So much happened, and is still happening, in the Himalayas this Spring that delayed any post until now, as there’s so many angles one could go down.
Firstly, on Pumori, our attempt with a very small team to summit the 7,181m mountain near to Everest didn’t succeed due to finding, on reaching Camp 2 (6,600m) on our summit attempt, that an avalanche had buried our ropes needed for the final push. The need to return to the UK for work prevented any subsequent attempt. Regardless, it didn’t matter as the objectives were to see how my body performed after eight years away, to check and shake out equipment, and to see how enthusiastic I still felt. All succeeded.
Our attempt on Pumori was overshadowed, however, with events on Everest – for which the two of us climbing Pumori shared Base Camo with an international team of four climbing the World’s highest mountain. Everest this season was the deadliest in history with 17 confirmed deaths and even more if fatalities in Kathmandu after evacuation are added. One of these was our Australian co-teammate, Jason Kennison, who died from HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) on descending from the summit.
The reasons for the carnage are long and varied but, given that all bar the three poor Sherpas killed in the Khumbu ice fall from an avalanche at the beginning of season, were from separate incidents involving medical issues the conclusions are fairly evident. That is the record number of permits issued (479); the high percentage of inexperience of those climbing; and the cold conditions and subsequent frostbite cases, including those of Sherpas which led to less supervision of inexperienced climbers. In the end, approximately 500 summitted – 350 Sherpas and 250 clients out of a total of approximately 1200 (clients and Sherpas) pursuing the summit this Spring. One can only hope that, finally, the Nepal government will limit Everest permits to those that have summitted a previous 8000m peak.
And finally, there is the ‘record chasing’. From a coach’s viewpoint the obsession with seeking likes, followers, recognition, a name and fame is a subject I have spoken and written about constantly for several years on the whole of society. Himalayan and polar records are just the tip of the iceberg. But the common elements in both are the complete absence of context with achievements of the true greats in the past; the ‘how’s’ the modern record chasers are pursuing them; the ‘economies with the truth’ of many claims and the meaningless they have all become. Two excellent articles, one recently and one a few years ago, have been published in Explorers Web which will explain the ludicrousness of what is happening.
One can only hope that such fame seeking exploits will eventually fade away and we can return to climbing mountains or skiing on ice caps for the sake of doing them…