Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger plan Gasherbrum double traverse in winter

Tamara Lunger (l.) and Simone Moro

The 33-year-old South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger and the 52-year-old Italian Simone Moro follow in the footsteps of Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander. In summer 1984, 35 years ago, the South Tyrolean Messner and Kammerlander had written alpine history in the Karakoram in Pakistan, when they had traversed the eight-thousanders Gasherbrum II (8,034 meters) and Gasherbrum I (8,080 meters): in Alpine style, in one push, i.e. without descending – a pioneering act that has not been repeated on these two eight-thousanders to this day. The Spaniards Alberto Inurrategi, Juan Vallejo and Mikel Zabalza last failed in 2016 and 2017 in attempting the double traverse oft he Gasherbrum summits. “We raise the bar on it,“ says Simone Moro, „daring both eight-thousand meter peaks including the crossing as a winter expedition.“

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Mount Everest only for the rich?

North side of Mount Everest

“Only millionaires left who expect you to carry anything after them.” So an expedition leader, who is often en route in the (due to climate change unfortunately not quite) eternal ice of the Arctic, described his clientele to me some time ago. The reason is obvious: the price for last-degree expeditions – from 89 degrees latitude to the North Pole – has almost tripled in the last ten years due to increasingly expensive logistics, to currently around 60,000 euros. The prices for expeditions to the Antarctic – whether to the South Pole or to the continent’s highest mountain, Mount Vinson – have the same order of magnitude and thus are actually out of reach for average earners. The same now applies to the “Third Pole”, Mount Everest – at the latest since the drastic increase in permit fees on the Tibetan north side of the mountain, which comes into force on 1 January 2020.

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China again fuels the permit price spiral for Everest and Co.

Tibetan north side of Everest

Permits for eight-thousander expeditions in Tibet will be significantly more expensive from next spring. The Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) has now sent out the new tariffs, which are to apply from the beginning of 2020 to the end of 2022. The price increase for Mount Everest is particularly high. According to the list available to me, the foreign summit candidates for the world’s highest mountain will now have to pay 15,800 US dollars instead of 9,950. That is an increase of around 58 percent. For Cho Oyu, 9,300 dollars per mountaineer will have to be paid next spring. So far it was 7,400 dollars, which results in a plus of 25 percent. The permits for Shishapangma will cost 9,300 dollars for the normal route via the North Face (previously 7,150 dollars, plus 30 percent), 9,400 dollars for the South Face (previously 7,650, plus 22 percent).

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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.

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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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