The second wave is rolling, this time even from two sides. After more than 100 mountaineers had used the first good weather window last week to reach the summit of Mount Everest from the Nepalese south side, the first summit successes of the spring season are expected also on the Tibetan north side in the coming days. Some teams are on their way to the summit, among them the German climber Luis Stitzinger with his clients. He informed me that the Chinese authorities had issued only 142 permits for foreign climbers this season, “as few as probably never before,” Luis writes. According to him, there are in addition about 40 Chinese and Tibetans and about 150 Climbing Sherpas from Nepal.
On the south side it’s more crowded. Nirmal Purja reports from Camp 2 at 6,500 meters of “already heavy traffic as more than 200 climbers are looking to summit between 21 and 22 May”. Today 14 members of the team of the Nepalese operator “Imagine Nepal” stood on the highest point at 8,850 meters. Among them was Christina Flampouri, who – as reported – had already scaled Lhotse as the first woman from Greece.
Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja wants to climb to the South Col at 7,900 meters tomorrow. On 22 May he plans to scale Everest first and then Lhotse directly afterwards – of course “weather dependant”. After descending to base camp, he wants to fly by helicopter to Makalu and to climb this eight-thousander on the double too. It would be his eight-thousanders number four to six this spring. In 2017, Purja had stood on the summits of Everest, Lhotse and Makalu within five days, this time he is aiming to do it in three days.
Dhaulagiri “five times harder” than Annapurna
The 36-year-old former soldier of the British Gurkha regiment has – as reported – set himself the goal of scaling all 14 eight-thousanders within seven months. After the summit success on Annapurna on 23 April, he and his team fought their way up to the summit of Dhaulagiri on 12 May, partially in very strong winds: “If I’m honest, Dhaulagiri was probably five times harder then Annapurna due to the weather conditions,” Nims wrote afterwards on Facebook. Back at base camp, he immediately flew by helicopter to the base camp of Kangchenjunga. 24 hours after the arrival there, Purja and Co. stood on the 8,586-meter-high summit.
Second rescue operation on the third mountain
Nims has been using bottled oxygen for his ascents via the normal routes. This is the only way he can help other mountaineers who’ve got into trouble, says the Nepalese. He already had to do this twice this season: on Annapurna during the rescue operation for the Malaysian Wui Kin Chin (who later died in a hospital in Singapore) and also on Kangchenjunga, when he gave his bottled oxygen during the descent to two Indian climbers suffering from altitude mountain sickness above 8,000 meters. Purja asked for additional oxygen by radio – in vain. The two Indians died. “There were many climbers, approximately 50, on Kangchenjunga this season. Both lives could have been saved if someone from that many climbers had dared to help,” Nims accuses.
Sergi Mingote wants to recover first
This season eleven climbers have already lost their lives or are missing without any hope of finding them alive. Three of them were en route without bottled oxygen – like the 35-year-old Bulgarian Ivan Tomov, who died last Friday during the descent from Lhotse, apparently due to a high-altitude cerebral edema. The attempts of the team around the Spaniard Sergi Mingote to save him were in vain. Mingote and the Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr had also scaled Lhotse without bottled oxygen. Originally Mingote wanted to climb directly afterwards to the top of Everest. After the unsuccessful rescue, however, he decided to descend to the base camp and recover. Mohr set off for his summit attempt.
P.S.: How many deaths on the eight-thousanders are due to poor mountaineering skills, how many to poor risk management of the expedition operators? I recommend the opinion piece of US mountain blogger Alan Arnette.
Update 22 May: Sergi Mingote has decided to abandon his planned Everest summit attempt without bottled oxygen. Instead, he breaks off his expedition.