Everest: David Goettler and Alex Txikon Join the No-O2 Elite

How will the crowds and the new rules about staggered summit pushes affect the nine climbers trying Everest without bottled oxygen?

Three more climbers will attempt Everest without supplementary oxygen. This totals nine so far, including Kilian Jornet and Colin O’Brady. Jornet will attempt the Everest-Lhotse traverse via the West Ridge. O’Brady will do the slightly easier Everest-Lhotse double-header, back to back.

As in 2019, the last Everest season before the 2020 COVID hiatus, the no-O2 climbers will have to deal with crowds. It’s hard enough to wait in a queue for several hours near the summit while breathing bottled oxygen; without it, it’s much harder and more dangerous.

David Goettler, for example, had to choose in 2019 between turning back and summiting at the cost of potentially severe frostbite. Now, after spending some days trail-running in the Khumbu, Goettler has decided to give Everest another try. He has already summited six 8,000’ers without oxygen, including an impressive push up Shishapangma’s South Face in pure alpine style in 2017. He and Herve Barmasse took just 13 hours from Base Camp to summit.

Alex Txikon: Everest express, no-O2

Alex Txikon has also just committed to Everest and earlier today, he was on his way to the airport. Most recently, Txikon attempted Manaslu in winter. Now, accompanied by a photographer and a journalist, he plans to reach Everest Base Camp (5,360m) by May 2 and to be back in Spain by May 25 after a fast climb up the normal route.

As always, Txikon will not use oxygen. He has already done winter climbs of Everest, K2 and Nanga Parbat in that spare style. On Nanga, he made the first winter ascent with the late Ali Sadpara and Simone Moro.

This time, the Basque climber will climb on his own, with no Sherpa support above Base Camp.

Three more climbers heading for Everest

Alex Txikon (left), this morning in Bilbao, Spain, with his two Everest companions — journalist Iñaki Makazaga and photographer Sendoa Elejalde. Photo: S. Elejalde


Neither Goettler nor Txikon was aware of the rapidly spiking number of last-minute expeditions heading for Everest, nor with yesterday’s rule change, where climbers proceed to the summit in staggered pushes, depending on the date that the climbing permit was issued.

Pascal Denoel of France, in the thick of a Seven Summits project, declared some weeks ago that he too would attempt Everest without supplementary oxygen, but we haven’t heard any follow-up confirmation from him since. Currently, he is in the Khumbu area, leading one of the few trekking groups.

Of the nine no-O2 climbers, only Kilian Jornet will avoid crowds at least part of the time. The rest will have to deal with a large number of climbers on the route if the summit window is short. Will they comply with the new rules limiting the number of climbers on the upper slopes at one time? They need ample time to acclimatize. Once achieved, they surely can’t afford to let a summit chance pass by.