Nailing one’s colors to the mast is actually regarded as something positive. But does the flag have to be 100 x 30 meters and fly from a 6812-meter-high summit? That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday last week on the beautiful Ama Dablam in the Everest region. A giant flag of Kuwait was rolled out from the summit ridge down the striking hanging glacier. Even in the village of Khumjung, a good ten kilometers away as the crow flies, the flag was still visible. Since then, the mountaineering scene has been discussing the action fiercely. Some see the mountain desecrated and the alpinistic values betrayed, others cheer the daring of the action.
Purja: “Nobody hampered”
The flag weighed 150 kilograms. Six Sherpas deployed by the Nepales expedition operator “Elite Himalayan Adventures” had carried it in 25 kilogram parts to the summit, assembled them there and unrolled the flag, Expedition leader Nirmal “Nims” Purja – who recently made headlines worldwide when he scaled all 14 eight-thousanders in just a little more than six months – does not understand the excitement about the action. It “has definitely strengthened the relationship between Nepal and Kuwait.definitely strengthened the relationship between Nepal and Kuwait,” Nims wrote on the social networks.
Everyone takes some flags onto the summit, Purja says: “I apologize our flags was definitely bigger but unlike many we didn’t leave the trace up there.” The Kuwaiti flag was completely brought back to the valley, says the 36-year-old, adding: “The mission didn’t hamper anyone’s climb at all. We put the flags up once all other mountaineers descended.”
Hillary: “Shame on you!”
Alexander Hillary, grandson of Edmund Hillary, the first ascender of Mount Everest, was at Ama Dablam at the same time, contradicting Purja on Facebook. He heard that other climbers had been asked to leave the spot quickly when Nims’ team filmed the flag from the helicopter, Alexander commented on Facebook. “Not only that, you and the clients left Ama Basecamp before your exhausted Sherpa team that were carrying the 25kg flag pieces arrived back down. I’m appalled by the lack of respect that you have shown your countrymen and employees, not to mention the inappropriate placement of a foreign flag on Ama Dablam. Shame on you.” The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism is investigating the incident. The expedition team did not have permission to unroll such a large flag, a representative of the Ministry told the “Nepali Times”.
Pandora’s box open?
Purja has by no means covered himself with glory with the flag action. He may even have opened Pandora’s box. How long does it take until a mega flag of a state or a sponsor flies from the summit of Everest? Who needs such a thing, with the exception of politicians or profiteers? On Monday last week I myself admired Ama Dablam in the first daylight from the nearby Tengboche monastery – without a flag at all. What a beautiful mountain! I was at the right place at the right time. One day later I would have been upset.