Dangerous thrill: Everest taster course

Khumbu Icefall
Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

As if Mount Everest wasn’t full enough, as if there weren’t already too many unsuspecting aspirants with no mountaineering experience. “Touching Everest” is offered by the commercial Russian expedition operator 7 Summits Club for the spring season 2022. After the traditional trekking to Everest Base Camp, clients also have the option of being guided through the Khumbu Icefall up to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters – “with oxygen and with one Sherpa per participant”, as the operator lets it be known. That costs 14,900 US dollar.

For comparison: Who wants to ascend up to the summit on 8,849 meters, must pay 69,900 dollar. 7 Summit Club promises enough “impressions and adrenaline”. And “by the way, the transfer of the route to the right side of the icefall made it much safer,” claims the Russian operator. Much safer?

Passage with the highest objective dangers

South side of Mount Everest
Nepalese south side of Mount Everest

It is not for nothing that the Khumbu Icefall is considered the passage of the normal route on the Nepalese side of Everest with the highest objective dangers. Just remember the avalanche accident in spring 2014, when 16 Nepalese climbers died. Higher temperatures due to climate change have tended to increase the risk of avalanches breaking loose from above, as happened in 2014, or seracs collapsing in the icefall.

Just recently, a team led by veteran French climber Marc Batard opened an alternate route up the Nuptse flank to an elevation of 5,880 meters, from where they could ascend directly to Camp 2 – in order to avoid the dangerous icefall. Batard, now 70 years old, wants to scale Everest without bottled oxygen next spring – for the third time after 1988 and 1990.

Old hat

Incidentally, the fact that commercial operators offer an “Everest taster course” is not new. Other companies such as Peak Freaks from Canada or Alpine Ascents and Mountain Gurus from the U.S. also have “Everest Camp 2” at a somewhat lower price (around $10,000) in their portfolios, but unlike their Russian competitor, they do not advertise the “small” Everest variant with 1:1 Sherpa support and bottled oxygen.

Also on the Tibetan north side of Everest there are already for a long time offers to ascend “only” up to the North Col at 7,000 meters. However, it seems very questionable at the moment, whether the Chinese will even open Everest for foreign climbers in the coming spring in view of the corona situation.

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