Everest winter expeditions: Kobusch down, the others up

Jost Kobusch climbing up

Is it over? As Jost Kobusch’s GPS tracker showed today, he descended from the Everest West Shoulder to Lho La. On the 6,000-meter-high pass between Nepal and Tibet he had set up his Camp 1. Yesterday, Monday, the 27-year-old German climber had reached an altitude of about 7,300 meters, but had then climbed down again to his Camp 2 at about 6,800 meters.

Kobusch had set himself the extremely ambitious goal of climbing the highest mountain on earth solo and without bottled oxygen, via the rather rarely climbed West Ridge and the Hornbein Couloir in the North Face. Before his current try he had spoken of the “final attempt”. This was also in line with his announcement before the expedition to break down his tents on Everest by the end of the calendrical winter next Saturday at the latest.

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Lhakpa Sherpa: “The number of Everest climbers will decrease”

Lhakpa Sherpa

As a dishwasher to the summit of the highest mountain in the world. Lhakpa Sherpa has not only done this once. With nine ascents, the 46-year-old is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful female Everest climber. This spring, she wants to scale the highest mountain for the tenth time. In her first summit success in 2000 from the southern side of Nepal, Lhakpa was the first woman from Nepal to summit Everest and return alive – Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to reach the highest point in the world in 1993, had died on the descent. Lhakpa achieved her eight other Everest successes climbing  from the Tibetan north side.

The Sherpani lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. For twelve years Lhakpa was married to George Dijmarescu, a nine-time Everest climber born in Romania. The marriage ended in a “War of the Roses”. A US court finally granded her custody of their children after the divorce. Lhakpa’s son is now of age, the two younger daughters still live with her. To earn a living, Lhakpa Sherpa works 40 hours a week as a dishwasher in a supermarket.

Lhakpa, you want to scale Mount Everest for the tenth time next spring. Will you do it again over the Tibetan north side, again with bottled oxygen, with or without clients?

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Lhakpa Gyaltsen Sherpa: Life and survival on Everest

Lhakpa Gyaltsen Sherpa in front of his lodge in Thame

The village of Thame in the Khumbu region has already seen many Sherpas who achieved fame on Mount Everest. So first ascender Tenzing Norgay grew up there. The legendary Apa Sherpa, who reached the summit of Everest 21 times between 1990 and 2011, was also born in Thame. And Kami Rita Sherpa, with 24 ascents the current record holder, comes from there too. So it’s hardly surprising that the first lodge at the entrance to Thame is called “Third Pole Summiter Lodge”. But it is not named after one of the famous Sherpas mentioned above. In fact, the name indicates that the owner of the lodge also stood on the highest point on earth, the “Third Pole”. “Since 2010 I have tried ten times to reach the summit, eight times I was on the top, twice via the Tibetan north side”, Lhakpa Gyaltsen Sherpa tells me when we stay overnight in his lodge in November. He was a monk for six years before his older brother persuaded him to enter the Everest business too.

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Mount Everest only for the rich?

North side of Mount Everest

“Only millionaires left who expect you to carry anything after them.” So an expedition leader, who is often en route in the (due to climate change unfortunately not quite) eternal ice of the Arctic, described his clientele to me some time ago. The reason is obvious: the price for last-degree expeditions – from 89 degrees latitude to the North Pole – has almost tripled in the last ten years due to increasingly expensive logistics, to currently around 60,000 euros. The prices for expeditions to the Antarctic – whether to the South Pole or to the continent’s highest mountain, Mount Vinson – have the same order of magnitude and thus are actually out of reach for average earners. The same now applies to the “Third Pole”, Mount Everest – at the latest since the drastic increase in permit fees on the Tibetan north side of the mountain, which comes into force on 1 January 2020.

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