Does China thwart Nirmal Purja?

Nirmal Purja in the Karakoram

That would be really harsh. Perhaps the Nepalese climber Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja cannot complete the third and final phase of his “Project Possible” as planned due to insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles. The 36-year-old former soldier of the British Gurkha Regiment has so far – as reported several times – despite some adversities been on his schedule to scale all 14 eight-thousanders within seven months. After he and his team “ticked off” eleven eight-thousanders in an unprecedented tour de force in spring and summer, Nims wants to tackle the missing three peaks in the upcoming fall season: Manaslu in Nepal as well as Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. The last two eight-thousanders are located in Tibet – and that’s exactly the problem. I have learned from several trustworthy sources that the Chinese-Tibetan authorities are unwilling to issue any permit for Shishapangma this fall,  allegedly for security reasons. The 8,027-meter-high mountain, the lowest of the 14 eight-thousanders, would thus remain closed for this season.

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Urubko: Solo ascent on Gasherbrum II

Denis Urubko on the summit of Gasherbrum II (on 18 July)

“Denis did it. He’s already in camp 1. He’ll be back in base camp tonight.” With this message the Spanish climber Maria “Pip” Cardell made the scene be able to breathe a sigh of relief. On Wednesday evening, Denis Urubko had set off from Camp 1 at about 5,900 meters to climb the 8,034-meter-high mountain solo, without bottled oxygen, on a new route and then descend via the normal route.  Urubko had wanted to climb up an down in one push, without a bivouac, in order to be able to climb as light as possible. Since then, nothing had been heard from the 46-year-old Kazakh, who now has a Russian and a Polish passport.

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Nirmal Purja: Only three are missing

Nims Purja (4th from l.) and his “Project Possible” team (in K2 Base Camp)

Phase two of his “Project Possible” has now also been successfully completed. Two days after the summit success on K2, Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja, also scaled the 8051-meter-high Broad Peak today. Within about three months, the 36-year-old Nepalese stood on eleven eight-thousand-meter peaks, within a good three weeks on all five eight-thousanders of Pakistan – even though he had arrived late due to financing problems.

Now Purja “only” needs to climb the eight-thousanders Shishapangma and Cho Oyu located in Tibet as well as Manaslu in Nepal to complete his project as planned next fall: to scale the 14 highest mountains in the world within only seven months.

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Francesco Cassardo rescued from Gasherbrum VII

Back at base camp: Don Bowie, Marco Confortola (who coordinated the rescue at base camp), Cala Cimenti, Denis Urubko (from l. to r.)

Happy end of the dramatic rescue operation on Gasherbrum VII: This morning local time in Pakistan a rescue helicopter finally landed near Camp 1 at 5,910 meters to pick up the seriously injured Italian climber Francesco Cassardo and fly him to Skardu. There he is now being treated in a hospital. After Cassardo and his compatriot Cala Cimenti had climbed up to 150 meters below the summit on Saturday (only Cala reached the highest point later and thus achieved the first ascent of the 6,955-meter- high Gasherbrum VII – see update below), the 30-year-old had fallen on his descent about 450 meters deep. Francesco’s life was hanging by a thread. As reported, the deployment of a rescue helicopter had been delayed for bureaucratic reasons.

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Gasherbrum VII: Where the hell is the rescue helicopter?

Cala Cimente (l.) and Francesco Cassardo (in 2018)

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.

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Gasherbrum VII: Mountain accident after first ascent

The Gasherbrum massif

The joy lasted only briefly, now there is great concern. At late noon local time in Pakistan, Cala Cimentis’s wife celebrated the Italian climber’s summit success on Facebook: “He made it, he scaled the still untouched G VII. In a few minutes the descent begins on skis.” The 6,955-meter-high Gasherbrum VII had not been summited before. While Cimenti wanted to descend on skis – as he did at the beginning of the month after his summit success on Nanga Parbat – his companion Francesco Cassardo apparently descended on foot.

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Soon the season’s first summit successes on K2?

K2

The summit wave on K2 is approaching. The weather at the second highest mountain on earth is unusually stable this summer. From tomorrow, Thursday, it could get crowded at the highest point at 8,611 meters. About 120 climbers are on their way, about half of them have chosen the normal route via the Abruzzi Spur, the Southeast Ridge, the other half the Basque route (often also called Cesen route) via the South-Southeast Ridge. Above the “Shoulder”at about 8000 meters, the two routes come together.

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Broad Peak: Billi Bierlings sixth eight-thousander

Broad Peak

Hats off! Billi Bierling scaled Broad Peak today, Sunday – without bottled oxygen. According to her sister, she returned safely from her summit push after 25 hours – to Camp 3 at about 7,200 meters.

For the 52-year-old German mountaineer and journalist, who is en route with the Swiss expedition operator “Kobler & Partner“, it was the sixth eight-thousander success and the third after Manaslu in 2011 and Cho Oyu in 2016 that she managed without breathing mask. Billi had already attempted Broad Peak in 2015. Camp 3 was the last stop at that time, due to the high danger of avalanches.

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Kim Hong-bin: Without fingers on 13 eight-thousanders

Kim Hong-bin

He’s almost at the final goal of his dreams. Last Sunday, the South Korean Kim Hong-bin reached with his compatriots Cho Cheol-hee and Cheong Ha-young, the Nepalese Pechhumbe Sherpa and the Pakistani Muhammad Hussain the 8080-meter-high summit of Gasherbrum I in the Karakoram. It was Kim’s 13th eight-thousander success. To complete his collection, the 54-year-old still has to scale  Broad Peak. In this case, Kim would be the first disabled mountaineer to stand on all 14 eight-thousanders. Since 1991 he has been climbing without all ten fingers.

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K2: Equal distribution on two routes

K2 Base Camp

The teams at the second highest mountain on earth have sorted themselves. As Herbert Hellmuth, German climber in the team of the Nepalese expedition operator “Seven Summit Treks” wrote me yesterday from the base camp, the summit candidates are distributed quite evenly on the normal route via the Abruzzi Spur and the Basque route (often also called Cesen route).

Herbert had a look around the base camp: Of the 120 climbers with permits (75 international mountaineers, 45 Climbing Sherpas from Nepal – they are spread over ten teams) 64 want to climb the Abruzzi route, 56 the Basque route. The Pakistani High Altitude Porters do not appear in this calculation as they do not need a permit. Around ten climbers who had granted a permit had already left the mountain, Herbert writes me: “All in all not such an overcrowded year.”

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Thomas Huber before his expedition to Choktoi: “Open for all mountains”

Thomas Huber (r.) with Yannick Boissenot (l.) and Simon Gietl

“I don’t go to the mountains for social media, I go to the mountains to climb,” Thomas Huber tells me. “In this regard I’m old school.” The 52-year-old, the older of the two Huber brothers, wants to report only after his return from the Karakoram what he and his two companions have experienced. On Monday he will leave for Pakistan along with the 34-year-old South Tyrolean Simon Gietl and the Frenchman Yannick Boissenot. Thomas doesn’t want to talk about the exact destination, he only reveals that they head for the mountains around the Choktoi glacier. In summer 2018, the trio – then accompanied by Rainer Treppte – had set out to climb the still unmastered North Face of the 7,145-meter-high Latok I, but had been unable to enter the wall due to the great danger of avalanches.

Thomas, can I say that the mountains at the Choktoi glacier have become something like your second living room?

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First ascent by Simon Messner, furthermore summit success on Broad Peak

Simon Messner in the Karakoram

He‘s a chip off the old block. Simon Messner, 28-year-old son of the legendary South Tyrolean climber Reinhold Messner, says he succeeded the first ascent of the 6,200-meter-high Toshe III in the Karakoram last Saturday. The widely glaciated Toshe mountain range lies about 18 kilometers as the crow flies southwest of the eight-thousander Nanga Parbat. Simon climbed in a style that should please his 74-year-old father.

Light and fast

Toshe III

“Due to the difficult snow conditions, the warm temperatures and the very unstable weather I decided to climb the mountain in a single solo push from Advanced Base Camp (at approximately 4,600m),” Simon Messner writes on Facebook: “The plan was to climb light and fast to avoid the bad weather coming up and although I had to track every single meter I reached the summit at 9:30 am (needing 5,5h in total).” The avalanche risk on the descent was high, according to Simon, but he was able to reached the base camp on the same day.

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Summit successes on Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat

Wednesday was a successful summit day on the eight-thousander Nanga Parbat. Several groups that had formed a large group during their summit push reached the highest point at 8,125 meters. The data from their GPS trackers confirm the summit successes of the Spaniard Sergi Mingote and the mountaineer Stefi Troguet from Andorra.

Sergi Mingote

Sergi Mingote scaled Nanga Parbat without bottled oxygen – after Lhotse in spring it was his second eight-thousander this year he climbed without breathing mask. “Happy!!!”, Sergi let us know about his emotional state via Facebook. Last spring, the 48-year-old had originally wanted to climb Mount Everest after Lhotse, but after an in the end futile rescue operation for the Bulgarian Ivan Tomov (who died, apparently of an high-altitude cerebral edema) he decided not to do so. In 2018, Mingote had reached the summits of three eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen: K2, Broad Peak and Manaslu. This summer, after having scaled Nanga Parbat now, he has set his sights on Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II.

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Seven dead climbers recovered in the Indian Himalayas

Nanda Devi

Ten mountain rescuers of the Indian-Tibetan border police have recovered seven bodies near the seven-thousander Nanda Devi in the Indian Himalayas. They were buried under a metre and a half of snow, a representative of the Indian authorities said. The search for an eighth climber will continue. As reported, the group led by the experienced British expedition leader Martin Moran had been missing since the end of May. The mountaineers had tackled a 6,477-meter-high mountain not far from the 7,434-meter-high Nanda Devi East.

A few days after contact with them had broken off, the crew of a rescue helicopter had discovered five bodies in an avalanche cone on the west ridge of the mountain. The search had to be interrupted due to new heavy snowfalls and therefore high risk of avalanches. Moran Mountain had contradicted the authorities’ accusation that the group had made their way to the unclimbed six-thousander without permission. According to the British expedition operator, the permit applied to all peaks which could be reached from Nanda Devi East Base Camp.

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Nirmal Purja: “I still want to summit all Pakistani 8000ers before the end of July”

Nirmal Purja on the summit of Kangchenjunga

Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja has not lost his optimism yet. “We are making progress, the project is still on and I will complete it within my seven-month goal,” the 36-year-old Nepalese posted on Twitter these days. In seven months Nims wants to have scaled all 14 eight-thousanders. In the spring season in Nepal everything went according to plan. Within a month and a day he stood on the summits of six eight-thousanders: Annapurna (23 April), Dhaulagiri (12 May), Kangchenjunga (15 May), Mount Everest (22 May), Lhotse (22 May), Makalu (24 May). The last three summits he completed within 48 hours and 30 minutes. He ascended with his Sherpa team with bottled oxygen via the normal routes. They were flown to the different base camps by helicopter.

Two rescues

Chin’s four rescuers (Purja 2nd from l.)

But Purja did not only make headlines with his ascents. On Annapurna, he belonged to the Nepalese who laid the fixed ropes up to the summit. Then he took part in the rescue of the Malaysian mountaineer Wui Kin Chin. Nims and the other rescuers managed to bring Chin from over 7,000 meters from the mountain, but he died a few days later in a hospital in Singapore. On Dhaulagiri, Purja and his companions were the only climbers to reach the summit this spring – despite bad weather. On Kangchenjunga, Nims tried to rescue two Indian climbers who, completely exhausted, had run out of oxygen when they descended. Both died. Most of the headlines, however, were brought to the former soldier of the British Gurkha regiment by the photo he took on 22 May on the summit ridge of Everest. The picture, which showed a long queue on the narrow ridge, went around the world.

Actually, Nims Purja wanted to be now already in Pakistan – for the second phase of his “14/7 Project Possible”: this summer he wants to scale the five eight-thousanders of Pakistan. But he had to postpone his departure because he still lacks money to continue his project. Nims has already taken out a second mortgage on his house in Great Britain. He collects donations via crowdfunding (anyone who wants to support him can do so here – click on the link!). I sent Purja some questions. Here are his answers.

Nims, you stood on the summit of six eight-thousanders in Nepal this spring and were right on schedule with your “Project Possible”. You had to fight the most on Dhaulagiri. How much risk did you have to take?

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