Probably 22 May will soon appear in the Mount Everest record list: as the day with the most summit successes to date. Over 300 (!) climbers are said to have reached the highest point at 8,850 meters yesterday, the lion’s share from the Nepalese south side. Among them was also Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja, who according to his own words stood on the summit at 5.30 a.m. local time (with bottled oxygen) and afterwards “despite of the heavy traffic”, as he writes on Facebook, also on the top of Lhotse. He reached the summit at 3.45 p.m., he says. It was his eight-thousanders number four and five this season. In the meantime he has arrived at Makalu Base Camp. Nims wants to scale all 14 eight-thousanders in only seven months. If he succeeds on Makalu too, he will be on schedule with his “Mission Possible”, as he called his project.
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Purja also published on Facebook a picture of the summit ridge of Everest that reminds of a morning in summer sales. A long, almost uninterrupted queue of summit candidates is moving upwards. I still remember the outcry that the pictures of the German high-altitude climber Ralf Dujmovits triggered in 2012, showing a long queue in the Lhotse flank. As a consequence, the number of summit candidates was not reduced, but two lines of fixed ropes were laid parallel to each other – calling that “risk management”. Of course, this is not possible on the summit ridge. According to Gyanendra Shrestra, the government liaison officer in Everest Base camp, climbers reported on Wednesday that they had waited more than two hours (!) at the 8,749-meter-high South Summit.
Now this spring season’s summit ban on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest has been broken. According to the Nepalese expedition operator “Climbalaya”, the Chinese-Tibetan rope-fixing team reached the highest point at 8,850 meters at 11.25 a.m. local time. It’s only a matter of time before the first commercial teams follow to the summit.
On the south side of Nepal the second summit wave is in full swing. Also today there were again many reports about successful ascents (with bottled oxygen). Due to the high number of summit aspirants, there are said to have been long traffic jams at the key points above the South Col. According to a government liaison officer at the base camp, climbers reported waiting times of more than two hours at the 8,749-meter-high South Summit.
He did it again. This morning,Kami Rita Sherpa led a group of Indian policemen to the 8,850-meter-high summit of Mount Everest. For the 49-year-old Sherpa it was his 24th Everest ascent and the second within a week (with bottled oxygen). On 15 May, Kami Rita – as reported – had already stood on the roof of the world thus improving his own record for most Everest climbs. After his return to the base camp he posted a picture on Facebook that shows him together with his older brother Lhakpa Rita: “Two brothers did 40 summit(s) (of) Mount Everest”, wrote Kami Rita: his brother 17 times, he himself 23 times. Now the two brothers have even 41 ascents in total.
The second wave is rolling, this time even from two sides. After more than 100 mountaineers had used the first good weather window last week to reach the summit of Mount Everest from the Nepalese south side, the first summit successes of the spring season are expected also on the Tibetan north side in the coming days. Some teams are on their way to the summit, among them the German climber Luis Stitzinger with his clients. He informed me that the Chinese authorities had issued only 142 permits for foreign climbers this season, “as few as probably never before,” Luis writes. According to him, there are in addition about 40 Chinese and Tibetans and about 150 Climbing Sherpas from Nepal.
On Mount Everest, the first two deaths of the spring season are to be mourned. Today an Indian mountaineer was found dead in his tent at the South Col at 7,900 meters, apparently he had died of high altitude sickness during the night. He had reached the 8,850-meter-high summit on Thursday. Meanwhile the search for a 39-year-old Irishman, who has been missing since yesterday, was stopped. During the descent from the highest point he had slipped and fallen from an altitude of about 8,300 meters into depth. There is no hope any more to find him alive. The wind in the summit area has refreshed and makes a further search impossible for the time being.
During the first good weather window of the season, more than 100 climbers reached the summit of Everest, obviously all of them used bottled oxygen. Last year, according to the mountaineering chronicle “Himalayan Database”, among 802 climbers standing on the roof of the world, only one was successful without breathing mask: 32-year-old Sonam Finju Sherpa.
Also this spring only very, very few climbers tackle the mountain without bottled oxygen. One of them is – as reported – the German professional mountaineer David Göttler. The 40-year-old has completed his acclimatization and is now waiting in Everest Base Camp for a favourable time for his summit attempt without breathing mask.
David, there are aerial photos circulating from
Everest Base Camp. It doesn’t look like a camp, but like a tent city. How is it
to live there?
The weather window on Mount Everest is still a little bit open, but stronger winds are expected from Friday onwards. Another 30 climbers took the chance today and reached the highest point on earth at 8,850 meters. Among them was the 45-year-old Brit Kenton Cool, who scaled Mount Everest for the 14th time. A whole continent celebrates Saray Khumalo. The 47-year-old South African was the first black woman from Africa to stand on the roof of the world today. The businesswoman, who works for a major financial services group in Johannesburg, has been climbing mountains only for seven years.
“I can climb for a few more years,” said Kami Rita Sherpa some time ago in a BBC interview. “I am healthy. I can go until I am 60 years old. With oxygen it’s no big deal, we were born in the Himalayas.” The 49-year-old reached the summit of Mount Everest at 8,850 meters today at 7.50 a.m. local time – for the 23rd time already – thus improving his own record. “I’ve been always 100 percent focused on my job,” Kami Rita told the BBC. “I never thought about making records. I actually didn’t know that you could make a record. Had I known, I would have done a lot more summits earlier.”
Cheers to the Sherpas! The teams responsible for fixing the ropes have done a great job. On yesterday’s Monday, they were the first climbers of the season to reach the summits of four eight-thousanders: Mount Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu. On the highest of all mountains Siddhi Bahadur Tamang, Pasdawa Sherpa, Dorji Gyaljen Sherpa, Pasang Dawa Sherpa, Ang Phurba Sherpa, Dawa Nurbu Sherpa, Ming Dorchi Sherpa and Sangbu Bhote climbed from the Nepalese south side to the highest point at 8,850 meters. The team of eight of the expedition operator “Himalayan Guides” has prepared the way for the numerous clients of the commercial teams. The Nepalese government has issued a total of 378 Everest permits this spring.
The outer bands of the cyclone “Fani” have also reached Mount Everest. Strong winds and snowfall is reported from both sides of the highest mountain on earth. The expedition teams have no choice but to sit out the bad weather in the base camp. Luis Stitzinger leads a group of the Austrian expedition operator “Furtenbach Adventures” on the Tibetan north side of Everest. I have contacted the 50-year-old German, who has already scaled eight eight-thousanders, all of them without bottled oxygen.
Luis, you were on the North Col at 7,000 meters
for the first time this season. What are the conditions on the mountain like?
In the end, all the effort was in vain: this of Nima Tshering Sherpa, who had left his oxygen bottle to his client in the death zone and had waited with him for hours; the effort of the four-man rescue team that had ascended to him, provided him with first aid and then brought him down the mountain so far that he could be flown out; that of the helicopter crew, who had first searched for him in an extremely risky manoeuvre and later flown him out from the flanks of the mountain on a long rescue line; the effort of the doctors in Kathmandu and then in Singapore, who fought for his life.
Slowly but surely the fixed-ropes snake winds its way towards the summit of Mount Everest. The expedition operator “Seven Summit Treks” let us know today via Facebook that the ropes on the Nepalese south side of the mountain have been completely fixed up to the South Col at 7,900 meters. On the north side, the Tibetan rope-fixing team is working their way up above the 7,000-meter-high North Col towards the North-East Ridge. For the weekend, heavy snowfall is expected on the highest mountain on earth, so the work of the rope-fixing teams on both sides of Everest is about to rest for a few days.
It could be another record season on Mount Everest. Until last Tuesday, the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu alone issued 374 climbing permits for the south side of the world’s highest mountain. On the north side, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities have limited the number of climbing permits to 300 this spring. Last year, according to the mountaineering chronicle “Himalayan Database”, 802 climbers reached the summit at 8,850 meters, only one without bottled oxygen: 32-year-old Sonam Finju Sherpa.
This season, too, only a few mountaineers will try to scale Everest without breathing mask. One of them will be David Göttler, who arrived in Kathmandu today. “Nowadays many people think it’s easy because there’s no differentiation between oxygen aspirants and the few without,” the 40-year-old German. “But to make it to the top ‘without diving equipment’ is still not easy. Everything has to fit. And so it would also mean an awful lot to me to reach the summit.”
Mount Everest is fascinating, for many – like the more than 300 foreign mountaineers who will attempt to climb it this spring from Nepal alone – even a life’s dream. In the end, however, it remains only a mountain. And there are more important things in life. Also for Lhakpa Sherpa. The 45-year-old native of Nepal actually wanted to travel to Tibet again these days in order to reach the highest point on earth at 8,850 meters for the tenth time and thus improve her record: Lhakpa is the woman with the most Everest ascents in the world.
The route is ready for the commercial expeditions on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest. The “Icefall Doctors” have completed their job. The team of eight specialized Sherpas secured the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall up to Camp 2 at about 6,400 meters with fixed ropes and ladders. Now the summit aspirants can come. To a certain extent en passant, namely at work, some climbers from Nepal will probably improve their records during this spring season. Kami Rita “Topke” Sherpa will be en route with an expedition of the Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks and – if everything goes according to plan – will reach the highest point on earth at 8,850 meters for the 23rd time.
Expedition luggage is piling up these days at the airport of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. Mountaineers from all over the world arrive in the Himalayan state to tackle Everest or another of Nepal’s high mountains this spring. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the number of mountaineers is expected to be even higher than last year. In 2018, the government issued 768 climbing permits for foreign mountaineers in spring and collected 412 million rupees (the equivalent of more than three million euros) in permit fees. The majority of the summit candidates are once again the clients of the commercial expeditions, who will be bustling on the normal routes. But there are also a few climbers who want to break new ground on the eight-thousanders off the beaten tracks – like the 38-year-old German Felix Berg and the 35-year-old Pole Adam Bielecki on Annapurna.