The video circulating on social networks actually leaves no room for interpretation: A helicopter lands in Camp 1 at 5,700 meters on the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal. On one side of the helicopter, a backpack is unloaded, which someone picks up; on the other side, a climber gets out and is greeted by another mountaineer with a handshake.
It was said, the video was filmed last fall during the Manaslu expedition of Bahrain’s Royal Guard, which was organized by Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks. If the dating of the video is confirmed, “heli-doping” would have been involved in the summit success of the team from Bahrain and at least one, possibly several climbers would have saved themselves the first stage from Manaslu Base Camp to Camp 1. My inquiry on this to Seven Summit Treks has remained unanswered so far.
Slowly I am dizzy from the constant back and forth of the Nepalese government regarding the quarantine of incoming tourists. Therefore I formulate it cautiously: Apparently the Ministry of Tourism now seems to have agreed on a regulation, which could possibly last for a longer time. According to this regulation, people entering Nepal – provided they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a negative PCR test that is not older than 72 hours – have to be tested immediately after arriving in Nepal.
If there is one thing the Nepalese government knows how to do, it is the backward roll. Apparently, the quarantine regulations for incoming tourists will not be relaxed for the time being. After a cabinet meeting last week, officials of the Ministry of Tourism had told press representatives in Kathmandu that guests from abroad who had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus would no longer have to undergo a mandatory one-week quarantine in a hotel in Kathmandu. A negative Covid-19 test, which is not older than 72 hours, would be sufficient to be able to move freely in Nepal immediately.
“It has been quite a long time staying home,” Pemba Sharwa Sherpa writes to me. “For a year, I couldn’t work because of the corona pandemic. It’s the same with all my friends here in Phortse. Most of all are getting ready to get back on Everest. Some have already left for Everest Base Camp to start preparing campsites.” This spring, Pemba wants to lead two Brazilians to the summit of Mount Everest.
The 29-year-old is from Phortse, 3,840 meters above sea level, the village in the Khumbu region with the highest density of Mount Everest summiteers: more than 80 of the current inhabitants have already stood on the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters. Pemba was born into an “Everest family”: his father, Lhakpa Dorje, reached the summit in 1987 and worked on a total of more than 30 eight-thousander expeditions. One of Pemba’s grandfathers supplied yaks to the 1953 expedition of Everest first ascenders Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, and the other grandfather hired out on nearly 20 expeditions.
Visitors from abroad who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and can also present a current negative corona test will no longer have to undergo a one-week hotel quarantine in Nepal. According to the Kathmandu Post newspaper, this was decided by the Nepalese government at yesterday’s cabinet meeting. In other words, even vaccinated climbers who want to climb Mount Everest or another mountain in Nepal this spring will once again be able to decide for themselves when to head to the mountains after arriving in Kathmandu.
“We feel really bad,” Vinayak Jay Malla writes to me, meaning himself and those about 60 Nepalese who, after a long training, have received an international mountain guide certificate. Despite their qualifications, they now have to apply for a mountain guide license from the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu, shortly before the start of the spring season on Mount Everest and the other high mountains of Nepal. Background: The government has decreed that every expedition on a mountain in Nepal must hire a mountain guide. Only those who have one of the new government licenses will be recognized. The international certificate does not automatically count as proof. Unacceptable, complains Ang Norbu Sherpa, president of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association (NNMGA), which issues the certificates.
Actually, one could almost rename Dhaulagiri, the “white mountain”: to Soriagiri, “Soria’s mountain”. For the eleventh time now (as he himself says – according to Himalayan Database it is already the twelfth time since 1998) the Spaniard Carlos Soria is trying to scale the 8,167-meter-high Dhaulagiri in western Nepal. Taken together, Carlos has spent more than a year and a half of his life on the seventh highest mountain on earth. Once, in fall 2017, Soria was almost at the top. At 8,050 meters, he had to turn back because he and his fellow climbers lost their bearings in the summit zone and took the wrong couloir.
What makes his persistence on Dhaulagiri even more unusual is Carlos’ age: he is now 82 years old. The former upholsterer, who lives in the small town of Moralzarzal near Madrid, has already summited twelve eight-thousanders – eleven of them at over 60. Only Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma are still missing from his collection. He holds the age records on K2 (65 years), Makalu (69, at that time he climbed solo and without bottled oxygen), Gasherbrum I (70), Manaslu (71), Lhotse (72), Kangchenjunga (75) and Annapurna (77).
What a clumsy attempt! The government of Nepal is trying to prevent unwanted pictures and videos of Mount Everest. In a list of rules for expeditions to the world’s highest mountain – typically enough only published in Nepali so far – climbers are forbidden to use their video cameras or smartphones to record other climbers and then distribute the pictures and films via social networks.
Anyone can photograph or film themselves or their group and share it, Mira Acharya, director at Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism, specified to the Kathmandu Post newspaper, “but they will face action if they take, make and share photos of other climbers without the department’s consent.” This, Acharya said, has long been prohibited by law, but no one has complied.
A countdown is running on his homepage. With around three weeks to go, former American football player Mark Pattison will fly to Nepal to climb Mount Everest and Lhotse – with bottled oxygen. If he succeeds in reaching the highest peak on earth, the 59-year-old would be the second ex-professional of the National Football League (NFL) to complete the Seven Summits, the collection of the highest mountains on all continents. The first was Craig Hanneman in 2019, who made his living as a professional in the NFL in the 1970s.
Pattison played as a wide receiver with the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders and New Orleans Saints in the 1980s. After his career ended, Mark became a successful businessman. Today, he is an executive of Sports Illustrated magazine and a motivational speaker. He produces his own podcast called “Finding your summit”.
Six of the Seven Summits
Pattison found his way to mountaineering ten years ago during a personal crisis: he separated from his wife of many years, and his father died after a severe stroke. Mark set himself a new goal: to climb the Seven Summits. He started in 2013 with Kilimanjaro (Mark scaled Africa’s highest mountain a second time in 2017). This was followed by Mount Elbrus (Europe’s highest mountain) in 2014, Mount Kosciuszko (Australia) in 2015, Aconcagua (South America) in 2016, Denali (North America) in 2018 and Mount Vinson (Antarctica) in 2019. So now he wants to climb the 8,849-meter-high Mount Everest and then, as the icing on the cake, within 24 hours also the neighboring 8,516-meter-high Lhotse.
Mark, you have already scaled six of the Seven Summits, and now you are going to attempt the highest of all mountains. How do you feel about this expedition?
The starting signal for the spring climbing season on Mount Everest has been given: A total of nine members of the so-called “Icefall Doctors” team set off this week from Namche Bazaar, the main town in the Everest region, to the base camp on the Nepalese south side of the highest mountain on earth. Six Sherpas specializing in this will prepare the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall, over which the members of the commercial expeditions will then ascend from April.
The eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal remains an almost impregnable winter fortress. With the Spaniards Alex Txikon and Inaki Alvarez and their Sherpa team, the last climbers on the eighth highest mountain on earth also threw in the towel at the weekend.
“We were very close, but in the end it was not possible,” said Alex Txikon. “The weather forecasts don’t show any improvement for at least 10 days and after that we don’t know what will happen. So it’s very risky to extend the permit.” The permit from the Nepalese government was only valid until 28 February, the end of the meteorological winter. Twice, Txikon and Co. had ascended to an altitude of around 7,000 meters before bad weather and deep snow had forced them to turn back.