Does China thwart Nirmal Purja?

Nirmal Purja in the Karakoram

That would be really harsh. Perhaps the Nepalese climber Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja cannot complete the third and final phase of his “Project Possible” as planned due to insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles. The 36-year-old former soldier of the British Gurkha Regiment has so far – as reported several times – despite some adversities been on his schedule to scale all 14 eight-thousanders within seven months. After he and his team “ticked off” eleven eight-thousanders in an unprecedented tour de force in spring and summer, Nims wants to tackle the missing three peaks in the upcoming fall season: Manaslu in Nepal as well as Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. The last two eight-thousanders are located in Tibet – and that’s exactly the problem. I have learned from several trustworthy sources that the Chinese-Tibetan authorities are unwilling to issue any permit for Shishapangma this fall,  allegedly for security reasons. The 8,027-meter-high mountain, the lowest of the 14 eight-thousanders, would thus remain closed for this season.

Restrictive course of the Chinese-Tibetan authorities


It seems unlikely that an exception will be made for Purja. In the past, the highest mountains of Tibet had already been closed several times, most recently in fall 2017. And the bans had always been enforced. The Chinese-Tibetan authorities are currently taking an increasingly restrictive course on the eight-thousanders anyway. For the past spring season on Everest, the number of permits on the Tibetan north side was capped at 300, and in the end only 142 climbing permits for foreign mountaineers were issued.

The new regulations for eight-thousander expeditions in Tibet, in force since this year, have also bulled the market. Since this year one Climbing Sherpa has to be deployed for each climber. In addition, garbage collection fees are levied: 1,500 US dollars per climber on Everest, 1,000 dollars on Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. The prices for the obligatory material transport by yak to the base camp have also risen sharply. In addition, the opeators have to pay a deposit for a possible mountain rescue. In total, expeditions to Tibet have become much more expensive.

No thanks, too expensive!

Nepalese side of Cho Oyu

For Cho Oyu clients of commercial expeditions now have to fork out about 25,000 dollars (22,500 euros), around 10,000 dollars more than e.g. for Manaslu in Nepal. “In the past, there were 20 or more expeditions per season on Cho Oyu, but now there may still be a handful,” Dominik Müller, head of the German operator Amical alpin tells me. “The new regulations have pushed up the price to such an extent that many of our customers kindly decline.” Amical had to cancel an expedition to the 8,188-meter-high mountain in Tibet, which was actually planned for this fall, due to a lack of demand.

The prices for Shishapangma expeditions are sometimes even higher: around 30,000 dollars. If they can be offered at all. At least this fall the authorities in Tibet apparently have something against it. But maybe at least in the case of Nirmal Purja they are turning a blind eye. Nims would have deserved it.

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