Kangchenjunga: Summit Push Details and Rescue Rumors Cleared Up

All climbers from yesterday’s summit push on Kangchenjunga have safely returned to Base Camp, after an exhausting descent from Camp 4. Saad Munawar checked in with ExplorersWeb after teammate Sirbaz Khan reached BC, visibly tired. At the time, some climbers were still on their way down.

This morning, concerns grew after Wilko Van Roijen of the Netherlands tweeted:

ExplorersWeb asked van Rooijen and other climbers on Kangchenjunga for details. Pioneer Adventure promptly replied, admitting that two of their members were rescued from Camp 1…last week.

On April 21, they explained, a Czech climber tore a ligament and an Indian client developed a serious case of Acute Mountain Sickness. A helicopter airlifted both victims to the hospital. The Indian man was in critical condition but treatment was administered just in time. Both are currently recovering back home.

Pioneer Adventure also reported that Mingma G has led the only summit bid so far. It included members from Nirmal Purja’s team and two Sherpa rope fixers working for Pioneer.

Mingma G’s members are all safely down. Saad Munawar and Sirbaz Khan, plus some other members, flew to Kathmandu for three days of rest before returning to Base Camp.

A tired Sirbaz Khan arrives back at BC. Photo: Saad Munawar


“Sirbaz is fine but exhausted after the effort,” Munawar said. “The best thing he can do now is to rest, drink lots of liquid, eat well, get strong again, and return to BC in three days.”

That will bring him back for the next Pioneer Adventure push, which can happen as soon as May 1, Executive Director Nivesh Kakri told ExplorersWeb. Fourteen climbers are in the team.

About that summit attempt

Before boarding, Munawar shared some details about the failed summit attempt. The climbers faced several challenges.

First, there was a heavy snowfall the previous night, which made it very difficult to find the correct route, especially for Mingma G, who was in charge of everything. He led the rope-fixing team and found the route up a mountain that he had not been on since 2013. Old ropes in several places led to confusion.

They finally found the right way, fixing on the go, and even saw the summit, but by then it was too late in the day. With a large group in tow, Mingma G decided to call the attempt off. After all, the work is done, the fixing is complete nearly to the top, and the priority was to get everyone back safely. There will be time for further attempts.

Munawar noted that Sirbaz Khan always trails the group: Climbing without O2, his pace is slower. He had reached 8,380m when Mingma G signaled the retreat.

Saad Munawar added that Mingma G seemed not to receive enough support from the other teams on the mountain. Imagine Nepal had all the work and responsibility.

“Nims [Nirmal Purja of Elite Exped] was also there, but he didn’t really know the route to the summit,” said Munawar.

While no rescue took place during Imagine Nepal’s summit push, he confirmed the rescue of one of Pioneer’s climbers some days earlier.

“There was [also] a heli airlift for Nims’ team, but it was not a rescue…The heli was waiting at Camp 2 to pick them up and take them to Everest.”

Less social media buzz this year?

This season, most climbers are staying rather quiet on social media. In some cases, they are having internet connection problems, Australian drone-pilot Jackson Groves told ExplorersWeb from Makalu.

Other times, they simply choose not to share details — just selfies, motivational platitudes, and pictures of their sponsor’s products. Likewise, the outfitters disseminate little news. Understandably, they are even more tight-lipped when trouble occurs.

Yesterday,  Gianpaolo Corona’s name joined the list of Annapurna’s summiters. Today, Nepali media reported that the Italian climber went “missing” shortly after summiting. Luckily, rescue pilots later spotted him, unharmed and descending.