Safety is primarily a feeling. Often we don’t even realize the lurking objective danger. And if we do, then usually only if we have no other option than facing the danger. A week ago I have returned from my trekking in Khumbu, the region around Mount Everest. Eleven months have passed since the devastating earthquake in Nepal. I think that my senses were quite sharpened because it was an objective of my journey to inform myself about the consequences of the quake. I can send all the people who want to travel to the region for trekking or climbing on their way with my experience: I felt perfectly safe in Khumbu.
Date31. March 2016 | 13:27
At last! Many Western governments have now canceled their general travel warning for Nepal that they had imposed after the 25 April earthquake. Instead, they are now only warning not to travel to certain regions of the Himalayan state. So the German Foreign Office called the trekking regions Langtang and Manaslu problematic areas, where access “is not possible or only with considerable difficulties”. The British Foreign Office advises against traveling to these regions too and calls in addition the districts Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha. From the perspective of the German Government “particular caution is advised” when traveling in these or other areas that were hit hard by the quake. The US Department of State notes that “the frequency and severity of aftershocks have greatly diminished”, but encourages travelers “to consult carefully with their travel and trekking agencies for current, location-specific information and to heed warnings of potential danger”. All those governments point to a new problem in Nepal – a political one.
Date10. October 2015 | 23:35
TagsBlockade, Earthquake, Hope for Nepal, India, Indien, Michi Muenzberg, Nepal, Terai, Travel warning
It is far from easy to survive in the highly competitive tourism market in Nepal. Under normal circumstances, but all the more after the earthquake last spring. There are hundreds of trekking and expedition agencies in Kathmandu that compete to get any clients. Most of them are small companies, and the owners often live from hand to mouth. Small entrepreneurs like my friend Mahesh Kumar Budha suffer most from the economic consequences of the earthquake. The government estimates that the tourism market has slumped by 50 percent, local operators assume that it is up to 70 percent.
Date18. September 2015 | 7:00
The 8,136-meter-high Manaslu is probably the only mountain in Nepal, where currently almost everything is as usual in fall. “We have about 15 expeditions here, many of them small teams”, Dominik Mueller tells me by satellite phone from the about 4,800-meter-high Manaslu Base Camp in western Nepal. “All in all we have probably 120 to 130 summit aspirants.” Dominik is leading an expedition of his German operator Amical alpin, along with the mountain guide Rainer Pircher. The other members are ten clients, three Climbing Sherpas, a cook and four kitchen helpers. The Base Camp is not too crowded, says Dominik. “We have found a very nice place for our tents.” On Wednesday, the puja will be held, the traditional Buddhist ceremony to get the gods’ blessings for the climbers. Some expeditions – such as the group of Himalayan Experience that is led by the New Zealander Russell Brice – have been on the mountain for a while already.
Date15. September 2015 | 19:36
There is a jinx on it. Two spring seasons on Everest in a row remained without summit successes (I ignore those of the Wang Jing team in 2014 because they were flown by helicopter to the high camp). In 2014, all commercial expeditions were cancelled after an avalanche had killed 16 Nepalese climbers in Khumbu Icefall. This year, the devastating earthquake in Nepal triggered an avalanche from the seven-thousander Pumori hitting Everest Base Camp and killing 19 mountaineers and support staff. Once again the spring season ended before it had really begun. What does this mean for the Sherpa people?
I called Dawa Steven Sherpa. Along with his father Ang Tshering Sherpa, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), the 31-year-old is managing “Asian Trekking”, a Kathmandu-based leading operator for expeditions and trekkings in the Himalayas. Dawa Steven scaled Everest twice (in 2007 and 2008) and in addition the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu (2006) and Lhotse (2009). Under his expedition leadership more than 150 climbers have summited Everest. But Dawa Steven is also a tireless fighter for environmental and climate protection in the Himalayas. Furthermore he is leading “Resilient Homes” , a project of the “Himalayan Climate Initiative” to help earthquake-affected communities to rebuild their houses and other buildings – one more reason to talk to him about the current situation in Nepal.
Date9. September 2015 | 14:45
TagsAsian Trekking, Avalanche, Dawa Steven Sherpa, Earthquake, Expedition, Kuriki, Mount Everest, Nepal, Permit, Tibet
It was simply too dangerous. In the village of Thulosirubari in the Nepalese earthquake zone, residents and helpers of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have begun to remove the debris of the school. The building that was heavily damaged by the quake on 25 April “stands dangerously on the side of the ground where children use to play”, Arjun Gatraj, chairman of the School Management Committee, writes to me. As reported, the ground floor of the “Gerlinde and Ralf School” had collapsed, the building cannot be maintained. “These days, we have the big problem on how to destroy the main building and how to clear the rubble”, says Arjun. “We have no money for that ant the Government of Nepal is also not able to support us.”
Date8. September 2015 | 14:07
TagsArjun Gatraj, Donation campaign, Earthquake, Gerlinde and Ralf School, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Nepal, Nepalhilfe Beilngries, Ralf Dujmovits, Thulosirubari
The despair in Nepal must be great. There is no other explanation for the fact that the government in Kathmandu called a press conference these days only to hand out a permit for an expedition. Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki received the written permission to climb Mount Everest this fall from the hands of Tourism Minister Kripasur Sherpa. “Kuriki is climbing at a time when there is confusion in the world about the safety in Nepal after the earthquake”, the Minister said. “This will be an example for other visitors to come to Nepal which is safe for mountain climbing.” The 33-year-old Japanese climber sang the same tune: “The main purpose of my climb is to spread the message that Nepal is safe for climbers and trekkers even after the earthquake.”
Kuriki – as reported – wants to climb Everest from the Nepal side, after the Chinese authorities gave all expeditions to Tibet the cold shoulder. Today Kuriki flew from Kathmandu to the Khumbu region for acclimatization. In 2012, in his last attempt to climb Everest in fall, the Japanese had suffered severe frostbite. Nine fingers had to be amputated. Like then, Kuriki again plans to climb solo and without bottled oxygen, this time on the normal route. The “Icefall Doctors” will prepare for him the route through the Khumbu Icefall.
Date25. August 2015 | 23:20
TagsAmical Alpin, DAV Summit Club, Earthquake, Expedition, Kripasur Sherpa, Kuriki, Mount Everest, Permit, Trekking
The financial aftershock is probably unavoidable. But it is important to keep the vibrations for Nepal within limits. The fall trekking season is just around the corner, and the government anticipates a dramatic 50 percent slump in tourism. “The number of foreign tourists has declined after the earthquake”, says Tourism Minister Kripasur Sherpa. “This is a heavy burden, because tourism is very important for the Nepalese economy and people.” The Government points out that international independent earthquake experts have declared the most popular trekking routes in Nepal, the Annapurna Circuit and the Everest Base Camp Trek, for nonhazardous. “Tourists don’t take higher risks any more”, says Kripasur Sherpa.
Date20. August 2015 | 16:27
TagsAnnapurna Curcuit, Don't forget Nepal, Dujmovits, Earthquake, Everest Base Camp Trek, Kripasur Sherpa, Miyamoto, Nepal Now, Travel warning
The World Food Programme (WFP) has sounded the alarm. If the “United Nations Humanitarian Air Service” (UNHAS) does not receive additional money, the helicopter relief flights for the earthquake victims in Nepal have to be stopped at the end of August. According to the WFP, which manages the UNHAS, there is a shortfall of more than nine million US dollars to continue the flights as scheduled until the end of October.
Date14. August 2015 | 16:06
When can you call it normality again after a state of emergency? Obviously it depends on the way of perception. “Nepal is safe, don’t worry! This is our clear message for today”, said Bhesh Narayan Dahal, head of the governmental department that is responsible for the preservation of the world heritage sites of Nepal, at the beginning of the week. Temples in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, which had been badly damaged by the earthquake on 25 April, were re-opened with a ceremony. But even the government seems to feel uneasy about it.
Date17. June 2015 | 15:39
He has just stayed there – to help. When the devastating earthquake hit Nepal on 25 April, the Canadian climber Don Bowie was in Base Camp at the foot of Annapurna. For ten years, Don is climbing on eight-thousanders. By now he has scaled three of them, all without supplementary oxygen: K 2 (in 2007), Gasherbrum I (2010) and Cho Oyu (2011). After the tremors, the 46-year-old decided spontaneously to cancel the expedition and to use his skills as high altitude climber and mountain rescuer to help the earthquake victims in remote villages of Nepal. Since then Don is almost non-stop on the road in the mountains of the Himalayan state. On the Internet, he is asking for donations to finance his relief campaign. I contacted Don Bowie in Nepal.
Don, where are you staying right now?
I am based out of Kathmandu but I am now working in many districts – Gorkha, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Sindhulpachowk, Dhading, and Dolakha.
Date14. June 2015 | 10:00
There is considerable indignation. Since British media reported that the Nepalese government put an income tax of 15 to 30 per cent on relief goods for earthquake victims, the authorities in Kathmandu are subjected to sharp criticism in the social networks. The guideline that tents and tarpaulin were custom free had expired on 3 June. A week ago, government officials had announced that relief goods could be still imported without paying taxes, but only if they would then be distributed by governmental organizations. “An organization which wants to distribute imported goods itself has to pay full customs duty”, said Surya Sedai of the Department of Customs. “This is to minimize the risk of smuggling.” Some international organizations already complained about harassment. On the internet, votes are collected for a petition to Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to “stop levying taxes on materials imported to aid sufferers of the Nepalese earthquakes”. I talked about the topic with German aid organizations.
Date10. June 2015 | 17:03
TagsAWO International, Customs, Earthquake, European Parliament, Nepal, Relief supplies, World Vision
Trailer of “Everest” with donation appeal
Good mountaineering movies are few and far between. They often snatch effects, are unrealistic or just cheesy. Let’s see if the film “Everest” will be a laudable exception. Now the first official trailer of the movie has been released (see below). Laudably, the Universal Studios and the film crew appeal for donations to the earthquake victims in Nepal in the closing credits of the trailer. There is no such appeal in the German version – a pity! The movie “Everest” will start in the cinemas in September. It tells the story of the Everest accident in 1996, when eight members of commercial expeditions died in a storm in the summit area. Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” about the events on 10 and 11 May 1996, was an international bestseller and triggered a discussion about commercial climbing on Everest. There are many Hollywood stars in the new Everest film.
From Gyllenhall to Knightley
Jake Gyllenhaal (known i.a. from the movie “Brokeback Mountain”) plays US mountain guide Scott Fischer, who died in the storm as well as New Zealand guide Rob Hall, who is portrayed in the film by Jason Clarke (“The Great Gatsby”). Josh Brolin (“True Grit”) plays the US client Beck Weathers, who miraculously survived the storm night outdoors but suffered from severe frostbite. There are also top actresses for the female roles. Robin Wright (“Forrest Gump”) plays Weathers’ wife Peach. Keira Knightley (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) takes on the role of Rob Hall’s pregnant wife Jan who was speaking via satellite phone with her dying man on Everest.
Riegler brothers as doubles
The mountain scenes were filmed earlier this year in Val Senales in South Tyrol. The shooting lasted five weeks. The “Everest Base Camp” of the film was on the glacier Hochjochferner, 3000 meters high. “For other shootings the stars are picked up by limousines. Here they went by glacier lifts or snowcats”, said producer Nicky Kentish Barnes. “The stars fought bravely.” But they had not to become extreme mountaineers. Eleven climbers had been engaged to double the actors in snow and ice, including the two South Tyrolean extreme climbing brothers Florian and Martin Riegler. They were not allowed to say which actors they doubled. The climbing brothers already had movie experience. In 2012 they played in the film “Messner”: Martin, born in 1980, took on the role of Reinhold Messner, the two years younger Florian played Guenter Messner, who lost his life on Nanga Parbat in 1970.
Date5. June 2015 | 17:21
TagsBrolin, Clarke, Florian Riegler, Gyllenhall, Knightley, Martin Riegler, Mount Everest, Movie Everest, Val Senales, Wright
“Come back! So that Nepal can make a comeback.” So you could overwrite the appeals of those who are living from tourism in Nepal or have to do with it. The trekking and expedition operators from abroad send a signal that they want to realize most of their trips that they had planned for the post-monsoon season before the earthquake hit the country on 25 April. “The devastating earthquake has shaken the life in Nepal, but slowly life is returning to normality”, Dominik Mueller, head of German operator Amical alpin, wrote.
Date3. June 2015 | 19:25
TagsAlpenglow, Amical Alpin, Annapurna, DAV Summit Club, Everest, Himalayan Experience, Makalu, Manaslu, Nepal