Expedition luggage is piling up these days at the airport of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. Mountaineers from all over the world arrive in the Himalayan state to tackle Everest or another of Nepal’s high mountains this spring. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the number of mountaineers is expected to be even higher than last year. In 2018, the government issued 768 climbing permits for foreign mountaineers in spring and collected 412 million rupees (the equivalent of more than three million euros) in permit fees. The majority of the summit candidates are once again the clients of the commercial expeditions, who will be bustling on the normal routes. But there are also a few climbers who want to break new ground on the eight-thousanders off the beaten tracks – like the 38-year-old German Felix Berg and the 35-year-old Pole Adam Bielecki on Annapurna.
“We were a bit naive”
The two climbers will try again to open a new route via the rarely climbed Northwest Face of the 8,091-meter-high mountain. Two years ago, they, along with the British Rick Allen, had to capitulate halfway due to constant bad weather. “This time we have the advantage that we already know the route and know what we are getting into,” Felix tells me on the phone. “Back then we were a bit naive. What we need in any case is better weather than 2017.” According to Felix, he and Bielecki want to climb again in Alpine style, i.e. without bottled oxygen, Sherpa support and fixed high camps.
In summer 2018, the duo had achieved the only ascent of Gasherbrum II in that season. They had traversed the 8,034-meter-high summit: ascent on a new variant through the West Face, descent on the normal route via the Southwest Ridge. Felix and Adam will arrive in Nepal on 8 April and then acclimatize for their Annapurna adventure on the seven-thousander Langtang Lirung.
Hamor and Colibasanu tackle Dhaulagiri
Peter Hamor is already staying in Nepal to breathe high mountain air again. The Slovakian is preparing for his expedition with the Romanian Horia Colibasanu, with whom he has been frequently on the road. They want to open a new route on the 8,167-meter-high Dhaulagiri via the still unclimbed Northwest Ridge. They will probably be accompanied by the Romanian climber Marius Gane. Two weeks ago, Hamor had indicated that his Slovakian compatriot Michal Sabovchik might also join the team. According to Peter, the chances were 50 to 50. In spring 2017, Hamor had scaled Dhaulagiri with Sabovcik via the normal route and thus completed his collection of the 14 eight-thousanders. Peter did not use bottled oxygen on all his ascents.
From Everest ABC to the Northeast Ridge
Even on the highest mountain on earth there could be a new way up after this season. The American Cory Richards and the Ecuadorian Esteban, called “Topo”, Mena want to tackle the route on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest that the Canadian Raphael Slawinski and the two Germans David Göttler and Daniel Bartsch had planned for 2015. It leads directly from the Advance Base Camp (ABC) up to the Northeast Ridge at around 8,200 meters. The German-Canadian trio had had to return home empty-handed at the time because the Everest season had been cancelled in Tibet after the devastating earthquake in Nepal on 25 April 2015.
“We’ll do it. There is now question, I know it,” says Cory Richards self-confidently (watch the video below). The difficulties of the route lie mainly in the upper part near the ridge with “technical mixed climbing”, says the 37-year-old. “That will be incredibly strenous.”