Nepali Times Asian Paints
Leisure
Spring 2007


BILLI BIERLING



JAMIE MCGUINNESS/PROJECT HIMALAYA

LONG WAY UP: Some climbers make a preliminary trip to the North Col to see if they can handle the mountain at a later date.

Apa Sherpa's 17th ascent of Everest was deservedly all over the national and international media. But another remarkable feat went under the radar-Chhiring Dorje Sherpa climbed to the top of the world three times in two weeks.

The 32-year-old from Rolwaling first reached the top on 2 May and planted a statue of the Buddha in honour of his birthday. "As a devout Buddhist it was important to me. I did not mind carrying the 12kg statue," he said.

Chhiring Dorje then reached the summit of Everest two more times, on 15 and 16 May, both times with an Indian Army expedition.

This year also gave some western mountain guides the opportunity to show their strength. Two Brits, Kenton Cool and Rob Casserley, and American Willy Benegas all managed to top out twice in one week.

Another British climber, David Tait, with Phurba Tashi Sherpa pulled off a traverse from the Tibetan side of Everest into Nepal on 15 May. This was the first north-south traverse by a western climber. "I was planning to go back to the north side again but I was too tired. I am not really a mountaineer, but it was good to see that Phurba Tashi was also exhausted on the way down," Tait said upon his return to Kathmandu.

Other firsts this year include 18-year-old Samantha Larson from the US becoming the youngest person to have climbed the highest summits on all seven continents, and 71-year-old Katsusuke Yanagisawa from Japan becoming the oldest person to summit Everest. Another record might have been set at 8,848m. British climber Rob Baber claims to have phoned his wife and kids from a standard mobile phone from the summit.

The weather has been extremely kind on Everest this year, facilitating an enormous number of summits-over 500 so far. But Chomolungma has also claimed seven lives. And nearby Lhotse, the world's fourth highest peak, took the life of one of the county's most accomplished female climbers. Pemba Doma Sherpa, 36, fell to her death after having successfully climbed the 8,516-metre high mountain.

The notoriously avalanche-prone Annapurna I (8,091m) saw three successful ascents with Andrew Lock becoming the first Australian to scale the tenth highest mountain in the world. Lock, who has now scaled 12 of the 14 eight-thousanders, was climbing with Ivan Vallejo from Ecuador and Fernando Gonzalez Rubio from Colombia.

The solo expedition on the south side of Annapurna I turned out to be less successful. Swiss climber Ueli Steck, who was attempting to open a new route on the sheer south face of the mountain ('South face solo', #347), was forced to abandon his climb. During his attempt to finish the route first attempted by two French climbers in 1992, Steck was hit by a rock and took a 300m fall.

"In spite of commotion [sic] and bruises I made it back to Base Camp under my own power. I am well so far," he said.

Another potential new record could also not be completed. The Dutch Iceman, who had intended to climb Everest in shorts, failed to reach the world's highest peak. However, Wim Hof did manage to reach an impressive altitude of 7,400m, and vows to have another crack at the mountain next year.

However, Himalayan mountaineering is not only about 8,000m peaks. All climbers attempting the normal route of Ama Dablam in the Khumbu this season had to leave the mountain empty-handed. Since an avalanche wiped out Camp 3 and killed six people last year, the route is said to have become more challenging ('Accident on Ama Dablam', #324). "The serac that lies on the final ice slope is dangerously cracked and all Sherpas refuse to put up Camp 3 underneath it," said Italian mountain guide Giampietro Verza.

The man to ask about the conditions of the hanging serac of Ama Dablam would be Bear Grylls, who paraglided to 8,990m-152m higher than Everest. The 32-year-old British adventurer started in Dingboche, from where the 50kg propeller, which was strapped to his back, carried him straight up above Ama Dablam.

"It was a very special moment when I realised that there was no mountain in the world above me, especially after having stood on the top of the world myself nine years ago," Grylls said on his return to Kathmandu.

Italian climbers Hans Kammerlander and Karl Unterkircher have finally summited the 7,350 m-tall Jasemba. This was Kammerlander's third attempt on the unclimbed mountain and this year's expedition was in memory of Luis Brugger, his fellow Italian who fell to his death on the mountain last year.

"It was the most difficult but most beautiful expedition in my life," the 50-year-old wrote on his website. "When we finally reached the top after having climbed the 2,000-m vertical and technical wall for 13 hours my first thoughts were with Luis."

Having finished 13 of the 14 eight thousanders Kammerlander has vowed to dedicate his climbing career to unclimbed and technical difficult mountains.



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