Paul Ramsden after another first ascent of a six-thousander in Nepal: “Anything but alpine style is cheating”

Ascent and descent route by Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller on Surma-Sarovar in western Nepal
Ascent and descent route by Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller on Surma-Sarovar in western Nepal

Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller have done it again: the two Brits managed another first ascent of a six-thousander in Nepal this fall – in alpine style (without bottled oxygen, without Sherpa support, without fixed ropes and without fixed high camps) and on a difficult route. Paul and Tim climbed the North Face of Surma-Sarovar in the far west of the country. The 6,574-meter-high mountain is located in the Salimor Khola Valley in the Gurans Himal, close to Nepal’s border with Tibet and India. “Possibly the most remote location I have ever been to, and we managed to climb a great route,” Paul wrote to me after his return from Nepal. He and Miller have thus achieved yet another feat of alpinism.

I had actually sent Paul some questions three weeks ago on the occasion of the Piolets d’Or award ceremony in Briancon on 15 November. Paul’s wife then informed me that he and Tim were still in Nepal. Ramsden and Miller will receive the “Oscar of Mountaineering” – as reported – for their first ascent of the 6,563-meter-high Jugal Spire in Nepal last year. Paul is the first mountaineer to be awarded the prestigious prize for the fifth time. Here are the answers from the 54-year-old top climber from Yorkshire in northern England.

Paul Ramsden (r.) and Tim Miller (l.)
Paul Ramsden (r.) and Tim Miller (l.)

The thing that’s special about the Piolet d’Or is that it is recognition from your peers that you have climbed a great route and made a significant contribution to mountaineering. I feel proud to be recognised by my peer especially given the high ethical standards that are now integral to the award. The Piolet d’Or represents a beacon of light to how mountains should be climbed, and is needed now more than ever, given the common behaviour seen on 8000m peaks. As for receiving five I am not sure what to say, maybe it’s time that I retired!

Routes do not have to be extreme for me. I am much more motivated by the quality and aesthetics of a line. If a route penetrates otherwise unclimbable terrain but an unlikely route, then I find this quite appealing. It is true that I tend to climb steeper more technical routes, but often this is because these routes are safer, as they tend to avoid avalanche slopes and have reduce potential for rockfall.

Route via the north face of Surma-Sarovar
Route via the north face of Surma-Sarovar

No, I am an alpinist and would never consider climbing in another way. If I couldn’t climb alpine style, then I would stop climbing. It’s the only ethical way to climb big mountains, and to be honest any other way is simply cheating.

Personally I have never coincided 8000m peaks as I do not like to be away from my family for long periods and would find the acclimatisation too time consuming. The current world of 8000m commercial expeditions is a mess from both an ethical and environmental point of view. Fixed ropes, oxygen, sherpa support are all essentially cheating. These clients are not climbing the mountain, they are simply exercising at altitude. We should stop pretending that these people are climbers and that their effort are worthwhile.

One Reply to “Paul Ramsden after another first ascent of a six-thousander in Nepal: “Anything but alpine style is cheating””

  1. I totally agree with his comments re Alpine style and especially the last part about people (the vast majority at least) on 8000ers not actually climbing – my term is high altitude hill walkers

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