David Göttler at Mount Everest: “Planning from day to day”

David Göttler points to Everest
David Göttler shows where he wants to go: to the summit of Mount Everest

“Everest without bottled oxygen is clearly the goal,” David Göttler writes me from the base camp at the foot of the highest mountain on earth. How exactly he wants to realize this goal – whether alone or in pairs, on which route – the 42-year-old leaves open: “At the moment, you can really only plan from day to day here.” That’s why he won’t comment on speculation currently circulating in the scene about his intentions.

In his attempt without breathing mask in spring 2019, David had turned back at an altitude of 8,650 meters because there was too much traffic on the normal route and the weather was getting worse.

David, you’ve trained with mountain runs in the Everest region. How did you experience the Khumbu in times of the pandemic? What were the people like?

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Everest record rush despite corona increase

Masks obligatory at Everest Base Camp
Masks obligatory at Everest Base Camp

The desire to climb the highest mountain on earth seems to be immune to the coronavirus. Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism announced that as of last Friday it had issued permits to 394 foreign climbers for Mount Everest, 13 more than in the record year of 2019.

So there is no chance of idyllic Everest solitude, at least on the south side of the mountain. Mingma Sherpa, head of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks, told the Chinese news agency Xinhua that more than 2,000 climbers, mountain guides, Climbing Sherpas, cooks, kitchen helpers and other staff had already reached base camp. Seven Summit Treks once again makes up the largest group on Everest, with 110 clients.

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Alex Txikon is also drawn to Mount Everest

Alex Txikon on Mount Everest (in winter 2018)

“I’ve got the urge to summit an eight-thousander,” says Alex Txikon. “The last one was the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat in 2016 and I think it’s about time to step on a summit of an eight-thousander.” The 39-year-old Spaniard will fly to Nepal tomorrow Friday to climb Mount Everest. He plans to arrive at base camp on 2 May. He then gives himself three weeks to reach the highest peak on earth at 8849 meters – without bottled oxygen, via the normal route. He plans to return to Spain on 25 May.

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COVID-19 infection on Mount Everest

Now the Corona pandemic has reached the highest mountain on earth. At least one case of corona has been reported from the base camp on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest. The U.S. magazine Outside, citing a source at base camp, reports that a climber who was flown out with suspected high-altitude pulmonary edema was tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in Kathmandu. His team at base camp is in quarantine, he said.

Nepalese journalist Bhadra Sharma, who writes for the New York Times among other publications, even reports three infected climbers, referring to a doctor at base camp.

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Mount Everest: Sheikh and Sheikha

Sheikha Asma Al Thani in Everest Base Camp (in 2019)
Sheikha Asma Al Thani in Everest Base Camp (in 2019)

This much is certain: finances will not be the issue for these Everest aspirants. The Gulf’s moneyed aristocracy will meet on Mount Everest this spring. In addition to Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa from the royal family of Bahrain, another member of a filthy rich ruling family from the Middle East is among the almost 250 foreign mountaineers so far with a permit for Mount Everest: Sheikha Asma Al Thani from Qatar. The 31-year-old wants to become the first woman from the Gulf emirate to scale Mount Everest.

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US singer Mike Posner wants to climb Mount Everest

Mike Posner at Concordia in Pakistan (K2 and Broad Peak in the background)

Will his next hit be called “I took a pill on Everest”? US singer Mike Posner has announced in a video (see below) that he wants to climb Mount Everest this spring. The 33-year-old let it be known that he had been preparing for his project for 18 months. The idea came to him when he crossed the USA on foot in 2019. After the death of his father, he “felt trapped under the weight of my own life,” Mike says. “I wanted to find out who I was when I wasn’t a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter.” His song “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” had made it to number one on the charts in several European countries and was nominated for Best Song of the Year at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

For six months and three days, Posner trekked 2,851 kilometers across the U.S., from the East Coast to the West Coast. Along the way, he was also bitten by a rattlesnake. “When I crossed the Rocky Mountains, I had a good idea what I wanted to do next,” says the singer: to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth. A PR stunt? No, says Jon Kedrowski, who has been training the musician and wants to accompany him to the 8,849-meter-high summit.

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Pemba Sharwa Sherpa: “Climbing with passion”

Pemba Sharwa Sherpa
Pemba Sharwa Sherpa

“It has been quite a long time staying home,” Pemba Sharwa Sherpa writes to me. “For a year, I couldn’t work because of the corona pandemic. It’s the same with all my friends here in Phortse. Most of all are getting ready to get back on Everest. Some have already left for Everest Base Camp to start preparing campsites.” This spring, Pemba wants to lead two Brazilians to the summit of Mount Everest.

The 29-year-old is from Phortse, 3,840 meters above sea level, the village in the Khumbu region with the highest density of Mount Everest summiteers: more than 80 of the current inhabitants have already stood on the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters. Pemba was born into an “Everest family”: his father, Lhakpa Dorje, reached the summit in 1987 and worked on a total of more than 30 eight-thousander expeditions. One of Pemba’s grandfathers supplied yaks to the 1953 expedition of Everest first ascenders Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, and the other grandfather hired out on nearly 20 expeditions.

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Everest censorship

Queue on the Everest summit ridge (on 22 May 2019)

What a clumsy attempt! The government of Nepal is trying to prevent unwanted pictures and videos of Mount Everest. In a list of rules for expeditions to the world’s highest mountain – typically enough only published in Nepali so far – climbers are forbidden to use their video cameras or smartphones to record other climbers and then distribute the pictures and films via social networks.

Anyone can photograph or film themselves or their group and share it, Mira Acharya, director at Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism, specified to the Kathmandu Post newspaper, “but they will face action if they take, make and share photos of other climbers without the department’s consent.” This, Acharya said, has long been prohibited by law, but no one has complied.

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Ex-NFL-Pro Mark Pattison: “I’m ready for Mount Everest”

Mark Pattison
Mark Pattison

A countdown is running on his homepage. With around three weeks to go, former American football player Mark Pattison will fly to Nepal to climb Mount Everest and Lhotse – with bottled oxygen. If he succeeds in reaching the highest peak on earth, the 59-year-old would be the second ex-professional of the National Football League (NFL) to complete the Seven Summits, the collection of the highest mountains on all continents. The first was Craig Hanneman in 2019, who made his living as a professional in the NFL in the 1970s.

Pattison played as a wide receiver with the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders and New Orleans Saints in the 1980s. After his career ended, Mark became a successful businessman. Today, he is an executive of Sports Illustrated magazine and a motivational speaker. He produces his own podcast called “Finding your summit”.

Six of the Seven Summits

Pattison on Denali
On Denali

Pattison found his way to mountaineering ten years ago during a personal crisis: he separated from his wife of many years, and his father died after a severe stroke. Mark set himself a new goal: to climb the Seven Summits. He started in 2013 with Kilimanjaro (Mark scaled Africa’s highest mountain a second time in 2017). This was followed by Mount Elbrus (Europe’s highest mountain) in 2014, Mount Kosciuszko (Australia) in 2015, Aconcagua (South America) in 2016, Denali (North America) in 2018 and Mount Vinson (Antarctica) in 2019. So now he wants to climb the 8,849-meter-high Mount Everest and then, as the icing on the cake, within 24 hours also the neighboring 8,516-meter-high Lhotse.

Mark, you have already scaled six of the Seven Summits, and now you are going to attempt the highest of all mountains. How do you feel about this expedition?

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Everest season with question marks

Icefall Doctor
An “Icefall Doctor” in the Western Qwm

The starting signal for the spring climbing season on Mount Everest has been given: A total of nine members of the so-called “Icefall Doctors” team set off this week from Namche Bazaar, the main town in the Everest region, to the base camp on the Nepalese south side of the highest mountain on earth. Six Sherpas specializing in this will prepare the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall, over which the members of the commercial expeditions will then ascend from April.

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K2 summit attempt abandoned, Everest expedition canceled

John Snorri (center) with Muhammad (l.) and Sajid Ali Sadpara (r.)
John Snorri (center) with Muhammad (l.) and Sajid Ali Sadpara (r.)

Actually, the Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, the most successful Pakistani high-altitude climber, and his son Sajid Ali Sadpara had wanted to reach the 8,611-meter-high summit of K2 today. But the trio, who in December became the first winter team to arrive at the foot of the world’s second-highest mountain, abandoned their summit attempt and returned to base camp today.

According to John Snorri, the three climbers decided to rest below Camp 3 on Sunday after a 17-hour ascent. His GPS tracker showed the maximum altitude reached as 6,831 meters. “At that time it was clear to us the strong winds came sooner than expected,” the Icelander let it be known after returning. “This morning, when we were packing our tent, Ali’s backpack blew away and exploded. We managed to safe some of the things in the backpack but lost our summit masks.”

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Lhakpa Sherpa wants to climb Mount Everest and K2 in 2021

Lhakpa Sherpa
Lhakpa Sherpa

Some nicknames are well-intentioned, but pretty off the mark. “I don’t like being called Everest Queen that much,” Lhakpa Sherpa says about the nickname given to the record-breaking Mount Everest female climber by her compatriots in Nepal. “A queen lives a rich life of comfort and luxury. It definitely does not reflect the way I live.” The 47-year-old works 40 hours a week at an organic supermarket in Hartford, Connecticut. As a single mother, she has to make ends meet for herself and her two daughters. Sometimes she washes dishes, sometimes she cuts fruit.

So far, Lhakpa has reached the summit of Mount Everest at 8,849 meters (from now on, I’ll use the official altitude that Nepal and China have determined and jointly announced) nine times, using bottled oxygen. The Sherpani would like to improve this record to ten successes in spring 2021.

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New official height of Mount Everest: 8,848.86 meters

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest

Nothing earthly is of eternal duration. Even mountains like Mount Everest change – for example through tectonic activities. After the devastating earthquake in Nepal in spring 2015, in which almost 9000 people died, there had also been speculations that the height of Everest might have changed due to the strong earth tremors. A new survey of the highest mountain on earth was due anyway, as several “official” heights existed. Today the governments of Nepal and China have jointly announced: Mount Everest is currently 8,848.86 meters high – and thus about a meter higher than officially set so far. This was based on the results of a Nepalese surveying expedition in spring 2019 and a Chinese one in spring 2020.

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When the thin air on Mount Everest becomes thicker

Wetterstation Everest Balcony with team
The highest weather station in the world – on the Everest Balcony (© Mark Fischer/National Geographic)

Does the cursed climate change, which is causing problems worldwide, perhaps also have a positive side effect on Mount Everest? A team led by climate scientist Tom Matthews from Loughborough University in England has calculated that a global warming of two percent compared to the pre-industrial age means that at the highest point on earth, an average of around five percent more oxygen can reach the lungs due to higher air pressure. Great, some mountaineers who want to climb Everest without bottled oxygen might think. But be careful! It is not that simple. There is a catch.

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My story about the US election: Tramp on Mount Everest

Sunrise at Mount Everest

Crisis meeting in the Oval Office, one week before the presidential election. “What the f…! I’m still behind in the polls,” shouts Scrooge Tramp and clenches his fist firmly on the desk. “Think of something!” The advisors look trodden on their shoes, no one dares to look Tramp in the bright red face. “We could,” one of them finally begins cautiously. “What?” bleats Tramp. “We could perhaps turn the tide with a spectacular, admirable sporting achievement by the President,” whispers the advisor. “And what did you have in mind? Permanently golfing?”, yells Tramp.

“I was thinking of climbing Mount Everest,” says the advisor. “The news of the first ascent in 1953 arrived in London just in time for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. That was a mega PR coup back then. Now, when it is announced on election day that the President of the USA has reached the roof of the world, the mood could still tip in your favor.” Tramp thinks for a moment. “Sounds good,” he finally says. “Then I can tweet up there: Tramp on top – in every respect. H.O.P.A.T – the Highest President of All Time.” Tramp shoos his team out of the office. “Why are you still standing around here? Go, go, organize it! And do it in such a way that it works and that I’m not eaten by the yeti.”

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