The Everest summit wave is rolling. Dozens, if not hundreds of summit successes are expected these days, on the Nepalese south side of the highest mountain on earth as well as on the Tibetan north side. Do the Everest aspirants still remember Beck Weathers? Possibly. After all, in 2015 the successful Hollywood movie “Everest” told his story. 20 years ago, in spring 1996, Beck also wanted to climb to the top of the world. Due to vision problems the American pathologist had to abandon his summit attempt at about 8,400 meters. Later he was caught in the storm that cost the lives of eight climbers within 24 hours.
It’s a miracle that Weathers survived. Actually, he was already as good as dead. After a night in whiteout his fellow climbers left him lying in the snow supposing he was dead. But Beck regained consciousness and despite severe frostbite he dragged himself to Camp 4. A rescue team brought him down to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters, from where Beck was brought to safety with a spectacular helicopter flight. Weathers’ right arm had to be amputated just below the elbow. Beck also lost all fingers of the left hand. His frostbitten nose had to be reconstructed in numerous operations.
I have contacted Beck Weathers on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Everest disaster. Because the 69-year-old was traveling, he has sent me his answers to my questions only a few days after the anniversary.
Beck, the 1996 Everest disaster was probably one of your most profound experiences. In what way has it changed your life?
Date18. May 2016 | 16:24
TagsBeck Weathers, Everest disaster 1996, Interview, Mount Everest, Nepal, storm, Survived, Tibet, Whiteout
He couldn’t stop thinking about it. When the Swiss top climber Ueli Steck solo climbed the South Face of 8027-meter- high Shishapangma in only ten and a half hours five years ago, he discovered a possible new direct line. This spring, the 39-year-old – along with the 37-year-old German professional climber David Goettler – returned to the 2000-meter-high wall to have a try at the new route. If everything works perfectly, they plan to descend from the summit via the north side, thus traversing the eight-thousander.
Before heading off to Tibet, Ueli and David acclimatized in the Everest region in Nepal – including trail-running over extremely long distances. I sent them five questions to their Base Camp at the foot of Shishapangma South Face.
Ueli and David, the pictures which you published on Facebook in recent weeks, remind me of Speedy Gonzales or Road Runner, two cartoon characters of my childhood: continuously in high speed mode, because hunted. At the same time each of you let us know that the other is really, really fit. Honestly, who of you is actually rushing whom? Or from what are you trying to escape?
Date1. May 2016 | 13:18
TagsDavid Goettler, David Göttler, Earthquake, Khumbu, Mountain trail-running, Nepal, New route, Shishapangma, South face, Tibet, Ueli Steck
A 15-meter-high climbing wall in the middle of the tourist quarter Thamel in Kathmandu – who would have thought it? “The wall is the nursery for the sport of climbing in Nepal”, Dawa Steven Sherpa tells me. “All of the young ambitious Sherpa climbers have trained here.” I meet the 32-year-old in the office of “Asian Trekking”. Along with his father Ang Tshering Sherpa, Dawa Steven is managing the leading Nepalese expedition operator. I talk with him about this spring season on Everest – after the avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall in 2014 that killed 16 Nepalese climberes and the earthquake in 2015, that triggered an avalanche from the 7000er Pumori that hit Everest Base Camp killing 19 climbers.
Dawa Steven, Asian Trekking once again offers an Eco Everest Expedition this spring. Will it take place?
Yes, it will start from Kathmandu on 6 April. So far we have 14 foreign members and 21 Sherpas but this number will change by the end of the month.
Do you notice that there is a lower demand this year?
Date29. March 2016 | 16:21
TagsAsian Trekking, Dawa Steven Sherpa, Expedition operators, Kathmandu, Mount Everest, Nepal, Permits, Spring season, Thamel, Tibet
It was close in two respects. Tamara Lunger only narrowly missed the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, then the 29-year-old South Tyrolean just escaped with her life. Just below the 8,125-meter-high summit, Tamara exhaustedly informed her Italian teammate Simone Moro that she would be able to climb up to the highest point but would not come down without help. Shortly afterwards, she turned around. Simone, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali (also known as “Ali Sadpara” – called after his home village) reached the summit without her. On the descent, Lunger lost her balance after jumping across a crevasse near the highest camp. She slid around 200 meters towards the abyss until she came to hold in loose snow with good luck. Meanwhile, the climber is back home in South Tyrol.
Tamara, first of all congratulations on your performance! Have you meanwhile recovered from the strains?
Thanks, Stefan. I must say that I have overcome the strains of the “near-summit” but not yet the consequences of my fall. My ankle is still swollen. I will get it checked up on Monday, but there is certainly something torn. 🙁
Date7. March 2016 | 14:34
TagsAlex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Interview, Muhammad Ali, Nanga Parbat, Simone Moro, Tamara Lunger, winter ascent
The upcoming spring season on Everest casts its shadows before. Ten “Icefall doctors” were sent to the Base Camp on the Nepalese side of the highest mountain on earth to prepare the route for the commercial expeditions. In the past two years, there had been no summit successes from the south (I deliberately ignore the “success” of Chinese climber Wang Jing and her Sherpa-Team in 2014 who had been flown to Camp 2 by helicopter). In 2014, the spring season had prematurely ended after an ice avalanche in Khumbu Icefall had killed 16 Nepalese climbers. In 2015, the 25 April earthquake had triggered a huge avalanche from Pumori that had hit Everest Base Camp and killed 19 people.
On Monday, the Nepalese cabinet – at last! – gave green light for the extension of the 2015 climbing permits by two years. “It is a welcome move from the government that we hope will help bring back the climbers to the mountains”, said Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. But it might be too late for many of the about 800 climbers who got a 2015 permit, including 357 Everest aspirants, to return already this spring.
I asked Mingma Gyalje Sherpa about the upcoming season. The 29-year-old, who has already climbed seven eight-thousanders and recently made headlines by solo climbing the difficult West Face of 6685-meter-high Chobutse for the first time, is head of the Kathmandu based expedition and trekking operator Dreamers Destination.
Mingma, the spring season is around the corner. What do you expect, especially on Mount Everest?
Date1. March 2016 | 17:40
TagsDreamers Destination, Icefall Doctors, Interview, Mingma Sherpa, Mount Everest, Nepalese Government, Operators, Permits, Rules
Ralf Dujmovits is one of the many climbers who have already failed in winter on Nanga Parbat. The first and so far only German who climbed all 14 eight-thousanders tried to scale the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan at the turn of 2013/2014 after having acclimatized previously on the 6,962-meter-high Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. At that time Ralf abandoned his expedition relatively quickly because he thought the danger of ice avalanches on the Messner route was by far too high. I met the 54-year-old this week at the trade fair ISPO in Munich.
Ralf, at the moment much is happening on Nanga Parbat. Are you not itching to go there again?
Date29. January 2016 | 17:39
TagsInterview, K 2, Kinshofer route, Messner route, Nancy Hansen, Nanga Parbat, Ralf Dujmovits, Rupal side, winter ascent
He is the doyen of the western expedition operators. The New Zealander Russell Brice has been leading expeditions to the Himalayas since 1974. Hardly any of his colleagues has so much experience as the 63-year-old head of Himalayan Experience, not only in organizing trips to the eight-thousanders but also in dealing with the authorities. It is something that has almost been forgotten, that Russell at an earlier age was an excellent high altitude climber – and an Everest pioneer: Along with the Briton Harry Taylor he first climbed the Three Pinnacles on the Northeast Ridge in 1988.
I wanted to know what Brice thinks about the current situation in Nepal:
Russ, for this spring Himalayan Experience is offering expeditions in Nepal to Mount Everest and Lhotse. How great is the demand?
Very small numbers compared to past years.
Date18. January 2016 | 12:43
For sure, it was an amazing highlight of alpinism, but a shadow falls across. At the end of October – as reported – the Austrians Hansjoerg Auer, Alexander Bluemel and Gerhard Fiegl first climbed the South Face of the 6,839-meter-high Nilgiri South in the Annapurna massif in Nepal. Five previous expeditions, top climbers from Japan, Czech Republic and Slovakia, had failed to climb the wall. However, the success of the Austrian trio turned into a tragedy: While descending, Gerry, manifestly suffering from high altitude sickness, fell to his death several hundred meters deep, three days after his 27th birthday – while his friends were looking on in horror. A few days later, the search for Fiegl was abandoned.
Hansjoerg Auer sustained frostbite on six toes. Meanwhile the feeling in his toes has returned and he can climb again, the 31-year-old tells me. Next spring, he wants to set off along with his compatriot David Lama to a “cool, very difficult destination”. He doesn’t yet reveal, where it will be. I’ve talked to Hansjoerg about what happened in late October.
Hansjörg, you succeeded in making the amazing first ascent of the South Face of Nilgiri South. But on the descent your teammate Gerry Fiegl fell to his death. Does this tragic end make everything else fade into the backround?
Date23. December 2015 | 14:27
TagsAccident, Alexander Bluemel, Gerry Fiegl, Hansjoerg Auer, High altitude sickeness, Nilgiri South, South face, Southwest Ridge
It’s five to twelve, maybe later. Time is running out to tackle man-made climate change. The impacts of global warming can be observed also in the Himalayas, gpt instance in Nepal. “Largely because of climate change and the recent impacts of the earthquake and aftershocks, Nepal has entered an era of accelerated catastrophic events that will impact the country’s population, their lives and livelihoods for several years to come”, US and local scientists said after having researched the greatest and most dangerous glacial lakes in Nepal after the devastating 25 April earthquake.
In these days, delegates from all over the world are debating a new climate change agreement in Paris. On this occasion, I called Dawa Steven Sherpa in Kathmandu. Along with his father Ang Tshering Sherpa, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), the 31-year-old is managing the expedition operator “Asian Trekking”. Dawa Steven scaled Everest twice (in 2007 and 2008) and in addition the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu (2006) and Lhotse (2009). For years he has been engaging for environmental and climate protection. He is a climate change ambassador for WWF.
Date3. December 2015 | 12:30
TagsBlockade, climate change, Climate summit Paris, Cop21 Paris, Dawa Steven Sherpa, Earthquake, Mount Everest, Nepal
Real adventurers should be young? Fiddlesticks! The Briton Mick Fowler and his long-time climbing partner and compatriot Paul Ramsden prove that you can do extremely ambitious climbs in the Himalayas even if you are older than 50. Mick is going to celebrate his 60th (!) anniversary next year – unbelievable! Many young climbers would turn green with envy comparing their efforts with Mick’s and Paul’s achievements in recent years. Again and again they succeed in first climbing amazing routes on six-thousanders in Nepal, India, China or elsewhere. They were already awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar for climbers”, twice: in 2003, for their new route through the North Face of the 6250-meter-high Siguniang in western China and in 2013, for their first climb of the Northeast Ridge of the 6142-meter-high Shiva in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. And they have a good chance to win the Golden Ice Axe for the third time – for their latest expedition. This October, Mick and Paul completed the first ascent of Gave Ding, a six-thousander located in a very remote valley in far west Nepal.
Mick, year after year you and your climbing partner Paul Ramsden discover ambitious new mountains or routes, tackle them and succeed. What is your secret of success?
Lots of hard research, a good partnership and a shared approach of not retreating unless there is a very good reason to do so.
Date2. December 2015 | 9:26
The Huber brothers will continue to go on joint expeditions, but probably not to Latok I. Whereas Thomas Huber raved about the still unclimbed North Face of the 7,145-meter-high granite mountain in the Karakoram when I met him three weeks ago, his younger brother Alexander seems to have definitely written off the project due to their experiences last summer. I talked to the 46-year-old climber at the Alpine Trade Fair in Innsbruck last week.
Alexander, on Latok III, during your acclimatization for climbing the North Face of Latok I, you were are almost blown out of the wall by the blast wave of an ice avalanche. Your brother told me that never before it had been so close. Have you felt like he did?
It was definitely close. We had noticed the serac and therefore placed our camp far away from it. We were lucky that we had dug out a small platform to position the tents perfectly. The small snow edge of this platform has saved our lives. Otherwise we would have been blown away. In this respect, our risk management worked. But it was much, much closer than I ever imagined. And that’s shocking.
Date13. November 2015 | 11:04
TagsAlexander Huber, Huber brothers, Huberbuam, Karakorum, Karakorum Highway, Latok I North Face, Latok III, Pakistan, Panmah Kangri
Next try. In these days, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki will start his second summit attempt on Mount Everest. As reported before, his first try had failed last weekend, at about 7,700 meters, the level of the Geneva Spur, 200 meters below the South Col. Kuriki is the only climber who tries to scale Everest this fall, climbing alone without bottled oxygen. I have succeeded in contacting the 33-year-old at Everest Base Camp.
Nobukazu, what went wrong during your first summit attempt?
There was deeper snow than I expected, and it took too long to plow through it.
You decided to pitch your tent for your highest camp at about 7,700 meters instead of the usual South Col. Why?
Date1. October 2015 | 11:10
The Matterhorn was his first four-thousander. Dani Arnold was 18 years old when he first scaled the prestige mountain of his home country from the Höernli Hut on the normal route in 2002. Today the 31-year-old is one of the best climbers in Switzerland. Since then, he has been „maybe eight times on top“ of the Matterhorn, Dani writes to me from Pakistan, where he is currently trying to climb first through the North Face of the seven-thousander Latok I, along with the German Huber brothers and the Austrian Mario Walder. In recent years, Arnold made headlines in particular with his speed records. Since 2011, he is holding the record on the Eiger North Face. He climbed the wall on the route of the first ascent in two hours and 28 minutes. Thus Dani was 20 minutes faster than the previous record holder Ueli Steck. This April, he also broke Steck’s speed record on the Matterhorn North Face. It took Arnold an hour and 46 minutes, spending ten minutes less on the wall than Ueli did in 2009. The Matterhorn, 150 years after the first ascent, from the perspective of a professional climber:
Dani, all over the world the Matterhorn is a symbol for Switzerland. How do you see this mountain? Or in other words, what does it mean to you?
Date13. July 2015 | 8:00
Tags150-year-jubilee, Dani Arnold, first ascent, Matterhorn, Matterhorn North Face, Speed record, Switzerland
Even the first ascent of the Matterhorn 150 years ago ended in tragedy. Four team members died during the descent from the summit, when a rope ruptured. Since then, more than 500 climbers died on the “Horu”, as the locals call the Matterhorn – more than on any other mountain in Switzerland. Year after year there are between 2,500 and 3,000 summit attempts, also resulting in a lot of work for mountain rescuers. Helmut called “Helmi” Lerjen comes from a true mountain guide family. In the fourth generation, the Lerjens are guiding clients on mountains like the Matterhorn. Helmi, who is living with his wife and daughter in the small village of Täsch, close to Zermatt, has also been working for the Mountain Rescue Zermatt for almost 15 years. The Matterhorn, 150 years after the first ascent, from the perspective of a mountain rescuer:
Dani, all over the world the Matterhorn is a symbol for Switzerland. How do you see this mountain? Or in other words, what does it mean to you?
Date11. July 2015 | 8:00
Tags150-year-jubilee, Helmi Lerjen, Hörnli Hut, Hörnli Ridge, Matterhorn, Mountain guide, mountain rescue, Switzerland
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