandu. When he crossed near the summit a rock band which was covered with 30 centimeters of snow, he slipped and fell 20 meters,  said Fiamoncini, adding that his helmet was broken and his down suit, gloves and shoes had filled with snow. “I almost died of hypothermia,” reports Moeses – especially since he had been en route without a sherpa and bottled oxygen.

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Kilian Jornet turns around on Everest at 8,300 meters

Kilian Jornet above the South Col (view to Lhotse)

The fall season on Mount Everest has come to an end without a climber being able to reach the summit at 8,850 meters. “All the other teams have gone home, climbers are off the mountain and I’m the last one here,” the American expedition leader Garrett Madison wrote on Sunday from the base camp on the Nepalese south side of the mountain. Until the end he and his team had hoped that the giant Serac, which – as reported – hangs about 800 meters above the Khumbu Icefall and threatens to fall at any moment, would break off. “Even if the Serac came down, our climbers were able to return to base camp in a few days, and we had perfect weather and route conditions to climb, it would take us over two weeks beyond our orginial end date to climb the mountain.” The only summit attempt of the season on Everest was made by the Spanish speed specialist Kilian Jornet – solo.

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Summit successes on Dhaulagiri

Sergi Mingote on Dhaulagiri (in Camp 2)

“I’ve reached the top,” the Spaniard Sergi Mingote announced today via Twitter. The ascent from Camp 3 at 7,250 meters to the summit of Dhaulagiri at 8,167 meters took him 13 hours. “In only 444 days this is the seventh 8000-meter-summit, without the help of artificial oxygen.” In 2018, the 38-year-old had scaled Broad Peak, K2 and Manaslu, this year already Lhotse, Nanga Parbat and Gasherbrum II before Dhaulagiri. Sergi has resolved to climb all 14 eight-thousanders within 1000 days without breathing mask. At the scheduled end of his project in May 2021, he wants to scale Mount Everest.

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Mount Everest: When the serac threatens

Monster serac above the Khumbu Icefall

The tyrant Dionysios had a large sword hung over Damocles, held only by a single hair of a horse’s tail. In this way Dionysius wanted to demonstrate to the obsequious courtier the transience of life. This is what‘s currently also happening to the climbers at Mount Everest. Like the Sword of Damocles in the Greek saga, a monster serac is hanging 800 meters above the Khumbu Icefall and looks as if it will break off at any moment.

As heavy as 675 trucks

Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel, who photographed the shaky ice tower, estimates the icy monster to be 50 meters high and 30 meters wide. If we take these values as a basis and assume a depth of 20 meters based on the proportions in Bargiel’s photo, the volume would be about 30,000 cubic meters. Ice weighs around 900 kilograms per cubic meter, giving us a total weight of about 27,000 tons – equivalent to 675 fully loaded 40-ton trucks. No wonder that some fall climbing teams have already broken down their tents at Everest Base Camp because of the threatening giant serac.

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Shishapangma permit for Nirmal Purja after all?

Positive signals for Nirmal Purja

The numerous appeals to the Chinese-Tibetan authorities may have borne fruit. After all, there are now signals from Lhasa that Nirmal “Nims” Purja will possibly receive a special permit for this fall to climb the 8,027-meter-high Shishapangma. “Chinese authorities have clearly conveyed me a message that Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu will do necessary arrangement to secure a Shishapangma climbing permit for Purja and his team of ‘Project Possible‘ at the earliest,” Dawa Sherpa, managing director of the Nepalese expedition operator “Climbalaya Treks”, told the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”.

At the earliest could mean: after the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the communist state in China are over. However, there is still no official confirmation, neither from the China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA), which is responsible for issuing the permit, nor from Nirmal Purja himself.

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Open letter in the matter of Nims and Shishapangma

Nirmal Purja

Dear Chinese-Tibetan authorities, now it is up to you whether Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja can successfully complete his “Project Possible” – all 14 eight-thousanders in seven months – or not. Today he has also scaled the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain on earth. It was the 13th eight-thousander for the 36-year-old Nepalese since the end of April, when the former soldier of the British Gurkha Regiment opened the dance with his success on Annapurna. Now he is only missing the Shishapangma, with 8,027 meters the “lowest” eight-thousander. And that’s where you come in.

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