The Chinese-Tibetan authorities have remained firm. Unlike in 2019 with the Nepali star mountaineer Nirmal Purja, they made no exception this time for the Norwegian eight-thousander chaser Kristin Harila and her Nepali guides Dawa Ongju Sherpa and Pasdawa Sherpa. Since April, the trio had summited twelve of the 14 eight-thousanders – like Purja with bottled oxygen, on the normal routes and with the use of helicopters to get from base camp to base camp. Only Shishapangma and Cho Oyu were still missing to complete the collection in record time.
But the normal routes of these two eight-thousanders are located in Tibet. And China has not issued permits to foreign climbers since the corona pandemic began in 2020. “We have left no stone unturned in this process, and have exhausted every possible avenue to make this happen,” Harila wrote on Instagram when she called off her eight-thousander hunt late last week. “But unfortunately due to reasons out of our control we were unable to get the permits in time.”
Previously, Kristin had joined Nepalese guide Gelje Sherpa‘s team to climb Cho Oyu via the technically more challenging Nepalese south side of the mountain. But this fall, as last winter, Gelje and Co. failed in their attempt to open a new route up Cho Oyu suitable for commercial teams. Once again, the weather was not on their side.
Signals for opening Tibet
By spring 2023, the permit lull in Tibet for foreign climbers could potentially end. “While we remain unable to say with certainty whether or not we will return to Tibet next year, we are receiving a number of positive indicators from our partners that the north side of Everest is likely to open for the 2023 climbing season,” writes the American operator Alpenglow Expeditions. The company had last been on the north side of Everest in spring 2019, but unlike other expedition operators, had not switched to the Nepali south side of the mountain.
Furtenbach Adventures is also planning to return to Tibet next year. “Finally! After a three year break we are running our Everest Expedition on the north side again,” the Austrian company announced. The operator “Imagine Nepal” also expects at least a partial opening of Tibet and has advertised an expedition for ten international clients to Shishapangma.
Not yet officially
Officially, however, the authorities have not yet announced the opening of the Tibetan sides of Everest, Shishapangma and Cho Oyu. “I think it’s possible, but it’s not confirmed yet,” a trusted source in Tibet let me know. The past few years have shown that with the Chinese you can never be sure that things won’t turn out differently in the end.