ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Controversies.

(ExplorersWeb.com) In previous years, ExplorersWeb have published one big Year in Review on January 1st.

This year we are cutting it up in sections, to be posted every day until the awards, with the compiled report to go up early 2010.

Part 1 : –  ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Farewell to friends.

Part 2 : –   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Polar adventures.

Part 3 : –   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Significant climbs.

Part 4 : –   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: The Oceans.

Part 5 : –   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Mount Everest.

Today: controversies.

Unethical climbing

Within only a couple of years, three of Dodo Kopold’s climbing mates have been left to descend alone, without adequate gear, close to 8000+ meters. Two of them died. Following extensive investigations, the Slovak Mountaineering Association deemed Dodo’s G1 and BP summit evidence “inaccurate and misleading” and his description of events related to Vlado Plulik’s fate on Broad Peak in 2008 “a grave violation of the ethical and sport performance principles of the mountaineering association.”

Only months later, Black Diamond athlete Dodo Kopold was included in the jury of the revamped Piolet d’Or reportedly intending to award, “transparency in reports, respect for team-mates and crew, and the example set for the future generations.”

Vlado Plulik update: a family’s search for truth about the Baltoro Express

Cut rope and indifference

Veteran climber Joao Garcia alleged that the rope (which he had fixed) had been cut on Nanga Parbat where Miss Go fell. Denis Urubko had a similar experience on Nanga in 2003 when he found that a mint, high-quality rope he had fixed at the rock section above Camp 2 had been removed while he was gone. Similar to Miss Go Denis fell on descent but was fast enough to push off the slope and prevent to go head over heels.

On the Gasherbrums, Portuguese Daniela Teixeira (teaming up with Paulo Roxo) sounded off on friend Luis Maria Barbero, a member in Soria’s team who was killed on GII’s normal route, “we found it strange that until we asked, nobody said a word about his disappearance,” Daniela wrote.

Summit claims shakedown

Several large commercial teams’ summit reports didn’t add up to other climbers’ climbing notes on Manaslu in 2008, cutting numbers of success down to barely half.

The problems continued this spring. Several Manaslu summits were disputed and the peak is becoming the most problematic 8000er to compile these days in terms of who went to the real summit and who stopped halfway. Also Dhaulagiri was affected, to a lesser degree.

The summit shakedown continued in Karakoram this summer. Jorge Egocheaga, the only reported K2 summiteer this season, made clear he had stopped 12 meters from target due to unsafe conditions.

Five Iranian members of the Tehran and Sarab expeditions were reported to have reached GII’s summit in high winds. The statement was however pushed back by climbers in BC, who reported that the mountaineers said they had turned around 50 meters shy from the real top, a statement later confirmed also by the Iranians.

Two Swiss, one German, and Cleo Weidlich reportedly summited Broad Peak on July 20th. This statement was strongly disputed by Dutch expedition leader Eelco Jansen and ExplorersWeb have not obtained evidence contradicting Jansen’s protest.

In all, the Karakoram season ended with no summits on K2, no summits on BP, and very few confirmed summits on G1, G2 and NP.

False summit claims culminated on Shisha Pangma this fall when a Swedish climbing veteran, aided by local and international mountaineers, unveiled false statements backed by stolen and manipulated pictures.

Himalaya Fall 2009: Shisha Pangma special report final: false summit claims – and the winner is…


They broke the story that the horse snow-shoes Scott and his mates left behind at Antarctica could possibly have saved the expedition – and their ponies. This time, The Long Riders’ Guild alerted about a horse-race in Mongolia where they alleged undersized horses were ridden by inexperienced foreigners in an endurance race promoted by a Brit specialized in junk car races, a celebrity jockey-rider, a charity, and a reality show host with a tarnished reputation when it comes to animals.

With his Everest summit this year, Ranulph Fiennes (UK) was touted by media as the oldest person to complete the Three Poles. However the polar community requires that no motorized vehicles are used; Fiennes used snow mobile with undisclosed number of resupplies for the North Pole.

After only two weeks enroute to the North Pole in a big budget expedition; British Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley were featured in mainstream media as “global warming researchers” suffering frostbite and starvation due to a delayed resupply. The expedition was eventually aborted. Meanwhile two other teams covered the full distance, one without assistance.

UK Telegraph claimed that people who pushed “themselves to their limits and beyond during the past 10 years” were mostly British.

The North Face filed a federal lawsuit against The South Butt, selling a parody apparel product line under the motto “Never Stop Relaxing.” Founder Jimmy Winkelmann, 18, said in a press release, “The South Butt has previously made it clear to the North Face that the consuming public is insightful enough to know the difference between a face and a butt.”


When complaining didn’t help; Altitude Junkies retrieved and unloaded dumped garbage by offenders’ BC tent. In place to study the subject, a French climber/researcher.

Arian Lemal: waste management +8000 m style

Arian’s report made waves among climbers and short of making citizen’s arrests; the community is now self-sanitizing by turning in photo evidence.

Fighting back

Over the years Italian Simone Moro has suffered a hard time from parts of the climbing community but when also his Beka Brakai Chhok expedition was questioned, he finally sounded off:

“After 29 years of attempts, I honestly thought that now was the time to speak about my historic first winter Makalu summit with Denis Urubko and not to have the surprise to know that someone is accusing me of ‘lying’,” he wrote, presenting Beka Brakai Chhok documentation and asking for some respect. “After 40 expeditions all over the world in all seasons and in all styles, I think that it is quite clear who I am, how I climb and what I have climbed,” Simone said.

2009 cheating bonanza finale

The year’s 15-minutes-of-fame bonanza was rounded off by a Colorado father who claimed his son had floated off on an experimental air-craft. “We did it for the show,” the 6-year-old later confessed on camera. The father pleaded guilty and sentencing is scheduled for December 23.

* Previous story :

–  ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Farewell to friends.

–   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Polar adventures.

–   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Significant climbs.

–   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: The Oceans.

–   ExplorersWeb Year 2009 in Review: Mount Everest.

–   Tragedy in the Himalaya, 2009 climbing season.

Exweb Week-In-Review is sponsored by HumanEdgeTech the world’s premier supplier of expedition technology. Our team helps you find ultra light expedition tech that works globally.

e-mail or call +1 212 966 1928

* Read these stories – and more! – at ExplorersWeb.com


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