National Geographic’s Adventure Blog has scored the first interview with William Brant Holland, the man banished from Everest a few weeks back, and we finally get a bit of clarity on what went down at Base Camp.
Holland says that he had been in Nepal for about a month, after cycling around the U.S. and Asia, and then trekked up to BC as part of the Asia Trekking team, whose permit is was climbing on, but he was doing the climb on a mostly independent basis. While in Kathmandu, he purchased a small, 2’x2′ “Free Tibet” banner, and carried it with him to Everest, where he showed it to Willie Benegas,a guide for Mountain Madness, someone that Holland had met while climbing in the past.
Upon seeing the banner, Benegas advised him that it could bring a lot of trouble, and asked Holland if he had read the permit that he was climbing under. Obviously he hadn’t, and he claims to have had no idea that he wasn’t suppose to be carrying any kind of flags or banners that mentioned Tibet. Benegas advised him to “get rid of it, burn it, throw it in crevasse”, but instead Holland gave it to Sherpa Lapka, who then gave the flag to Holland’s climbing leader, who in turn passed it on to the authorities. From there, it was all a blur. They yanked him off the mountain and sent him home as soon as they could.
For Holland, it was the end of his attempt on Everest, which he says he spent upwards of $40k preparing for. It would have potentially been his sixth of the seven summits (leaving Vinson for last), but instead it was deportation, becoming the talk of the mountaineering community, and one pricey lesson.
The interview is the first chance we’ve had to hear the whole story directly from Holland, although rumors have been circulating about the events that led to his dismissal for some time. While this does clarify things, and I do have a bit more sympathy for him now, I still find it quite hard to believe that he had no idea that “Free Tibet” or other anti-China signs/flags were barred from the mountain. Perhaps it was an epic case of miscommunication, and it’s too bad that it came down to that. Perhaps they’ll allow him to come back and finish up his climb in the future, but for now, he’s back in the U.S. and his wallet is a lot lighter.
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