This time next year, Marc Batard wants to summit Mount Everest for the third time without bottled oxygen. The Frenchman will then be 70 years old. If he succeeds, he would be by far the oldest climber without breathing mask on the top of the highest mountain on earth.
At the end of the 1980s, Marc was a big shot in the Himalayas. Within just under ten months, the “sprinter”, as he was called because of his fast pace, scaled four eight-thousanders, all without bottled oxygen. In 1988 and 1990, he stood on the summit of Mount Everest.
As early as next fall, Batard plans to explore an alternative route in the lower part of the mountain in order to avoid the dangerous Khumbu icefall – along with his climbing partners Pasang Nuru Sherpa and Sajid Ali Sadpara, who are also to accompany him in spring 2022. In preparation for Everest, Batard attempted to climb the 8,091-meter-high Annapurna I in western Nepal this spring – in vain.
Marc, you abandoned your attempt on Annapurna at around 6,000 meters. Why?
I stopped my ascent with Pasang Nuru Sherpa, because we were obliged to cross and climb a very dangerous couloir which was not foreseen. There have already been fatal accidents in this couloir. The expeditions which passed had a lot of luck this year! My cameraman Bertrand Delapierre and the young French guide Yorick Vion saw a block of ice as big as a table passing a few meters away from them and a Sherpa.
How did you experience the commercial teams on the mountain?
There is too much commercialization of the mountain, especially certain eight-thousanders. There have already been many catastrophes and it will unfortunately get worse.
This is simply scandalous.
From your point of view, is Annapurna now also a commercialized mountain?
Yes, Annapurna by the northern slope has become very attractive for agencies looking to skim the lucrative market of many clients who want to climb an eight-thousander at any price.
What do your experiences on Annapurna mean for your Everest project, where you will have much more commercial teams?
I think that Everest is the most coveted mountain. My experience on Annapurna makes that I will try to motivate the media to make known the dangers of this race which puts in danger many Nepalese and particularly Sherpas.
P.S. The Spaniard Kilian Jornet has confirmed today that he wants to climb Mount Everest without bottled oxygen together with the German climber David Göttler this May. “When David Göttler texted me last year we didn’t need much words to plan a climb together,” Kilian wrote on Instagram. “A simple idea and a high possibility of failure summarizes perfectly what we’re searching during the next weeks in the Khumbu region.” Previously, Spanish media had reported that Jornet was planning the “real” traverse of Mount Everest: via the West Ridge to the summit, down to the South Col and from there up to Lhotse.