More DW Blogs DW.COM

Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

Same route as in the accident year 2014

Route through the Khumbu Icefall (on the right) in the two past years and that of 2014 (left)

Has the memory of the Everest tragedy in 2014 faded so quickly? According to the Kathmandu-based newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, the “Icefall Doctors” have relocated the route through the Khumbu Icefall for the upcoming season to the left side of the ice labyrinth, just below the ice-loaded West Shoulder. On 18 April 2014, an ice avalanche had swept down from there and killed 16 Nepalese climbers. In spring 2015 (this season also ended prematurely due to the devastating earthquake in Nepal) and in 2016 too, the Sherpas, who were responsible for securing and maintaining the route through the Icefall, had chosen a variant on the right side.

Is there a right way?

In the Khumbu Icefall

After the accident in 2014, a heated debate raged on whether the “Icefall Doctors” were to blame for the tragedy. “They have prepared the piste at the weakest point, where the difficulties are lowest, but the dangers are greatest. This is not clever,” said Reinhold Messner at that time. Others, however, pointed out that the increasing ice flow would hardly allow an ascent through the center, as it had been practiced in the past. And that on the other side of the Icefall, avalanches were threatening from the flanks of the 7861-meter-high Nuptse.

Climate change increases the risk

It is absolutely certain that the Khumbu Icefall is insecure. The passage just above Everest Base Camp has always been the one with the highest objective dangers. And the advancing climate change increases the risk of collapsing seracs or avalanches sweeping down from the West Shoulder and the slopes of Nuptse. The likelihood of another tragedy rises with the number of mountaineers climbing through the Icefall at the same time. It’s like black ice on the highway: the more traffic, the more dead. This spring, about 500 summit aspirants are expected on the Nepali south side of the mountain.


4. April 2017 | 16:35