New records, oxygen failure on Everest

It is that time of the year again when all eyes are on top of the world, with mountaineers and Sherpa guides making their final push to the summit of the world’s highest mountain.

More than 160 mountaineers have already scaled Mt Everest this season, and many more are on their way up to the top.

Liaison Officer Tilak Ram Pandey told Nepali Times from the Base Camp on Thursday that weather has improved and the climbing window is expected to remain open until 23 May.

“We have already seen some interesting new records, but we hope for some more,” he said.

Wednesday turned out to be the big day with two Sherpas breaking their own records and setting new ones. A Chinese double amputee, Xiya Boyu, also amazed the world by successfully scaling Mt Everest. On Thursday, Italian astronaut Maurizio Cheli successfully ascended the Mt Everest at 05:45 AM. He is the first European to have flown in space and climbed the highest mountain on earth.

Kami Rita Sherpa (pictured right), 48, set a new world record for the most Mt Everest summits by reaching the top for the 22nd time. Lhakpa Sherpa, 44, also set the new world record for the most Everest climbs by a woman. She summitted for the ninth time from the north side.

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Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summits Trekking said: “Kami Rita is the new legend, the new Appa Sherpa.”

While Lhakpa Sherpa was climbing to break her own record on Wednesday morning, other climbers were dealing with oxygen failures. Some 26 climbers had to descend to fix their oxygen regulators. Some Sherpa guides gave their oxygen regulators to their clients, risking their own lives.

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Alan Arnette, a mountaineer, posted on his blog that everyone was safe but it was a rare emergency – something he witnessed for the first time in the last 16 seasons. At least 10 of 39 oxygen bottle regulators had failed, making several teams give up their climbs. He confirmed the cylinders were supplied by Summit Oxygen (SO), and it seemed to be a bad manufacturing batch.

Meanwhile, Lam Babu Sherpa died on Everest, making him the second guide to die this season. Another Sherpa died on Makalu last week.

Altogether 865 climbers have attempted or are attempting 22 Himalayan peaks in Nepal this spring season, creating employment for 1,200 high-altitude guides and many thousands of porters. Of them, 346 mountaineers and most of the porters are on Mt Everest. There are 15 Nepali women, including a female journalists’ group, hoping to make it to the summit.

There is also an expedition that hopes to replicate NASA’s famous twin study that compared astronaut Scott Kelly’s body functions with his earthbound identical twin brother, by examining genetic changes in two American climbers climbing Everest this season while their twin brothers are at sea level.

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