Bringing the excrements down from Mount Everest is one thing, what happens to it in the valley is another. As reported, from this spring onwards, all mountaineers on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest and on the neighboring eight-thousander Lhotse will have to collect their excrement in special “poo bags” and bring it back to base camp. This news made headlines around the world. But virtually no one asked what should happen to the faeces afterwards.
The poo bags will probably also be put into the blue garbage cans that have been used to collect faeces at base camp since 1996. So-called “shit porters” then carry the garbage cans down the valley, where their contents are disposed of in pits near Gorak Shep (at 5,180 meters) or Lobuche (4,940 meters), the last settlements before the base camp. A careless behaviour.
It stinks to high heaven. This is now to be a thing of the past on the highest mountain on earth. Anyone who wants to climb Mount Everest or the neighboring eight-thousander Lhotse from the Nepalese south side from this spring onwards must buy so-called “poo bags” at base camp and use them if they need to relieve themselves on the mountain.
“Our mountains have begun to stink,” Mingma Sherpa, head of the local administration of the Khumbu region, told the BBC: “We are getting complaints that human stools are visible on rocks and some climbers are falling sick. This is not acceptable and erodes our image.”
“Although December is a very good and pleasant month in Nepal – I would say it is the best month of the year – the wind has made us suffer a lot,” Alex Txikon wrote on Instagram the day before yesterday. “It has blown between 70-80 km/hour, and we stopped very close to Chulu Far East, 6,059m. It is a nice mountain, but the wind has made us suffer … The most important thing is that we have spent many nights at high altitudes.” The 42-year-old Spaniard and his team are currently acclimatizing in the region around the eight-thousander Annapurna I in western Nepal for a winter attempt on the tenth highest mountain on earth.
Fall projects on Mount Everest, once commonplace, have become rare. Because of the often rather bad weather, commercial expeditions give the highest mountain on earth a wide berth in the post-monsoon season, concentrating instead on Manaslu in western Nepal or the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu and Shishapanga in Tibet – provided the Chinese-Tibetan authorities clear these mountains.
In fall 2022, a Polish team led by ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel had attempted the Nepalese south side of Everest. Bargiel, who wanted to climb to the summit without bottled oxygen and ski down to base camp, and his companion Janusz Golab had aborted their summit attempt at the South Col at almost 8,000 meters. They had been greeted by such violent gusts of wind that they had not even been able to pitch their tent.
The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism wants to significantly increase the price for ascents of Mount Everest, by about 36 percent. The permit for foreign climbers should cost $15,000 from 2025 instead of the current $11,000, ministry spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada told various media. However, the price increase should not take effect until the spring season after next, as the booking phase for spring 2024 has already begun, Khatiwada said.
While Nepal’s frequently changing governments have earned a reputation in recent years for very frequently announcing new regulations without subsequently implementing them. But a permit price hike seems quite realistic, given that the last increase was more than eight years ago. Another representative of the Ministry said that in the course of the reform, the insurance sums and wages for porters, high altitude porters and mountain guides should also be increased.
Mount Everest remains a crowd puller. Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism issued permits for 454 foreign climbers to the world’s highest mountain so far this spring season (as of 21 April) – already more than ever before. Most of them come from China (96), the second most from the USA (87). Since a permit costs $11,000, this has already flushed around five million U.S. dollars into the Nepalese government’s coffers.
“Unfortunately, the weather conditions didn’t let them go for another attempt of a summit attack today,” reads Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel’s Instagram account. “The team stays overnight in Camp 2, and tomorrow will decide whether to continue the summit push. If the weather forecast is confirmed, it will be possible on Sunday/Monday.”
Then the wind on Mount Everest is expected to calm down significantly. From Tuesday, however, new snowfall must be expected. And from Thursday at the latest, the wind could freshen up again. So – if at all – only a small weather window will open up for Bargiel and Co.
“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.
Oh, if only
all the Everest climbers were Pinocchios! Then it would be very easy to
distinguish the liars from those who tell the truth. We’d just have to watch –
as with the legendary title character of Carlo Collodi’s children’s book – if
their noses had become longer, and we’d have caught the culprits. Also this
spring some Everest climbers would have got longer noses.
The Indian female climber Vikas Rana and her male compatriots Shobha Banwala and Ankush Kasana claimed to have reached the highest point at 8,850 metres at 10.30 a.m. on 26 May. According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, however, the trio was sighted more than 3,300 meters lower only two hours later: back at base camp. To do this, they would have had to get wings. Other climber reported that the trio did not make it above Camp 3 at about 7,150 meters. On 26 May, a strong wind blew on the summit of Everest. Only a day later did a larger team reach the highest point again.
Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja has not lost his optimism yet. “We are making progress, the project is still on and I will complete it within my seven-month goal,” the 36-year-old Nepalese posted on Twitter these days. In seven months Nims wants to have scaled all 14 eight-thousanders. In the spring season in Nepal everything went according to plan. Within a month and a day he stood on the summits of six eight-thousanders: Annapurna (23 April), Dhaulagiri (12 May), Kangchenjunga (15 May), Mount Everest (22 May), Lhotse (22 May), Makalu (24 May). The last three summits he completed within 48 hours and 30 minutes. He ascended with his Sherpa team with bottled oxygen via the normal routes. They were flown to the different base camps by helicopter.
But Purja did not only make headlines with his ascents. On Annapurna, he belonged to the Nepalese who laid the fixed ropes up to the summit. Then he took part in the rescue of the Malaysian mountaineer Wui Kin Chin. Nims and the other rescuers managed to bring Chin from over 7,000 meters from the mountain, but he died a few days later in a hospital in Singapore. On Dhaulagiri, Purja and his companions were the only climbers to reach the summit this spring – despite bad weather. On Kangchenjunga, Nims tried to rescue two Indian climbers who, completely exhausted, had run out of oxygen when they descended. Both died. Most of the headlines, however, were brought to the former soldier of the British Gurkha regiment by the photo he took on 22 May on the summit ridge of Everest. The picture, which showed a long queue on the narrow ridge, went around the world.
Actually, Nims Purja wanted to be now already in Pakistan – for the second phase of his “14/7 Project Possible”: this summer he wants to scale the five eight-thousanders of Pakistan. But he had to postpone his departure because he still lacks money to continue his project. Nims has already taken out a second mortgage on his house in Great Britain. He collects donations via crowdfunding (anyone who wants to support him can do so here – click on the link!). I sent Purja some questions. Here are his answers.
Nims, you stood on the summit of six eight-thousanders in Nepal this spring and were right on schedule with your “Project Possible”. You had to fight the most on Dhaulagiri. How much risk did you have to take?
“It’s not my goal to chase the records,” says Ngima Nuru Sherpa. “Mount Everest is my job.” This spring, the 37-year-old from the village of Tesho near Namche Bazaar, the hub of the Khumbu region, reached once more the summit of Everest: “I’m the youngest till date to have been up there for the 22nd time.”
On 23 May, Ngima Nuru stood at the highest point at 8,850 meters after climbing via the Northeast Ridge. “This year there was more snow below the Advanced Base Camp than in 2018, but less snow above 7,900 meters,” the Sherpa writes to me adding that during the whole time it was very windy on the Tibetan north side: “At the North Col many tents were damaged, the wind blew some equipment off the mountain.”
“If a committee had been set up to create the world, it wouldn’t be ready today.” This realization, attributed to the Irish writer and politician George Bernhard Shaw (1856-1950), I had to think of when I read today that Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli has ordered the formation of an Everest committee of five. The members are to investigate the recent deaths on Mount Everest and review the existing guidelines for climbing the highest mountain on earth, Department of Tourism Director General Dandu Raj Sharma was quoted.
Elisabeth Revol is not one of those professional climber who constantly informs the public about their plans and then share their adventures in real time. When her sponsor Valandre announced on 23 May that the 39-year-old Frenchwoman had scaled Mount Everest without bottled oxygen, hardly anyone knew that she was on the highest mountain on earth. One day later she also reached the summit of Lhotse.
Last Saturday Valandre rowed back. Because Revol was already pre-acclimatized to an altitude of 8,400 meters, it had been “in error” assumed that she had not used bottled oxygen on Everest, the company said.
Becoming everybody’s darling is certainly not one of Lukas Furtenbach’s goals in life. The 41-year-old Austrian doesn’t mince his words when he represents his points of view. He does this offensively and is also not afraid to name names when he criticizes someone. It’s obvious that he doesn’t make only friends by this. Furtenbach polarizes.
Five years ago, Lukas founded his company “Furtenbach Adventures”. In 2018, the operator offered for the first time an “Everest Flash Expedition”. The concept: Everest in four weeks – through targeted preparation with a specially developed hypoxia training and system, more bottled oxygen than usual, more Sherpas. “I have been using and experimenting with hypoxia for almost 20 years,” says Lukas.
He scaled Cho Oyu in 2006 and Broad Peak in 2007. Furtenbach reached the summit of Everest twice: in 2016 via the south side – and this year via the north side. In the past season he started with two groups: a “classic” Everest expedition with seven members and a flash expedition with five clients – in addition the mountain guides Rupert Hauer and Luis Stitzinger, 21 Sherpas and himself. All of them reached the summit. After his return Lukas answered my questions.
Lukas, the situation on the south side of Mount
Everest has been discussed for weeks, but hardly anyone talks about the north
side. How did you experience the season there?
Secret heroes. There are players on Mount Everest that everyone knows and appreciates, but hardly anyone talks about. Like the “Icefall Doctors”, those highly specialized Sherpas who year after year set up the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall and maintain it throughout the season. Or Maurizio Folini and Lakpa Norbu Sherpa, who fly up the Everest slopes with their red-white-blue painted “Kailash” helicopter whenever it is necessary to bring down climbers who have got into trouble or died. The 53-year-old Italian and the 38-year-old Nepalese have long been a well-rehearsed team. Also in the past season they did most rescue flights together.
Maurizio has been flying regularly in the Himalayas since 2011. Lakpa Norbu was trained as a helicopter rescuer in Switzerland. He is a true specialist when it comes to transporting injured, sick or even dead people on the long line. Maurizio Folini took the time to answer my questions after his return from the Himalayas. I appreciate that, because Maurizio rarely has time. Meanwhile he is flying in Switzerland again.
Maurizio, the Everest season is behind you. How many flying hours and how many rescue missions did you have?