It has been a topsy-turvy season in the Himalaya in general, and Everest in particular. With the tragic accident that killed 16 Sherpas shutting down the South Side of the mountain, most climbers have left for home, reflecting on the season that could have been as they go. While it has been widely reported that the season is over on the Nepal side of the mountain, we have received word that not one, but possibly two, climbers are still attempting to summit from the South, despite the fact that the Khumbu Ice Doctors have closed up shop, and gone home for the season. If true, those climbers are facing quite a challenge, and quite possibly legal ramifications from the Nepali government.
Several sources, including Alan Arnette, are reporting that American climber Cleonice (Cleo) Weidlich has defied the closure, and is attempting to summit Everest. She posted a message on her Facebook page last week saying:
“This is just to let you know that my climb on the Everest Massif will continue with or without ladders. I have climbed some of the world’s most dangerous mountain WITHOUT them and this mountain is, actually, very tame when I compare it with the likes of Nanga Parbat, Annapurna 1 and Kangchenjunga. I refuse to give in to the pressures of the Everest mafia. I’d like to decide for myself when I have reached my limits. Thanks to ALL of you for all the positive energy; I can feel it..”
There are some indications that Weidlich may have chartered a helicopter to carry her, and her gear, up to Camp 2, where she would begin an un-supported summit bid after she has acclimatized. Using a helicopter to reach that point is an expensive affair, and isn’t suppose to be done without the permission of the Nepali government. Alan estimates it would cost $2000/person to take a helicopter to Camp 2, and his sources say that no one has asked for specific permission to make such a flight.
It seems Cleo may not be the only one on the mountain however, as there are rumors that Chinese alpinist Jing Wang, who is attempting to complete the 7 Summits and North and South Pole in record time, has also used a helicopter to fly to C2. Reportedly she hired seven Sherpas in Namche Bazaar to provide support, and then flew the entire team up the slope, avoiding the dangerous Khumbu Icefall altogether. Jin Wang owns a large gear company in China, so she reportedly has very deep pockets to help fund her expeditions.
These stories put yet another unusual spin on a season that has already been an odd one on Everest. We now have two women in Camp 2 on the South Side, each attempting an independent climb, without fixed ropes, to the top of the highest mountain on Earth. One apparently has no Sherpa support at all, while the other has small team around her to assist in her efforts. If they can acclimatize relatively quickly, they both still have a shot at the summit, provided the weather cooperates, and the monsoons don’t arrive too early.
The ramifications from these two expeditions could be far reaching. We know that there was a group of Sherpas that were very vocal against climbing the mountain this spring, and pressured others to abandon their attempts as well. There could be backlash against the team that is helping Jing Wang in her summit bid after they come off the mountain. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but there were indications of threats of violence and extreme pressure when the spring season still hung in the balance.
But aside from that, if Cleo and Jing Wang used a helicopter to reach Camp 2 without permission, they could face stiff fines, and possible banishment from climbing in Nepal. I guess their Everest ambitions were strong enough that they don’t seem to care about the ramifications, but it’ll definitely be interesting to see how things progress over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, on the North Side of Everest, things are progressing along as you would expect. The ropes are bing put into place, and should soon reach the summit, while the climbing teams have now wrapped up their acclimatization rounds, and are resting ahead of the first summit push. That is expected to come next week, weather permitting. I’ll post a more detailed update on what’s happening on the North Side, and elsewhere in the Himalaya, tomorrow.
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