Chinese expedition to Everest?

North side of Mount Everest

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.

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Mingma Gyalje Sherpa: “All in Nepal’s tourism business will suffer”

Namche Bazaar in the Everest region lives from tourism

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?

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Coronavirus crisis: No permits for expeditions to Everest and Co. in Nepal

Nepalese south side of Everest
Nepalese south side of Mount Everest

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Even if the decree was withdrawn at the beginning of May, the remaining time for expeditions would be too short.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.

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North side of Everest to remain closed this spring

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest

The Chinese-Tibetan authorities have closed the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest for this spring season. This I learned from a reliable source. The decision is official, it is said. This had already been indicated in the past weeks.

The Tibetans had advised the expedition teams to travel to the north side of Everest via Kathmandu rather than via the Chinese airport in Chengdu, as is often the case, because of the corona epidemic. The Nepalese authorities declared on Monday that all land crossings to China will remain closed for the time being due to the corona crisis. This would also have made it impossible to travel via the Kerung border crossing.

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Nepal tightens entry requirements for Germans, French and Spanish

Mount Everest

“It will be the least crowded year on Everest for decades.” Thus Lukas Furtenbach, head of the Austrian expedition operator Furtenbach Adventures, advertised this year’s expeditions to the highest mountain on earth a few days ago. Unlike in previous years, the company not only offers the ascent on the Tibetan north side but also on the south side of Everest – not least because of the still unclear situation caused by the worldwide corona crisis. “We are preparing everything for both sides and are thus prepared to move everything to one (open) side – if necessary”, Lukas writes to me. “Let’s hope for the best!”

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Dawa Yangzum Sherpa: “Many female climbers from Nepal disappear again after Everest”

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa has already scaled three eight-thousanders

This Sunday is International Women’s Day. Also in Nepal. Nepalese women still have a hard time in high altitude mountaineering. The Nepalese Lhakpa Sherpa, who was born in Nepal and lives in the USA, is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful woman on Mount Everest with nine summit successes. This spring she plans to reach the summit for the tenth time, from the Nepalese south side of the mountain. But the 46-year-old also has difficulties finding sponsors. To be able to finance her project, Lhakpa has started a crowdfunding campaign.

Since Pasang Lhamu Sherpa was the first Nepalese woman to reach the summit of Everest on 22 April 1993 (she died on the descent at the 8,749-meter-high South Summit), 66 ascents have been made by women from Nepal – half of them in the last four years, according to the mountain chronicle Himalayan Database.

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Jost Kobusch: “Steep learning curve on Mount Everest”

On the Everest West Shoulder

Jost Kobusch also designs the end of his Everest winter expedition “deliberately decelerated”, as he says. The 27-year-old mountaineer, who has already been in Nepal since mid-September, will return to Germany only in a week. Jost had attempted to climb Mount Everest solo and without bottled oxygen, on the ambitious, rarely climbed route over the Lho La, a 6000-meter-high pass between Nepal and Tibet, and the West Ridge. He had climbed up to an altitude of 7,366 meters. I reached Kobusch by phone in a hotel in Kathmandu.

Jost, how satisfied are you with the result of your Everest winter expedition?

I am quite happy. My goal was to reach 7,200 meters. I managed that, learned a lot, and I am very grateful for this experience.

What exactly did you learn?

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All Everest summit attempts abandoned

Alex Txikon (in the background right the 7000-meter-high Pumori)

Mount Everest remains unclimbed in this (meteorological) winter. After the German solo climber had abandoned his last attempt on Tuesday at 7,360 meters on the West Shoulder, the two teams on the normal route also turned back today at about 7,000 meters. “No way to get to Camp 3. 45 centimeter of fresh, unstable snow on the Lhotse Face have proven too dangerous”, Alex Txikon let us know. „We also had some close calls with avalanches yesterday . It’s frustrating, we’re strong and willing to go on, but conditions are unforgiving! We must go down.“ This means that after 2017 and 2018, the 38-year-old Spaniard’s third attempt to climb Everest in winter without bottled oxygen has failed too.

Also the four Sherpas of the “Breathless Winter Everest” team, who showed up at base camp only on Monday and planned a winter speed ascent of the highest mountain on earth, threw in the towel just below Camp 3. Expedition leader Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, like Txikon, pointed out the dangerous conditions in the Lhotse flank: too much unstable fresh snow, underneath blue ice.

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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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