Thursday, May 10, 2018

Himalaya Spring 2018: Lightning on Everest and Sherpas Come to the Aid of Skiers

What was a relatively quiet and uneventful season in the Himalaya has certainly started to pick up momentum now. That generally tends to happen as we inch closer to summit day, but a few other stories have cropped up to make things interesting too.

Of course, the big story this week has been the evolving situation involving Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas. You'll recall that the duo skied the Lhotse Face last week on Everest and came down to find themselves in all kinds of hot water. Apparently they didn't have a permit to ski the mountain – a requirement that almost no one knew existed – and could now have their climbing permits yanked too. But, before that happens a group of Sherpas have come to their aid.

According to The Himalayan Times, more than 150 Sherpas have petitioned the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation asking them to allow Moniz and Benegas to continue to their climb. The request came in the form of letter sent to the head of the Department of Tourism that reiterates the fact that the skiers did nothing to put anyone else in danger or endanger the mountaineering sector by skiing down the mountain.

In the letter, the climbing Sherpas who signed it underscore the fact that Willie Benegas has been coming to Everest for more than 20 years, bringing clients to go up the mountain. He himself has 11 summits under his belt and has been a fixture on the mountain for those two decades. In other words, he has been good for the mountaineering economy in Nepal and this minor incident shouldn't prevent he and Matt for attempting their double-summit of Everest and Lhotse.

Whether or not the Ministry will take this opinion into consideration remains to be seen. They are expected to make an announcement on the fate of the two climbers in the next few days prior to the start of the upcoming summit push.

Meanwhile, Everest was the subject of an odd, unexpected electrical storm yesterday. Teams were heading up the mountain to acclimatize at Camp 1 and 2 when thunder and lighting rolled in, knocking out power at Base Camp and bringing high winds to the higher points on the mountain. Things got especially wild in C2 where climbers were holding their tents into place. Reportedly things are better now, but IMG expedition leader Greg Vernovage noted that neither he nor head Sherpa Jangbu recalled seeing lightning in BC for more than a decade.

Over on Shishapangma the search for missing Bulgarian climber Boyan Petrov continues. No one has seen him since he launched a solo attempt on that mountain back on April 29 and of course everyone fears the worst. Search and Rescue teams using helicopters swept the mountain, but there has been no sign of Petrov. His tent was still at Camp 3 but the interior had snow in it, indicating that he had left it open when he departed and had been gone for some time. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.

Finally, one of the more high profile Everest bids this year was that of former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton who hoped to climb to the summit as part of a charity expedition. She has been sent home from the mountain however after displaying early signs of altitude sickness. According to reports her oxygen saturation levels were dangerously low, causing concern for her health and well-being moving forward. She has already departed for home in the U.K.

That's all for today. More updates to come soon as things are about to get very busy.

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