Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa: „More and more dry winters in the Everest region

Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa
Tenzing Ch

As if there were no other problems on Mount Everest. For weeks, social media has been discussing a new signboard that the regional administration of the Khumbu region put up at the entrance to Everest Base Camp before the start of this year’s climbing season – directly in front of the boulder marked with paint that has served as a photo motif in recent years. There’s no accounting for taste – on both counts. The new sign shows Everest and in front of it Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who were the first people to scale the highest mountain on earth in 1953. Only one member of that expedition team is still alive: Kanchha Sherpa, now 91 years old.

I spoke to his grandson Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa – not about the new sign at Everest Base Camp, but about the consequences of climate change for the Everest region. The winter of 2023/2024 – like the previous one – was exceptionally warm and dry. Tenzing is a glaciologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and works on the cryosphere, in simple terms everything to do with snow, ice and permafrost on Earth. The research of the 31-year-old scientist from Nepal focuses on the glaciers and glacial lakes in the mountainous regions of Asia.

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Commercial expeditions return to the north side of Mount Everest

North side of Mount Everest
North side of Mount Everest

After a four-year interruption, this spring will see the return of a “normal” season for commercial expeditions on the north side of Mount Everest in Tibet. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities had closed the eight-thousanders in Tibet to foreign teams from 2020 to 2022. Only Chinese expeditions were permitted.

In spring 2023, the authorities waited so long to issue permits that the foreign operators ran out of time and ultimately decided against Everest expeditions via the Northeast Ridge route. This time, around a handful of foreign teams are expected at the base camp on the Rongbuk Glacier. “Everything is going normally so far,” Lukas Furtenbach writes to me. His company, Furtenbach Adventures, will be on the north side with 18 clients this season.

“Waiting game”

Everest base camp on the north side (in 2005)
Everest Base Camp on the north side (in 2005)

For Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of Imagine Nepal, the normality is to remain cool in the face of the halting proceedings of the Chinese-Tibetan authorities. “As always, it’s just a waiting game. They are hopeful to give us climbing permits in the beginning of April,” writes Mingma, whose company will have five clients on the north side of Everest.

Other operators with experience of Tibet had also announced expeditions to the Chinese side for this spring, including Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s largest expedition operator, as well as Kobler & Partner from Switzerland and Climbalaya from Nepal, both of which are known for their close contacts in Tibet. It is not yet clear how many clients these three companies will have there. My inquiries have so far gone unanswered.

Climbs without breathing masks prohibited

A yak is loaded at the foot of Mount Everest (in 2005)
Five yaks per climber from base camp to ABC are included in the permit, four for the way back

The prices in Tibet are still the same as after the last increase before the 2020 season (which was then canceled): The Chinese-Tibetan authorities charge 15,800 US dollars per person for a standard Everest package, and 18,000 dollars for the luxury version. However, unlike in Nepal, this also includes hotel accommodation and material transportation with yaks. The teams must consist of at least four members.

In addition, foreign clients are required to have climbed at least one seven-thousander before their Everest attempt. From an altitude of 7,000 meters, i.e. the North Col, all climbers must use bottled oxygen. Thusm attempts without a breathing mask are prohibited. The number of permits is capped at 300. In all likelihood, there will be significantly fewer this spring.

Nepal expects over 400 Everest aspirants

There is no such restriction in Nepal. Last year, the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu issued a record number of 478 permits for the south side of Mount Everest – at a price of 11,000 dollars per permit. From 2025 onwards, the government wants the price to rise to 15,000 dollars. According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times “, again more than 400 foreign mountaineers are expected this spring.

Mount Everest: Tracking chip mandatory

Sunrise on Mount Everest
Sunrise on Mount Everest (in fall 2019)

Who is where on Mount Everest? In future, it should also be possible to answer this question electronically. As reported this week by Indian media and now also by the US television channel CNN, from this spring onwards, summit contenders will be required to carry a tracking chip with them. The chips, which cost between 10 and 15 dollars and are manufactured in Europe, are to be sewn into the down jackets of the mountaineers.

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Biogas plant on Mount Everest: only the money for construction is still missing

The Nepalese south side of Mount Everest
The Nepalese south side of Mount Everest

Bringing the excrements down from Mount Everest is one thing, what happens to it in the valley is another. As reported, from this spring onwards, all mountaineers on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest and on the neighboring eight-thousander Lhotse will have to collect their excrement in special “poo bags” and bring it back to base camp. This news made headlines around the world. But virtually no one asked what should happen to the faeces afterwards.

Careless disposal

Faeces from Everest are disposed of in a pit
Faeces from Everest are disposed of in a pit

The poo bags will probably also be put into the blue garbage cans that have been used to collect faeces at base camp since 1996. So-called “shit porters” then carry the garbage cans down the valley, where their contents are disposed of in pits near Gorak Shep (at 5,180 meters) or Lobuche (4,940 meters), the last settlements before the base camp. A careless behaviour.

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New regulation: Everest climbers must use poo bags

Mount Everest
Mount Everest

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.”

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Everest ski descent via Hornbein Couloir?

The Tibetan north side of Mount Everest (in 2005)
The Tibetan North Face of Mount Everest (in 2005)

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.

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Everest permits to become more expensive – also in Tibet?

Sunrise on Mount Everest
Sunrise on Mount Everest (in fall 2019)

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.

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Mount Everest: Search for Szilard Suhajda abandoned

Szilard Suhajda
Szilard Suhajda

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.

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Kilian Jornet abandons Everest solo attempt without breathing mask in Hornbein Couloir

Kilian Jornet
Kilian Jornet

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. 

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Kami Rita Sherpa for the 28th time on Everest – also first summit success on the north side – Kristin Harila on Everest and Lhotse

Kami Rita Sherpa

As expected, Kami Rita Sherpa has also climbed Mount Everest for the second time this spring season. According to his employer, the Nepalese expedition provider Seven Summit Treks, the 53-year-old – on bottled oxygen – reached the highest point on earth at 8849 meters this morning local time and, with now 28 summit successes, may once again call himself the sole “person with the most Everest ascents”. Yesterday, the 46-year-old Pasang Dawa Sherpa had climbed Everest for the 27th time and thus equaled Kami Rita at least for about 24 hours. According to the well-informed US mountain blogger Alan Arnette, the number of summit successes this season now adds up to an estimated 500.

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Pasang Dawa Sherpa on Mount Everest for 27th time – eleven dead and two missing so far this season

Pasang Dawa Sherpa
Pasang Dawa Sherpa

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.

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Kami Rita’s 27th strike – fifth death of the Everest season – rescue operation for Carlos Soria on Dhaulagiri

Kami Rita Sherpa
Kami Rita Sherpa – climbing Everest again and again

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.

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Further summit successes on Mount Everest and Co.

Sunrise over Mount Everest and Lhotse (r.)

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.

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Theft on Mount Everest, rope-fixing team at the summit, success on Makalu

South side of Mount Everest, Khumbu Icefall on the lower left
South side of Mount Everest (in 2002)

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.”

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Stephen Venables about Mount Everest: “The preserve of a very slickly operated tourist industry”

In the East Face of Mount Everest

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.

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