His 70th birthday next Monday, French climber Marc Batard is likely to celebrate at the foot of Mount Everest. The “sprinter”, as Marc was called in the 1980s, has his sights set on scouting out a new route from Everest Base camp to Camp 1 this late fall – across the Nuptse flank, away from the dangerous Khumbu Icefall through which the normal route on the south side of the mountain passes.
One of Batard’s team is likely to be missing from the fit jubilarian’s birthday celebration on Monday: Sajid Ali Sadpara was flown by rescue helicopter from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu hospital. The 23-year-old reportedly suffered from high-altitude cerebral edema – which can easily be fatal if you are not brought quickly to lower altitudes.
Summiting Everest for the third time without breathing mask?
Marc Batard wants to try again next spring to climb Everest without bottled oxygen. In 1988 and 1990, he had already succeeded in this feat. In his first success, Marc was the first person to reach the highest of all summits from base camp in less than 24 hours – while not using a breathing mask. Later, he had completely retired from high-altitude mountaineering. Should Batard succeed again on Everest at the age of 70, he would be by far the oldest climber without bottled oxygen on the roof of the world. Until now, this record has been held by the Italian Abele Blanc, who reached the highest point on earth in 2010 at the age of 55 years and 264 days.
In place of his father
Batard had actually wanted to implement his project with the legendary Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali Sadpara and the Nepalese Pasang Nuru Sherpa. But Muhammad had died last February: while trying to climb K2 in winter. In the summer, the bodies of the Pakistani and his two teammates John Snorri Sigurjonsson from Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile had been found in the summit zone of the second highest mountain on earth. Sajid had buried his father’s body in the snow at nearly 8,000 meters.
Batard invited Sajid Ali Sadpara for this fall to accompany him to Everest instead of his father. Afterwards, Sajid actually wanted to join the team of the Spanish climber Alex Txikon, who once again wants to try his hand at a winter ascent of the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal. That would certainly not be a good idea, if it turns out that Sadpara really suffered from a high-altitude cerebral edema in the Khumbu, He should first recover thoroughly.
Update 18 November: As I have since learned, Sajid was not evacuated from Everest Base Camp, but from Pengboche village to Kathmandu. He was obviously not suffering from high-altitude cerebral edema; he had other health problems. Out of respect for privacy, I will not go into details. Get well soon, Sajid!