Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Everest 2014: Rebel Climbers Causing Grief to Former Expedition Leaders

I know I've already posted a fairly lengthy update from the Himalaya today, but the evolving story on the South Side of Everest just keeps revealing new layers. 

It seems that the two female climbers who have defied the closure of the mountain are creating headaches not just for the Ministry of Tourism in Nepal, but also for their former expedition leaders as well. Himex boss Russell Brice posted a note on his company's website detailing some of the problems he has been facing since one of the ladies was originally climbing under his permit. In that letter, Brice says that the Nepali government had been holding him responsible for the actions of Chinese climber Jing Wang, who hired seven Sherpas, and a helicopter to fly her to Camp 2, in an effort to continue climbing the mountain. As you can imagine, this has caused him a great deal of grief, as the Ministry of Tourism was even threatening to ban Himex from operating within Nepal for five years. 

Fortunately, it seems that the situation has been resolved, at least to the extent that Brice and Himex are no longer being held responsible for the actions of their former client. In the letter, Russell says that he knows who the company is that is supporting Wang, although he doesn't reveal that piece of information. He does say that the owner of that outfit has refused to answer to the Nepali government, but all seven Sherpas that are supporting the Chinese climber are employed by this outfitter. 

This latest addition to the story just underscores how out of control things seem on the South Side of Everest at the moment. It appears as if the Nepali government has lost control and can't keep things in order there. As mentioned earlier, there are rumors of other climbers potentially heading to the mountain to take a helicopter up to Camp 2 as well, which will only cause more issues for those trying to maintain some semblance of control. 

In the case of Jing Wang, we have a climber who has set a goal for herself. She is attempting to complete the 7 Summits and reach both the North and South Pole in record time, and it appears she is not about to let anything stand in her way. As I stated when I first wrote about these "rebel climbers" a few days back, she does face stiff fines from the government, and a potential 5 or 10 year ban from climbing in the Himalaya. I'm not sure she cares at the moment, but it will definitely be interesting to see what the fallout is from these actions once she comes down from the mountain.

Similarly, American Cleo Weidlich is facing the same ramifications. She was originally on the South Side to climb Lhotse this spring, and presumably that is still her goal. She is climbing independently as far as I can tell, and hasn't hired any Sherpas to help in her attempt. Cleo made the decision to by pass the Khumbu Icefall by using a helicopter after she found her own route through that dangerous section sabotaged. Unwilling to give up her climb, but not wishing to risk the dangerous icefall crossing alone, she chose to leapfrog the section and just start climbing from C2 instead. Eventually she'll have to come back down as well, and officials from Nepal will be waiting. 

As I said, this story is still evolving, and it continues to be a crazy one. What looked like was about to be a quiet season on the South Side, has turned into quite the drama. Watching it play out should be interesting. Lets just hope everyone who is still attempting the mountain, gets up and down as safely as possible. The last thing we need now is another tragedy under these strange circumstances.

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