Somehow it fits the desolate situation of tourism in Nepal. The important fall season for expeditions and trekking is just around the corner, and the responsible ministry is leaderless. The new prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who took office on 13 July after a ruling by Nepal’s Supreme Court, has not yet appointed a new tourism minister. The head of government himself has taken over this task on a temporary basis.
At the same time, the tourism industry has its back against the wall as a result of the corona pandemic. In 2020, according to government figures, the number of foreign visitors fell from around 1.2 million in 2019 to around 230,000, a drop of 80 percent. Similarly, the number of mountaineers and trekkers declined, down 79 percent, from about 172,000 to just under 36,000.
From 17 October, foreign mountaineers and trekking tourists are to be allowed to enter Nepal again. This was announced by the government in Kathmandu. Those entering must present a negative corona test, which must not be older than 72 hours. After arrival in Kathmandu a quarantine of at least one week in the hotel is mandatory. Because of the corona pandemic, foreigners are currently not allowed to enter Nepal – unless they are diplomats or work for UN aid organizations.
The adventure gap. This is what the black journalist and author James Edward Mills calls the phenomenon that black mountaineers and climbers are still the exception in the adventure scene. “It’s not a question of whether or not African-Americans can climb high mountains,” Mills wrote in “National Geographic” magazine: “What matters is as group we tend not to. And for a variety of different social and cultural reasons the world of mountaineering has been relegated almost exclusively to white men.”
But something is happening. The “Black Lives Matter” movement is also leading to a rethink in the outdoor industry, writes US climber Meagan Martin to me. The realization that racism is still widespread initially surprised the scene, she says, adding that in the meantime, however, companies have begun to question where they’ve failed to be an ally to the black community and how they can do better moving forward: “Many athletes are also taking this time to reflect, take accountability, and educate themselves to be a better ally.”
“We are opening tourism, because these three to four months are important for the people associated with tourism. Otherwise more joblessness will occur at these places,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan surprisingly announced earlier this week. The former country’s cricket superstar, who has been head of government since August 2018, specifically mentioned the northern provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There the highest mountains in Pakistan are located, including the five eight-thousanders K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II and Nanga Parbat.
According to Khan, the provincial governments would jointly make regulations under which the tourism industry could be reopened. It almost sounded as if the summer climbing season in the Karakoram could be saved against all odds – despite the coronavirus pandemic. But resistance is stirring in the regions mentioned.
“I was deeply touched. Never before I had felt such a feeling of happiness,” French climber Maurice Herzog later wrote about that moment on 3 June 1950, when he reached the 8,091-meter-high summit of Annapurna I with his compatriot Louis Lachenal – it was the first ascent of an eight-thousander. Both climbed without bottled oxygen on their way over the northern flank of the mountain. The way back from the summit was dramatic.
Actually, the ski mountaineer Carlalberto, called “Cala” Cimenti had wanted to travel to Nepal this spring. Together with expedition leader Felix Berg from the operator “Summit Climb” and two other German mountaineers, the 44-year-old Italian had planned a summit trilogy in the region around Makalu: first up to Mera Peak (6,476 m), then to Baruntse (7,129 m), and finally to Makalu, (8,485 m), the fifth highest mountain on earth. Now Cala lies sick in his bed at home. He is one of currently more than 41,000 Italians (status quo 19 March, 8 pm CET) who have tested positive for the corona virus. The doctors diagnosed Cimenti with pneumonia, but sent him home from the hospital – with medication and the advice to call if things got worse.
I like solo expeditions. They are challenging and therefore exciting. And if the goal is not reached, there is no one afterwards to whom the adventurer can blame for it – except nature or himself. Even before his solo winter expedition to Mount Everest, Jost Kobusch had already told me that his main concern was to find out whether his plan to climb the highest mountain on earth solo, without bottled oxygen and on an ambitious route was realistic. “My personal goal would be to reach an altitude of about 7,200 meters. Anything above that would be a bonus, the summit anyway,” Jost had said before leaving for Nepal. In the end the bonus was 166 meters.
On his last attempt, the 27-year-old German climbed up to 7,366 meters at the Everest West Shoulder. The fact that he reached his altitude despite his damaged left foot makes him very happy, Kobusch wrote on Facebook, back in Kathmandu. “Sometimes you just have to set intermediate goals to get closer to the final goal.”
Every slight movement of the jaw hurts up to the ears, even speaking. Anyone who has ever had toothache at high altitudes knows what Nirmal “Nims” Purja is going through in Shishapangma Base Camp. “I’m having a massive trouble with my wisdom tooth. It’s so bloody painful and it’s getting me fever,” the 36-year-old Nepalese climber writes on Facebook, adding ” Yes I have been brushing my teeth and have been using dental floss too.” Toothaches are anything but ideal conditions for a summit attempt on the 8,027-meter-high mountain in Tibet – the last one that Nims still needs to successfully complete his ambitious “Project Possible” (all 14 eight-thousanders in seven months).
“For me, time is the key to success,” says Jost Kobusch. And so the 27-year-old German mountaineer will already be heading for Nepal next Sunday – three months before the actual start of his expedition. Jost plans to climb Everest in winter, from the south side, over the Lho La (a 6,000 meter high pass to Tibet) to the West Ridge, through the Hornbein-Couloir to the summit – without bottled oxygen, solo. Beforehand he wants to acclimatize in peace and climb a six- as well as a seven-thousander, in preparation for the highest of all mountains.
The only mountaineer so far to stand without breathing mask on the 8,850-meter-high summit in winter was the legendary Ang Rita Sherpa, on 22 December 1987, exactly at the beginning of the calendrical winter. Some purists argue that Ang Rita ascended in the meteorological winter (which begins on 1 December), but in the calendrical fall – and that it was therefore, strictly speaking, not an Everest winter ascent.
Jost Kobusch wants to start his expedition at the beginning of the calendrical winter and finish it before the end of the meteorological winter (29 February). “The beginning of December and March doesn’t feel like winter for me,” says Jost.
It is almost a miracle that the Italian climber Francesco Cassardo is still alive. After the first ascent of the 6,955-meter-high Gasherbrum VII in the Karakoram – together with his compatriot Cala Cimenti – the 30-year-old fell yesterday – as reported – on his descent about 500 meters deep. Cala, who had left the summit on skis, climbed up to the seriously injured Francesco and immediately sounded the alarm. First it was said that the Pakistani authorities had given the go-ahead for the deployment of a rescue helicopter, which would take off on Sunday immediately after sunrise.
Cimenti descended to Camp 1 and fetched the necessary equipment to spend the night at the side of the injured Cassardo. Cala was in constant contact with the Italian homeland via satellite phone and received medical advice. The injured Francesco is a doctor and is therefore able to assess his condition himself. According to his brother, Cassardo’s life was hanging by a thread during the night.
Relief on the eight-thousander Annapurna: Wui Kin Chin from Malaysia, who was missing after summiting the 8091-meter-high mountain on Tuesday, is alive. A Nepalese rescue team found the 49-year-old mountaineer at an altitude of 7,500 meters and now takes him further down. Their goal is to reach Camp 3 at 6,500 meters. From there the Malaysian is to be flown out by helicopter tomorrow.