Shortly before the end of the spring season, some teams reached the summit of Mount Everest today. “Mission accomplished,” let Nirmal “Nims” Purja know, head of the operator Elite Expeditions. Apart from the 37-year-old himself, six of his clients and nine Sherpas reached the highest point at 8,849 meters, he wrote: “After having to wait for a weather window good enough to summit, their patience was rewarded.” All returned safely to the South Col at nearly 8,000 meters. Nine team members, including Nims, still want to climb the neighboring 8516-meter Lhotse on Tuesday – incidentally, as on Everest, with bottled oxygen.
Actually, the “Icefall Doctors” on Mount Everest wanted to start already today to remove the ladders and ropes from the dangerous Khumbu icefall, the first stage on the route to the summit. But because of bad weather last week, there was, with permission from the Nepalese government, an extra three days for this spring season.
The odyssey of the two Czech climbers Marek Holecek and Radoslav Groh on the seven-thousander Baruntse in eastern Nepal has found a happy end. The two were flown out today by helicopter to Kathmandu. The pictures that Marek posted on Instagram – apparently from a hospital – give the impression that the 46-year-old survived the ten days on the mountain marked, but apparently relatively unscathed. Holecek and Groh had set out from base camp last Wednesday to open a new route through the challenging Northwest Face of Baruntse in alpine style – with no fixed high camps, no bottled oxygen and no Sherpa support.
The cloud cover on Baruntse in eastern Nepal just won’t break. “The situation is unchanged, we are trapped at 7,000 meters and we cannot move,” Marek Holecek informed via satellite phone today. “It’s still snowing, blowing and not visible. We are waiting for a miracle that will hopefully arrive on Saturday.”
Meteorologists expect the snowfall to end and the wind to calm down on Saturday. As reported, Marek and his Czech rope partner Radoslav Groh had completed a new route through the Northwest Face of the 7,129-meter-high Baruntse on Tuesday – in alpine style, meaning no fixed high camps, no bottled oxygen, no Sherpa support.
The fifth highest mountain on earth showed its teeth. Actually, Felix Berg and his team wanted to reach the 8,485-meter-high summit of Makalu in Nepal on Monday – without bottled oxygen. On Sunday evening, the German expedition leader of the operator Summit Climb, two clients from Germany, one from Austria and two Sherpas set off from their Camp 3 near Makalu La, a col at 7,450 meters – “in good weather,” as Felix writes. “Unfortunately, after two hours the weather became much worse, and at 7,600 meters we turned back.”
Once again, the highest point on earth has been a busy one over the past two days. According to the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism, more than 170 people reached the summit of Mount Everest on Sunday, with more than 100 likely to have joined them on Monday. Dozens of summit successes were also reported from Lhotse. Wang Dorchi Sherpa, who worked for the Russian expedition operator 7Summits Club, died near the nearly 8,000-meter-high Everest South Col. Nothing was initially announced about the cause of death. It was the fourth fatality of this spring season on Everest.
The dramatic corona development in Nepal has also had its first effects on the summer climbing season in Pakistan. With Furtenbach Adventures and Kobler & Partner, two European operators canceled their eight-thousander expeditions in the Karakoram that were actually planned for the summer – not least because of the recent events on Mount Everest.
In the Western Qwm, the “Valley of Silence”, at above 6,000 meters, more than 200 climbers are currently waiting for their summit chance on Mount Everest, according to press reports from Nepal . By the weekend, the strong winds caused by a cyclone west of India are expected to subside. On the South Col at an altitude of almost 8,000 meters, several dozen tents are said to have been blown away. During the first summit wave a week ago, about 150 climbers had reached the highest point at 8,849 meters.
It almost seems as if the weather god has also had enough of all the lies, half-truths and cover-ups in connection with the corona outbreak at Everest base camp. A cyclone raging on the west coast of India is causing snow and strong winds to hit Mount Everest over the next few days as well. The next good weather window actually expected for the middle of the week probably falls flat – and with it for the time being also the second large summit wave. Only towards the end of the week, the wind should subside again.
On Saturday, Lukas Furtenbach had – as reported – broken the wall of silence and talked turkey. The Austrian abandoned his expedition with immediate effect and referred to the escalating COVID-19 situation in base camp: “We all know that we have a massive outbreak in base camp. All teams. (Helicopter) Pilots know, insurances know, HRA (the Himalayan Rescue Association, which runs an infirmary at base camp) knows. Still sending people up is negligent from a legal point of view and inhuman from a moral point of view.” Furtenbach explained that climbers who become infected may not show symptoms, such as fever and breathing problems, until several days later at Camp 3 at nearly 7,200 meters or even higher. This could escalate into a “real severe problem,” including death, he said.
“The situation is escalating,” Lukas Furtenbach writes to me. “There are many new cases in all teams.” Because of a corona outbreak at Everest Base Camp, the head of Austrian operator Furtenbach Adventures has pulled the emergency brake and become the first major team to abort the expedition.
“I didn’t make the decision easy for myself,“ says Furtenbach. “But to climb with these massively increasing corona numbers at base camp and risk the lives of our 20 customers, four mountain guides and 27 Sherpas carelessly, would be irresponsible.”
There will be no ascents of Mount Everest from the Tibetan north side this spring. Chinese state media report Himalayan Expedition – the only expedition operator that had obtained permits for 21 Chinese climbers for this spring season – is foregoing summit attempts. According to information I received from Tibet, Chinese authorities fear that the climbers could contract COVID-19 at the summit of Everest – if they meet other climbers there who have ascended from the Nepalese south side of the mountain.
While there is still no end in sight to the Corona drama in Nepal, oxygen equipment is being checked at the base camp at the foot of Mount Everest. Many teams are preparing for their summit attempt. The next good weather window is not expected until the middle of next week at the earliest. In the first major summit wave, a total of about 150 climbers reached – with bottled oxygen – the highest point at 8,849 meters on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Even their guardian angels got a little sweaty, but everything went well in the end,” reads Peter Hamor’s Facebook page. The Slovak and his two Romanian team partners Horia Colibasanu and Marius Gane today abandoned their expedition on the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri. The chronic bad weather caused “unacceptable” dangers, the trio let it be known. During their summit attempt without bottled oxygen via the still unclimbed Northwest Ridge, the three climbers had – as reported – reached an altitude of 6,800 meters. During the night, their tent had been hit by an avalanche. They had to cut open the tent wall to free themselves.
The first big summit wave on Mount Everest is rolling. As expected, several dozen climbers reached the highest point at 8,849 meters today, ascending with bottled oxygen. Among them were Briton Kenton Cool, who has already stood on the roof of the world for the 15th time, and Pakistani Shehroze Kashif, who is only 19 years old – he scaled the eight-thousander Broad Peak in his homeland as a 17-year-old and has been called “Broad Boy” ever since.
If the Chinese-Tibetan authorities have their way, the summit of Mount Everest will also become a zero-contact zone. A separation line is planned at the highest point at 8,849 meters to ensure corona safety distances between ascending climbers from the Tibetan north side and those from the Nepalese south side, Nyima Tsering, head of the Tibetan Sports Authority, told the state news agency Xinhua.
After twelve Sherpas led by Everest record holder Kami Rita Sherpa fixed the ropes up to the summit on the Nepalese side last Friday, the first commercial teams are expected on the highest point tomorrow, Tuesday. On the north side, too, the preparatory work is as good as complete, with the fixed ropes up to the last high camp at 8,300 meters. For this season, the authorities have issued permits to only 21 Chinese climbers, for foreigners the mountains of Tibet are closed – as in spring 2020 – because of the corona pandemic.
An 82-year-old climber from Spain is managing the corona outbreak on the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri in western Nepal. “Five more people were evacuated today,” Carlos Soria wrote on Twitter today. “We have received 90 tests for everyone at base camp. We have done 30 tests: Twelve of them were positive. We are trying everything to stabilize the situation and take care of everyone’s health.”
Speaking to Explorersweb, Carlos described the situation at the base camp as “crazy.” Currently, 19 sick people were still staying there, Soria said. A total of about 20 people have already been flown out, he said. That the government of Nepal still denies that there is a corona problem in the mountains is a scandal against the background of the massive outbreak on Dhaulagiri.