Mount Everest: Further summit successes, tragedy, accusations

Sunrise on Mount Everest
Sunrise on Mount Everest (in fall 2019)

Last weekend brought what commercial mountaineering on Mount Everest stands for above all else: plenty of success stories. According to US mountain blogger Alan Arnette (who always keeps track of the numerous commercial expedition teams), at least 130 people reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters on Sunday alone.

Norrdine Nouar on the ascent

Relatively windless weather is expected for the summit zone of Mount Everest until the end of the week – and thus a continuing rush of summit aspirants. However, they must expect snow showers.

Even those who want to climb without bottled oxygen are apparently on their way to the top – such as the Russian Valeriy Babanov, the Brazilian Moeses Fiamoncini – and also the German Norrdine Nouar. According to his GPS tracker, the 36-year-old climbed towards Camp 3 at around 7,200 meters today.

Mongolian climbers die after summit success

The two Mongolian mountaineers Usukhjargal Tsedendamba and Purevsuren Lkhagvajav have paid for their Everest adventure with their lives. They were the first deaths of the Everest season. As reported, a Nepalese search team found the body of 53-year-old Usukhjargal around 300 meters below the summit and the body of 31-year-old Purevsuren a little further down at the height of the so-called “Balcony”.

The two climbers had summit pictures on their smartphones that had been taken in the midday hours local time of 13 May. These showed that, contrary to their announcement, the Mongolians had used bottled oxygen. Apparently, however, they had run out of it on the descent.

Accusations against Nirmal Purja

The Nepalese star mountaineer Nirmal Purja is facing two accusations at once. Initially, several Nepalese media outlets reported that a team from Purja’s company “Elite Exped” had ascended on Everest despite only having a climbing permit for the 6,749-meter-high Lingtren near Everest Base Camp. Elite Exped disagreed. The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism is investigating the allegation.

On Sunday, the “Himalayan Times” made a further accusation against Purja. Citing informants in Camp 2 on Everest at around 6,400 meters, the newspaper reported that Purja had been dropped off there by helicopter in order to climb to the summit with clients. Officially, the flight was declared a rescue operation.

Purja had just returned from Tibet. With a special permit from the Chinese authorities, “Nimsdai” and a team on the eight-thousander Shishapangma had retrieved the bodies of US-American Anna Gutu and her Nepalese mountain guide Mingmar Sherpa from Camp 2 and transported them to Nepal. The two had died in an avalanche in fall 2023.

Passenger transport only permitted for rescue

Helicopter flying in the Khumbu region
Helicopter flying in the Khumbu region

The authorities in the Everest region had authorized helicopter flights to Everest high camps for this spring season for rescue purposes only. After the start of the season had been delayed due to the difficult conditions in the Khumbu Icefall, the government had permitted material transports to Camps 1 and 2. However, there had been no talk of transporting people.

In recent years, there had been repeated reports of summit aspirants using helicopters to avoid the dangerous route through the icefall. And that many had themselves flown directly from the high camp after their summit successes in order to get back to Kathmandu more quickly.

A week ago, it became known that Nirmal Purja had entered the lucrative business of helicopter flights in the Himalayas. He secured a majority stake in the company Mustang Helicopters.

Update 21 May: The success stories from the summit of Mount Everest continue. Dozens of climbers from various teams and their Nepalese companions reached the highest point at 8,849 meters today, Tuesday. The expedition operator Imagine Nepal announced that 32 team members had reached the summit. One of them was the Pakistani Sirbaz Khan, who climbed without bottled oxygen. It was Sirbaz’s eleventh eight-thousander success without a breathing mask. In 2021, he had scaled the highest mountain on earth with bottled oxygen.

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