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with Stefan Nestler

Free return flight from Tibet for all Sherpas?

The Potala Palace in Lhasa

The Potala Palace in Lhasa

China shows its friendly face. For 10 May, the Chinese government is planning “to provide a charter flight free of charge form Lhasa to Kathmandu for all Sherpas – not just for Climbing Sherpas, but also for cooks and kitchen helpers”, Ralf Dujmovits wrote to me calling it “a generous gesture” – despite  the expected propaganda of the Chinese. The most successful German mountaineer arrived in Lhasa, like many other western climbers who were on expedition in Tibet. “The China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) generously bears the costs of transport to Lhasa, accommodation and meals. And they take care of the visa formalities for the stranded climbers coming from all Tibetan peaks”, the 53-year-old said. The land route from Tibet to Nepal is still blocked nine days after the devastating earthquake. Since yesterday, Chinese helpers are trying to clear the damaged road from the Nepalese border village Kodari to Kathmandu, using heavy equipment.

Boulders as large as rooms

ABC on the north side of Everest before China closed the mountain

ABC on the north side of Everest before China closed the mountain

Originally, Ralf wanted to climb Everest from the north without bottled oxygen, along with the Canadian climber Nancy Hansen. When the earth shook in Nepal, they were just above Chinese Base Camp at 5,200 meters. “We ran for our lives, when boulders as big as rooms crashed down from the moraine hills”, Ralf wrote. Four days later, when the Chinese authorities finally closed all Tibetan mountains because they considered the risk of further quakes to be too great, Ralf and Nancy were already in the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 6,400 meters. Then they returned immediately. “The probably best way to describe our and my own mood is calling it ‘emptiness’”, says Ralf. “Thousands of people have died on both sides of the Himalayan main ridge, tens of thousands are homeless, and those who survived are facing great distress and incalculable misery. Thus Nancy and I don’t want to breathe a single word about disappointment. We had hopes and dreams – and primarily we escaped with our lives (on the north side of Everest).” Dominik Mueller, head of the German expedition operator Amical alpin, reported on Facebook that a big avalanche released from the North Col on Saturday: “It was right to cancel all activities.”

Still many missing

Dujmovits and Hansen are going to fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu. Ralf wants to see for himself the scale of the damage in Sindhupalchowk district which is located in the east of the Nepalese capital. Along with the German aid organisation “Nepalhilfe Beilngries”, he had founded two schools in the area a few years ago. “Reportedly they either were severely damaged or destroyed”, Ralf wrote. This region, including the Langtang National Park, was hit by the earthquake particularly hard. To date, the Nepalese government has registered more than 2,800 dead in the district. Several hundred people are still missing. Among them are numerous trekking tourists, also from Germany. Overall, the death toll in Nepal has been rising to more than 7,300.


4. May 2015 | 14:52