“School up – far west”: School ceremoniously handed over

Dancing children at the handover of the school in Rama in the Humla district
Ceremonial handover of the new school

A public holiday in the mountain village of Rama in the far west of Nepal. On Monday last week, the new school, the construction of which was made possible by your donations to “School up – far west”, was officially handed over to the villagers. More than 1,000 people celebrated exuberantly.

They came not only from Rama, but also from other villages in the municipality of Tanjakot in the Humla District. Numerous dignitaries were also present, including three mayors from Humla and seven principals from the region. Dances were performed – and speeches were given. The gratitude towards Nepalhilfe Beilngries, which had organized and implemented the school construction, and towards the “School up – far west” project was “heart-warming”, writes Shyam Pandit, the program coordinator of the German aid organization in Nepal.

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Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa: „More and more dry winters in the Everest region

Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa
Tenzing Ch

As if there were no other problems on Mount Everest. For weeks, social media has been discussing a new signboard that the regional administration of the Khumbu region put up at the entrance to Everest Base Camp before the start of this year’s climbing season – directly in front of the boulder marked with paint that has served as a photo motif in recent years. There’s no accounting for taste – on both counts. The new sign shows Everest and in front of it Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who were the first people to scale the highest mountain on earth in 1953. Only one member of that expedition team is still alive: Kanchha Sherpa, now 91 years old.

I spoke to his grandson Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa – not about the new sign at Everest Base Camp, but about the consequences of climate change for the Everest region. The winter of 2023/2024 – like the previous one – was exceptionally warm and dry. Tenzing is a glaciologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and works on the cryosphere, in simple terms everything to do with snow, ice and permafrost on Earth. The research of the 31-year-old scientist from Nepal focuses on the glaciers and glacial lakes in the mountainous regions of Asia.

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Mourning for the US mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears

David Breashears (in 2011)
David Breashears (1955-2014)

He made me feel almost like I was on the summit of Mount Everest. A quarter of a century ago, I drove to a town 40 kilometers away to see David Breashears‘ documentary “Everest” in an IMAX panorama cinema. I was impressed. The movie was mainly about the tragedy on Mount Everest in spring 1996. Back then, eight mountaineers lost their lives within 24 hours due to a sudden change in weather in the summit zone.

For his IMAX film, Breashears and his Sherpa team hauled a bulky 70 mm camera up Everest, along with lots of rolls of film: 115 meters of film were needed for 90 seconds. The effort was worth it. The high-resolution images were groundbreaking at the time, and the film became a box-office success. Breashears had actually only wanted to make a documentary about the Everest expedition of US mountaineer Ed Viesturs. When the tragedy occurred, the team interrupted filming to help rescue the survivors.

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Commercial expeditions return to the north side of Mount Everest

North side of Mount Everest
North side of Mount Everest

After a four-year interruption, this spring will see the return of a “normal” season for commercial expeditions on the north side of Mount Everest in Tibet. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities had closed the eight-thousanders in Tibet to foreign teams from 2020 to 2022. Only Chinese expeditions were permitted.

In spring 2023, the authorities waited so long to issue permits that the foreign operators ran out of time and ultimately decided against Everest expeditions via the Northeast Ridge route. This time, around a handful of foreign teams are expected at the base camp on the Rongbuk Glacier. “Everything is going normally so far,” Lukas Furtenbach writes to me. His company, Furtenbach Adventures, will be on the north side with 18 clients this season.

“Waiting game”

Everest base camp on the north side (in 2005)
Everest Base Camp on the north side (in 2005)

For Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of Imagine Nepal, the normality is to remain cool in the face of the halting proceedings of the Chinese-Tibetan authorities. “As always, it’s just a waiting game. They are hopeful to give us climbing permits in the beginning of April,” writes Mingma, whose company will have five clients on the north side of Everest.

Other operators with experience of Tibet had also announced expeditions to the Chinese side for this spring, including Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s largest expedition operator, as well as Kobler & Partner from Switzerland and Climbalaya from Nepal, both of which are known for their close contacts in Tibet. It is not yet clear how many clients these three companies will have there. My inquiries have so far gone unanswered.

Climbs without breathing masks prohibited

A yak is loaded at the foot of Mount Everest (in 2005)
Five yaks per climber from base camp to ABC are included in the permit, four for the way back

The prices in Tibet are still the same as after the last increase before the 2020 season (which was then canceled): The Chinese-Tibetan authorities charge 15,800 US dollars per person for a standard Everest package, and 18,000 dollars for the luxury version. However, unlike in Nepal, this also includes hotel accommodation and material transportation with yaks. The teams must consist of at least four members.

In addition, foreign clients are required to have climbed at least one seven-thousander before their Everest attempt. From an altitude of 7,000 meters, i.e. the North Col, all climbers must use bottled oxygen. Thusm attempts without a breathing mask are prohibited. The number of permits is capped at 300. In all likelihood, there will be significantly fewer this spring.

Nepal expects over 400 Everest aspirants

There is no such restriction in Nepal. Last year, the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu issued a record number of 478 permits for the south side of Mount Everest – at a price of 11,000 dollars per permit. From 2025 onwards, the government wants the price to rise to 15,000 dollars. According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times “, again more than 400 foreign mountaineers are expected this spring.

Mount Everest: Tracking chip mandatory

Sunrise on Mount Everest
Sunrise on Mount Everest (in fall 2019)

Who is where on Mount Everest? In future, it should also be possible to answer this question electronically. As reported this week by Indian media and now also by the US television channel CNN, from this spring onwards, summit contenders will be required to carry a tracking chip with them. The chips, which cost between 10 and 15 dollars and are manufactured in Europe, are to be sewn into the down jackets of the mountaineers.

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“School up – far west”: (almost) all that’s missing is the paint job

View of one of the two school buildings
More than 350 pupils can be taught in the school – here one of the two buildings.

When you’re swinging a paintbrush, you’re on the home straight. Anyone who has ever built a house or renovated an apartment knows this. When you can apply paint, the rough work is done and you can start to make it beautiful. Because it’s clear that you’ll soon be able to move in. This is what is currently happening to the people in the mountain village of Rama in Humla District in the far west of Nepal with their new school, which will soon be ready for use thanks to “School up – far west” and your donations.

“The two buildings, the two toilet blocks and the kitchen wing are currently being completed,” writes Shyam Pandit, the program coordinator of Nepalhilfe Beilngries in the Himalayan state. “I have sent a team of painters from Kathmandu to do the painting work.”

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Biogas plant on Mount Everest: only the money for construction is still missing

The Nepalese south side of Mount Everest
The Nepalese south side of Mount Everest

Bringing the excrements down from Mount Everest is one thing, what happens to it in the valley is another. As reported, from this spring onwards, all mountaineers on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest and on the neighboring eight-thousander Lhotse will have to collect their excrement in special “poo bags” and bring it back to base camp. This news made headlines around the world. But virtually no one asked what should happen to the faeces afterwards.

Careless disposal

Faeces from Everest are disposed of in a pit
Faeces from Everest are disposed of in a pit

The poo bags will probably also be put into the blue garbage cans that have been used to collect faeces at base camp since 1996. So-called “shit porters” then carry the garbage cans down the valley, where their contents are disposed of in pits near Gorak Shep (at 5,180 meters) or Lobuche (4,940 meters), the last settlements before the base camp. A careless behaviour.

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New regulation: Everest climbers must use poo bags

Mount Everest
Mount Everest

It stinks to high heaven. This is now to be a thing of the past on the highest mountain on earth. Anyone who wants to climb Mount Everest or the neighboring eight-thousander Lhotse from the Nepalese south side from this spring onwards must buy so-called “poo bags” at base camp and use them if they need to relieve themselves on the mountain.

“Our mountains have begun to stink,” Mingma Sherpa, head of the local administration of the Khumbu region, told the BBC: “We are getting complaints that human stools are visible on rocks and some climbers are falling sick. This is not acceptable and erodes our image.”

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Limited number of visitors and climbing fee on Mount Fuji – due to overcrowding

The 3,776-meter-high Mount Fuji in Japan
The 3,776-meter-high Mount Fuji in Japan

It’s not just Mount Everest in the Himalayas and Mont Blanc in the Alps that are overcrowded during the climbing season. Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, is also one of the prestige mountains that more people climb than nature can handle.

If the regional government of Yamanashi Prefecture has its way, no more than 4,000 people per day will be allowed to climb Mount Fuji from next summer onwards. In addition, summit aspirants will have to pay a climbing fee of 2,000 yen (13.50 US dollars) for the 3,776-meter-high volcano. “Keeping the number of climbers in check is an urgent task as we observe overcrowding,” said Yamanashi governor Kotaro Nagasaki, explaining the package of measures, which he intends to submit to the regional parliament this month.

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Urubko abandons Gasherbrum I winter expedition after crevasse fall

Denis Urubko in the icefall on Gasherbrum I
Denis Urubko in the icefall on Gasherbrum I

It could have turned out worse. Denis Urubko wanted to climb up to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters on the eight-thousander Gasherbrum I in Pakistan at the weekend. However, at an altitude of 5,500 meters, Denis says he fell into a six to seven meter deep crevasse in the icefall. After an hour, his Pakistani climbing partner Hassan Shigri managed to help Urubko out of the crevasse. By this time, it had started to snow. “We spent a bad night and descended to base camp,” Urubko told the Spanish mountaineering portal desnivel.com. “I have frostbite on my fingers and can’t continue the expedition.” I’ll spare you the less than appetizing picture of his fingers. It shows that climbing is out of the question for Denis for the time being.

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Winter expedition on Gasherbrum I: Denis Urubko crosses the icefall for the first time

Denis Urubko on Gasherbrum I
Denis Urubko on Gasherbrum I

After the Spaniard Alex Txikon and his companions on Annapurna I in western Nepal abandoned their expedition and returned home, Denis Urubko is the only remaining mountaineer still hoping for success on an eight-thousander this winter: on Gasherbrum I, also known as Hidden Peak, in the Karakoram in Pakistan.

Together with his Pakistani companion Hassan Shigri, the 50-year-old climbed through the icefall above the base camp towards Camp 1 (5,900 meters) and deposited equipment. Urubko reported to his partner, the Spanish climber Pipi Cardell, that he had had to break trail through a 30 to 80 centimeter high layer of snow. Denis plans to continue climbing alone from Camp 2 at around 6,400 meters.

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Alex Txikon abandons Annapurna winter expedition

Alex Txikon at Annapurna I
Alex Txikon at Annapurna I

“I cannot afford to expose my companions any further,” writes Alex Txikon on Instagram today, “and so, after discussing and meditating all morning, we have decided to say yes to life, leaving behind our pretensions of continuing to try.”

On Thursday, Txikon’s team had abandoned the ascent towards the summit of Annapurna I at Camp 3 at 6,400 meters and returned to base camp. In the days before, it had stormed heavily on the 8,091-meter-high mountain in western Nepal. The material deposited in Camp 3 a week earlier had been blown into a crevasse.

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40 years ago: Berbeka and Gajewski achieve the first winter ascent of Manaslu

Maciej Berbeka on the "True Summit" of Manaslu on 12 January 1984 (Photo: Ryszard Gajewski)
Maciej Berbeka on the “True Summit” of Manaslu on 12 January 1984 (Photo: Ryszard Gajewski)

“Over there, the altitude, plus the temperature, plus the wind, plus the exhaustion make us fight for every step,” said Maciej Berbeka after his return from the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal. “It’s simply a nightmare.” On 12 January 1984 – 40 years ago today – the Polish climber reached the summit of the eighth highest mountain on earth with his compatriot Ryszard Gajewski. It was the first winter ascent of Manaslu and the first ascent of an eight-thousander without bottled oxygen.

Incited by Messner

Expedition leader Lech Korniszewski, a 47-year-old doctor and mountaineer from Zakopane, the highest town in Poland, had gathered a young team around him. The average age of the climbers was 31; Berbeka and Gajewski were 29 years old. The two had been friends since childhood, their fathers worked together at the mountain rescue service in Zakopane. The team chose the so-called “Tyrolean route” through the South Face, which Reinhold Messner had opened in spring 1972. Messner had incited the Poles with his words that he did not believe that the route he had first climbed was possible in winter.

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Annapurna winter expedition: rotation or summit attempt by Alex Txikon and Co.

Annapurna massif (Annapurna I on the left)
Annapurna massif (Annapurna I on the left)

The Spaniard Alex Txikon and his team set off from the base camp of Annapurna I this morning Nepalese local time. In strong winds, they reached Camp 1 at an altitude of around 5,000 meters. According to Txikon’s media team, they had to pause for an hour on the way due to a strong avalanche.

This is the climbers’ third so-called rotation on the eight-thousander in western Nepal. The main aim is to acclimatize further. On the last round a week ago, the team brought equipment up to Camp 3 at around 6,700 meters. Due to stormy gusts in the summit area, the climbers did not continue their ascent but returned to base camp.

Even before the new ascent, the team kept the possibility of a summit attempt open. “We’ll see the weather forecast,” said Italian Mattia Conte in a video posted on Instagram yesterday. “Slowly, slowly, without stress!” The winter weather is expected to be relatively calm over the next few days. After that, it should snow again.

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