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with Stefan Nestler

Discussions about new Everest route

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

No matter how likely something seems to be, things may turn out quite differently. For many years, most climbers on the Nepalese side of Everest thought that the route through the Khumbu Icefall, which led – seen from below – along the left hand side directly below the West Shoulder, was safe. Until 18 April 2014 when a huge ice avalanche released and killed 16 Nepalis. The Sherpas revolted, the season was over before it had begun. This spring, the route is to be relocated further away from the West Shoulder, about 40 meters to the centre of the Icefall. Ang Dorjee Sherpa, president of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Commitee (SPCC), which is responsible for the route, said to the Himalayan Times, he expected that the clients need three to four hours more to reach Camp 1. Although the new route is not as risky as the old one, it is more difficult, says Ang Dorjee. Not all are convinced that this is the last word.

Really safe?

„The Everest Icefall ‘route change’ announced by Nepal is not a solution. It’s an excuse to maintain the status quo“, US expedition leader Adrian Ballinger wrote on Twitter. The head of the expedition operator Alpenglow decided, in response to last year’s events on the Nepalese side, to switch to the Tibetan north side of Everest. There he will meet, among others, Dominik Mueller, head of the German operator Amical alpin, who also will lead an expedition from the north side.

He is „very skeptical that, on the bottom line, this route is really so much safer,” Dominik replies when I ask him what he thinks about the new route on the Nepalese side. „They try with all means to declare the ascent as safe as possible.“

Back to the roots

Dominik Mueller

Dominik Mueller

Mueller points out that even in past times the route had led via the centre of the Icefall. In this basin, the glacier is moving much faster and is therefore unpredictable, says Dominik. Because of the increasing glacier melt it had been decided to move the route more to the left side – for safety. „So back to the roots, without looking at the change of the glacier?“ Dominik expects a significant higher risk for the Icefall Doctors while they set up the route through the center of the Icefall. And they will have more work to maintain the way through the ice labyrinth during the season because the glacier moves faster in the centre. More material such as ladders and fixed ropes are needed, Mueller says: „This will make it more expensive, while simultaneously the number of climbers on the south side will decrease.“ Dominik believes that it will be difficult to master the balancing act to find the perfect route: „On the one hand as far as possible in the centre, far enough away from the West Shoulder. On the other hand as close as possible to the left side, where the flow rate of the glacier is lower. If it works, it would be a good and neccessary step to make the south side of Everest more attractive and safer again.“ Hard to say how likely that is.


19. February 2015 | 18:24