The route through the Khumbu Icefall secured by the Icefall Doctors, a highly specialized Sherpa team, has been officially closed since yesterday, Sunday. This means that the 2022 spring season on Mount Everest is history.
It brought some 700 ascents to the highest point on earth, about 650 on the Nepalese south side of the mountain and before that 50 on the Tibetan north side, which once again remained closed to foreigners. With very few exceptions – one of them the German climber David Göttler – the mountaineers used bottled oxygen. By now we have become as accustomed to this as we have to the lurid headlines: “First … on Everest” or “New record on Everest”. In other respects it was a memorable season.
His tactics worked out perfectly. “I’ve always said I need a year with a long lasting good weather window,” David Göttler tells me, “so that all the other expeditions have been on the mountain before I get going.” As reported yesterday, the 43-year-old German professional mountaineer had reached the summit of Mount Everest at 8,849 meters on Saturday: without bottled oxygen – and without Sherpa support. With the exception that Göttler also used the ropes that a Sherpa team had fixed for the commercial teams to secure the normal route.
After two failed attempts in 2019 and in 2021, David now stood on the highest point on earth. It was his sixth eight-thousander summit success without bottled oxygen after Gasherbrum II (in 2006), Broad Peak (in 2007), Dhaulagiri (in 2008), Lhotse (in 2009) and Makalu (in 2013). In 2017, Göttler had climbed the South Face of Shishapangma with Italian Hervé Barmasse – before they stopped their ascent five meters below the summit because of too high avalanche danger.
I spoke to David on the second day after his Everest summit success.
First of all, congratulations on your Everest ascent without breathing mask. How many stages did your summit push have?
“For dreams like this to come true, you probably need a lot of attempts. Because everything just has to fit,” David Göttler told me last year after failing for the second time on Mount Everest climbing without breathing mask. On his third attempt, it apparently worked. According to Chhang Dawa Sherpa of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks, David reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters on Saturday without bottled oxygen and without Sherpa support. In spring 2019, Göttler had turned back on Everest at 8,650 meters because there was too much traffic on the normal route and the weather was getting worse. In 2021, he and the Spaniard Kilian Jornet had abandoned their attempt on the South Col at just below 8,000 meters because neither felt optimal.
“Maybe I set a record: 30 years for the Seven Summits!” says Gerhard Osterbauer and laughs. The 53-year-old Austrian reached the highest point of Mount Everest at 8,849 meters last Friday at 7:15 a.m. local time – with bottled oxygen – as one of more than 400 climbers who ascended to the summit via Nepal’s south side over the past week and a half.
It almost seems as if someone has put a wedge in the fair weather window so that it cannot close. For more than a week, there has been little or no wind blowing in the summit region of Mount Everest, and little or no snow falling. As a result, most of the 319 foreign climbers to whom Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism issued Everest permits this spring have already completed their summit attempts.
U.S. blogger Alan Arnette, who keeps track of the numerous commercial teams on the world’s highest mountain like no other, has meanwhile noted some 400 summit successes (as usual, except for a few, with bottled oxygen) on the Nepalese side of Everest. In addition, there have been dozens of ascents of neighboring Lhotse.
Failure belongs to the ambitious mountaineering – just as to admit this honestly. As Billi Bierling is doing now on Dhaulagiri. “I gave up in Camp 3,” the 54-year-old German climber writes to me from the base camp at the foot of the 8,167-meter-high mountain in western Nepal.
Last Sunday, it took her twelve hours to walk from Camp 2 at 6,460 meters to Camp 3 at around 7,200 meters. Fresh snow and loose snow avalanches had made for difficult conditions.
She wanted to ” to show the younger generations that women can do it,” Lhakpa Sherpa wrote on Facebook in February when she announced that she wanted to climb the world’s two highest mountains in 2022. Last year, she had not yet been able to financially lift this project. Now Lhakpa has achieved part one: the 48-year-old Nepalese climber reached the summit of Mount Everest at 8,849 meters for the tenth time today – with bottled oxygen. Even before that, she was the woman with the most Everest summit successes worldwide.
Not only on Mount Everest, but also on neighboring 8,516-meter-high Lhotse, the normal route is now secured to the summit with fixed ropes. According to the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks, the seven-member team in charge of it, led by Sona Sherpa (he was among the ten Nepalese who succeeded in the first winter ascent of K2 in 2021), reached the highest point today. It was the first summit success of this spring season on Lhotse. Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism has issued 127 permits for foreign mountaineers to climb the fourth highest mountain on earth this spring.
Nirmal “Nims” Purja will probably not have to worry about tickets for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar at the end of the year. The Nepalese mountaineering star – in 2019, he scaled (with bottled oxygen) all 14 eight-thousanders in just over six months, in 2021 he was one of the climbers, who succeeded in the first winter ascent of K2 (in his own words, without bottled oxygen) – will certainly be invited to the football tournament as a VIP. After all, the 38-year-old has the best connections to the Qatari ruling family Al Thani. Since the head of the commercial operator Elite Expeditions took Sheikha Asma Al Thani on the rope as a premium client, things have been going well for the 32-year-old on the highest mountains in Nepal.
On Saturday, he reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters – with bottled oxygen – as the head of an eleven-member team of Climbing Sherpas. The team fixed the ropes to the summit, paving the way for commercial expedition teams. This week, Mount Everest is likely to see its first major summit wave.
Meanwhile, German professional climber David Göttler is practicing patience on his third Everest attempt without bottled oxygen. It’s getting too crowded for now, the 43-year-old writes me. “So I wait.”
In the second attempt it obviously worked. After a first summit attempt by a commercial team narrowly failed last week, the first summit successes were reported today from Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain on Earth. Exactly how many climbers reached the highest point at 8,586 meters is not yet clear. The Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks initially gave a total of six names.
Among them was the 31-year-old Nepalese photographer Purnima Shrestha, who thus scaled her fifth eight-thousander – with bottled oxygen. Probably also wearing a breathing mask was the 20-year-old Shehroze Kashif, who was the first Pakistani ever to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga. For him it was also the fifth eight-thousander. He has now already climbed the three highest mountains on earth: Mount Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga. In his native Pakistan, he is called “Broad Boy” – because of his first eight-thousander success at the age of 17 on Broad Peak.
The first summit successes of the spring season on the highest mountain on earth have apparently the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest. Mingma Sherpa, head of the commercial Nepalese expedition operator Climbalaya with good connections to China, reports that last Friday a team from the Chinese operator Yarla Shampo Expeditions fixed the ropes to the summit at 8,849 meters.
On Saturday, a commercial team of 20 Tibetan climbers and eleven paying clients ascended to the summit (almost certainly with bottled oxygen, if it were not, it would have been announced). Another team is aiming for tomorrow (Wednesday, May 4) as summit day, Mingma informed.
Unlike the two climbers with whom he set out for the summit of Annapurna, Hans Wenzl will return home from the eight-thousander in western Nepal without frostbite. As reported, the 51-year-old Austrian reached the 8,091-meter-high summit last Thursday – and returned safely to base camp. It was Wenzl’s tenth eight-thousander that he scaled without breathing mask.
The Italian Giampaolo Corona and the Swede Tim Bogdanov, with whom Hans had teamed up on the ascent, also reached the summit, but had to be rescued by helicopter from high altitude on the descent. Hans Wenzl answered my questions after his return to base camp.
Hans, when will you let the bottle caps fly after your tenth eight-thousander success?
I don’t feel like celebrating until I’m back in Kathmandu. I didn’t feel like it at base camp – especially because two of my friends were still on the mountain this time and we didn’t know how it would turn out for them.
How was it for you, up there on the summit at 8,091 meters? What was going through your mind?