Everest: Marc Batard Seeks Safer Route Past Khumbu Icefall

8000ers Everest
Left to right, Sajid Sadpara, Marc Batard and his son Alan in Namche Bazaar yesterday. Photo: Marc Batard

Sajid Sadpara will help the 69-year-old Frenchman on his quest to find a better way.

In 1988, Marc Batard broke a speed record by climbing Everest in 22.5 hours. Now, about to turn 70, he will return to the roof of the world to climb again.

This time, he wants to pioneer a new route that he believes will save lives. Batard claims that an alternative route exists around the infamous Khumbu Icefall. If so, this life-saving detour may become his legacy.

The full climb will take place in spring 2022, but Batard wants to scout part of the way and start fixing ropes in the next few weeks.

Sajid’s first visit to Nepal

The expedition’s hard-core climbing team includes Pasang Nuru Sherpa and Pakistan’s Sajid Sadpara. Batard has originally planned to team up with Sajid’s father, Ali Sadpara, but of course, Ali perished on K2 last winter. So the younger Sadpara has taken his place.

After the preliminary Everest work, Sajid Sadpara will remain in Nepal for a winter attempt on Manaslu with Alex Txikon and Simone Moro. Sajid has summited K2 twice but this is his first visit to Nepal. He recently celebrated his 23rd birthday (he was born in 1998) on the trek to Namche Bazaar.

Sajid Sadpara enjoys his first glimpse of Mount Everest. Photo: Sajid Sadpara

Also joining Batard is veteran mountain guide Gerard Menard, two young aspiring guides (Lucien Boucansaud and Yorick Vion), Dr. Nadine Laborde, Batard’s son Allan, and his husband Deni de Almeida.

Batard thinks that it’s possible to skirt the Icefall by climbing to its right, along a rocky spur near the flank of Nuptse, until the Western Cwm. Yet at first glance, there seems to be no viable alternative way up from Base Camp. No one else has ever suggested that such a detour exists on the normal route.

A via ferrata past the Icefall?

Batard explained to ExplorersWeb that he discovered the route during a helicopter flight last spring. He’ll share more details after scouting the route from the ground. But he confirms that they are willing to establish Base Camp as close to the start of the new route as possible. Other reports have suggested that their ultimate goal is to set up a permanent via ferrata, if the detour proves feasible.

Virtual aerial view of Everest/Nuptse with the normal route in red up the Khumbu Icefall. Photo: Reality maps/Everest3D

Every year, a specialized Sherpa team known as the Ice Doctors fix and maintain the route through the Icefall. Their expertise makes the route safer, but the objective dangers of the constantly shifting giant seracs remain. Accidents are frequent, and a single falling serac can be disastrous, as in 2014, when 16 Sherpas died.

Currently, the only alternative way to Camp 2 on Everest’s normal route that avoids the Khumbu Icefall is by helicopter. However, that’s an expensive and controversial option, except during a rescue.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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