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New Everest category “aviation-assisted climb”?

How much helicopter should be allowed on Everest?l

How much helicopter should be allowed on Everest?l

The spring season on Mount Everest is over, but not the discussion about what happened at the highest mountain in the world. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has set up a committee to clarify whether, when and how often helicopters were used to airlift team members of the Chinese female climber Wang Jing and the Brazilian-American Cleo Weidlich to Camp 2 at 6400 meters. On 23 May, Wang was the first person who reached the summit of Mount Everest this spring, just before the first successes from the north side were reported. Weidlich originally planned to climb Lhotse, but in her own words she made no real attempt to reach the summit.

Pilot confirmed passenger transport to Camp 2

According to the newspaper Himalayan Times the Italian pilot Maurizio Folini has confirmed that he has flown Wang Jing from Base Camp to Camp 2 on 10 May and also picked her up again there by helicopter on 25 May. After returning to Kathmandu the Chinese woman reportedly claimed that she never used a helicopter to reach Camp 2. Only two Sherpas had been flown up, she said. “This would seem to be a distinction without a difference since they were helping her ascent”, the legendary chronicler of Himalayan mountaineering, Elizabeth Hawley, writes to me. So far only rescue flights were allowed higher than Base Camp. This spring the Nepalese government had only made an exception to let fly out material from Camp 2 after the premature end of all expeditions.

Good idea

Miura after his return to Base Camp by helicopter

Miura after his return to Base Camp by helicopter

I had written to Elizabeth Hawley because I hesitate to call Wang Jing’s summit success a complete ascent of Everest and wanted to know how the 90-year-old U.S. chronicler deals with this climb in her “Himalayan Database”. “You have raised a good point about climbers using helicopters to fly over dangerous terrain in their ascents”, answered Miss Hawley. “We at the Database think we need to add a new category of caveats perhaps called aviation-assisted climbs. That category would also include Yuichiro Miura’s climb of Everest in spring 2013, when he flew out of Camp II to Base Camp to avoid the Icefall. And Cleo Weidlich’s attempt on Lhotse this spring.” I think, it’s a good idea. After the action of the 80-year-old Japanese Miura who had set a new age record last year, I had already asked in my blog how much helicopter should be allowed on Everest. After the avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall on 18 April which killed 16 Nepalese climbers this question could be more urgent than ever.

Update 8 June: Wang Jing meanwhile admitted that she had used a helicopter on Everest. “The Sherpas have great mental pressure and they were reluctant to step into that place”, Wang said in an interview of China News Service. “I knew our decision could discount the climbing efforts. However, I would like to accept the losses for the sake of safety.”


7. June 2014 | 16:59