Everest and Himalaya wrap: commercial vs. independent climbing clash

Everest and Himalaya wrap: commercial vs. independent climbing clash

Posted: Apr 18, 2011 08:07 pm EDT

(Brooke Meetze/intro by Tina Sjogren) Back in 1999, Tom and I were leading a small expedition of independent climbers on Everest south side. We brought a team of 5 Sherpas, determined to fix the mountain ourselves if we had to, due to a rope mixup between other teams the previous year that had cost us the summit.

There was an expedition leaders' meeting. As independent climbers, we were not invited. The crux in this case was that we had brought all the gear to fix the mountain from atop the icefall to South Col and beyond. The other leaders needed us.

They solved the puzzle by inviting our Sirdar. At least one of the leaders tried to cut a deal behind our back with our head sherpa on the ropes we were providing, a move that didn't pan out. We didn't charge for the fixing, but instead offered climbers to pay what they thought our efforts were worth. Unsurprisingly, the enterprise turned out a loss.

Fast forward 12 years.

The expedition leaders' meeting over with, Peak Freaks report 53 loads of rope needed to be placed up onto the Lhotse face to the south col. A number of the bigger expeditions will share the task.

In her first day in BC, the last of the dying breed of independent climbers on Mount Everest, Edurne Pasaban set up camp and then had to hurry to the leaders' meeting. "And you can not begin to imagine what It was like!" she fumed in her report. "For a moment I was on the verge of walking out and going home. Incredible ... It was almost surreal."

"Perhaps it's because we have climbed other mountains with less people on them, but I'm sorry to say the meeting really saddened me."

"Yesterday, not long after we arrived, a commercial expedition came over and told us that we could not put our tents in the spot we had spent an hour clearing of rock. Apparently, we were in the path of their yaks. To be perfectly honest, I saw no trail but we clenched our teeth and set up camp as best we could off the claimed pathway. As of yet, no yaks have come through."

"I got myself a little worked up, but Paul (ed note: the expedition doc) told me to calm down. I still could not help but wonder: Do people here buy the land or what? I always thought that the moraines belong to everybody."

"The meeting WAS incredible. The first thing they did was to forbid us to film, and so I went alone with the intention of just listening. There were about 30 people out of which I knew about 4. I sat in a corner and watched. Many were leaders of large commercial expeditions and I could feel an incredible tension which does not happen in other parts of the Himalayas."

Edurne says that the leaders fought over who should do what in rope fixing and debated the job as if they were the ones who were going to do it while the few sherpas in place sat silent. "Willi Benegas sat next to me and told me to be patient as this is what things are like here," Edurne wrote. "Like this?" I said to him, "but are we all stupid or what?"

"The point is that we needed to take up 52 loads of rope to the camp in 5 days," Edurne wrote. "There are in each load 200 meters of rope. I told them that our team will take up two loads to the camp on two of the days, but not until in ten days after we are acclimatized. We will do it, though. They carried on talking about mountain rescue, about keeping the mountain clean, and warning everybody not to steal oxygen - as you can see, all rather surreal."

Edurne said she was first to leave the meeting, "I returned to our base camp, and don't think I will be leaving it much." Intending to stick to her team, she wrote:

"All we know is that we are going to try and climb Everest without oxygen, we are going to work as a team, collaborate with the other teams as much as we can, look after ourselves, the Sherpas, and anyone else who needs it. This is what we understand mountaineering to be all about."

Comms Mango report

Peak Freaks' communications Mango (Mark Mangles) tested further and brought an update on the 3G situation. "He says 3G service is there but there isn't enough power to push it to base camp," writes the team. "He walked back today from Kala Pattar with is phone on and monitored his reception. He said while near the tower in Gorak Shep he received the 3G signal but as he walked further up towards base camp at about 2km he lost the signal and barely got 2G."

Expedition leader Tim commented that earlier he was able to pick up the 2G signal at camp and now they aren't hardly getting anything.

Writes Becky on the expedition website: "Likely from too many now at camp sucking the power supply and trekkers too. He topped up with Ncell minutes but his calls switch over to the local cell companies and 'ouch' those rates are extremely high for international calls. Back to satellite :)"

Summit Climb's Lhotse team wrote in a short text on their site: "This year email and internet not working like it has in previous years."


Already in camp 1 are Alpine Ascents and Adventure Consultants who report a baking hot (almost 40C in the tent) afternoon on top of the icefall. "Camp 1 is right around 20,000 feet or 6,100 meters, that's just a bit shy of Denali!!" wrote AA.

Everest North side

On the wilder side of Everest, Mexican David Liano writes, "what I love about this type of unguided expeditions is the complete freedom as to the time tables." Outfitted by Asian Trekking, Liano makes his own climbing decisions. Strolling to camp he wrote,
"I listened to music on my iPod, amid mountains rising over 7,000 meters surrounding Everest. The truth is that I often stopped, thanking ... do not know who, maybe the universe, for allowing me back on this mountain and the opportunity to fulfill my dream."

DOS8000 report a serious case of altitude sickness in the Chinese Base Camp: A Mongolian mountaineer accompanying his wife who intended to climb Everest solo began coughing hard and spitting blood at 1 am. He was swiftly evacuated with what appears to be pulmonary edema.

Graham with Adventure Peaks was bitten by a dog
in Nyalam and had to travel back to Kathmandu to get his top up jabs.


"For the moment only the Russian's tents as well as our's are up in C1," wrote Alex Gavan.

Cleo Weidlich published a gear list for Kangchenjunga.


Peter Hamor & crew have reached Makalu BC (4790 m).

Cho Oyu

Little action yet.

Website links to expeditions:

Everest South Side

Peak Freaks
Adventure Consultants
Alpine Ascents International
David Tait
Endesa Edurne Pasaban
Mountain Trip
Scott Woolums Blog
Patricio Ramiro Tisalema
Brazilian Climbing & Hang Gliding
"Memories Are Everything"
Enkarterri-Bizkaia Expedition
Int'l Mountain Guides
Altitude Junkies
Asian Trekking
Ferran Latorre
Apa Sherpa Eco Everest
Seth Wolpin
RMI Guides
Mountain Madness
Patagonian Brothers' Blog
Himalayan Ascent
Climbing for a Cause
Himalayan Experience
Kobler & Partner
Dream Guides
Ice 8000

Everest North Side:

David Liaño
Nick Rice
Spanish Reto Ever
#Mountaineering #topstory

Artificially lit communications tent at Base Camp in front of a full moon-lit backdrop.
Image by Unknown courtesy Mountain Trip, SOURCE
Edurne Pasaban's team arriving at Base Camp.
Image by Unknown courtesy Edurne Pasaban, SOURCE