Fall projects on Mount Everest, once commonplace, have become rare. Because of the often rather bad weather, commercial expeditions give the highest mountain on earth a wide berth in the post-monsoon season, concentrating instead on Manaslu in western Nepal or the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu and Shishapanga in Tibet – provided the Chinese-Tibetan authorities clear these mountains.
In fall 2022, a Polish team led by ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel had attempted the Nepalese south side of Everest. Bargiel, who wanted to climb to the summit without bottled oxygen and ski down to base camp, and his companion Janusz Golab had aborted their summit attempt at the South Col at almost 8,000 meters. They had been greeted by such violent gusts of wind that they had not even been able to pitch their tent.
The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism wants to significantly increase the price for ascents of Mount Everest, by about 36 percent. The permit for foreign climbers should cost $15,000 from 2025 instead of the current $11,000, ministry spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada told various media. However, the price increase should not take effect until the spring season after next, as the booking phase for spring 2024 has already begun, Khatiwada said.
While Nepal’s frequently changing governments have earned a reputation in recent years for very frequently announcing new regulations without subsequently implementing them. But a permit price hike seems quite realistic, given that the last increase was more than eight years ago. Another representative of the Ministry said that in the course of the reform, the insurance sums and wages for porters, high altitude porters and mountain guides should also be increased.
The drama concerning Hungarian climber Szilard Suhajda in the summit area of Mount Everest did not end well. Today, the search for the 40-year-old was abandoned – “despite the superhuman efforts of a search team of top Nepalese mountain guides,” according to Suhajda’s team back home.
Three Sherpas, including Gelje Sherpa, one of the winter first ascenders of K2, had climbed up and down several times for hours between the former Hillary Step at around 8,750 meters and the summit at 8,849 meters, searching the terrain on all sides but discovering no trace of Szilard. “Considering the time, weather and terrain conditions, there was no further chance of finding the climber alive, so the ground search was called off,” it said.
What is Kilian Jornet up to on Mount Everest? That’s what many observers of the hustle and bustle on Mount Everest have been wondering ever since the Spaniard, known for his speed ascents, showed up at the highest mountain on earth. In April, the 35-year-old had run from Namche Bazaar, the main village in the Everest region, to the base camp in a single day, climbed to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters the very next morning and then ran back to Namche. In spring 2017, Kilian had scaled Everest twice within a week via the Tibetan north side – without a breathing mask.
Now Jornet has revealed the secret of his Everest plan this season. Already back in Kathmandu, he announced that he had attempted, solo and as always without bottled oxygen, the route via the West Ridge and through the Hornbein Couloir. Last Monday was the 60th anniversary of the day when the US Americans Tom Hornbein (he died at the beginning of May at the age of 92) and Willi Unsoeld (1926-1979) had opened the very demanding Everest route with bottled oxygen and reached the summit. Afterwards, they had descended on today’s normal route on the Nepalese south side. It was the first traverse of an eight-thousander. The route was repeated only seven times. Kilian Jornet abandoned his attempt.
The spring season on Mount Everest is turning into the home stretch. For this Wednesday the possibly last summit day of the season is expected. After that, the weather will probably become more unstable and windy. Traditionally, the season ends at the end of May, only in exceptional cases it is extended by a few days at most. Then the “Icefall Doctors” dismantle the route through the Khumbu Icefall. So far, about 300 summit successes have been reported.
Today Pasang Dawa Sherpa climbed – with bottled oxygen – to the highest point on earth for the second time this spring. This time, the 46-year-old led a client from Hungary to the highest point on earth. With 27 ascents now, he shares the title of man with the most Everest summit successes with Kami Rita Sherpa – but probably only temporarily, as Kami Rita is also on his way to his second ascent this season. It would be his 28th.
Today, Wednesday, was the most successful summit day of the spring season on Mount Everest so far. According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, more than 100 members of commercial teams reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters. So, it is likely that there was jostling at the summit and also on the route.
For Kami Rita Sherpa, standing on the highest point was routine. The 53-year-old Nepalese led – with bottled oxygen – a billionaire from the US financial sector to the Everest summit. Kami Rita thus stood on the roof of the world for the 27th time, more often than any other person.
The good weather window over the Himalayas with little wind seems to hold. And accordingly, it is hardly surprising that summit successes from the eight-thousanders are now being reported daily. After on Saturday – as reported – a nine-man team of the operator Imagine Nepal had fixed the ropes up to the summit of Mount Everest, on Sunday and today Monday also the first clients of the commercial teams reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters. Among them was the Pakistani Sajid Ali Sadpara, who climbed without bottled oxygen. For the 25-year-old son of Muhammad Ali Sadpara – the legendary Pakistani climber died on K2 in the winter of 2021 – it was the sixth eight-thousander and the second this spring after Annapurna, which Sajid had also climbed without a breathing mask.
Unbelievable what kind of idiots there are – also on Mount Everest. New Zealander Guy Cotter, head of the commercial expedition operator Adventure Consultants, sounds the alarm. At the last high camp, on the South Col at an altitude of just under 8,000 meters, he says, one of his team’s material stores has been looted.
“We just discovered we’ve had a cache of gear stolen from South Col. Tents, stoves, pots and gas all gone,” Guy wrote on Facebook. “The thieves do not consider the impacts this might have on the safety of our people when they arrive to find this vital equipment gone.”
It was half as long ago as the first ascent of Mount Everest, which this year marks its 70th anniversary. Exactly 35 years ago today, on 12 May 1988, Stephen Venables became the first Briton to reach the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters without bottled oxygen.
Beforehand, he had succeeded together with the Canadian Paul Teare and the two U.S. Americans Robert Anderson and Ed Webster in making the second ascent of the 3,000-meter-high, heavily glaciated and thus avalanche-prone Everest East Face. All four climbed without breathing masks. In 1983, the U.S. climbers Carlos Buhler, Kim Momb and Louis Reichard had mastered the Kangshung Face for the first time – with bottled oxygen.
The first good weather window of the season suitable for summit successes on Mount Everest is shaping up for this weekend. Expedition operator Imagine Nepal, responsible for rope-fixing from Camp 2 at 6,400 meters to the summit at 8,849 meters this season, announced that its Sherpa team will attempt to secure the last remaining section from the South Col at nearly 8,000 meters to the highest point with fixed ropes this weekend. Some commercial teams are in the starting blocks, the first summit wave is emerging.
Forty-five years ago, Everest was still a lonely mountain. A single team led by Austrian Wolfgang Nairz had received permission to climb the highest mountain on earth. The expedition made history: On 8 May 1978, Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler became the first humans to reach the summit without bottled oxygen. Three days later – exactly 45 years ago today – Reinhard Karl also stood at the top. He was the first German on the summit of Mount Everest.
Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler proved that it is possible. 45 years ago today, on 8 May 1978, the South Tyrolean and the Austrian became the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest at 8,849 meters without bottled oxygen. However, this did not lead to the fact that the highest mountain on earth would have been approached henceforth predominantly without breathing mask. Rather the opposite is the case: The trend is toward the bottle.
Tom Hornbein did not live to see the 60th anniversary of his pioneering feat on Mount Everest. The legendary climber from the USA died yesterday at the age of 92. On 22 May 1963, Tom had written Everest history together with his compatriot Willi Unsoeld. On that day, the two reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters – after a groundbreaking ascent.
Bivouac at 8500 meters
They opened – with bottled oxygen – a new, difficult route that has been repeated only seven times to date. First Hornbein and Unsoeld climbed the West Ridge, then traversed into the upper section of North Face , in strong winds. Via a prominent gully, which has since been called “Hornbein Couloir”, the two climbed upwards, traversed back to the West Ridge and finally stood on the summit in the early evening of 22 May.
The fourth death in the still young spring season is reported from the highest mountain on earth. According to media reports, a 69-year-old retired doctor from the United States, who had ascended to Camp 2 at about 6,400 meters to acclimatize, passed away. He had not felt well when he arrived at the camp and died there a short time later, they said. It is possible that he suffered from high altitude sickness.
70 years after its first ascent, Mount Everest is no longer an exclusive mountain. It has been scaled over 11,000 times since New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the world’s highest point at 8,849 meters on 29 May 1953. For the anniversary year, the Nepalese government has already (as of 28 April) sold more climbing permits to foreign climbers than ever before: 466. So it’s going to be crowded on the normal route through the Khumbu Icefall, the Western Cwm (the “Valley of Silence”), via the Lhotse flank to the South Col at just below 8,000 meters and then up to the summit. Hari Budha Magar has waited a long time to be able to join the ranks of the summit contenders on the highest mountain on earth.
Successful in court
Five years ago, the Nepalese had already wanted to climb Mount Everest – with bottled oxygen and Sherpa support. But in early 2018, the Nepalese government decided to stop issuing Everest permits to double-amputee climbers, blind people and even solo climbers. Hari, as a soldier in the British Gurkha Regiment, had lost both legs above the knees in a 2010 bomb blast in Afghanistan. Along with others, he sued in the Supreme Court – and succeeded: In March 2018, Nepal’s highest court overturned the controversial rule.
Mont Blanc, Kilimanjaro, Mera Peak
Hari postponed his plan to 2019, later to 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner in his works. Now everything – including funding – is finally falling into place for him, so he wants to put his plan to climb Mount Everest into action this spring. In the meantime, the Nepalese has stood on the summits of Mont Blanc (4,810 m), Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) and Mera Peak (6,476 m), among others. Hari climbed the latter mountain in Nepal (with his helpers) on 16 April for the second time after 2017 – to acclimatize for Everest.
“I hope my journey of this expedition will send hope, positive vibes and optimism around the world,” Hari wrote on Instagram yesterday from Everest Base Camp. The 42-year-old is upfront about his disability: “If I had the opportunity to bring my legs back today, I would actually decline. It was only after losing them that I found my true self, the real Hari Budha Magar.”
20 Everest summit successes by handicapped people
The number of disabled climbers on Everest is statistically negligible. By 2022, according to the Himalayan Database, a total of only 34 climbers (one of them a woman) with handicap had attempted to scale the highest mountain on earth – with all types of disabilities being grouped together here. 20 of them reached the summit, the most recent being Andrea Lanfri, an double amputee climber from Italy, in spring 2022. It goes without saying that the disabled climbers needed the support of others. But after all, that is now the case for almost all summit aspirants on Mount Everest.