Everest 2024: Weekend Update April 1: Season Underway, Lost Legends

George Basch

If it’s April, it must be time for Everest. The Icefall Doctors are hard at work. Climbers and trekkers are making their way through the Khumbu or driving from Lhasa. Sherpas and base camp crews are building tent platforms and preparing their spots for the teams. Yaks and mules are meandering ever higher, loaded with supplies. Katmandu is filling up with tourists and visitors, boosting the local economy. Hang on, everyone. It’s time.

Warm, Dry Winter

What kind of climbing conditions can our climbers expect this spring? A very good article in the Nepali Times summarized the winter as follows:

This year’s winter has been warmer and drier in Nepal than any in the previous decade, with temperatures climbing higher than the winter average while precipitation was lower than average.

Climatic data for two months in November and December 2023 published by the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology shows that the temperature in post-monsoon in Nepal did not drop like it did in previous winters, which were themselves warmer and drier than previous ones.

We’ll know more once the Sherpas start climbing through the Icefall to Camp 2, but snow generally keeps rocks in place and limits deadly rockfall. It also fills in crevasses. It will be interesting to see how many ladders the Icefall Doctors use this year. A decade ago, there could have been ten, twenty, or even thirty ladders on the Icefall. There have been well under ten in recent years, and in some years, only five, as the Docs find safer routes and the Khumbu Icefall thins.

Everest In the Media

The movie PASANG: In the Shadow of Everest follows Pasang Lhamu Sherpa’s journey to become the first Nepali woman to summit Everest. It is now in limited release in the US and Canada. From the website:

PASANG: In the Shadow of Everest chronicles Pasang Lhamu Sherpa’s tragic and inspiring journey to become the first Nepali woman to summit Everest in 1993. As an uneducated, indigenous woman and a Buddhist in a Hindu kingdom, Pasang’s dream to scale the legendary mountain pits her against her family, foreign climbers, her government, and nature itself. Her determined pursuit of Everest plays out within the context of her nation’s quest for democracy and the emergence of the commercial climbing industry. As told by the Nepalis who knew her, by some of the world’s most notable alpinists, and by Pasang herself, PASANG: The Shadow of Everest documents her historic quest that would transfix her country and uplift a new generation’s belief in its possibilities.

Serku Sherpa and Dr. Yana Wengel collaborated to write the book The Sherpas and Their Original Identity.

Serku Sherpa holds an MA in Social Science in Rural Development from the Tribhuvan University of Nepal. He is also an ethnographic researcher of Sherpa culture and travels across Nepal to collect information about the cultural relics, customs, traditions, and history of Sherpas. Dr Yana Wengel is an Associate Professor at the Hainan University—Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College in Haikou (China)

This book offers a cultural and historical perspective on the Sherpa people, exploring how their traditional way of life has been impacted by such factors as urbanisation, modernisation, globalisation, and tourism. Though Nepal is a small country, it is rich in ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural resources. Various communities living in Nepal, including the Sherpas, have their own original cultures, traditions, and practices. Despite outside influence, the Sherpa people have preserved their distinct lifestyle, which encompasses a unique history, culture, religion, language, cuisine, and set of traditions.

It was only after the summit of Everest in 1953 that domestic and foreign scholars began to take an interest in documenting the Sherpa people’s way of life. The Sherpa’s language is an oral one, and with this comes difficulties. Various translations into other languages have caused mistranslations and a loss of meaning. Written by a Sherpa, this book seeks to overcome these linguistic barriers and bring Sherpa culture to the reader. Serving as a collection of knowledge from distinguished scholars of the Sherpa community, religious leaders, intellectuals, social workers, and community organisations, this book is a unique (auto)ethnographic work which bridges the gap between researchers speaking other languages and Sherpa people.

More than Everest

If it’s spring, this means climbing Nepal and Tibet’s 8000-meter peaks. Of the fourteen peaks higher than 26,000 feet or 8,000 meters, eight are entirely in Nepal or straddle the border with either India or Tibet: Everest, Cho Oyu, Annapurna, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Lhotse, and Kanchenjunga.

I expect climbing on all except for Shishapangma, which is closed by China after last Autumn’s death of four record-seeking climbers. There will be one team there that has permission to search and hopefully retrieve the bodies. Kristin Harila is leading the effort to find them, including her climbing partner Tenjen Lama Sherpa, who was part of their record-breaking achievement to summit all fourteen 8000ers in ninety-two days. He was guiding Gina Marie Rzucidlo, trying to set an American female record for summiting 8000-meter peaks. An avalanche took their lives on October 7th, 2023. Anna Gutu and Mingmar Sherpa also died in a separate avalanche that same day.

On Annapurna, the Altitude Junkies team checked in, “… the team are enjoying some well deserved beverages after having spent 2 nights at Camp 1 and tagged Camp 2. Once rested, the next set of plans will be made.”

Remembrance

The climbing world has recently lost a few legends, some close friends of mine.

George Basch
George Basch

George Bash, founder of the Himalayan Stove Project, passed away Friday, 23 February 2024, just two weeks shy of his 87th birthday. He was killed in a head-on collision driving home to his beloved Taos from his former home base in Phoenix, where he was visiting for his annual physical and given a clean bill of health. The accident was not his fault. He reportedly died instantly and did not suffer. His final week was spent joyfully with friends and his son, Chris.

George’s first exposure to Nepal came in 2001 as he accompanied and supported from Base Camp blind climber Erik Weihenmayer on his historic summit of Mt. Everest. He went back in 2009 and began the HSP in 2011. George said he was shocked at the amount of smoke within the Sherpas’ homes that came from the open cooking fires. This became deeply personal to George as he had been looking for a way to honor his son, Paul, who took his own life in 1998, thus the founding of the HSP in 2010.

During a decade of its existence, it delivered over 6,500 stoves throughout Nepal, which had a multi-generational impact on over 50,000 people. “Multigenerational” means youngsters could start school earlier, rather than gathering firewood, and achieve better educations and even higher levels, thereby raising them and their communities up to higher achievement. Their mothers benefited also. Improved health is achieved because of less exposure to polluting smoke and less time spent preparing food, so they can do more meaningful things like community development, interact with their peers, and lead a fuller, more productive, and enriching life.

Lou Whittaker
Lou Whittaker

Lou Whittaker died peacefully at home on Sunday, March 24, 2024, at age 95. He founded RMI Expeditions in 1969 after helping to lead ascents of Mount Everest, K2, and Denali. Of course RMI is well regarded for running countless trips on Mt. Rainier, introducing over 100,000 aspiring mountaineers to the climbing world.

“Mountains were the source of his health, the wellspring of his confidence, and the stage for his triumphs, and he was one of the first to make mountaineering and its benefits accessible to the broader public,” the company said in a statement posted to its website Wednesday. “His leadership made mountain guiding a true profession, with many of the world’s premier mountaineers benefiting from Lou’s tutelage.”

The statement continued, “He and his identical twin brother Jim began mountaineering at age 12, their first foray into the sport they would help shape. At 16, he summited Mount Rainier for the first time, the mountain that would become synonymous with his life, and earned him the nickname “Rainier Lou.” The record of his time in the mountains is bursting with achievements, from the first American-led expedition on the North Side of Everest to the first successful American expedition summit of Kanchenjunga and many others. On numerous rescues, he saved dozens of lives in the mountains; if people were in trouble, nothing could stop him.” Lou made over 250 trips up Mount Rainier, the tallest peak in Washington state.

David Breashears
This photo, provided by Arcturus Motion Pictures, Inc., shows mountaineer, filmmaker and author David Breashears while filming the IMAX documentary “Everest” that premiered in 1998. Arcturus Motion Pictures/AP

David Breashears died March 14 at the age of 68 of natural causes. He was found unresponsive at his home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. David is the filmmaker who co-directed and co-produced the 1998 IMAX documentary “Everest.” He was making the film in 1996 and stopped when disaster hit, taking eight lives, including Adventure Consultants’s co-founder, Rob Hall. Breashears stopped his film project and provided spare oxygen tanks, batteries, and food to searchers.

Vail resident Ellen Miller, best known as the first American woman to climb Mt. Everest from both sides (Nepal and Tibet), told the Aspen Times, that she met Breashears twice–once in Kathmandu, Nepal, and another time at Everest Base Camp. “He was smart, funny, and charming,” she said. “I was captivated by him because he was the first American to summit Mt. Everest more than once, and his IMAX movie blew my mind.”

The New York Times quoted Breashers from an interview with PBS in 2008, “Climbing Everest says that you have done something extraordinary, that you have stepped outside the routines of ordinary life, endured hardship and accepted a great challenge. There is only one highest place on earth.”

My condolences to all of their friends and families.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything


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Why this coverage?

I like to use these weekend updates to remind my readers that I’m just one guy who loves climbing. With 35 serious climbing expeditions, including four Everest trips under my belt and a summit in 2011, I use my site to share those experiences, demystify Everest each year and bring awareness to Alzheimer’s Disease. My mom, Ida Arnette, died from this disease in 2009, as have four of my aunts. It was a heartbreaking experience that I hope no other family will go through; thus, I asked for donations to non-profits, which 100% went to them and nothing ever to me.
donate to Alzheimers

Ida Arnette 1926-2009

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6 thoughts on “Everest 2024: Weekend Update April 1: Season Underway, Lost Legends

  1. My first summit of Rainier, with my two sisters was in 1973 with Lou. Just being around him filled one with a sense of energy and joy. My condolences to Ingrid, Peter and Win

      1. I attended the premier of Pasang in the Shadow of Everest presented by the Pacific Northwest Sherpa foundation and Lakpa Rita Sherpa it was outstanding highly recommended it Nancy Svendsen was their as well as family members a very awesome experience in itself . I have always found the Nepalese people so humble and warm

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