First summit successes by foreign climbers on the north side of Everest in five years – another death on the south side

North side of Mount Everest (in 2005)
North side of Mount Everest (in 2005)

“We had the mountain to ourselves. With perfect conditions,” Lukas Furtenbach enthuses on Instagram. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and not many people will experience an empty Everest ever again. I am aware how magical this is. Have I deserved it? I am not sure. But I am so thankful for the best Everest summit I ever had.”

For the 46-year-old head of the expedition operator Furtenbach Adventures, it was the fourth Everest summit success after 2016, 2019 and 2022, the second (after 2019) via the Tibetan north side. The Austrian led a small team over the Northeast Ridge to the highest point at 8,849 meters early this morning local time. The group had only entered Tibet from Nepal eleven days ago after the Chinese-Tibetan authorities had taken a long time to issue climbing permits.

Only around 50 permits for the north side

According to Furtenbach, members of a commercial Chinese team stood on the roof of the world on Tuesday and Wednesday. The route via the Northeast Ridge had already been secured with fixed ropes since 7 May. The north side of Everest had been closed to foreign expeditions from 2020 to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In spring 2023, the authorities had delayed issuing permits for so long that all interested foreign teams had finally pulled the ripcord and switched to the south side.

This spring, too, this initially seemed to be repeating itself. A few teams had the staying power and finally entered Tibet after all. According to Furtenbach, only around 50 foreign mountaineers were granted Everest permits. This led to a virtually deserted north side – in contrast to the Nepalese south side, where it is estimated that around 2,000 people were at base camp this spring. The government in Kathmandu issued 421 permits this season.

Kenyan found dead near the summit


Over the past few days, the success stories of the commercial expeditions have not stopped. By yesterday, Wednesday, the US mountain blogger Alan Arnette had already counted 379 team members who had reached the summit from the south side. The fifth Everest fatality of the season was reported today. A Kenyan, who is said to have been en route without bottled oxygen, was found dead near the summit. A Sherpa who accompanied him is still missing.

There is no hope for a British and a Nepalese climber, of whom no trace has been found since Tuesday. According to their expedition operator, they fell to their deaths while descending the Kangshung Face, the eastern flank of Everest. Last week, two Mongolian climbers died on their descent from the summit after apparently running out of bottled oxygen.

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