Everest Ropes Mystery: The Other Side Speaks

Yesterday, Nirmal Purja confirmed to ExplorersWeb that the ropes on Everest were cut near the Balcony. He also published a video on social media of cut ropes tied together.

Today, Pioneer Adventure also insisted on its previous assurances the ropes were in place. The company offered photos and the testimony of a second team that was on the mountain on May 27. This group successfully retrieved a dead body from the upper slopes of Everest. That would have been impossible, they say, if 40 meters of rope had been missing.

In the end, it’s up to Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation to decide who’s right.

When Pioneer first saw Purja’s Instagram post on May 26 about cut ropes, “we immediately contacted our team at South Col [Camp 4] to advise caution while ascending further,” they explained.

Two teams

The first Pioneer team included Satyadeep Gupta of India. He was attempting his second Everest-Lhotse double-header this season, assisted by Pastemba Sherpa and Nima Ungdi Sherpa. A second team of four men was also there to recover the body of Binod Babu Bastakoti of Nepal. Bastakoti died below the Balcony, at around 8,300m on May 22, on his way down from the summit.

Gupta and his guides left Camp 4 on the evening of May 26. They summited Everest at 12:45 am on May 27. On his way down, Gupta told Pioneer Adventure’s staff that he didn’t encounter any missing ropes while climbing. Nor did he recall any extra difficulty on the route, which he knew from his previous ascent on May 21, apart from a strong summit wind.

A short ropeless section

But when ExplorersWeb asked Gupta specifically about his descent, he said: “Yeah, there was a short 5 or 6-meter section where the rope wasn’t there, some 100-150 meters below the Balcony. The section wasn’t dangerous, and we crossed it without any difficulty.”

Gupta and his support team even completed that section at night without a second thought about the missing rope.

After summiting Everest, Gupta rested for two hours in Camp 4. Then he headed up again to summit Lhotse that same day.

Meanwhile, the second team retrieved the body at around 2 pm and brought it down to Camp 2, which they reached at night.

“The sherpa team could have hardly lowered down a body if 40 meters of rope had been really missing,” Nivesh Karki of Pioneer Adventure told Explorersweb.

Karki also shared two pictures shot by the recovery team. One is the lead image on this story and the second shows the place, circled in orange, where they say Purja shot the video of the cut ropes. They shot the photos to document all the details of the recovery mission for Bastakoti’s outfitter, Himalayan Yeti Adventure, and his family.”

A dead body on a snow slope and ropes going down

The body of Binod Babu Bastakoti lies on the snow 90 meters below the Balcony. Photo: Pioneer Adventure


An easy section

“That section [in orange] is 150m below the Balcony, and the yellow rope was there, the sherpa team said,” said Karki. “In addition, it is a very straightforward section with no technical difficulty. Any climber could have passed it.”

On his way down from Lhotse, Gupta reached the recovery team, also descending, at the Yellow Band, shortly below Camp 4. The recovery team noted that they also saw two Elite Exped sherpas at Camp 4. At that moment, Purja’s team was preparing to set off for the summit. It is unknown if they spoke about the ropes.

Yesterday, May 29, Bastakoti’s remains were flown from Camp 2 and handed over to his family.

“If cut ropes had posed extra difficulty for my client, he [Gupta] could have raised a complaint with the Ministry against the teams assigned with the rope fixing,” Karki said. “Likewise, the body couldn’t have been retrieved.”

Karki went on: “I am sorry for Sayta [Saytadeep Gupta], because we told him to go slow and cautiously, thinking that there would be an actual problem with the ropes. Otherwise, he would have climbed much faster and could have set a speed record on the Everest-Lhotse double-header.”

In the end, Gupta completed the double double-header in 6 days 7 hours 31 min.

Much ado about nothing

This is the only time this season when the Ministry has opened an investigation into an outfitter. Both Purja and Pioneer Adventure’s team agree that any missing ropes at that particular section wouldn’t prevent climbers from advancing. The issue wouldn’t have made headlines had Purja — who alleges that he is undergoing a discrediting campaign on local media — not denounced the alleged rope cutting on social media.

“The section where the ropes were cut was not technically challenging and was easily navigated. After passing through the area without incident, we chose not to escalate the situation by broadcasting the issue on social media,” Pioneer Adventure stated.

Fed up

As for Purja, he also admitted to ExplorersWeb that he wouldn’t have posted about the incident if not for several articles that have appeared recently in local Nepalese media that he considers false.

“I had enough, and I decided that I wanted to make my voice heard because I also have a voice and a platform to tell the truth,” Purja said. “People try to discredit me but I can also speak for myself.”

“We have immense respect and admiration for Purja, for his efforts to shine a positive light on Nepal’s mountaineering community with his fame and significant platform,” Pioneer Adventure agreed.

“[But] as industry partners, we believe such matters should be informed directly to the…Department of Tourism, and handled in coordination with all stakeholders rather than broadcast on social media, which can cast a negative light on our community and its members.”

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.