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.”
Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller have done it again: the two Brits managed another first ascent of a six-thousander in Nepal this fall – in alpine style (without bottled oxygen, without Sherpa support, without fixed ropes and without fixed high camps) and on a difficult route. Paul and Tim climbed the North Face of Surma-Sarovar in the far west of the country. The 6,574-meter-high mountain is located in the Salimor Khola Valley in the Gurans Himal, close to Nepal’s border with Tibet and India. “Possibly the most remote location I have ever been to, and we managed to climb a great route,” Paul wrote to me after his return from Nepal. He and Miller have thus achieved yet another feat of alpinism.
I had actually sent Paul some questions three weeks ago on the occasion of the Piolets d’Or award ceremony in Briancon on 15 November. Paul’s wife then informed me that he and Tim were still in Nepal. Ramsden and Miller will receive the “Oscar of Mountaineering” – as reported – for their first ascent of the 6,563-meter-high Jugal Spire in Nepal last year. Paul is the first mountaineer to be awarded the prestigious prize for the fifth time. Here are the answers from the 54-year-old top climber from Yorkshire in northern England.
Congratulations, Paul, on the fifth Piolet d’Or of your mountaineering career. What does the award mean to you?
For the time being there is no new route on the Nepalese south side of the eight-thousander Cho Oyu. A five-member Russian team abandoned its attempt to reach – without bottled oxygen – the summit at 8,188 meters via the still unclimbed South-Southwest ridge and headed home.
For weeks, Vasiliev, Viktoria Klimenko, Vitaly Shipilov, Sergei Kondrashkin and Kirill Eizeman had worked their way up – repeatedly stopped by bad weather that forced them to retreat. Their highest point reached was around 7,350 meters, below a high rock tower.
It’s projects like this that show that alpinism is far from dead – even if the crisis of meaning in eight-thousander mountaineering sometimes makes it seem that way. The U.S. Americans Alan Rousseau, Jackson Marvell and Matt Cornell opened a new route on the 7,710-meter-high Jannu in eastern Nepal through the extremely steep, demanding and therefore rarely climbed North Face. It was the first time the 2,700-meter-high so-called “Wall of Shadows” had been mastered in alpine style – that is, without bottled oxygen, fixed high camps, fixed ropes or Sherpa support.
“So for three years I’ve been trying to climb the North Face of Jannu in alpine style with Matt and Jackson,” Alan Rousseau writes on Instagram. “We finally got it done! In a 7 day push BC (Base Camp) to BC.” The three climbers christened their route “Round trip ticket”.
Miracles – like last spring’s survival of Indian climber Anurag Maloo in a crevasse on Annapurna – are unfortunately the exception on eight-thousanders. On the 8167-meter Dhaulagiri, not far away, Russian climber Nadya Oleneva died in a fall yesterday. This is reported by the Russian mountaineering portal mountain.ru.
According to this information, Oleneva had set out on Friday with her Russian compatriots Roman Abildaev and Rasim Kashapov for a summit attempt without bottled oxygen. Yesterday, they climbed separately and rope-free from Camp 1 at 6,050 meters towards Camp 2 at 6,880 meters. After Roman and Rasim arrived there shortly after each other, they wondered where Elena was, who had been only a short time behind them. Rasim searched for her in vain, but spotted one of her sticks and a slide down track into the depths. The two immediately requested a helicopter rescue and descended to base camp. The helicopter could not take off until today, Sunday. Oleneva’s lifeless body was discovered at an altitude of about 6,100 meters.
“We saw last year on Manaslu and this year on Shishapangma that even the easiest mountain can become the most difficult one, depending on the weather condition or different circumstances,” Anurag Maloo tells me. “Mountaineering is not a race, it’s your own individual journey with the mountains you go to. You shouldn’t compare yourself to others, whether it’s the 14 eight-thousanders or the Seven Summits or whatever. People shouldn’t feel that kind of a competitive mindset.”
The Chinese-Tibetan authorities have pulled the brakes. After two avalanches hit the summit zone of the eight-thousander Shishapangma on Saturday, they declared that “all climbing activities have been suspended in view of the unstable snow conditions on the mountain.” Apparently, this applies not only currently, but also for the rest of the fall season.
On Saturday, as reported, the US American Anna Gutu and her Nepalese mountain guide Mingmar Sherpa had died in a first avalanche. Their bodies had been found – unlike those of Gina Marie Rzucidlo, also from the U.S., and her Nepalese mountain guide Tenjen “Lama” Sherpa, who were swept away by another avalanche about two hours later. The search for the two missing people was suspended.
Naila Kiani and Sirbaz Khan, both from Pakistan, who were also on the mountain and eyewitnessed the disaster, spoke of four dead. They abandoned their summit attempt and descended back to Camp 1. They were “very shaken and distressed” after witnessing how the avalanche swept their friends to their deaths, they let it be known via Instagram. Apparently, two avalanches had gone off at an altitude of around 7,800 meters. The four climbers ascending on the normal route had been caught by the snow masses.
The weather gods remain in favor of the commercial expedition teams this fall. After numerous summit successes on Manaslu and some on Dhaulagiri – both eight-thousanders are located in western Nepal – the first ascents of the season of Cho Oyu are also reported from Tibet today. Operator Imagine Nepal announced that eight team members led by company head Mingma Gyalje Sherpa reached thesummit of the sixth-highest mountain on earth at 8,188 meters, “just five days after crossing the Tibet border, as they were well acclimatized from their Manaslu expedition”
Among them, in addition to the Sherpas who fixed the ropes to the highest point, was also (with bottled oxygen) the founder of the company, Mingma Sherpa. This means that Mingma has now undoubtedly reached all the “True Summits” of the eight-thousanders, SST announced. The now 45-year-old, celebrated in 2011 as the first Nepalese on all 14 eight-thousanders, had also scaled Manaslu again nine days ago to make up for not having stood on the very highest point before.
The first summit successes of the eight-thousander fall season are reported from Manaslu. Yesterday, Tuesday, a team of the operator Elite Exped reached the summit. The head of the company, Nepal’s “mountaineering star” Nirmal Purja, sent a video from the “True Summit” at 8,163 meters. In it, “Nims” thanked his “strong team” and announced that he would now travel on to Tibet to guide clients up the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu and Shishapangma.
Today, Wednesday, Nepalese operators Seven Summit Treks (SST) and Imagine Nepal also announced summit successes on Manaslu. For this fall, the government in Kathmandu has so far (as of 15 Sept) sold 301 climbing permits to foreign climbers for the eighth-highest mountain on earth. In fall 2022, it had issued 404 Manaslu permits.
The drama happened on 31 August, on Gasherbrum IV in Pakistan, at 7,684 meters, about 250 meters below the summit. Dmitry Golovchenko and Sergey Nilov had found a small spot on the ridge to pitch their tent for the night. The ground appeared problematic, broken rock covered with ice. The two Russians fixed the tent to a rope loop.
Very quickly, however, they realized that the ground was too sloped, and the tent was in danger of slipping. Sergey climbed out to level the platform and threw Dmitry a safety rope. A short time later, Sergey heard his friend call out, “Seryoga, I’m falling.” Nilov watched the tent with Golovchenko and their gear slide down the slope and disappear into the couloir below.
Could Muhammad Hassan still be alive today? The report of the commission of inquiry answers this question only indirectly: Yes, the father of three small children could still be alive if he had not been on K2, the second highest mountain in the world, located in Pakistan, on that 27 July. Because he simply didn’t belong there.
It was Hassan’s first eight-thousander expedition, according to the report of the five-member commission appointed by the regional government of Gilgit-Baltistan province after the death of the High Altitude Porter. Before that, Muhammad had only worked as a “Low Altitude Porter” on K2 (8,611 meters) and Spantik (7,027 meters), i.e. he had carried material to the base camps but not up the mountains.
One of the most spectacular climbs this year probably ended in tragedy. Russian climber Dmitry Golovchenko did not return from the 7,932-meter-high Gasherbrum IV in the Karakoram in Pakistan. Golevchenko collapsed, mountain.ru reports. His rope partner Sergey Nilov returned alone to the base camp, it said adding that Nilov was severely weakened and had suffered frostbite.
What exactly happened to Golovchenko is still unclear. Apparently, however, he did not survive.
The two Spanish climbers Miquel Mas and Marc Subirana succeeded in the second attempt a n alpinistic coup in the Karakoram. According to information from the Spaniard Carlos Garranzo, the two reached on Friday via a “very direct line” a previously unclimbed, approximately 6,400-meter-high secondary peak on the southwest flank of the 7,108-meter-high granite giant Latok II. They had spent a total of 18 days on the wall so far, with the summit day alone taking 14 hours, Carlos reports. According to him, Mique and Marc christened their new route “Latok Thumb.”