Are Budget Operators on Everest Making the Mountain Less Safe?

Our friend Alan Arnette has written a thoughtful piece for Outside magazine examining the evolving landscape on Everest where the more expensive western guide services are now competing directly with low-budget, locally owned companies. This is having a major impact on the mountain and will likely play a significant role in future climbing expeditions there, but the question remains as to whether or not these operators are actually making the mountain less safe.

In the article, Alan provides some background and historical information about Everest and commercial guiding on the mountain. That started back in the 1990’s when mountaineering companies began offering clients the opportunity to scale the world’s highest peak but at a cost of as much as $65,000. Over the years, more operators joined the fray, which has led to the common perception that Everest is filled with rich people who pay someone to drag them to the top.

But in recent years, there has been a slew of new climbing companies that have begun guiding on the mountain too. Mostly owned by local Nepali guides, the companies offer cut-rate prices, often half the cost of the western operators. This has attracted large numbers of clients, with some of the budget operators now bringing as many as 100 people with them to Base Camp.

That alone doesn’t necessarily make the mountain less safe however, and Alan points out how Nepal could follow the lead of other countries around the world and make their mountains safer – most notably Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina. But, because the Nepali government seems to make some perplexing moves and often appears to be more concerned with looking like its doing something rather than actually doing something, these actions aren’t likely to occur. Because of this, Everest runs the risk of becoming inherently unsafe with larger crowds, massive traffic jams, and budget operators that could potentially be cutting corners.

As the 2018 spring climbing season continues to wind up, and more and more teams are arriving in Base Camp on both sides of the mountain, this article serves as a great “big picture” view of current trends on the mountain. If you’re a fan of Everest and follow the happenings there closely, you’ll find some insights on where things have gone over the past few years and where they are probably going in the near future.

Needless to say, things are probably going to get more complicated and crowded before they get better. With the genie out of the bottle, there is probably no going back.

Advertisements

Himalaya Spring 2018: Icefall Doctors Complete Route to Camp 2 on Everest.

It may still be early in the spring 2018 Himalayan climbing season, but the Sherpa team known as the “Icefall Doctors” have hit a major milestone. Last week, the group of eight climbers finished installing the route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall and on to Camp 1, opening the way for the first teams to arrive in Base Camp to start their long acclimatization process.

According to reports, this is the safest route through the icefall that we’ve seen in some time. The team found more blue ice – which is harder and less prone to collapse – than in recent years and there is less ice hanging over the route as well. That means less chance of a collapse from above that could destroy the route itself and injury climbers passing below. In fact, the route that will be used through the icefall this year is seen as the safest ever, which should instill some confidence as the season truly gets underway.
As usual, the Icefall Doctors not only installed ropes through the treacherous section of the climb, which is found just above BC, but they also put down a series of aluminum ladders. The ladders are set into place both vertically and horizontally, allowing the alpinists to cross over open crevasses or climb up to higher areas much more easily. This section of the route on the South Side of the mountain is considered one of the bottlenecks of any expedition and is often viewed as the most dangerous section of the entire climb. So much so that many teams now conduct their first few acclimatization rotations on other nearby peaks before heading up Everest itself.
Once the route through the icefall was complete, the team proceeded upwards to Camp 1 just on the other side. From there, the team has also installed ropes up to Camp 2 a few days later, providing the necessary safety measures to help the gather mountaineers to begin making their way up Everest. They’ll do that several times before eventually making a summit bid sometime around mid-May.
The news of the competition of the route is welcomed by the teams currently making their way to Everest Base Camp. The first International Mountain Guides squad arrived their late last week and have already started making daily hikes and doing some pre-climb training. Similarly, on the North Side, the 7 Summits Club is the first to reach Base Camp from Tibet. These groups only have the campsite to themselves for a short time of course, as other teams will begin filling in very soon.
That’s it for today. More Himalayan updates to come soon.

Autor : Kraig Becker

* source: – Himalaya Spring 2018: Icefall Doctors Complete Route to Camp 2 on Everest

** see also: – Trekking – posts on my site :

Trekking in Nepal Himalaya : GOKYO, KALA PATTAR and EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK (19 days).

Everest Base Camp – CLASSIC treks. / Version polish and english /

Trekking in Nepal Himalaya : EVEREST HIGH VALLEY – Travel Guide. /Version english/

AddThis Feed Button


Everest 2018: First Teams at Base Camp with new Rules.

Sunset and moonrise over Everest West ShoulderSunset and moonrise over Everest West Shoulder

The flood of climbers continues to arrive in Kathmandu, trekking to base camp or crossing the border into China. The weather is decent and no serious issues have been reported thus far.

2018 like 2017

Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism has released a few numbers:

  • Everest teams: 29
  • Everest foreign permits: 275 (thus far)
  • Everest Sherpas: 275 (thus far)

They expect to issue a similar number of permits as in 2017 which was 366 foreign climbers on 43 teams. According to Nepal Government numbers, 190 foreigners summited along with 32 fee-paying Nepalis and 223 Sherpas made the summit from the Nepal side last year. Another 100 foreign permits have been issued for other Nepal mountains this year including Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Ama Dablam. I am expecting over 400 total summits on the Nepal side and 200 on the Tibet side for 2018.

2018.

Rules and Screening

Dinesh Bhattarai, chief at the Tourism Department that issues climbing permits, told the Kathmandu Post that there has been lack of oversight over expeditions causing controversy and tragedy and “We learned many lessons from the last season. We don’t want to repeat those mistakes,” He went on to repeat the same list of new rules previously published that will make #Everest2018 safer, in his view. They included:

  • Team leaders, climbers, high-altitude climbing guides, government appointed liaison officers and agencies handling the expedition are required to follow new rules strictly
  • The Tourism Department will verify the health certificates of the climbers more rigorously.
  • Liaison officers we will have their locations strictly monitored. They have to wait at the base camp until the expedition is completed and act as a regulator so that controversies on Everest are minimized
  • Each climber must have at least five oxygen cylinders each
  • The government has also strictly prohibited disseminating controversial messages or broadcasts without prior approval.

Guns at Everest Camp 2 in 2008

Guns at Everest Camp 2 in 2008

On this last item, this is similar to what Nepal tried to do in 2008 when the Chinese closed the north side for the Olympic torch ceremony on the summit. They were fearing protests over Tibet. Climbers were told to sign an agreement that required all communications – written and verbal – to be cleared through a liaison officer (who wasn’t there). As you can imagine, nothing was really enforced. But then an American climber posted an offensive sign on his tent at Camp 1. I was there in 2008 was remember being told that all sat phones would be confiscated and could only be used under the supervision of a Nepali/Chinese solider. They actually came around and took our phones. We had to go to the army camp and request to make a call while an armed guard stood by listening to the conversation. This lasted for only a few days.

This year’s rules seem to revolve around a report last year in the Himalayan Times that Sherpas found 4 dead bodies in a tent at the South Col – it was incorrect but went viral creating embarrassment for Nepal and hurting the finely tuned safety reputation that they try to manage. He also mentioned the report that the Hillary Step had collapsed, apparently believing that telling the world that an earthquake might have altered the landscape would hurt business.

Continue reading

Everest 2018: The Critics Corner.

Ladders in the Icefall

I’ve been covering Everest since 2002 and each year about this time in my coverage I get the usual comments decrying the commercialism, the tourism, the lack of skills by the climbers, the lack of challenge and more. Usually I ignore the comments and in rash cases delete them when they become personal or simply irrational, of course in my humble opinion. 🙂

After all, this blog is about celebrating the challenge of mountaineering, not a platform for those with agendas to put down others by their artificial definitions of what is a “good” climb.  I fully accept and respect the sense of climbing by “fair means” or unique, difficult routes and first ascents – they are to be celebrated without question. However for most climbers, the only rules that really matter are those around their own person goals. To see if they can do it. To see if they are who they think they are. To learn and return home a better version of themselves. This is what climbing is all about for me. The summit (or just the attempt), with or without oxygen, ropes or Sherpa support is secondary and does not take away from an individual’s personal achievement, as measured by that person alone and no other.

The Other Side

I have defended Everest climbers, and myself, since 2002. I have seen and heard it all. While I agree with some criticism, especially around those climbers with limited experience and those “guides” who take money with inadequate experience; overall an attempt of Everest is a moment in a person’s life to be supported and admired. I will dispute that anyone is “hauled to the summit.”

I could go on and on as I did in the article I wrote for Rock and Ice in 2013 but I won’t. I will simply quote Chris Bonington in a recent publication in the by invitation only Explorer’s Club Explorers Journal. If you don’t know Chris, do some homework. If you don’t know Chris, you may want to to reconsider your criticism. Here’s Chris.

EJ: What do you think of the way Everest is climbed today?

CB: Well, I’m incredibly glad that I did it when I did, because we had the place to ourselves. So far as what’s happened since, I don’t blame the Nepalese government for opening up the mountain and basically saying that any number of expeditions can go up it. This has created the opportunity for guided and commercial climbing. Now you have a thousand people at basecamp and a hundred on the South Col, where there are fixed ropes that go all the way to the summit. But I don’t begrudge or regret what happened. It’s a natural evolution. Crowds of people have been guided up on Mont Blanc or the Matterhorn in the Alps for more than a century now. What’s happening on Everest is the same.

But for each of these people going up today on fixed ropes it is still the experience of a lifetime.

I just think that the experience could be made better. But I’m not worried about it. Climbing is an adventure and adventure is alive and well.

.. more on : – http://www.alanarnette.com/blog

Autor : Alan Arnette

* source: – Everest 2018: The Critics Corner

** see also: – Trekking – posts on my site :

Trekking in Nepal Himalaya : GOKYO, KALA PATTAR and EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK (19 days).

Everest Base Camp – CLASSIC treks. / Version polish and english /

Trekking in Nepal Himalaya : EVEREST HIGH VALLEY – Travel Guide. /Version english/

AddThis Feed Button


Everest 2018: Week Two Begins.

Approaching Lobuche

This week starts like last week – teams trekking or driving to base camp. So far, the season has no big surprises, just what we like this early. There has been a bit more precipitation than normal, but that could be, um, well it could just be the weather  🙂

Lobuche

As the #Everest2018 season continues, some teams are doing a first round of acclimatization on nearby Lobuche East. This is known as a “trekking peak”

but is still 6,119 m/20,075 ft. A few teams will actually camp out on the small area at the east summit. Almost no one will make the final climb to the true summit as it is heavily corniced and this is about acclimating so not worth the risk. But there are amazing views of Everest no matter where you stop.

Everest from Lobuche East by Alan Arnette in 2011

Camps in the Cwm

Teams at EBC are beginning to establish camps in the Western Cwm. Sherpas tried to go up today, Monday 9 April 2018 but were stopped by a small collapse of ladders crossing a crevasse near the Football Field. The crevasse is quite wide and will require four ladders lashed together to cross it. More work for the Icefall Doctors. This is quite usual, especially early in the season  but will be a common occurrence throughout depending on how stable the ice is around the route.
Continue reading

Everest 2018: Weekend Update April 7.

The first Sherpa team arrived at the Chinese Base Camp (CBC) on Tibet side for #Everest2018. Meanwhile more teams are arriving at Everest Base Camp (EBC) on the Nepal side. Everything seems to be on schedule thus far for the season.

The Big Picture

This past week on Everest has been busy with no surprises, just like it should be in early April. The weather is bit cloudy with rain down low and snow up high. In fact there are reports of heavy snowfall at EBC – but again this is fairly normal for early May.

The Himalayan Times reported that the Ministry of Tourism has already issued climbing permits to 30 expedition teams for different mountains and over 140 climbers representing 15 teams for Mt Everest. I fully expect over 400 summits, foreign and local, from the Nepal side and 200 from the Tibet side this spring season.

The first teams arrived at Everest Base Camp (EBC) on the Nepal side and the Icefall Doctors have the route put in all the way to Camp 1. Overall, it does not get better than this. The daily high temperature is in the 20’sF, at night it drops to single digits Fahrenheit. The winds pick up in the afternoon to 20 mph. Some posts are commenting that EBC is a bit cold. This is normal for early April but will warm up as the season moves towards summer.

AAI on Trek for Everest 2018

Trek Underway

Many are still on their way to the base camps but a few are already posting updates. On a disappointing note, Ben Jones, leader for Alpine Ascents, posted a reward for his lost or stolen computer:

$500 USD reward for my stolen MacBook Pro in the Khumbu either at Khumjung or Deboche. Bring or send to Alpine Ascents Basecamp and I will pay you no questions asked.

The Jagged Globe team is making good progress:

All the members of the climbing team and the trek team are now in Lobuje (4,910m). Two of the trekkers made the hike from Dingboche in five and a half hours with a Sherpa guide. The other team of 8 with two Sherpas made the 13.9km hike over the 5,535m Kongma La pass. The weather was perfect with clear skies and bright sunshine when the team set off at 07.00. As the morning progressed conditions became more overcast and the clouds increased. There was a bit of a view of surrounding peaks from the top of the pass but it started to snow heavily as the team descended. Navigating the crossing of the lower Khumbu glacier in a white out proved to be quite challenging, but the team reached the comfort of the Lodge at Lobuje at 14.30 after seven and a half hours of effort. Special mention goes to the three members of the trek team who set personal altitude records on the pass and coped admirably with the slippery snow on the descent

Jagged Globe Everest team leaving Chukkung. Courtesy of Kjetil Moen

Icefall Route Back Center

The biggest news this week was that the Icefall doctors got the route in to Camp 1 in the lower Western Cwm. As I’ve noted this is good news as it allows the Sherpas to begin ferrying loads to establish camps. It appears the rope and anchor gear for fixing the rope above Camp 2 will be transported by helicopter this season thus eliminating many carries through the Icefall. In 2016, the Icefall route didn’t open until 11 April and in 2017, 2 April, so everything is right on schedule if not a bit early.

Continue reading

Everest 2018: Route to Camp 1 in Early.

The Doctors taking ladders into the Khumbu Icefall

The fixed ropes are a pacing factor for all Everest expeditions so the progress is watched closely.  With the Icefall Doctors doing the hard work, team after team are making the journey either on foot in Nepal or by Toyota 4Runner in Tibet to their respective base camps.

It is extremely early in the season, but thus far no significant problems are being reported either with flights into Lukla or crossing the border into China from Nepal. However, the Kathmandu and lower Khumbu region seems to be experiencing unusually heavy rainfall.

Can you Hear me now?

There will be joy once they arrive at Everest Base Camp (EBC) on the Nepal side because it appears EverestLink is up and running. This means everyone will have access to wifi at a reasonable price of US$50 for 500 MB. I have not heard what the current price is but considering where you are, having instant access to high speed internet is pretty amazing. By the way, the signal does not go above base camp so satellite phones are still the most reliable way of communicating back home while up high.

Route Fixing

The Icefall Doctors have the route open to Camp 1 today. This is excellent in that it will allow teams to start early on their acclimatization rotations, and to get the camps established. This should help with any potential crowds as it will spread out the activity. There are 20 crevasse crossings using ladder in the Icefall and follows a more central route.

There is a change in who is fixing the ropes above Camp 2 this year. Madison Mountaineering noted on their blog that they “secured an exclusive contract to fix the ropes from Camp 2 to the summit thus … By controlling the rope fixing we can control our climbing schedule better than before.” Previously the ropes were fixed by Sherpas selected from many teams and was consider an honor.

For Sange

I really like this post from David Snow. David was instrumental in helping young Dawa Sange Sherpa after he suffered extreme frostbite near the summit of Everest last year. Sange was guiding a Pakistani client, Col Abdul Jabbar Bhatti on the Nepal side of Everest on 21st May 2017. Bhatti refused to turn back claiming he had spent too much money turn back even thought it was after 4:00 pm. The client went home happy, and welcome as a hero, and Sange, through the amazing generosity of many, eventually found his way to Vail, Colorado where some of the best doctors in the world had to amputate all of his fingers due to the damage. I recently saw Sange and he was in amazing spirits but going through a very difficult physical recovery. You can read more on this post I did last year on Sange.

David is returning to Everest this year and had this to say on his blog:

In 1953 Bourdillon and Evans (left) came within 300’ of being the first to summit Mt. Everest. 3 days later their climbing partners Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay finished the job.

Last year a few of our guides Pasang and Tashi (right) got us 300’ from the top before the mountain had other ideas.

In a few weeks we’re heading back to see if we can finish what we started. I have a few items to collect at the South Summit for Sange Sherpa and a few things I still need to place at the top. We’ve got another great expedition team as well as 19 friends to make the trek to base camp with us.

Dhaulagiri

Another peak I’m watching closely this spring is the world’s seventh tallest, Dhaulagiri. Not only is one of my climbing partners here in Colorado, Ryan Kushner, there but also the inspiring 79 year-old Spanish climber Carlos Soria Fontan. He has the age record for several 8000ers and only two left: Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma.

.. more on : – http://www.alanarnette.com/blog

Autor : Alan Arnette

* source: – Everest 2018: Route to Camp 1 in Early

** see also: – Trekking – posts on my site :

Trekking in Nepal Himalaya : GOKYO, KALA PATTAR and EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK (19 days).

Everest Base Camp – CLASSIC treks. / Version polish and english /

Trekking in Nepal Himalaya : EVEREST HIGH VALLEY – Travel Guide. /Version english/

AddThis Feed Button