Hamor and Co. abandon Dhaulagiri expedition

Underway on new route on Dhaulagiri
Underway on new route on Dhaulagiri

“Even their guardian angels got a little sweaty, but everything went well in the end,” reads Peter Hamor’s Facebook page. The Slovak and his two Romanian team partners Horia Colibasanu and Marius Gane today abandoned their expedition on the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri. The chronic bad weather caused “unacceptable” dangers, the trio let it be known. During their summit attempt without bottled oxygen via the still unclimbed Northwest Ridge, the three climbers had – as reported – reached an altitude of 6,800 meters. During the night, their tent had been hit by an avalanche. They had to cut open the tent wall to free themselves.

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Luis Stitzinger: “Anything but a normal season on Everest”

Mount Everest
Mount Everest

The first big summit wave on Mount Everest is rolling. As expected, several dozen climbers reached the highest point at 8,849 meters today, ascending with bottled oxygen. Among them were Briton Kenton Cool, who has already stood on the roof of the world for the 15th time, and Pakistani Shehroze Kashif, who is only 19 years old – he scaled the eight-thousander Broad Peak in his homeland as a 17-year-old and has been called “Broad Boy” ever since.

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Separation line on Everest summit? Appeal for return of oxygen bottles

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest (in 2005)

If the Chinese-Tibetan authorities have their way, the summit of Mount Everest will also become a zero-contact zone. A separation line is planned at the highest point at 8,849 meters to ensure corona safety distances between ascending climbers from the Tibetan north side and those from the Nepalese south side, Nyima Tsering, head of the Tibetan Sports Authority, told the state news agency Xinhua.

After twelve Sherpas led by Everest record holder Kami Rita Sherpa fixed the ropes up to the summit on the Nepalese side last Friday, the first commercial teams are expected on the highest point tomorrow, Tuesday. On the north side, too, the preparatory work is as good as complete, with the fixed ropes up to the last high camp at 8,300 meters. For this season, the authorities have issued permits to only 21 Chinese climbers, for foreigners the mountains of Tibet are closed – as in spring 2020 – because of the corona pandemic.

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More and more corona infections on Dhaulagiri

Carlos Soria on Dhaulagiri
Carlos Soria on Dhaulagiri

An 82-year-old climber from Spain is managing the corona outbreak on the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri in western Nepal. “Five more people were evacuated today,” Carlos Soria wrote on Twitter today. “We have received 90 tests for everyone at base camp. We have done 30 tests: Twelve of them were positive. We are trying everything to stabilize the situation and take care of everyone’s health.”

Speaking to Explorersweb, Carlos described the situation at the base camp as “crazy.” Currently, 19 sick people were still staying there, Soria said. A total of about 20 people have already been flown out, he said. That the government of Nepal still denies that there is a corona problem in the mountains is a scandal against the background of the massive outbreak on Dhaulagiri.

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Kami Rita Sherpa on top of Mount Everest for the 25th time

Kami Rita Sherpa (2nd from left) at this year's puja at Everest Base Camp.
Kami Rita Sherpa (2nd from left) at this year’s puja at Everest Base Camp.

“Middle age is not so bad,” says Kami Rita Sherpa. The record-breaking climber of Mount Everest has 51 years under his belt. Today at 6 pm local time he reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters for the 25th time (with bottled oxygen). Kami Rita led the twelve-member Sherpa team that fixed the ropes up to Everest summit. The first commercial teams are also expected there in a few days. It would not be surprising if Kami Rita would then immediately add his 26th Everest ascent. He already has five season double-packs on his account: in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2019.

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Maurizio Folini on heli-doping: “We need a new ethic”

Rescue helicopter on Everest

On Mount Everest, the first commercial teams have left for summit attempts. Among those who set out were the mountaineers of Bahrain’s Royal Guard. If everything goes as planned, Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa and Co. are expected to reach the 8,849-meter-high summit next Tuesday. Before that, the rope-fixing team led by Everest record holder Kami Rita Sherpa is to secure the route up to the highest point.

During their successful expedition on the eight-thousander Manaslu last fall, some climbers of the team from Bahrain had – as reported – quite obviously let themselves be flown by helicopter from base camp to Camp 1. I had called this “heli-doping”. Helicopters are being used more and more frequently on Nepal’s eight-thousanders – and by no means only, as in earlier days, for rescue flights.

Maurizio Folini in the cockpit
Maurizio Folini in the cockpit

After articulating my gut feelings about some of the developments on the eight-thousanders following the events in mid-April on the 8,091-meter-high Annapurna, Maurizio Folini commented on my article: “We need absolutely to introduce ethics using the helicopter in Nepal. I’m the first pilot flying above 7,000 meter for rescue, I’m also part of the game but it is time to stop the commercial fake rescue (many…) and start a professional Himalayan rescue organization.”

Since 2011, Folini has been flying regularly in the Himalayas. In 2013, the Italian achieved the highest helicopter rescue of all time on Mount Everest, when he carried a Nepalese climber down from 7,800 meters on a long line. I contacted the 55-year-old:

Maurizio, you are one of the pioneers of rescue helicopter flights in the Himalayas. In your experience, how widespread is “heli-doping” in the meantime, i.e. climbers being flown directly to the high camps or from there afterwards in order to save themselves dangerous or even just annoying stages?

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Expeditions in Nepal: How normal is this season?

Mountaineers on Mount Everest
Mountaineers on Mount Everest

Dinner is served. The first summits of the spring season on Mount Everest and Dhaulagiri in western Nepal are expected this weekend. The weather promises to be stable, with little wind, so the chances are good. Many of the commercial teams have completed their acclimatization and are champing at the bit. All quite normal, isn’t it?

I admit, it’s hard for me to report on expeditions to Nepal’s eight-thousanders while completely ignoring the dramatic corona situation in the Himalayan state – as if the mountains were a giant bubble, sealed off from everything going on around it. Day after day, new highs in COVID-19 infections are currently being reported from Nepal. Today there were 8,970, half of them in the Kathmandu Valley. The country’s health system is completely overwhelmed. Many hospitals lack beds and oxygen. Patients have to be turned away.

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Soon summit attempt on Mount Everest? COVID-19 at Dhaulagiri

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest

While Nepal threatens to sink into corona chaos, the climbing season on Mount Everest continues as if nothing had happened. The ropes on the Nepalese south side of the mountain are fixed up to the South Col at nearly 8,000 meters. The wind continues to blow moderately, so the news of the first summit success is expected in the next few days – from the Sherpa team that secures the route with ropes to the highest point at 8,849 meters.

According to information from Tibet, the preparatory work on the north side of Everest is also as good as completed. The fixed ropes on the Northeast Ridge are up to a height of 8,300 meters, it is said. The Chinese authorities have closed Everest to foreign climbers this spring – as they did in 2020 – because of the corona pandemic. Only a Chinese expedition with 25 clients received a permit.

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Climbing season on Mount Everest on the brink?

Mount Everest

The corona situation in Nepal is escalating. Today, authorities in the Himalayan state registered 7,137 new Covid-19 infections, more than ever before in one day. Forty-three percent of the tests carried out were positive, another record since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The last doubts should now be dispelled: The current explosive spread of the coronavirus in neighboring India has spilled over into Nepal. The Nepalese Ministry of Health had already sounded the alarm on Friday. “The health system is not able to cope and a situation has already arisen in which hospital beds cannot be made available,” the ministry let it be known. Hospitals lack not only beds but also oxygen to ventilate the critically ill.

Domestic flights suspended from Tuesday

Lukla airfield, the gateway to the Everest region

Today, the government decided to suspend all domestic flights from 0 a.m. local time Tuesday until further notice.  International flights to and from states particularly hard hit by the pandemic – including India – are to be suspended at midnight next Wednesday.

The halt to domestic flights is particularly likely to affect climbers on Mount Everest and Nepal’s other high mountains. From Tuesday onwards, it will no longer be possible to take a helicopter from base camp to Kathmandu. It has not yet been announced whether rescue flights will also be affected by the suspension of air traffic.

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Marc Batard after Annapurna: “Simply scandalous”

Marc Batard at Annapurna I

This time next year, Marc Batard wants to summit Mount Everest for the third time without bottled oxygen. The Frenchman will then be 70 years old. If he succeeds, he would be by far the oldest climber without breathing mask on the top of the highest mountain on earth.

At the end of the 1980s, Marc was a big shot in the Himalayas. Within just under ten months, the “sprinter”, as he was called because of his fast pace, scaled four eight-thousanders, all without bottled oxygen. In 1988 and 1990, he stood on the summit of Mount Everest.

As early as next fall, Batard plans to explore an alternative route in the lower part of the mountain in order to avoid the dangerous Khumbu icefall – along with his climbing partners Pasang Nuru Sherpa and Sajid Ali Sadpara, who are also to accompany him in spring 2022. In preparation for Everest, Batard attempted to climb the 8,091-meter-high Annapurna I in western Nepal this spring – in vain.

Marc, you abandoned your attempt on Annapurna at around 6,000 meters. Why?

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More corona infections at Everest Base Camp, government remains silent

Everest Base Camp
Expedition teams seal themselves off

The coronavirus seems to be resistant to altitude. At the base camp at the foot of Mount Everest at a good 5,300 meters, there have apparently been further infections – even if these are still not officially confirmed. “More than 30 people have already been evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu with suspected pulmonary edema – later found to be positive for coronavirus,” writes Polish climber Pawel Michalski from Everest Base Camp on Facebook today.

This coincides with information I received from another source. According to this, on average between six and eight people per day are currently being flown out by helicopter. Many of them do not have insurance that includes corona infection, it is said. Therefore, they are declared to suffer from high altitude sickness.

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David Göttler at Mount Everest: “Planning from day to day”

David Göttler points to Everest
David Göttler shows where he wants to go: to the summit of Mount Everest

“Everest without bottled oxygen is clearly the goal,” David Göttler writes me from the base camp at the foot of the highest mountain on earth. How exactly he wants to realize this goal – whether alone or in pairs, on which route – the 42-year-old leaves open: “At the moment, you can really only plan from day to day here.” That’s why he won’t comment on speculation currently circulating in the scene about his intentions.

In his attempt without breathing mask in spring 2019, David had turned back at an altitude of 8,650 meters because there was too much traffic on the normal route and the weather was getting worse.

David, you’ve trained with mountain runs in the Everest region. How did you experience the Khumbu in times of the pandemic? What were the people like?

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Everest record rush despite corona increase

Masks obligatory at Everest Base Camp
Masks obligatory at Everest Base Camp

The desire to climb the highest mountain on earth seems to be immune to the coronavirus. Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism announced that as of last Friday it had issued permits to 394 foreign climbers for Mount Everest, 13 more than in the record year of 2019.

So there is no chance of idyllic Everest solitude, at least on the south side of the mountain. Mingma Sherpa, head of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks, told the Chinese news agency Xinhua that more than 2,000 climbers, mountain guides, Climbing Sherpas, cooks, kitchen helpers and other staff had already reached base camp. Seven Summit Treks once again makes up the largest group on Everest, with 110 clients.

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Alex Txikon is also drawn to Mount Everest

Alex Txikon on Mount Everest (in winter 2018)

“I’ve got the urge to summit an eight-thousander,” says Alex Txikon. “The last one was the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat in 2016 and I think it’s about time to step on a summit of an eight-thousander.” The 39-year-old Spaniard will fly to Nepal tomorrow Friday to climb Mount Everest. He plans to arrive at base camp on 2 May. He then gives himself three weeks to reach the highest peak on earth at 8849 meters – without bottled oxygen, via the normal route. He plans to return to Spain on 25 May.

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COVID-19 infection on Mount Everest

Now the Corona pandemic has reached the highest mountain on earth. At least one case of corona has been reported from the base camp on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest. The U.S. magazine Outside, citing a source at base camp, reports that a climber who was flown out with suspected high-altitude pulmonary edema was tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in Kathmandu. His team at base camp is in quarantine, he said.

Nepalese journalist Bhadra Sharma, who writes for the New York Times among other publications, even reports three infected climbers, referring to a doctor at base camp.

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