Anja Blacha after Kangchenjunga success: “Never had such heavy legs on the descent”

Anja Blacha
Anja Blacha

Now no other woman from Germany has stood on eight-thousanders more often than Anja Blacha. The mountaineer, who celebrates her 34th birthday on 18 June, achieved a last-minute summit success on the 8,586-meter-high Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, at the end of the spring season on the eight-thousanders in Nepal. She had already scaled the 8,485-meter-high Makalu, the fifth-highest of all mountains, on 12 May. On both mountains, Anja climbed on the normal routes, with teams from the commercial expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST) and did without bottled oxygen herself.

These were her seventh and eighth eight-thousanders after Mount Everest (in 2017 and 2021), Broad Peak, K2 (both in 2019), Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I and II (these three in 2023). Only on Everest did she use a breathing mask on her ascents. This means that the German mountaineer now has one more eight-thousander summit success to her name than Alix von Melle, who has summited seven eight-thousanders to date. Anja Blacha answered my questions after her return from Kangchenjunga.

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At the end of the spring season: New route on Cho Oyu – summit successes on Kangchenjunga

The Nepalese south side of Cho Oyu
The Nepalese south side of Cho Oyu

“This was my dream for so many years and finally we did it. A new route on Nepal side.” With these words, Gelje Sherpa expressed his joy on Instagram. Last Friday, the 31-year-old led a seven-member team from the commercial expedition operator Seven Summit Treks to the 8,188-meter-high summit of Cho Oyu – via the South-Southwest Ridge, a new route on the Nepalese south side of the sixth-highest mountain on earth.

It was Gelje’s fourth attempt to reach the summit this way. In addition to him, Tenging Gyaljen Sherpa, Lakpa Temba Sherpa, Chhangba Sherpa, Lakpa Tenji Sherpa and Ngima Ongda Sherpa as well as their 19-year-old French client Alasdair Mckenzie stood on the highest point. For Mckenzie, it was the thirteenth of the 14 eight-thousanders. All the climbers used bottled oxygen. It was the first Cho Oyu summit success from the south since 2009, when Denis Urubko and Boris Dedeshko climbed a new route through the Southeast Face without breathing masks.

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“School up – far west” on the home straight, but not yet finished

Drawing lessons in the new school of Rama in western Nepal
We draw our new school

“With your generous support, we have been able to significantly improve the educational environment for over 300 children in our school making it a cornerstone in our community,” says a delighted Gorkha Bahadur Shahi, Chairman of the School Management Committee in the village of Rama in Humla District in the far west of Nepal.

With your donations for “School up – far west”, Nepalhilfe Beilngries constructed two school buildings, a kitchen block and separate toilets for boys and girls. The German aid organization also ensured that the school received furniture and was supplied with drinking water. At my request, pupils from Rama drew their new school. You can see their pictures here:

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Serious allegations against Nepal’s star Nirmal Purja spark #MeToo debate in mountaineering

Nirmal Purja (in 2019)
Nirmal Purja

Is Nirmal Purja going from national hero to unwanted person in Nepal? Rajendra Bajgain, a member of the opposition Congress Party, called in parliament in Kathmandu for Purja to be denied entry in future. The mountaineer, who lives in England, defames Nepal by sexually harassing female climbers, said Bajgain. The politician was referring to an article in the New York Times last week. In it, two female climbers make serious accusations against Purja.

Lotta Hintsa, a mountaineer and model from Finland, accused the Nepalese mountaineering star of sexually harassing her in a hotel room in Kathmandu last year. He began undressing her against her will and then masturbated in her presence, Hintsa said. The US physician April Leonardo stated that she had also been sexually harassed by Purja. During a 2022 expedition to K2, the second highest mountain on earth in Pakistan, he came into her tent, kissed her against her will and sexually harassed her, Leonardo said. She was a client of Purja’s company Elite Exped.

Purja denied the allegations “unequivocally” via an Instagram story: “These allegations are defamatory and false.” Backpack manufacturer Osprey was the first of Purja’s sponsors to draw conclusions from the affair. The mountaineer is no longer a brand ambassador, the US company announced in an Instagram comment.

Over two million Instagram followers, British knighthood

Purja made headlines around the world in 2019 when he climbed the 14 eight-thousanders in just six months – with bottled oxygen, a strong Sherpa team at his side, on the normal routes and by using helicopters to get from one mountain to the next as quickly as possible. By comparison, it took Reinhold Messner 16 years. In 1986, the South Tyrolean was the first person to scale all eight-thousanders. He climbed the world’s highest mountains in small teams, without breathing mask and mostly on new routes.

Netflix advertisement for 14 peaks
Netflix documentary increased Nims’ popularity

In 2021, Nims was also involved in the first winter ascent of K2, according to his own account he did without bottled oxygen. The Netflix documentary “14 Peaks – Nothing is Impossible”, which was released in the same year, had given Purja additional popularity. The 40-year-old has more than two million followers on Instagram.

The Nepalese mountaineer is a former elite soldier of the traditional British Gurkha Regiment. Nepalese soldiers have been earning their living in this brigade for over 200 years. Purja lives with his wife and daughter in the county of Hampshire in the south-east of England. In 2018, Queen Elizabeth II honored him with a British knighthood for his services to high-altitude mountaineering.

Other expedition operators distance themselves from Purja

Several Western commercial expedition operators distanced themselves from Purja. “We are shocked and deeply saddened,” announced Austrian operator Furtenbach Adventures on Instagram. “One of the most important role models in this community is credibly accused of sexual assault by several woman. We unequivocally condemn such behavior and affirm that it has no place in our community.”

Sexual predation is “a danger we can not only mitigate,” wrote Adrian Ballinger, head of the US operator Alpenglow Expeditions. “We can join together to ensure we have zero tolerance for in our community.” Adrian added that the New York Times article showed that “this is not the first or only recent example of behavior like this is the climbing community. We must do better.”

The New Zealand expedition operator Adventure Consultants expressed similar sentiments on Instagram, writing that they support those who have now told their stories “with vulnerability and incredible braveness” and also those who have similar stories to tell: “Let’s come together as an industry to raise accountability and make the mountains a place of equality and inclusivity for all.”

Just the tip of the iceberg?

Apparently, a #MeToo debate in mountain sports is overdue. This is suggested by the Instagram post from AW Expeditions, a US operator of women for women: “Unfortunately we can state with confidence, based on many informal conversations, that this high-profile case is but the tip of the iceberg of a systemic issue in mountaineering.”

Renowned US mountaineer Melissa Arnot also draws attention to this. “Flirt back or be excluded. Go along with it and don’t cause problems,” says the 40-year-old, describing her first experiences as a young mountain guide. “I was called the ‘total package’ by a supervisor as he explained to clients why it was ok to rope up with a young, small girl. And I smiled and played my part.” Arnot summited Mount Everest six times, once without bottled oxygen.

Update 5 June: Meanwhile, a court in Sacramento, California, sentenced 40-year-old US professional rock climber Charles Barrett to life imprisonment for multiple sexual assaults on women in Yosemite National Park. “He used his status as a prominent climber to assault women in the rock-climbing community, and when his victims began to tell, Barrett responded by lashing out publicly with threats and intimidation,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. “This case is a testament to the courage of the victims who reported these crimes. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute violent crimes in National Parks like Yosemite.”

Norrdine Nouar after Everest attempt: “I can no longer put up with the circus”

Norrdine Nouar at Everest Base Camp
Norrdine Nouar back at Everest Base Camp

Norrdine Nouar listened to his body. On the evening of 22 May, the German mountaineer, who wanted to climb Mount Everest without bottled oxygen and without a Sherpa companion, set off from the South Col at around 7,900 meters. His goal: the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters.

However, the 36-year-old turned back at an altitude of around 8,100 meters. “I realized pretty quickly that I might manage to reach the summit, but that I would never come back,” Norrdine writes to me.

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Piotr Krzyzowski: Double ascent of Lhotse and Everest without bottled oxygen

Piotr Krzyzowski
Piotr Krzyzowski

Among the hundreds of Everest summit successes that have been reported in recent days, one stands out: Piotr Krzyzowski from Poland climbed the 8,516-meter-high Lhotse on 21 May without bottled oxygen and without a Sherpa companion.

Instead of returning to base camp, as he had actually planned before the start of the expedition, Krzyzowski climbed from the Lhotse flank to Everest South Col and then on towards the summit at 8,849 meters. On 23 May, Piotr stood on the highest point on earth, barely 48 hours after his summit success on Lhotse. Such a double ascent of these two eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen had previously only been achieved by a handful of mountaineers.

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First summit successes by foreign climbers on the north side of Everest in five years – another death on the south side

North side of Mount Everest (in 2005)
North side of Mount Everest (in 2005)

“We had the mountain to ourselves. With perfect conditions,” Lukas Furtenbach enthuses on Instagram. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and not many people will experience an empty Everest ever again. I am aware how magical this is. Have I deserved it? I am not sure. But I am so thankful for the best Everest summit I ever had.”

For the 46-year-old head of the expedition operator Furtenbach Adventures, it was the fourth Everest summit success after 2016, 2019 and 2022, the second (after 2019) via the Tibetan north side. The Austrian led a small team over the Northeast Ridge to the highest point at 8,849 meters early this morning local time. The group had only entered Tibet from Nepal eleven days ago after the Chinese-Tibetan authorities had taken a long time to issue climbing permits.

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Mount Everest: Two missing climbers – Kami Rita Sherpa’s 30th summit success

Nepalese side of Mount Everest
Nepalese side of Mount Everest (seen from Kala Patthar in 2002)

The many success stories from Mount Everest are intermingled with the sad news of two missing climbers on the highest mountain on earth. The newspaper “Himalayan Times” reports that a British and a Nepalese mountaineer fell yesterday, Tuesday, while descending from the summit at the height of the former Hillary Step (8,790 meters). There has been no trace of them since then. The chances of finding them alive are dwindling by the minute.

If the two are declared dead, it would be the third and fourth deaths on Mount Everest this season. Last week, two Mongolian climbers passed away on the descent. In addition, a Romanian climber who wanted to climb the neighboring eight-thousander Lhotse without bottled oxygen also died yesterday in Camp 3 at around 7,300 meters.

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Mount Everest: Further summit successes, tragedy, accusations

Sunrise on Mount Everest
Sunrise on Mount Everest (in fall 2019)

Last weekend brought what commercial mountaineering on Mount Everest stands for above all else: plenty of success stories. According to US mountain blogger Alan Arnette (who always keeps track of the numerous commercial expedition teams), at least 130 people reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters on Sunday alone.

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Mount Everest: Body of missing Mongolian climber found

Butterlampen_Gebetsmuehlen
R.I.P.

Concern turned into sad certainty. A four-man Nepalese search team from the operator 8K Expeditions found the body of the Mongolian mountaineer Usukhjargal Tsedendamba in the summit zone of Mount Everest at 8,550 meters. This was reported by the Kathmandu-based newspaper “The Himalayan Times”.

The 53-year-old and his 31-year-old compatriot Purevsuren Lkhagvajav have been missing since last weekend. “The fate of the other climber Purevsuren is still unknown,” said Lakpa Sherpa from 8K Expeditions. Realistically, the chances of finding the Mongolian alive are close to zero. The search operation in the summit area of Mount Everest had to be temporarily interrupted due to strong winds.

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Mourning for Nepalese mountaineer Lhakpa Tenji Sherpa

Lhakpa Tenji Sherpa
Lhakpa Tenji Sherpa (1970-2024)

Farewell to Lhakpa Tenji Sherpa. Today, Monday, family and friends – including his wife, his daughter, his two sons and his brothers – paid their last respects to him at a funeral in Kathmandu. Lhakpa Tenji had led a Jordanian client to the 8,485-metre-high summit of Makalu on Monday last week (6 May) and died on the descent to Camp 3 at around 7,500 meters – probably from high altitude sickness. Opinions differ as to whether the experienced mountaineer’s death could have been prevented.

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Mount Everest: Kami Rita Sherpa summits for the 29th, Kenton Cool for the 18th time

Kami Rita Sherpa
Kami Rita Sherpa – climbing Everest again and again


The first summit wave on Mount Everest is rolling. After a team of ten Nepalese climbers – as reported – fixed the ropes to the summit on Friday evening local time, the first commercial teams with their clients also reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters today. The Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks announced the summit success of a 20-member team, seven clients and 13 Nepalese companions.

Among the latter was Kami Rita Sherpa. This was his 29th time on the summit of Everest. No one has scaled the highest mountain on earth more often than the 54-year-old from the village of Thame in the Khumbu region.

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Also first summit success of the season on the Nepalese side of Everest

Mount Everest (in 2016)
Mount Everest


The first summit wave of the spring season can now also roll in on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest. The Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks reported that the ten-man rope-fixing team led by Dendi Sherpa reached the summit at 8,849 meters this evening. The route to the highest point has been secured with ropes and is now open, it said.

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Difficult conditions on Mount Everest – permits for the north side have arrived

View of Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse (from Namche)
View of Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse (from Namche in 2019)

“At altitudes between 6800 m and 7600 m, there are many places with open blue ice,” warned Valeriy Babanov on Instagram a few days ago. “Therefore, fit and sharpen your crampons well. To avoid misunderstandings on long ice slopes. As you remember, luck always favors the strong and prepared!” Babanov is one of the strong.

The Russian has twice been awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of mountaineering”: in 2002 for his solo ascent of the North Face of the six-thousander Meru in the Indian Himalayas, and in 2004 (together with Yuri Koschelenko) for the first ascent of the 7,804-meter-high Nuptse Shar I – in the vicinity of Mount Everest. Now aged 59, Babanov wants to scale the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen. If he succeeds, he would be the oldest person on Everest without a breathing mask. So far, the Italian Abele Blanc is in the record lists having achieved this feat. When he summited in 2010, Blanc was 55 years and 264 days old.

Babanov wanted to set off today from Everest Base Camp towards the South Col at just below 8,000 meters – “for the final acclimatization”, as he wrote in his Instagram story.

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North side of Mount Everest: Only the optimists are still sticking to their plans

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest
Tibetan north side of Mount Everest

This much is already clear: Mount Everest will also be a much lonelier mountain on the Tibetan north side this spring than on the Nepalese south side. While the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism has so far (as of 24 April) issued 388 climbing permits for Everest, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities – as reported – are still stalling the foreign expedition teams. In any case, the number of permits is capped at 300. But there will be nowhere near that many this spring.

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