Everest Day: Quiet spring on the highest mountain

Edmund Hillary (l.) und Tenzing Norgay

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.

More than 10,000 ascents

The spot formerly known as Hillary Step

Since 29 May 1953, pretty much everything on Everest has changed, even the mountain itself: The Hillary Step, the last obstacle before the summit, no longer exists. The 12-meter-high rock step at 8,790 meters broke away, possibly during the devastating earthquake in Nepal in April 2015. More serious is another change: For about 30 years, Mount Everest has been a commercial mountain – with much-discussed side effects such as traffic jams on the normal routes, avoidable deaths and garbage in the high camps. In the meantime, more than 10,000 summit successes have been recorded.

Chinese mountaineers back at base camp

This spring, Mount Everest received an unexpected respite. Because of the corona pandemic, the highest of all mountains remained completely closed on the Nepalese south side. On the Tibetan north side, foreign climbers were unwelcome for the same reason. Only a Chinese expedition received permission to climb Everest via the Northeast Ridge.

This week 51 ascents were reported. The members of the expedition returned safely to base camp at 5,200 meters today. It was a quiet springtime on Everest. Not only actually.

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