Mr. Hong and his wall

Sung Taek Hong in a Gompa in the Khumbu region

He’s back. The South Korean Sung Taek Hong has again pitched up his base camp at the foot of the huge Lhotse South Face. For the sixth time, the 52-year-old has traveled to Nepal to tackle the 3,300-meter-high, extremely challenging eight-thousander wall. This time Hong has gathered an international team. As in his last attempt in fall 2017, he is joined by Jorge Egocheaga, a very experienced high-altitude climber:  The 50-year-old Spaniard has already stood on the summits of all 14 eight-thousanders. Only on Everest he used bottled oxygen.

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On the Everest record track

Kami Rita Sherpa

The route is ready for the commercial expeditions on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest. The “Icefall Doctors have completed their job. The team of eight specialized Sherpas secured the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall up to Camp 2 at about 6,400 meters with fixed ropes and ladders. Now the summit aspirants can come. To a certain extent en passant, namely at work, some climbers from Nepal will probably improve their records during this spring season. Kami Rita “Topke” Sherpa will be en route with an expedition of the Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks and – if everything goes according to plan – will reach the highest point on earth at 8,850 meters for the 23rd time.

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All 8,000 in seven months? The clock’s ticking

Nirmal Purja on the slopes of Annapurna

How possible is the impossible? Nirmal, called Nims Purja has baptized his challenge “Project possible”. In just seven months, the 36-year-old wants to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. That sounds wacky, if not crazy. By the beginning of June, the Nepalese wants to have scaled six eight-thousanders in his home country: Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga. In summer, the five Pakistani eight-thousanders are to follow: Nanga Parbat, K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II. And in fall he wants to complete his collection by summiting Manaslu, Shishapangma and Cho Oyu. „I firmly believe that everything in life is possible armed only with a determined approach and positive mindset,” says Nims.

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Muhammad Ali Sadpara tackles Makalu

Muhammad Ali Sadpara in Kathmandu

I guess it’s a classic win-win situation. The Nepalese expedition operator “Seven Summit Treks” benefits from the fact that Pakistan’s top climber Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” strengthens their rope fixing team on the 8,485-meter-high Makalu. And the 43-year-old thus gets the chance to scale the fifth highest mountain on earth in Nepal. The climber is financially supported in this project by the Pakistan Army. For Muhammad, who has been in Nepal since Wednesday, this is the second attempt on Makalu. In spring 2016, he had to turn around 150 meters below the summit in bad weather. At that time he had worked as a mountain guide for the Brazil-born American Cleo Weidlich.

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New routes on Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Everest?

Annapurna Northwest Face

Expedition luggage is piling up these days at the airport of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. Mountaineers from all over the world arrive in the Himalayan state to tackle Everest or another of Nepal’s high mountains this spring. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the number of mountaineers is expected to be even higher than last year. In 2018, the government issued 768 climbing permits for foreign mountaineers in spring and collected 412 million rupees (the equivalent of more than three million euros) in permit fees. The majority of the summit candidates are once again the clients of the commercial expeditions, who will be bustling on the normal routes. But there are also a few climbers who want to break new ground on the eight-thousanders off the beaten tracks – like the 38-year-old German Felix Berg and the 35-year-old Pole Adam Bielecki on Annapurna.

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Tough struggle on the 7000er Jannu

Jannu East Face (originally planed route in blue, the current one in red)

For about a week the two Russians Dmitry Golovchenko and Sergey Nilov have been fighting their way through the East Face of the 7,710 meter high Jannu in eastern Nepal. The wall has never been completely climbed so far. In the past three days, the two climbers have made little progress due to bad weather. According to information from the Internet portal “Russian Climb“, they are stuck at an altitude of more than 7,000 meters at a spot below the Southeast ridge: “Options: to continue climbing via the French route or to go down. It’s still snowing. Visibility is poor.” The first ascenders of Jannu, the French Rene Desmaison, Paul Keller and Robert Paragot as well as the Nepalese Gyalzen Mitchung Sherpa, had reached the summit via the Southeast Ridge in April 1962.

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Mingma Gyalje Sherpa: “The Chinese boom on Everest will slow down again”

Xia Boyu (3rd from l.) on the summit of Everest

The spring season on Mount Everest and the other eight-thousanders in Nepal is starting. On Everest, the Icefall Doctors, a team of eight specialized Sherpas, have begun to set the route through the Khumbu Icefall and secure it with ladders and ropes. Some operators of commercial expeditions have already sent staff to base camp to prepare for the arrival of their clients in April.

As in previous years, a large number of Chinese Everest summit aspirants are expected this spring. The China market is booming: Among the wealthy Chinese, mountaineering is in. Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of the Nepalese expedition operator “Imagine Nepal”, recognized this potential early on. For years he has been leading Chinese climbers to the top of the highest mountains on earth. In 2018, his company achieved summit successes on five eight-thousanders: Everest, Lhotse, Kangchenjunga, Manaslu and Broad Peak. Among his team’s Everest summiteers was Xia Boyu, a double amputee from China.

Mingma himself has already scaled twelve of the 14 eight-thousanders, eleven of them without bottled oxygen. Only Gasherbrum II in Pakistan and Shishapangma in Tibet are still missing in his collection. He has reached the 8,850-meter-high summit of Everest five times. I asked him about his assessments of the Chinese boom on the eight-thousanders.

Mingma, you will lead once again an expedition to Mount Everest this spring. Will Chinese mountaineers also be part of your team this time?

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K2 remains unclimbed in winter

Alex Txikon, marked by K2

The second highest mountain on earth has once again shown its teeth in winter. After the team from Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, led by Vassiliy Pivtsov, had broken off their summit attempt on the Southeast Ridge of K2 at 7,500 meters due to poor visibility a week and a half ago, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and his Sherpa team now also returned to base camp without summit success. Their Camp 3 at about 7,050 meters altitude was the end of the line.

“The strong wind didn’t let us climb upwards,” Alex explained. “Winter K2 resists, but we must respect it. You have to listen to the mountain. This winter has showed us that it is not the time yet. I will definitely return!” Perhaps already next summer. Txikon has announced that he wants to try the first traverse of the mountain: ascent via the Chinese side of K2, descent via the Pakistani side. Let’s see if the Chinese authorities will grant him a permit.

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Search for Nardi and Ballard on Nanga Parbat finished

R.I.P., Daniele and Tom!

“We’re heartbroken; we inform you that the research of Daniele and Tom has ended. A part of them will always remain on the Nanga Parbat,” Daniele Nardi’s home team wrote on Facebook. “The big pain hurts; facing objective facts and after doing everything possible finding them, we must accept what happened.” So now it’s sad certainty: 42-year-old Italian Daniele Nardi and 30-year-old Brit Tom Ballard have died while trying to fully climb the striking “Mummery Rib” in the Diamir Face for the first time.

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“Two silhouettes” discovered on Nanga Parbat

The Mummery Rib (arrow) in the Diamir Face

There is much speculation these days about the search for the two climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard missing on Nanga Parbat. And it’s not always easy to keep facts and assumptions apart in the countless publications. Nardi’s home team announced today that Spaniard Alex Txikon said he discovered yesterday with a telescope from base camp “two silhouettes” on the Mummery spur. Actually, it was planned to fly to this spot by helicopter today.

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Search for Nardi and Ballard is about to end

Tom Ballard (l.) and Daniele Nardi

Even ten days after the last sign of life of Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard from Nanga Parbat, there is still no trace of the two missing climbers. After three days of searching in vain for the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old British in the area around the “Mummery Rib”, a striking  rock spur in the Diamir Face, and today also on the nearby Kinshofer route, the Spaniards Alex Txikon and Felix Criado as well as the Pakistanis Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Rahmat Ullah Baig returned to base camp. The rescue team had also used camera drones during their search.

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Moro: “The Mummery Spur is suicidal”

Rettungshubschrauber am Nanga Parbat

On 8,125-meter-high Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, two of the mountain’s three first winter ascenders, Spaniard Alex Txikon and Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” , are currently searching for the two missing climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. The 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old Briton had last signed up from the “Mummery Rib” at an altitude of 6300 meters on 24 February. The hope of finding them alive is fading.

The third winter ascender of Nanga Parbat in 2016, Simone Moro, is staying in his home country Italy after his return from Nepal. The 51-year-old and his Nepalese climbing partner Pemba Gyalje Sherpa surrendered to the huge masses of snow on the eight-thousander Manaslu at the end of January. I had sent Simone some questions before the events in Nanga Parbat took their dramatic turn. Among other things, I asked him about the chances of the teams on K2 and Nanga Parbat. Moro replied with reference to the current developments on Nanga Parbat as follows:

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Nanga Parbat: Search for Nardi and Ballard resumed

Good weather on Nanga Parbat

Finally the weather has cleared up again at Nanga Parbat, so that the search for the climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, who have been missing for eight days, has been resumed. With a military helicopter the Spaniard Alex Txikon, three of his team members and the Pakistani mountaineer Rahmat Ullah Baig were flown today to the ninth highest mountain in the world. “We have pitched up our Camp on the plateau between Camps 1 and 2 at an altitude of 4,850 meters,” Alex reported according to montagna.tv. “The weather is splendid”. But due to the warm temperatures the danger of avalanches is increasing, says the 37-year-old, adding that they reconnoitered the mountain by helicoptery very accurately – the Kinshofer route, then the Mummery Rib and finally the glacier area between Camp 3 and the spot where the helicopter landed. “We reached an altitude of about 7,100 meters. Unfortunately there are no visible traces of our friends.” Txikon wanted to climb up to Camp 2 with another mountaineer. The team will also search the area with camera drones.

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Bad weather and bureaucracy hinder search for missing climbers

Clouds around Nanga Parbat

A lost day. Low clouds around Nanga Parbat today prevented the helicopters from taking off again to search for the two climbers missing since Sunday, 42-year-old Italian Daniele Nardi and 30-year-old Brit Tom Ballard. In addition there were bureaucratic problems. According to Daniele’s home team, the private agency Askari, which handles the Pakistan Army’s rescue flights, demanded an advance payment for a helicopter to pick up Spanish climber Alex Txikon and three of his team members from K2 Base Camp. Alex and Co. had offered to fly to Nanga Parbat to support the search for Nardi and Ballard. Nardi’s family wanted to advance the necessary money. Valuable time was lost through the back and forth, the weather worsened and the flight had to be postponed to tomorrow’s Saturday.

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Search for Nardi and Ballard on Nanga Parbat so far unsuccessful

Muhammad Ali Sadpara in Nanga Parbat Base Camp

Military helicopters took off twice today on Nanga Parbat to search for the missing climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. In vain. The 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old Briton had last reported on Sunday from an altitude of about 6,300 meters on the “Mummery Rib”, a striking rock spur in the Diamir Face that has never been climbed completely so far. Since then, there has been no sign of life from the two climbers.

Traces of avalanches

Muhammad Ali Sadpara, one of the three winter first ascenders of Nanga Parbat in 2016, was flown by helicopter from Skardu to the base camp in the morning. The helicopters then flew up to 7,000 meters to search for Nardi and Ballard. Muhammad Ali reported that the pilots had discovered Nardi’s and Ballard’s camp site at 6,300 meters, buried under snow. According to the 43-year-old Pakistani mountaineer, traces of avalanches were visible in the area, showing how dangerous this zone was. That is not good news.

Race against time

According to Stefano Pontecorvo, Italy’s ambassador to Pakistan, the helicopters will take off again on Friday – if the weather permits. For the next few days, stronger wind and snowfall are expected on Nanga Parbat. This could further increase the risk of avalanches at the Mummery Rib. It is a race against time. So keep your fingers crossed – or pray!