The video circulating on social networks actually leaves no room for interpretation: A helicopter lands in Camp 1 at 5,700 meters on the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal. On one side of the helicopter, a backpack is unloaded, which someone picks up; on the other side, a climber gets out and is greeted by another mountaineer with a handshake.
It was said, the video was filmed last fall during the Manaslu expedition of Bahrain’s Royal Guard, which was organized by Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks. If the dating of the video is confirmed, “heli-doping” would have been involved in the summit success of the team from Bahrain and at least one, possibly several climbers would have saved themselves the first stage from Manaslu Base Camp to Camp 1. My inquiry on this to Seven Summit Treks has remained unanswered so far.
The Wang Jing case
The phenomenon is not new. In spring 2014 on Mount Everest, the Chinese climber Wang Jing had herself flown from Base Camp to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters. From there, she climbed to the summit with her Sherpa team.
It was the only ascent that spring from the Nepalese south side of the mountain. Actually, the Everest season in Nepal had been canceled after an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall had killed 16 local climbers. Elizabeth Hawley (1923-2018) noted Wang’s summit success in her chronicle Himalayan Database at the time with the notation “helicopter-assisted ascent and descent.”
Only rescue flights allowed
This is actually prohibited in Nepal. According to the guidelines of the Nepalese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAN), helicopter flights above base camp are only allowed for rescue operations. However, it appears that the state authorities are not very strict about monitoring the directive. Thus, the investigation against Wang Jing came to nothing in 2014, and she received her Everest summit certificate at a government ceremony in Kathmandu in the summer of the same year – without any restriction.
Skip crossing Khumbu Icefall
A one-time slip? Apparently not. After the spring 2019 season on Mount Everest, the renowned Nepalese climber and guide Dawa Yangzum Sherpa said in an interview with National Geographic magazine: “There were a lot of inexperienced climbers – and even those who take a helicopter to skip crossing the Khumbu Icefall. This is not allowed, but a certain company did it with Chinese climbers.”
There were apparently no consequences in these cases either. Incidentally, after their summit success on Manaslu last fall, Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s royal family, and the other climbers from the Gulf state will attempt Mount Everest this spring.