She almost forgot the summit picture. When Sophia Danenberg reached the summit of Mount Everest together with the brothers Panuru and Mingma Chhiring Sherpa at 7 a.m. on 19 May 2006, they were alone on the top at 8,850 meters. It was windy, all the surrounding mountains were peeking up from the clouds, Sophia recently recalled in an interview with the US technology portal “GeekWire“: “It’s odd to really be above everything. However, I was mostly focused on getting down. I probably would have forgotten to take a picture if it hadn’t been for Panuru.” The Afro-American was the first black female mountaineer on the highest mountain on earth – which she only learned about on Everest. She climbed the mountain from the Nepalese south side and used bottled oxygen for her ascent.
Danenberg grew up in Chicago. She graduated from the renowned Harvard University in environmental sciences and public policy with honors (Magna Cum Lauda). During her studies, her passion for climbing arose. In November 2005, half a year before she scaled Everest, she reached the summit of the nearby Ama Dablam (6,814 m). In addition to Everest, Sophia summited three more of the Seven Summits, the highest mountains in all continents: Aconcagua (6,962 m, South America), Denali (6,194 m, North America) and Kilimanjaro (5,895 m, Africa).
Today the 48-year-old mountaineer lives in Seattle. She works for the US aviation company Boeing analyzing international environmental policy and maintaining contact with international companies and organizations. I sent Sophia some questions as part of my reports on the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the USA.
Sophia, you summited Mount Everest in 2006. What made you go there that time?
The “sprinter”, as he was once called, will return to Mount Everest. In spring 2022 Marc Batard wants to climb the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen – at the age of 70. If he succeeds, Marc would then most likely be by far the oldest climber on the roof of the world without using a breathing mask. So far, this Everest record is held by the Italian Abele Blanc, who reached the highest point on earth in 2010 at the age of 55 years and 264 days. For years, Batard had completely retired from high altitude climbing and devoted himself to painting.
I have rarely used the word “actually” as often as in the last few months. So much was planned for this spring at the highest mountains of the world, but then fell victim to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. This includes the Everest marathon from the base camp on the Nepalese south side to the village of Namche Bazaar. Actually it should have taken place for the 18th time today. But this event was also canceled.
The marathon is regularly run on 29 May, the International Everest Day, which Nepal has celebrated since 2008. This commemorates the first ascent of the highest of all mountains in 1953. 67 years ago today, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary (1919-2008) and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest. After his success, Tenzing also regularly celebrated his birthday on 29 May. His exact date of birth could not be determinded.
Today it got a little bit fuller on the summit of Mount Everest. According to Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, 14 clients of the commercial Chinese expedition operator Yarla Shampo reached the highest point on earth, accompanied by 21 Tibetan supporters. Mingma, head of the Nepalese operator Imagine Nepal, is in close contact with the Chinese expedition. Among those who stood on the summit was a 16-year-old girl. On her summit video, which Mingma shared on Facebook (see below), you can also see the survey mast that was set up there yesterday. Will they take it down again?
At base camp the champagne corks popped. After the Tibetan rope-fixing team had secured the Northeast Ridge up to the summit of Mount Everest yesterday, a group of Chinese surveyors reached the highest point today. The picture, which was distributed by the Chinese state media, showed nine people. The ascent was broadcasted live on Chinese television thanks to the 5G technology previously installed at the base camp and along the route. The surveyors aligned their instruments at the highest point and stayed there for a total of two and a half hours – which was celebrated in the state media as a record for Chinese climbers. The results of the measurement is to provide information about the exact height of the mountain.
Six Tibetan mountaineers who have been fixing the ropes for the Chinese expedition on the north side of Mount Everest reached the summit at 8,850 meters today. This is reported by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa. The head of the Nepalese expedition operator Imagine Nepal has direct contact with the Chinese expedition. Previously the rope-fixing team had to turn back twice due to bad weather and high avalanche danger, first at 8,600 meters, then at 8,000 meters.
Third time is a charm? According to the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua, a team of the Chinese expedition on the Tibetan north side of the mountain set off again yesterday, Sunday, from the Advanced Base Camp at 6,500 meters towards the summit of Mount Everest. If this time the weather and conditions on the mountain play along, the climbers would reach the highest point on earth at 8,850 meters on Wednesday. The first two attempts had failed due to bad weather and high avalanche danger. On 12 May, the team that fixed the ropes via the Northeast Ridge turned back at 8,600 meters, on 21 May they reached an altitude of 8,000 meters.
This time the point of return was at about 8,000 meters. The climbers, who have been fixing the ropes for the Chinese expedition on Mount Everest via the Northeast Ridge towards the summit, had to turn back today. Deep snow and also rockfall stopped them, a representative of the Chinese mountaineering authority said.
According to his words, the team was exhausted and decided to return to Advanced Base Camp at 6,500 meters. The climbers had spent the night in Camp 2 at 7,950 meters.
Actually seven climbers from the team of the Chinese expedition operator Yarla Shampo wanted to fix the ropes up to the summit of Mount Everest at 8,850 meters today. However, according to information from Tibet, nothing came of it. The wind blew too strong over the highest mountain on earth. According to Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, who has close contacts with the Chinese expedition, the team turned back at 8600 meters. The climbers had spent the last night in Camp 3 at 8,300 meters. For Wednesday the meteorologists expect even higher wind speeds.
The mountaineers of the Chinese expedition on the north side of Mount Everest must train themselves in patience. The clients of the operator Yarla Shampo are currently staying in the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 6,500 meters, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, who is in contact with members of the team, informs me. In the course of further acclimatization, he said, a night on the North Col and an ascent up to 7,500 meters is planned – if conditions permit. Currently, the avalanche danger seems to be too great. According to Mingma, the mountaineers who secure the route to the summit with fixed ropes and who already reached an altitude of 8,300 meters, have descended to the ABC.
Actually the first summit success on Mount Everest in 2020 was scheduled for this Sunday. Until then, the rope fixing team of the Chinese expedition on the north side of the mountain wanted to have worked their way up to the highest point at 8,850 meters. But due to snowfall, the Tibetan climbers returned to the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 6,500 meters, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa informs me, adding that the next good weather window is to be used for the summit push.
What some critics of commercial mountaineering on Mount Everest have demanded in the past is now being brought about by the corona crisis: only one team will be allowed to attempt the highest mountain on earth this spring. The Chinese-Tibetan authorities had closed Everest to foreign expeditions because of the Corona pandemic, but the ban does not apply to domestic expeditions. And so there will probably be a Chinese attempt this spring over the Tibetan north side of the mountain.
According to reports, the team of the operator Yarlo Shampo Expeditions consists of 26 members, including six women. According to sources in Tibet, the climbers were to reach the Advanced Base Camp at about 6,400 meters, below the North Col, today. It has snowed more than in previous years, it said.
Despite the restrictions resulting from the corona pandemic, Mount Everest will apparently not remain completely deserted this spring. There is growing evidence that a Chinese expedition will approach the highest mountain on earth from the Tibetan north side. According to the Kathmandu-based newspaper „The Himalayan Times“, at least 26 mountaineers from China, including six women, will attempt to climb Everest.
I just went shopping at a supermarket. I wanted to buy a kilo of flour. There was a sign on the pallet saying that each customer could only take a maximum of four packages. But not a single one was left there. Three checkouts were open, long lines formed in front of them. Most of the customers had filled their shopping trolleys to the top. Panic in Germany in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. As I stood in line at the checkout, I thought of Nepal. Many people there already lack the most necessary things. How will they survive the corona crisis?
The spring climbing season in the Himalayas is over before it has begun. After the Chinese-Tibetan authorities announced that they would not issue permits for the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest and other mountains to foreign expedition teams this spring, the Nepalese government has now pulled the rip cord too. Due to the global spread of the coronavirus, no permits will be issued for expeditions to Everest and the other high mountains of Nepal from March 14 to April 30, the government in Kathmandu announced. The already issued climbing permits are invalid. It is understood that the regulation also applies to trekking tours.
Even if the decree was withdrawn at the beginning of May, the remaining time for expeditions would be too short. The season finishes at the end of May due to the start of the monsoon season.