Kangchenjunga: Angry Crossfire in Base Camp as Poles Descend

The atmosphere was far from friendly in Kangchenjunga Base Camp earlier today. Bartek Ziemski and Rodrigo Pereira are still on their way down from their successful summit while commercial clients and the rope-fixing sherpas are exchanging accusations on social media.

Tough descent for the Poles

Polish media have confirmed that Ziemski and Pereira summited Kangchenjunga without ropes on the upper sections and without supplementary oxygen or sherpa support. They cite May 27 as the summit date, not yesterday (May 28), when other climbers shared the news.

Wspinanie.pl writes that the climbers then descended back to Camp 4. Ziemski skied down while Pereira proceeded on foot.

“During the descent…to Camp 4, Oswald fully experienced the hardships of this 8,000’er,” they wrote cryptically, without further details.

The climbers spent all day yesterday in Camp 4 and were expected to continue down today. 

Close shot of Pereira in a cloudy day on the mountain.

Oswald Rodrigo Pereira. Photo: Polski Himalaizm Sportowy


The Polish media also noted that Ziemski and Pereira launched their push after a massive summit attempt by the commercial teams on the mountain, outfitted by Seven Summit Treks and 8K Expeditions. The teams in charge of fixing the ropes above Camp 4 made two attempts but retreated on both occasions, alleging dangerous conditions on the route.

“[The] Kanchenjunga expedition has been canceled for 2024 because all the fixed ropes were under the frozen fresh snow [and posed] high risks for those pulling the ropes,” Saila Mingma of 8K Expeditions reported on Instagram. He included a set of videos and photos of the snow-loaded mountain:

Climbers protest…

Some climbers expressed their doubts.

“On the first attempt on May 11, the moment was not right and the mountain didn’t let us go up,” client Domi Trastoy wrote on Instagram. “On the second attempt, the meteo conditions couldn’t have been better and it was canceled due to lack of work-will by the fixing team. How can you pretend to go up and fix ropes on Kangchenjunga without an ice axe?”

“No [agency] leader pushed to install the ropes,” Catherine Vulliez wrote in the same vein. “I learned that the boss of 8K had agreed to send new ropes [to replace those that] were missing….The delivery was canceled by the local manager, because no one wanted to put them.”

Vulliez mentioned that Seven Summit Treks was considering another summit push on June 3. But in the end, the climbers left Base Camp yesterday. Some trekked out while others helicoptered back to Kathmandu. Only the Poles remain on the mountain.

Climbers cliped to a rope in a long line up a serac on Kangchenjunga

Climbers in line on Kangchenjunga. Photo: Saila Mingma


… Sherpas reply

Today, members of the rope-fixing sherpa team countered the accusations. 8K Expeditions had sent Ashok Lama and Dawa Ongchu Sherpa (one of Kristin Harila’s supporters on her first 14×8,000m speed attempt) to try and fix the ropes for this second attempt after two other sherpas turned back because of conditions. Most of the ropes were buried.

“Uncle Dawa and I reached Base Camp and went directly to Camp 4 to catch up with the team and continue to fix the rope up to the summit,” Ashok Lama wrote. “Lots of climbers had their hopes on us, so the moment we reached Camp 4, without resting, we formed a team and continued up with some ropes and gear. But because of [previous] heavy snowfall, the old ropes were buried under deep snow. We tried very hard to pull them out, but it was taking a long time.”

Lama states that they worked hard for nearly 24 hours on Sunday and then tried again on Monday, but conditions remained the same.

“We calculated it would take more than 40 hours to reach the summit, so Dawa Ongchu told me it was better to cancel the expedition,” Lama wrote.

Lama explained that there was not enough oxygen and food stocked at Camp 4. In response to the general criticism from some climbers, Lama wrote: “I was not there to climb. I was there to make everyone safe, and all the more than 50 climbers are safe at base camp. That’s what I wanted.”

“If someone has any questions about this expedition you can message me directly instead of writing some cheap vlogs and news…Don’t blame 8K, as we have always been responsible for the team’s safety.”

Summit questions

In a post today, Vulliez mentioned the Polish climbers: “Two Poles might have reached the summit of Kanchenjunga, without oxygen or sherpas. They remained at Camp 4 when we had to go back down. They would have climbed using alpine techniques, without fixed ropes…But last night we had different information: According to their GPS, they might not have summited.”

Indeed, Kangchenjunga’s main summit is tricky. Climbers often try to access it by the wrong couloir. They can then end up at a secondary point known as The Pinnacles. This happened with Grace Tseng of Taiwan two years ago. Tseng climbed Kangchenjunga again the following year and reached the true high point.

In any case, we are waiting for news about Ziemski and Pereira’s safe return. There will then be time to find out exactly where they reached.

Kangchenjunga under some clouds with a tent in front

Kangchenjunga’s upper sections as seen from Base Camp. Photo: Saila Mingma

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.