The spring season on Mount Everest and the other eight-thousanders in Nepal is starting. On Everest, the Icefall Doctors, a team of eight specialized Sherpas, have begun to set the route through the Khumbu Icefall and secure it with ladders and ropes. Some operators of commercial expeditions have already sent staff to base camp to prepare for the arrival of their clients in April.
As in previous years, a large number of Chinese Everest summit aspirants are expected this spring. The China market is booming: Among the wealthy Chinese, mountaineering is in. Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of the Nepalese expedition operator “Imagine Nepal”, recognized this potential early on. For years he has been leading Chinese climbers to the top of the highest mountains on earth. In 2018, his company achieved summit successes on five eight-thousanders: Everest, Lhotse, Kangchenjunga, Manaslu and Broad Peak. Among his team’s Everest summiteers was Xia Boyu, a double amputee from China.
Mingma himself has already scaled twelve of the 14 eight-thousanders, eleven of them without bottled oxygen. Only Gasherbrum II in Pakistan and Shishapangma in Tibet are still missing in his collection. He has reached the 8,850-meter-high summit of Everest five times. I asked him about his assessments of the Chinese boom on the eight-thousanders.
Mingma, you will lead once again an expedition to Mount Everest this spring. Will Chinese mountaineers also be part of your team this time?
The second highest mountain on earth has once again shown its teeth in winter. After the team from Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, led by Vassiliy Pivtsov, had broken off their summit attempt on the Southeast Ridge of K2 at 7,500 meters due to poor visibility a week and a half ago, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and his Sherpa team now also returned to base camp without summit success. Their Camp 3 at about 7,050 meters altitude was the end of the line.
“The strong wind didn’t let us climb upwards,” Alex explained. “Winter K2 resists, but we must respect it. You have to listen to the mountain. This winter has showed us that it is not the time yet. I will definitely return!” Perhaps already next summer. Txikon has announced that he wants to try the first traverse of the mountain: ascent via the Chinese side of K2, descent via the Pakistani side. Let’s see if the Chinese authorities will grant him a permit.
“We’re heartbroken; we inform you that the research of Daniele and Tom has ended. A part of them will always remain on the Nanga Parbat,” Daniele Nardi’s home team wrote on Facebook. “The big pain hurts; facing objective facts and after doing everything possible finding them, we must accept what happened.” So now it’s sad certainty: 42-year-old Italian Daniele Nardi and 30-year-old Brit Tom Ballard have died while trying to fully climb the striking “Mummery Rib” in the Diamir Face for the first time.
There is much speculation these days about the search for the two climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard missing on Nanga Parbat. And it’s not always easy to keep facts and assumptions apart in the countless publications. Nardi’s home team announced today that Spaniard Alex Txikon said he discovered yesterday with a telescope from base camp “two silhouettes” on the Mummery spur. Actually, it was planned to fly to this spot by helicopter today.
Even ten days after the last sign of life of Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard from Nanga Parbat, there is still no trace of the two missing climbers. After three days of searching in vain for the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old British in the area around the “Mummery Rib”, a striking rock spur in the Diamir Face, and today also on the nearby Kinshofer route, the Spaniards Alex Txikon and Felix Criado as well as the Pakistanis Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Rahmat Ullah Baig returned to base camp. The rescue team had also used camera drones during their search.
The third winter ascender of Nanga Parbat in 2016, Simone Moro, is staying in his home country Italy after his return from Nepal. The 51-year-old and his Nepalese climbing partner Pemba Gyalje Sherpa surrendered to the huge masses of snow on the eight-thousander Manaslu at the end of January. I had sent Simone some questions before the events in Nanga Parbat took their dramatic turn. Among other things, I asked him about the chances of the teams on K2 and Nanga Parbat. Moro replied with reference to the current developments on Nanga Parbat as follows:
Finally the weather has cleared up again at Nanga Parbat, so that the search for the climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, who have been missing for eight days, has been resumed. With a military helicopter the Spaniard Alex Txikon, three of his team members and the Pakistani mountaineer Rahmat Ullah Baig were flown today to the ninth highest mountain in the world. “We have pitched up our Camp on the plateau between Camps 1 and 2 at an altitude of 4,850 meters,” Alex reported according to montagna.tv. “The weather is splendid”. But due to the warm temperatures the danger of avalanches is increasing, says the 37-year-old, adding that they reconnoitered the mountain by helicoptery very accurately – the Kinshofer route, then the Mummery Rib and finally the glacier area between Camp 3 and the spot where the helicopter landed. “We reached an altitude of about 7,100 meters. Unfortunately there are no visible traces of our friends.” Txikon wanted to climb up to Camp 2 with another mountaineer. The team will also search the area with camera drones.
We defend ourselves internally against it. However, slowly, but surely the hope of being able to find the climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, who are missing on Nanga Parbat, alive is fading. For six days there has been no sign of life from the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old British. Thick clouds hid the 8,125-meter-high mountain on this Saturday and prevented again that the rescue action could be continued. As the weather was also bad on K2, the plan to take the Spaniard Alex Txikon and three of his team members by helicopter to Nanga Parbat could not be implemented. Txikon and Co. want to support Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” and two other Pakistani mountaineers in their search for Nardi and Ballard, among others things by using two drones.
A lost day. Low clouds around Nanga Parbat today prevented the helicopters from taking off again to search for the two climbers missing since Sunday, 42-year-old Italian Daniele Nardi and 30-year-old Brit Tom Ballard. In addition there were bureaucratic problems. According to Daniele’s home team, the private agency Askari, which handles the Pakistan Army’s rescue flights, demanded an advance payment for a helicopter to pick up Spanish climber Alex Txikon and three of his team members from K2 Base Camp. Alex and Co. had offered to fly to Nanga Parbat to support the search for Nardi and Ballard. Nardi’s family wanted to advance the necessary money. Valuable time was lost through the back and forth, the weather worsened and the flight had to be postponed to tomorrow’s Saturday.
Military helicopters took off twice today on Nanga Parbat to search for the missing climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. In vain. The 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old Briton had last reported on Sunday from an altitude of about 6,300 meters on the “Mummery Rib”, a striking rock spur in the Diamir Face that has never been climbed completely so far. Since then, there has been no sign of life from the two climbers.
Muhammad Ali Sadpara, one of the three winter first ascenders of Nanga Parbat in 2016, was flown by helicopter from Skardu to the base camp in the morning. The helicopters then flew up to 7,000 meters to search for Nardi and Ballard. Muhammad Ali reported that the pilots had discovered Nardi’s and Ballard’s camp site at 6,300 meters, buried under snow. According to the 43-year-old Pakistani mountaineer, traces of avalanches were visible in the area, showing how dangerous this zone was. That is not good news.
to Stefano Pontecorvo, Italy’s ambassador to Pakistan, the helicopters will take
off again on Friday – if the weather permits. For the next few days, stronger
wind and snowfall are expected on Nanga Parbat. This could further increase the
risk of avalanches at the Mummery Rib. It is a race against time. So keep your
fingers crossed – or pray!
With every hour that passes without any sign of life from Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, the concern for the two mountaineers grows. The last call of the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old Briton by satellite phone from Nanga Parbat was received on Sunday from an altitude of about 6,300 meters – from the “Mummery Rib”, which they wanted to climb completely for the first time. Since then radio silence. This does not necessarily mean that something has happened to them. Maybe they are stuck in a radio hole. Or the battery of the satellite phone has run out. Nevertheless, an uneasy feeling is spreading.
Actually, it goes without saying. To recommend an Oscar-winning film is like telling a visitor of Yosemite National Park to take a look at El Capitan. But I have written the following movie review before “Free Solo” war honored as best documentary last night in Los Angeles. Honestly!
Everybody’s afraid for Alex. His girlfriend Sanni, his friend and training partner Tommy Caldwell, the camera crew. “Alex has the best day of his life, I not,” says cameraman Mickey Schäfer and turns his back on his tool. “I’m done.” With a super telephoto, he films the ascent of American climber Alex Honnold on the legendary granite giant El Capitan via the “Free Rider” route. German Alexander Huber opened it in 1995, three years later he and his brother Thomas climbed the route redpoint: free and in one push.
Let’s go up! It’s as if someone had opened the gate of a pasture where a herd of bulls had been penned for almost two weeks. As soon as the weather improved on K2 and Nanga Parbat, the climbers of the winter expeditions made their way up. On the 8,125-meter-high Nanga Parbat, the Italian Daniele Nardi and the Brit Tom Ballard, according to their home team, today pitched up their tent at about 6,000 meters – after entering the “Mummery Rib”. They want to climb the striking rock spur completely for the first time and then make their way to the summit. “We are a bit tired because we had to carry heavy backpacks up to pitch up Camp 3,” Daniele let us know.
The “torture of climbers” is coming to an end. For almost two weeks, the members of the winter expeditions on the eight-thousanders K2 and Nanga Parbat in Pakistan were more or less condemned to do nothing because of the adverse weather conditions. Hardly anything is worse for mountaineers, who are always drawn outside and up. But strong wind and snowfall prevented ascents into high altitudes. In K2 Base Camp, the team of Spanish expedition leader Alex Txikon built a 1.80 meter high and 20 centimeter wide ice wall in front of the tents to protect themselves against the expected hurricane gusts. A good idea. Wind speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour were measured (see Alex’ video below) .
“Spirits that I’ve cited, my commands ignore”, wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his ballad “Der Zauberlehrling” (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) in 1797. In German-speaking countries this became a dictum – which also describes quite well the current situation in the so-called “Chinese Base Camp” (CBC), at 5,200 meters, on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest. Several tens of thousands of tourists have visited the camp year after year – and left a lot of rubbish behind.