Also first summit success of the season on the Nepalese side of Everest

Mount Everest (in 2016)
Mount Everest

The first summit wave of the spring season can now also roll in on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest. The Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks reported that the ten-man rope-fixing team led by Dendi Sherpa reached the summit at 8,849 meters this evening. The route to the highest point has been secured with ropes and is now open, it said.

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Mount Everest: First summit success of the season reported from the Tibetan north side

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest (in 2005)

First the rope-fixing team, then the others. This is how commercial mountaineering on eight-thousanders usually works. Mount Everest is no exception. Today, the first summit success of the spring was reported from the highest mountain on earth.

In the morning local time, the Tibet Himalaya Expedition team, which fixed the ropes on the Tibetan north side of the mountain, reached the highest point at 8,849 meters. This was confirmed to me by Mingma Sherpa, head of the Nepalese expedition operator Climbalaya, and Lukas Furtenbach, head of the Austrian company Furtenbach Adventures.

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Difficult conditions on Mount Everest – permits for the north side have arrived

View of Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse (from Namche)
View of Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse (from Namche in 2019)

“At altitudes between 6800 m and 7600 m, there are many places with open blue ice,” warned Valeriy Babanov on Instagram a few days ago. “Therefore, fit and sharpen your crampons well. To avoid misunderstandings on long ice slopes. As you remember, luck always favors the strong and prepared!” Babanov is one of the strong.

The Russian has twice been awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of mountaineering”: in 2002 for his solo ascent of the North Face of the six-thousander Meru in the Indian Himalayas, and in 2004 (together with Yuri Koschelenko) for the first ascent of the 7,804-meter-high Nuptse Shar I – in the vicinity of Mount Everest. Now aged 59, Babanov wants to scale the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen. If he succeeds, he would be the oldest person on Everest without a breathing mask. So far, the Italian Abele Blanc is in the record lists having achieved this feat. When he summited in 2010, Blanc was 55 years and 264 days old.

Babanov wanted to set off today from Everest Base Camp towards the South Col at just below 8,000 meters – “for the final acclimatization”, as he wrote in his Instagram story.

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60 years ago: First ascent of Shishapangma

North side of Shishapangma
North side of Shishapangma

“A few steps more and we emerged on the very highest point of the mountain, a triangular ice-and-snow-covered piece of ground, about five square metres, commanding a panoramic view to the farthest horizon. A head wind hit us with full force.” This is how Hsu Ching (other spelling Xu Jing) , the leader of the Chinese expedition, described the moment exactly 60 years ago today when people first set foot on the summit of Shishapangma. It was 10.20 a.m. Beijing time on 2 May 1964 when the first of a total of ten climbers arrived at the highest point at 8,027 meters, reported Hsu.

This was the last of the 14 eight-thousanders to be climbed – 14 years after the first ascent of the first eight-thousander, Annapurna I, by the Frenchmen Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal. Shishapangma – translated as “crest above the grassy plains” – is the lowest eight-thousander and the only one that lies entirely on Chinese-Tibetan soil.

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North side of Mount Everest: Only the optimists are still sticking to their plans

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest
Tibetan north side of Mount Everest

This much is already clear: Mount Everest will also be a much lonelier mountain on the Tibetan north side this spring than on the Nepalese south side. While the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism has so far (as of 24 April) issued 388 climbing permits for Everest, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities – as reported – are still stalling the foreign expedition teams. In any case, the number of permits is capped at 300. But there will be nowhere near that many this spring.

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Everest study: One in three had cardiac arrhythmias

South side of Mount Everest, Khumbu Icefall on the lower left
South side of Mount Everest

If you attempt Mount Everest, you should be aware that you are risking your life. You can get caught in an avalanche, fall into a crevasse, be hit by falling rocks, fall off, freeze to death, die of exhaustion, high altitude cerebral or pulmonary edema. With their “SUMMIT” study, Nepalese and Swiss scientists have now drawn attention to another potential danger that can also be fatal in extreme cases: Cardiac arrhythmias during the ascent from Everest Base Camp at 5,300 meters to the summit at 8,849 meters.

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No permits for Shishapangma – for the north side of Everest only in May

Shishapangma, the only eight-thousander located entirely in Tibet

An unusually large number of foreign eight-thousander climbers have been staying in the Langtang National Park, around 50 kilometers north of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, these days. The reason was obvious: the border to Tibet is close by and the five- and six-thousanders of Langtang are ideal for acclimatization. The teams were waiting for entry and climbing permits for China, where they wanted to try their hand at the eight-thousanders Shishapangma and Mount Everest this spring.

All those who wanted to climb the 8,027-meter-high Shishapangma received disappointing news today: the lowest of the 14 eight-thousanders remains closed. “After 17 days of waiting for an answer about the possibility of climbing Shishapangma in Tibet, we were informed that climbing in the region will not be allowed this year,” wrote Brazilian Moeses Fiamoncini on Instagram. “Now is the time to rethink our plans and redirect our energy towards exploring new challenges.”

Everest permits only after the Chinese holidays

Fiamoncini has already summited seven eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen; Shishapangma was to be number eight. Several dozen climbers had applied for permits for this eight-thousander. “It’s cancelled for this season,” confirms Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of the expedition operator Imagine Nepal, “but Everest will happen.” Mingma expects the permits for the highest mountain on earth “on May 6 or 7, maybe even earlier”.

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest
Tibetan north side of Mount Everest (in spring 2005)

While Labor Day is celebrated worldwide on 1 May, in China all stores, offices and schools remain closed until 5 May to mark the occasion. Other expedition operators told ExplorersWeb that 7 May would be the date on which the border will open for the Everest teams. In return, the season should last longer than usual: until 11 June. Lukas Furtenbach, head of the Austrian operator Furtenbach Adventures, disagrees. The season also ends in Tibet on 1 June, he writes to me. Part of his team on the north side is now moving to the south side, says Lukas. The remaining clients continue to wait.

After a four-year break, the foreign expeditions want to return to the north side of Mount Everest this year. It is shaping up to be a comeback with obstacles. Meanwhile, the Nepalese government has so far (as of 22 April) issued 364 permits for the south side of Everest. Last year at this time (21 April 2023), there were already 454 climbing permits. A decrease of 23.8 percent.

Update 24 April: After the British operator Adventure Peak, the Dutch expedition leader Arnold Coster, who lives in Nepal, has also pulled the ripcord and sent his team to the south side of Nepal. “The Chinese authorities keep delaying our entry date and now I feel like waiting any longer is too risky,” Coster writes on Instagram. “After more than a dozen Everest North expeditions I simply think the gamble on a late summit is too big. Yes, there been years when people summited late, but I have also seen years when the season just abruptly stops when the monsoon arrives.”

Update 25 April: The field of teams that wanted to ascend via the north side of Everest is getting smaller and smaller. Now Andreas Neuschmid, expedition leader of the Swiss operator Kobler & Partner, has also announced that his team switches to the Nepalese south side.

Norrdine Nouar after Annapurna summit success: “I’m still in the eight-thousander learning phase”

Norrdine Nouar on the summit of Annapurna I
Norrdine Nouar on the summit of Annapurna I

Norrdine Nouar has scaled his second eight-thousander without bottled oxygen. Last Sunday (14 April), the 36-year-old German mountaineer stood on the 8,091-meter-high summit of Annapurna I in western Nepal. In spring 2023, Nouar had already scaled the 8,516-meter-high Lhotse. Norrdine did not join any large teams on either occasion, but went it alone – on the normal routes, which were secured with fixed ropes by the commercial teams.

Nouar was a late bloomer when it came to mountaineering. Neither his family nor his friends were drawn to the mountains. He is the son of a native Algerian who came to the former GDR as a guest worker and met his future German wife there. Norrine grew up in the southern German state of Franconia, studied International Technology Management and spent his free time playing computer games rather than going out into nature.

So why did the mountain fever take hold of him at some point? “Ever since I can remember, I have been driven by an insatiable curiosity, a thirst for adventure and the constant urge to take on a new challenge,” Norrdine writes on his website. “I couldn’t help but opt for an uncertain adventure. So I went to the mountains, albeit late.” He reached his first summit at the age of 23. He later climbed four-thousand-metre peaks in the Alps, in the High Atlas in Morocco and also high mountains in the Caucasus and other mountain regions around the world. Nouar has stood on the summits of Mont Blanc, Elbrus and Kilimanjaro, among others. He lives in the municipality of Oberstaufen in the Bavarion region of Allgäu.

After his summit success on Annapurna, Norrdine, currently in Kathmandu, answered my questions.

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Bumpy start to the season on Mount Everest

The Icefall Doctors ascend in the Khumbu Icefall. One of them pulls a ladder behind him.
The Icefall Doctors doing their dangerous work in the Khumbu Icefall

That was a hard piece of work. Yesterday, Thursday, the Icefall Doctors finally announced the completion of their work. The route from the base camp on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest through the Khumbu Icefall up to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters has been secured with fixed ropes, the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) announced.

The eight Icefall Doctors – Ang Sarki Sherpa, Dawa Nuru Sherpa, Pemba Tshering Sherpa, Ngima Tenzi Sherpa, Ngawang Chhimi Sherpa, Dawa Chhiri Sherpa, Dawa Jangbu Sherpa and Mingma Gyaljen Sherpa – had needed ten working days more than originally planned, Tshering Sherpa, chief executive officer at SPCC, told the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”. They were “struggling hard”, he said. The team found a route through the ice labyrinth only on the third attempt.

The SPCC and its Icefall Doctors are responsible for securing the lower part of the ascent route. Above Camp 2, a team from a Nepalese expedition operator takes over the task of rope-fixing up to the summit at 8,849 meters on behalf of the Expedition Operators’ Association Nepal (EOA-Nepal). This year, Seven Summit Treks, the largest expedition operator in Nepal, is responsible for this.

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First summit successes of the season on Makalu and Annapurna I

Makalu in first daylight, from Gokyo Ri (in 2016)
Makalu (seen from Gokyo Ri)

The commercial climbing season on Nepal’s eight-thousanders has begun. The first summit successes of the spring were reported from two mountains higher than 8,000 meters – in both cases it was initially the teams of local climbers who fixed the ropes to the highest points.

According to Mingma Sherpa, head of Nepal’s largest expedition provider Seven Summit Treks (SST), an eight-man team led by Lakpa Sherpa reached the summit of Makalu at 8,485 meters yesterday, Thursday. The eight-thousander not far from Mount Everest is the fifth highest mountain on earth.

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“School up – far west”: School ceremoniously handed over

Dancing children at the handover of the school in Rama in the Humla district
Ceremonial handover of the new school

A public holiday in the mountain village of Rama in the far west of Nepal. On Monday last week, the new school, the construction of which was made possible by your donations to “School up – far west”, was officially handed over to the villagers. More than 1,000 people celebrated exuberantly.

They came not only from Rama, but also from other villages in the municipality of Tanjakot in the Humla District. Numerous dignitaries were also present, including three mayors from Humla and seven principals from the region. Dances were performed – and speeches were given. The gratitude towards Nepalhilfe Beilngries, which had organized and implemented the school construction, and towards the “School up – far west” project was “heart-warming”, writes Shyam Pandit, the program coordinator of the German aid organization in Nepal.

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Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa: „More and more dry winters in the Everest region

Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa
Tenzing Ch

As if there were no other problems on Mount Everest. For weeks, social media has been discussing a new signboard that the regional administration of the Khumbu region put up at the entrance to Everest Base Camp before the start of this year’s climbing season – directly in front of the boulder marked with paint that has served as a photo motif in recent years. There’s no accounting for taste – on both counts. The new sign shows Everest and in front of it Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who were the first people to scale the highest mountain on earth in 1953. Only one member of that expedition team is still alive: Kanchha Sherpa, now 91 years old.

I spoke to his grandson Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa – not about the new sign at Everest Base Camp, but about the consequences of climate change for the Everest region. The winter of 2023/2024 – like the previous one – was exceptionally warm and dry. Tenzing is a glaciologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and works on the cryosphere, in simple terms everything to do with snow, ice and permafrost on Earth. The research of the 31-year-old scientist from Nepal focuses on the glaciers and glacial lakes in the mountainous regions of Asia.

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Mourning for the US mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears

David Breashears (in 2011)
David Breashears (1955-2014)

He made me feel almost like I was on the summit of Mount Everest. A quarter of a century ago, I drove to a town 40 kilometers away to see David Breashears‘ documentary “Everest” in an IMAX panorama cinema. I was impressed. The movie was mainly about the tragedy on Mount Everest in spring 1996. Back then, eight mountaineers lost their lives within 24 hours due to a sudden change in weather in the summit zone.

For his IMAX film, Breashears and his Sherpa team hauled a bulky 70 mm camera up Everest, along with lots of rolls of film: 115 meters of film were needed for 90 seconds. The effort was worth it. The high-resolution images were groundbreaking at the time, and the film became a box-office success. Breashears had actually only wanted to make a documentary about the Everest expedition of US mountaineer Ed Viesturs. When the tragedy occurred, the team interrupted filming to help rescue the survivors.

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Commercial expeditions return to the north side of Mount Everest

North side of Mount Everest
North side of Mount Everest

After a four-year interruption, this spring will see the return of a “normal” season for commercial expeditions on the north side of Mount Everest in Tibet. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities had closed the eight-thousanders in Tibet to foreign teams from 2020 to 2022. Only Chinese expeditions were permitted.

In spring 2023, the authorities waited so long to issue permits that the foreign operators ran out of time and ultimately decided against Everest expeditions via the Northeast Ridge route. This time, around a handful of foreign teams are expected at the base camp on the Rongbuk Glacier. “Everything is going normally so far,” Lukas Furtenbach writes to me. His company, Furtenbach Adventures, will be on the north side with 18 clients this season.

“Waiting game”

Everest base camp on the north side (in 2005)
Everest Base Camp on the north side (in 2005)

For Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of Imagine Nepal, the normality is to remain cool in the face of the halting proceedings of the Chinese-Tibetan authorities. “As always, it’s just a waiting game. They are hopeful to give us climbing permits in the beginning of April,” writes Mingma, whose company will have five clients on the north side of Everest.

Other operators with experience of Tibet had also announced expeditions to the Chinese side for this spring, including Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s largest expedition operator, as well as Kobler & Partner from Switzerland and Climbalaya from Nepal, both of which are known for their close contacts in Tibet. It is not yet clear how many clients these three companies will have there. My inquiries have so far gone unanswered.

Climbs without breathing masks prohibited

A yak is loaded at the foot of Mount Everest (in 2005)
Five yaks per climber from base camp to ABC are included in the permit, four for the way back

The prices in Tibet are still the same as after the last increase before the 2020 season (which was then canceled): The Chinese-Tibetan authorities charge 15,800 US dollars per person for a standard Everest package, and 18,000 dollars for the luxury version. However, unlike in Nepal, this also includes hotel accommodation and material transportation with yaks. The teams must consist of at least four members.

In addition, foreign clients are required to have climbed at least one seven-thousander before their Everest attempt. From an altitude of 7,000 meters, i.e. the North Col, all climbers must use bottled oxygen. Thusm attempts without a breathing mask are prohibited. The number of permits is capped at 300. In all likelihood, there will be significantly fewer this spring.

Nepal expects over 400 Everest aspirants

There is no such restriction in Nepal. Last year, the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu issued a record number of 478 permits for the south side of Mount Everest – at a price of 11,000 dollars per permit. From 2025 onwards, the government wants the price to rise to 15,000 dollars. According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times “, again more than 400 foreign mountaineers are expected this spring.

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