Himalaya Spring 2019: Teams on the Move and Survey Expedition Finds Itself in Hot Water

Climbing in the Himalaya is often a series of stops and starts. The teams arrive in Base Camp on their respective mountains only to have to wait for lines to be installed before they can go up. After that they start the acclimatization process by going up to Camp 1, they go back to BC for a rest. Once they’ve recovered some, it’s back up the hill for a visit to C1 and C2, then down to Base Camp once more. Start and stop. Right now, the teams have once again restarted and on Everest and other 8000-meter peaks the climbers are on the move again.

On the world’s highest peak it seems the teams are taking advantage of good weather by heading up the hill. High winds are expected on the mountain over the next few days, which should cause most of the climbers to retreat once again to BC. The weather could put a crimp in the rope fixing activities, which may cause a slight delay in reaching the summit, but the Sherpa teams on both the North and South Side of the mountain are making steady progress. In Tibet, the lines have now been installed above the North Col, while on the Nepali side of the mountain the team is slowly approaching Camp 4. Currently, it looks like that work should be finished sometime in the next few days, with the first summits coming as a result. After that, the waiting game begins with team leaders keeping a close eye on the weather.

The first teams on the South Side of Everest reached Camp 3 yesterday. Their job was to shuttle gear and just go up to that point as part of the acclimatization process, with the climbers –– who are part of the For Ranger team –– quickly descending back to C2 afterwards. They’re the first non-Sherpas to go above 7000 meters (22,965 ft) on the South Side so far this year, but others are sure to follow close behind.

Over on Lhotse, which sits right next door to Everest, Korean climber Hung Sung Taek has checked in with a status update. He has reportedly now reached Camp 2 and is pressing upwards to establish Camp 3 despite the potential for high winds. Hung is attempting to complete an unclimbed route along the South Face, which has eluded him several times in the past.

It wouldn’t be a climbing season in Nepal without a bit of controversy and corruption of course. I’ve already heard stories of liaison officers not reporting to Base Camp, but choosing to stay in Kathmandu instead. That’s pretty typical however, and almost expected at this point. But today The Himalayan Times is reporting that a government leader who is suppose to be leading an expedition to Everest to remeasure the height of the mountain has been moonlighting by leading a commercial expedition on the side at the same time.

A permit was issued to the expedition that covered just two members, Khimlal Gautam who is the leader of the team and Rabin Karki who is serving as the survey officer. Both were given permission to summit Everest as part of the process of determine the actual height of the mountain, which has been in dispute for years. But records now indicate that the permit has been expanded to include seven other climber who were not suppose to be part of the team.

Gautam is already in EBC and hasn’t been reached for comment, but it is important to point out that his climb is being supported by Peak Promotion Pvt. Ltd, which was contracted by the Nepali government to provide logistical support. It is possible that representatives from the company added the additional climbers to the permit, potentially pocketing the normal fees that would need to be paid to the Nepali government. This is pure speculation on my part, and there could easily be something else amiss, but we’ve seen this kind of scam before with fake permits being issued, additional climbers being added, and so on.

I’m sure eventually we’ll hear an explanation for the additional climbers being added to the permit and I almost guarantee it won’t be a very satisfying answer. Such is the way of things in Nepal where everything seems to be a shell game at all times.

More to come soon.

Kraig Becker