Mount Everest: Sheikh and Sheikha

Sheikha Asma Al Thani in Everest Base Camp (in 2019)
Sheikha Asma Al Thani in Everest Base Camp (in 2019)

This much is certain: finances will not be the issue for these Everest aspirants. The Gulf’s moneyed aristocracy will meet on Mount Everest this spring. In addition to Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa from the royal family of Bahrain, another member of a filthy rich ruling family from the Middle East is among the almost 250 foreign mountaineers so far with a permit for Mount Everest: Sheikha Asma Al Thani from Qatar. The 31-year-old wants to become the first woman from the Gulf emirate to scale Mount Everest.

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Mountaineering and trekking season in Nepal slowly picking up speed

Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse

At least a small glimmer of hope for Nepal in times of pandemic: In March, Nepalese authorities counted around 15,000 tourists entering the Himalayan state from abroad. That was almost twice as many as in February. In the first three months of the year, a total of about 33,000 tourists arrived. That’s about a quarter of the number of foreign vacationers who entered Nepal in the first quarter of pre-corona 2019 (about 127,000).

The mountaineering season is also picking up steam following the easing of entry restrictions. The Ministry of Tourism announced yesterday that it had so far issued 343 climbing permits for a total of nine mountains, including 192 alone, distributed among 20 expedition teams, for Mount Everest. By comparison, in the record year of 2019, the ministry had issued 381 permits for the highest mountain on earth.

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Happy Easter!

I wish you all and your loved ones Happy Easter – despite corona restrictions. And the “Picasso from the river Rhine” 😉  is confronting you with another easter riddle: Which mountain have I conjured onto the egg?

US singer Mike Posner wants to climb Mount Everest

Mike Posner at Concordia in Pakistan (K2 and Broad Peak in the background)

Will his next hit be called “I took a pill on Everest”? US singer Mike Posner has announced in a video (see below) that he wants to climb Mount Everest this spring. The 33-year-old let it be known that he had been preparing for his project for 18 months. The idea came to him when he crossed the USA on foot in 2019. After the death of his father, he “felt trapped under the weight of my own life,” Mike says. “I wanted to find out who I was when I wasn’t a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter.” His song “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” had made it to number one on the charts in several European countries and was nominated for Best Song of the Year at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

For six months and three days, Posner trekked 2,851 kilometers across the U.S., from the East Coast to the West Coast. Along the way, he was also bitten by a rattlesnake. “When I crossed the Rocky Mountains, I had a good idea what I wanted to do next,” says the singer: to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth. A PR stunt? No, says Jon Kedrowski, who has been training the musician and wants to accompany him to the 8,849-meter-high summit.

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Marc Batard: Annapurna as the next stage before Mount Everest

Marc Batard and Pasang Nuru Sherpa
Marc Batard (l.) and Pasang Nuru Sherpa (r.)

More than 20 years after his last summit success on an eight-thousander, Marc Batard is going to give it another try. For this spring, the 69-year-old has set his sights on climbing Annapurna – via the so called “Dutch Rib” in the North Face, without bottled oxygen. Batard and his team reached the village of Tatopani yesterday on their way to the 8,091-meter Annapurna I in western Nepal.

“I am very happy to be back in an area I know well and to have the chance to present myself in good shape despite my age,” Marc writes me. Twice he tried unsuccessfully to scale Annapurna in the 1980s. Both times bad weather stopped him: in 1986 on the East Ridge at 7,100 meters, in 1989 in the South Face at 5,800 meters.

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Mount Everest and Manaslu: By helicopter to high camp?

Helicopter landing in Camp 1 on Manaslu
Helicopter landing in Camp 1 on Manaslu

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.

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Nepal: No quarantine for tourists – after negative test on arrival

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.

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Nepal: Still hotel quarantine for all foreign tourists

Arrival at Kathmandu Airport

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.

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Pemba Sharwa Sherpa: “Climbing with passion”

Pemba Sharwa Sherpa
Pemba Sharwa Sherpa

“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.

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Nepal: No more mandatory quarantine for vaccinated tourists

Arrival at Kathmandu Airport

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.

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When to be a mountain guide in Nepal?

Nepalese south side of Everest
Nepalese south side of Mount Everest

“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.

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Soria, Hamor, Colisabanu, Gane, Troguet: Off to Dhaulagiri!

Carlos Soria

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).

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Everest censorship

Queue on the Everest summit ridge (on 22 May 2019)

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.

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Ex-NFL-Pro Mark Pattison: “I’m ready for Mount Everest”

Mark Pattison
Mark Pattison

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 on Denali
On Denali

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?

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Everest season with question marks

Icefall Doctor
An “Icefall Doctor” in the Western Qwm

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.

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