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Route via the Khumbu Icefall is prepared

Hard work in the Khumbu Icefall

Once more it is served on Mount Everest. For three days, the Basque Alex Txikon, six Sherpas and two “Icefall Doctors” worked to restore the route via the Khumbu Icefall up to Camp 1 at more than 6,000 meters. 60 percent of the route had to be renewed, because the hard weather conditions of the past two weeks had left their mark in the ice labyrinth, the team of the 35-year-old Spaniard said. “It has been hard days refitting the route,” Alex noted on Facebook. After today’s rest day, Txikon and Co. want to ascend tomorrow to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters.

Time to grind the teeth

Alex Txikon

“I know that every time I go up, my strength is decreasing and therefore the chances of summit too,” Alex wrote in his blog. “But I’m a bit stubborn and I like to climb and fight it. It is time to grind my teeth.”

As reported, Txikon had had to interrupt his winter attempt involuntarily because the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks had ordered the entire team back to Kathmandu after the failed first summit attempt. On Saturday, Alex had returned to the Everest Base Camp by helicopter.

Date

1. March 2017 | 12:23

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Alex Txikon’s Everest dream team

Alex Txikon in high camp on Everest

Alex Txikon in high camp on Everest

Danger welds together. When Alex Txikon returned to Base Camp after six exhausting and exciting days on the slopes of Mount Everest, he hugged every Sherpa who had accompanied him. “In this team everyone knows what needs to be done,” the 35-year-old Basque writes in his blog. The appreciation is mutual. In Alex’ words, Norbu Sherpa told him during the descent: “I believe that for more than 20 or 30 years, no westerner has done what you are doing.” Like the six Sherpas, Txikon had carried up loads of more than 30 kilograms through the Khumbu Icefall and further up.

Date

26. January 2017 | 13:07

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Txikon reaches Camp 2 on Everest

Alex Txikon (at Camp 1)

Alex Txikon (at Camp 1)

Sunny, but extremely cold. This is what the weather forecast predicts for the next days on Mount Everest. In addition, the wind is to refresh. Temperatures between minus 20 and minus 30 degrees Celsius are expected, Alex Txikon informs. In addition, the wind is to refresh. Nevertheless, the team set off from Base Camp today and reached after seven hours the site of Camp 2 at 6,400 meters. Alex, his Spanish countryman Carlos Rubio and nine Sherpas had previously secured the way through the Khumbu Icefall and pitched up Camp 1 at 6,050 meters, at the entrance of the Western Qwm. It was said, that the team might climb up even to Camp 3 at 7,400 meters within the next days. The climbers are expected back in Base Camp on next Sunday or Monday.

Date

19. January 2017 | 11:28

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An Icefall Doctor himself

Txikon with a ladder on his back

Txikon with a ladder on his back

At the moment Alex Txikon may feel on Mount Everest a bit like Edmund Hillary. Like the first ascender from New Zealand and his companions in 1953, the Basque must play an active part in finding a way through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall above Base Camp and in carrying material needed to secure the route. For example aluminium ladders to cross the deep crevasses in the Icefall. With a weight of about five kilograms, such a ladder is not too heavy but bloody bulky while climbing through the ice. Real back-breaking work, as the video shows which the 35-year-old sent today from Everest Base Camp:

As reported, Alex, along with his Spanish countryman Carlos Rubio, wants to scale Mount Everest in winter, for the first time since 1993 – without bottled oxygen. The two climbers and nine Sherpas first have to make their way through the dangerous Icefall. Txikon has estimated this work for up to four weeks.

Pretty exclusive experience

As in Hillary’s days, the Spanish expedition is currently the only one on the highest mountain on earth. What a contrast to spring, when year after year several hundred mountaineers from dozens of commercial expeditions turn the Base Camp into a small tent town!

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

When the clients arrive there at an altitude of 5,300 meters in April, usually the so-called “Icefall Doctors” have already prepared and secured the way through the Icefall. This team of eight Sherpas also ensures that the route remains accessible throughout the climbing season until its end early June. The highly specialized Sherpas are selected and paid by the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC), an organization that originally only cared about the environmental protection in the National Park around Mount Everest. Since 2000, the SPCC has also been responsible for the route through the Khumbu Icefall on behalf of the Government of Nepal. In spring 2014, 16 Nepalese climbers were killed in an avalanche in the Icefall.

Even if it turns out that Alex Txikon is not able to reach the summit at 8,850 meters this winter – his experience of working as a non-Sherpa as Icefall Doctor is pretty exclusive.

Date

11. January 2017 | 14:58

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Ten popular Everest errors

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

The Everest spring season is gaining momentum. The Base Camp on the Nepalese side of Mount Everest is filling. According to the government in Kathmandu, 279 climbers from 38 countries have registered for the highest mountain on earth. The Icefall Doctors have meanwhile prepared the route all the way up to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters. The teams who want to climb Everest from the Tibetan north side, have also received now their permits from the Chinese authorities and are heading to Tibet. It’s going to kick off there too. Before the media Everest season begins, I would like to correct some reoccurring errors.

Date

13. April 2016 | 12:47

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Securing Everest jobs of the future

Dawa Gyaljen Sherpa

Dawa Gyaljen Sherpa

He is one of the Sherpas who stay well clear of Mount Everest this year. “I simply haven’t got the time,” says Dawa Sherpa Gyaljen, when I meet him in a cafe in Kathmandu during my visit Nepal. The 29-year-old is working for a trekking operator. “Maybe I’ll get the chance in 2017 again. I have been asked if I would lead an Everest team next year. Let’s see whether I can take as much vacation.” The Sherpa, who was born in the Khumbu region in a small village west of Namche Bazaar, has reached the highest point on earth already four times: in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The upcoming spring season could set the course for the future, Dawa believes.

Date

2. April 2016 | 8:00

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Dorje’s Everest sabbatical

Dorje Sherpa in front of his lodge in Phakding

Dorje Sherpa in front of his lodge in Phakding

Dorje Sherpa is familiar with Everest disasters. In 1996, 20 years ago, he reached the summit of the highest mountain on earth for the first time. Then he belonged to the IMAX film team of the American David Breashears, when a storm in the summit area killed eight climbers within 24 hours. “We were then in Camp 2 at 6,400 meters”, the 50-year-old tells me in his “Buddha Lodge” in the village of Phakding, which lies on the popular trekking route to Everest Base Camp.

Date

16. March 2016 | 13:08

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With nine finger stumps to the top of Everest?

South side of Everest

South side of Everest

It has gone out of style to climb Mount Everest in fall. This happened even though some of the most spectacular summit successes on the highest mountain in the world have been made in the post-monsoon period: Remember only the first ascent through the Everest Southwest Face by the British Doug Scott and Dougal Haston in September 1975 or the success of the US-American Carlos Buhler, Kim Momb and Lou Reichardt via the East Face in October 1983. However, the climbing season has moved more and more into spring since commercial expeditions have taken over on Everest – due to higher temperatures compared to fall and to the usually lower risk of avalanches. Since 2000, only 36 summit successes have been recorded in September or October – next to nothing compared with over 5,000 ascents in spring since the turn of the millennium. The last ascent to the top of Everest in fall dates from five years ago: In October 2010, the American Eric Larsen and five Sherpas reached the highest point at 8,850 meters. This fall, there will be another attempt to climb Everest from the Nepalese south side. According to the “Himalayan Times” the so-called “Icefall Doctors” – a group of high specialized Sherpas – arrived at Base Camp in order to fix a route through the Khumbu Icefall.

Date

19. August 2015 | 9:55

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Rather far on the right side

New route through the Khumbu Icefall (on the right.) and that of 2014 (left)

New route through the Khumbu Icefall (on the right) and that of 2014 (left)

Apparently, the new route through the Khumbu Icefall is more than a little course correction. That is indicated by the images that the US guide Garrett Madison has published in his blog. Expedition members of his Madison Mountaineering team had flown over the icefall above Everest Base Camp by helicopter and had looked from the air where the so-called “Icefall Doctors” set up the route for this spring season. The images show that the route leads – seen from below – much further to the right side of the ice labyrinth than expected. Closer to Nuptse, further away from the West Shoulder of Everest, from where an ice avalanche had released on 18 April 2014 that had killed 16 Nepalis. “It appears that climbers will have to negotiate broken ice as before, and perhaps more vertical ladders”, Garrett wrote adding that there was at least one section that had four vertical ladders tied together to ascend up a very large ice cliff.

Date

8. April 2015 | 14:35

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Dawa Gyaljen Sherpa: “Cold war inside”

Dawa Gyaljen sherpa

Dawa Gyaljen sherpa

He was one of the first at the scene. After the fatal avalanche at the Khumbu Icefall on 18 April 2014, Dawa Gyaljen Sherpa rushed down from Camp 2 to help the buried climbers. “On the spot, we encounter dead bodies and blood everywhere. There were a row of dead bodies in one main rope swept into the crevasse”, the 28-year-old Sherpa wrote to me in 2014. “When we pulled the rope, we found the body one after another in the same crevasse. Some of the dead bodies were buried into the snow and we could see only the boots, it seemed those bodies were upside down.” 16 Nepalese were killed in the avalanche, two weeks later the Base Camp was empty, the season finished. Dawa Gyaljen Sherpa has summited Everest four times, he did it for the first time when he was 19 years old. Later Dawa studied in UK. Now he’s living in Kathmandu.  I asked him what he thinks about the upcoming Everest spring season. He replied openly. A Sherpa point of view, an interesting insight.  

Date

25. February 2015 | 14:40

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Russell Brice: “At last”

Russell Brice

Russell Brice

Russell Brice breathes out. “At last”, the 62-year-old New Zealander, head of the expedition operator Himalayan Experience, replies to my question on what he thinks about the planned new route through the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest. “We have been asking the SPCC (Note: The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Comitee is responsible for the route through the icefall.) to put the route more central since 2012. Now at last they have listened to the foreign operators instead of the local Sherpas who asked for the route to be moved so as they could travel faster … but not so safely.” Brice doesn’t expect that the new route will take the clients as much time as SPCC president Ang Dorjee Sherpa estimates: “It will take only about one hour longer, not three to four hours. You see there are not many people around these days who have been this way. But I have.”

Date

20. February 2015 | 11:37

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German doctor wants to help Sherpa families in the long term

 

Matthias Baumann in the Khumbu Icefall

Matthias Baumann in the Khumbu Icefall

18 April has changed many things: on Mount Everest, in the lives of the families of the 16 avalanche victims – and also for Matthias Baumann. The 42-year-old trauma surgeon from the German town of Esslingen was the expedition doctor in the team of the Argentine twin brothers Damian and Willie (Guillermo) Benegas and actually wanted to climb Everest in his second attempt, on the Nepalese south side. In 2011, his first attempt on the Tibetan north side had failed at 8600 meters: When he wanted to change his oxygen bottle at the Second Step, the key point of the normal route, Matthias realized that his Sherpa had packed an empty instead of a full bottle.

Three years later, this spring, Baumann climbed through the Khumbu Icefall, on the day before the avalanche. “I knew that avalanches had been coming down from the West Shoulder of Everest for four or five years. Up there, the seracs are threatening”, Matthias told me. Even if the fun at climbing gained the upper hand, the respect remained. “I was always looking up to the seracs.” On the following day, the Khumbu Icefall became a death trap for 16 Nepalese climbers. With other physicians, the German doctor took care of the injured climbers who were brought down to the base camp. After the end of the expedition Matthias visited almost all the families of the Nepalese who had lost their lives – and launched a fundraiser for them.

Date

15. May 2014 | 14:49

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At least twelve killed in avalanche on Everest

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

The spring season on Everest begins with a disaster. On the Nepalese south side of the mountain, an avalanche has hit the Khumbu Icefall. “Around 25 persons were swept away by the avalanche”, a spokesman of the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism said. “We have rescued eight alive, and 12 bodies have been recovered so far.” Four Sherpas were still missing. Climbers from six expeditions were caught in the avalanche. Due to other reports, all victims were Sherpas who were fixing the route route through the labyrinth of ice when the avalanche went off at an altitude of about 5800 meters.

The dangerous passage is called “popcorn field” because there are so many ice blocks of collapsed seracs or out of ice avalanches. This spring, some 300 climbers from 28 expeditions have pitched their tents on the south side of Mount Everest.

By now it is the worst avalanche disaster in the history of Mount Everest. In 1922, on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest seven Sherpas were killed in an avalanche. In 1970 within days seven Sherpas lost their lives in the Khumbu Icefall.

Date

18. April 2014 | 13:05

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Alexei Bolotov dies on Everest

Alexei Bolotovi (1963-2013)

What should have been a highlight in the history of climbing on Everest, ended in tragedy. Russian climber Alexei Bolotov fell to death in the Khumbu Icefall. Together with his compatriot Denis Urubko the 50-year-old mountaineer wanted to open a new route via the steep Southwest Face. As Denis said on phone, the rope broke on a sharp edge of rock when Alexei was abseiling. Bolotov fell down about 300 metres and died instantly. He was found at 5600 metres.

Date

15. May 2013 | 17:10

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