Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Everest | The First Ascent May 29th 1953

Hillary and Tenzing aftter the successful ascent May 29th 1953
Today is sixty six years since the first ascent of Everest.

On 29th May 1953 at 11.30 am, a Sherpa and a New Zealander became the first men to stand on top of the highest peak on this planet.  However the intervening years has seen a sea change as far as Everest is concerned. The mountain   has now become a playground for guided expeditions, with clients paying between thirty thousand  to  eighty thousand dollars or more to stand on the highest point on earth. The South Col route climbed in 1953 is now disdainfully referred to as the “yak trail”. The dangerous icefall below the Western Cwm is maintained by a team of sherpas right through the season led by a senior “Icefall Doctor.” 


In order to make it possible for the clients to summit Everest, the entire mountain has fixed rope from bottom to top and the first to summit each year is a Sherpa team.


Kami Rita Sherpa created a new record this year by summiting Everest 24  times - in the last week he has summitted Everest twice in the 2019 season -  the most by any climber breaking his own record of 22 summits. I wonder if anyone will break Kami's record - maybe Kami himself next year!

 This year 2019 has not been a very good one on 8000 metre peaks. At the time of writing,  there have been 20 deaths on 8000 metre peaks this season - Everest, Makalu  Kangchenjunga  and Cho Oyu. There were also reports in social media and newspapers that more than 200 climbers were in human traffic jam on the south east ridge of Everest near the balcony area and as a result of this some climbers lost their lives due to exhausion  and many others had injuries due to frostbite from waiting in the "deathzone" for so many hours. There have been ten deaths on Everest so far. 

However, this post recounts through photographs,  the 1953 climb, the historic ascent of the first two men to summit Everest and the team of climbers and sherpas who supported them through this endeavour.

Bourdillon and Evans on their return from the South Summit on May 26th 1953 - Bourdillon had wanted to make a push for the summit

Nawang Gombu crossing the icefall ladders - Gombu later became the first man to climb Everest twice in 1963 and 1965
The five men who helped  Hillary and Tenzing to carry to Camp 9  27,800 feet - John Hunt, Da Namgyal, Alf Gregory, Any Nyima and George Lowe - Photo George Lowe Collection

The map of the Khumbu icefall and the route followed by the 1953 expedition


From left: John Hunt, Ed Hillary, Tenzing, Ang Nyima,  Alfred Gregory and George Lowe after the ascent

The code which was later used in the telegram to send the news before the Queen's coronation

The telegram sent by John Hunt after the ascent

Hunt, Hillary and Tenzing in London

The full expedition team with the sherpas
Tenzing and his mother at Tengboche monastery after the climb
Tenzing and Hillary at Tengboche monastery after the successful climb
Sketch map drawn by Tenzing for his biographer James Ramsay Ullman 

The signed colour supplement of The Times




All photographs in this post are copyright the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY and the respective owners. This post is non-commercial. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Everest | The West Ridge & the First Traverse May 22nd 1963



Today is the 56th anniversary of the first ascent of the West ridge of Everest and the first traverse of the mountain.

On 21st May 1963 at six o’clock in the evening two climbers reached 27,205 feet (8300 metres) to set up Camp 5W on the west ridge of Everest. Tom Horbein a US anesthesiologist then 32 years old and Willi Unsoeld , a mountain guide then 36 years of age were poised for the final push to the summit of Everest by a new route.

It had not been easy for these two men. The 1963 American Everest Expedition led by Norman Dyhrenfurth had squarely set its sights on a first American ascent by the South Col route. On May 1st 1963, Jim Whittaker accompanied by Sherpa Nawang Gombu, Tenzing’s nephew, made the first American ascent to become the fifth and six men to stand of the summit after the British in 1953 and Swiss in 1954.

Photo Courtesy - outsideonline.com
But Horbein and Unsoeld had other ideas. Working doggedly with the meager resources including limited oxygen the duo set up camps on the virgin west ridge route.

On the day of their summit climb, Barry Bishop, a National Geographic photographer, and Lute Jerstad were also attempting the summit by the South Col route. Bishop and Jerstad reached the summit around 4 pm but did not find any evidence of the west ridge team who were still two hours below the top.

Horbein on the West Ridge- Photo Courtesy Willi Unsoeld
The West ridge pair  reached the summit at 6.15 pm on 22nd May 1963 and became the 11th and 12th men to climb Everest and the fifth and sixth of their expedition. But in the context of the history of Everest it was an enormous “first”:  a climb by the West Ridge for the first time and more was to follow.  They had been climbing for more than eleven hours since dawn.  They saw the boot prints of Whittaker and Gombu and fresh prints which they knew must be of Bishop and Jerstad.

Maynard Miller and Jimmy Roberts at Advance Base (around 23,500 feet) below had scanned the heights throughout the day and kept the radio open. Around 7 pm when it was almost dark and anxiety had risen, Willi Unsoeld’s voice came through the radio. They had just summitted Everest he said and were descending by the south east ridge in the dark on a route known to neither.


“Roger, Roger” Maynad called back through the crackle and wind.
  And then he heard Willi’s voice again faint and indistinct reciting:
“…. I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before we sleep,
And miles to go before we sleep….”

The “promises” were to Willi’s wife Joelene that Everest would be his last big mountain.

The west ridgers left the summit around two hours behind the south col team. With a flickering flashlight whose batteries were fast waning, the two climbers descended, following the boot prints and ice axe marks of Jerstad and Bishop. But soon the last light faded from the sky and night descended on the slopes of Everest. The climbers reduced the 150 feet rope into half so that they could remain closer to each other.

Jerstad and Bishop’s descent of the south east ridge earlier was also not without drama. The seventy mile gusts were dragging the climbers  towards the edge of the ridge and in Bishop’s words “ A section of the cornice at my chest gave way and I had a sudden hair raising view of the Kangshung glacier  10,000 feet below”.  Bishop unroped himself and managed to return to the trail.

Suddenly they began to hear voices in the wilderness “Helloo, Helloo” and thought it was a rescue party from Camp VI coming up in searching for them.  Then they realized that the voices were from above. The West ridge climbers had descended in record time and caught up with the South Col team!

The four climbers then descended together down the south east ridge. The torch which Unsoeld had finally gave way and in the glimmer of starlight the climbers stumbled down. Finally at 12.30 midnight it was not possible to continue any further and the four Everesters sat down for what would be the highest bivouac at that time.

In 1953 Herman Buhl on his descent from Nanga Parbat and in 1955 Walter Bonatti and his porter had also spent the night at around 26,000 feet on K2 and survived though not without loss.

But the bivouac of the Americans was around 28,000 feet. However, luck was on their side. It was one night in fifty that the jet stream winds were silent on Everest!

 In Everest- The West Ridge, Horbein wrote:
 "The night was overpoweringly empty. Stars shed cold, unshimmering light. The heat lightning dancing along the plains spoke of a world of warmth and flatness. The black silhouette of Lhotse lurked half-sensed, half-seen, still below. Only the ridge we were on rose higher, disappearing into the night, a last lonely outpost of the world."

Climbers on the West Ridge of Everest Photo:
Barry Bishop from Everest The West Ridge
Amazingly, despite all odds the climbers survived to greet the icy dawn.  National Geographic photographer Barry Bishop writes that it was one of finest mornings he had ever seen  but he  and his camera was too frozen to take a single photograph.

But the bivouac took a heavy toll. Unsoeld lost nine toes to frostbite and Bishop six. Jerstad and Horbein were extremely lucky to get away unscathed.

Since the first West Ridge climb in 1963, there have been about sixty attempts on the route with about half a dozen successful climbs including the West Ridge direct. The number of deaths and the number of summiteers on this route have been about the same making it one of the hardest routes on Everest.

In 2012  two teams from the USA  including crack climbers like Conrad Anker, Cory Richards, Jake Norton and David Morton  attempted the west ridge to commemorate the 1963 expedition. Unfavourable conditions forced both teams to give up the west ridge route.

In 1979 Unsoeld died on an avalanche on Mount Rainier - one of the peaks he used to guide. Horbein recollects that Unsoeld and he spoke each year on May 22nd, the anniversary of their west ridge climb. After Unsoeld’s death Horbein speaks to his widow Jolene on that day.

In the end, expedition leader Norman Dyhrenfurth, though pushing for the South Col ascent gave the west ridge team full credit. Dyhrenfurth said “For years it had been the dream of mountaineers to do a major Himalayan traverse. We were particularly happy and proud that this was not only the first Himalayan traverse but that it was on Everest.”

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nepal Trekking Permit Fees as on March 2019


Following are the rates of entrance permits according to the Conservation area, National Park & Wildlife reserves  (Updated on 1 March 2019).
Trekking permit Annapurna / Annapurna Conservation Area
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 1,000 per person
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,000 per person
For Nepali nationals Nepali Rupees 100 per person
Manaslu trekking permit cost / Manaslu Conservation Area
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 1,000 per person
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,000 per person
For Nepali nationals Nepali Rupees 100 per person
Kanchenjunga Conservation Area
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 1,000 per person
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,000 per person
For Nepali nationals Nepali Rupees 100 per person
Gaurishankar Conservation Area
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 1,000 per person
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,000 per person
For Nepali nationals Nepali Rupees 100 per person

Langtang National Park

For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 1000 per person
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,390 per person.
Sagarmatha National Park
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees  1500/-
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,000  per person.
Makalu Barun National Park
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 1500 per person.
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,000 per person.
Birdia National Park
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 225 per person.
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 1,130 per person.
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
For SAARC nationals Nepali Rupees 225 per person
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 1,130 per person

Restricted areas /special permit cost detail for trek in Nepal

To hike or trekking in Nepal’s controll areas such as Manaslu, Mustang, Dolpa, you need to go over registered trek agency. Trekkers are not allowed to trek alone into the protected or in a restricted area in Nepal. You should be at least 2 people in the group with valid passports and visa. Anyone willing to enter the restricted area must get a restricted area permit either from the nepal tourism board or through authorized trekking company who obtains it through immigration nepal office, locates at Kalikstan, Kathmandu, Nepal. We suggest you go through register trekking agency in Kathmandu to make all official formalities to obtain trekking permits.

Dolpa or dolpo trek permits

Upper Dolpo Trek permits
For the first 10 days US$ 500 per person and after 10 days US$ 50 per day person or equivalent foreign currency.
For other nationals (other than SAARC countries) Nepali Rupees 3,390 per person.
Lower Dolpa / Dolpo Trek
Per week per person US$ 10 or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
upper mustang permit fee / Lo manthang trek permit cost
For the first 10 days US$ 500 per person and after 10 days US$ 50 per day per person, or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Manaslu region / Larke pass trek permit cost
From September to November US$ 70 per week per person and after 7 days US$ 10 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency. From December to August US$ 50 per week per person and after 7 days US$ 7 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Tsum valley (Manaslu areas) trek permit cost
From September to November, per person US$ 35 for first 8 days and from December to August per person US$ 25 for first 8 days or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
MUGU DISTRICT Areas of Mugu, Dolpu, Pulu and Bhangri trek permit cost
For the first 7 days US$90 per person and after 7 days US$ 15 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Nar and Phu Areas trek permit cost
From September to November, US$ 90 per week per person and December to August US$ 75 per week per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Gaurishankar and Lamabagar areas trek permit cost
Per week per person US$ 10 Or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Thuman and Timure (Rasuwa district) trek permit cost
Per week per person US$ 10 Or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Simikot and Yari (Areas of Limi and Muchu village Development Committee, and area way to Tibet via Tangekhola of Darma Village Development committee) Areas trek permit cost
For the first 7 days US$ 50 per person and after 7 days US$7 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Areas of Kimathanka, Chepuwa, Hatiya and Pawakhola VDCs) SANKHUWASABHA Areas trek permit cost
For the first four weeks, US$ 10 per person per week and After four weeks, US$20 per person per week or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
Kanchanjanga Region (Areas of Olangchung Gola, Lelep, Papung and Yamphudin VDCs) trek permit cost
Per week per person US$ 10 or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
BAJHANG DISTRICT (Areas of Kanda, Saipal and Dhuli) trek permit cost
For the first 7 days, US$ 90 per person and After seven days US$ 15 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.
DARCHULA DISTRICT < Areas of Byas VDC) trek permit cost
For the first 7 days, US$ 90 per person and after 7 days US$ 15 per day per person or equivalent convertible foreign currency.  
For updates on permits and fees please do visit https://www.welcomenepal.com/plan-your-trip/trekking-permit.html
 For more information on our treks and workshops do visit www.southcol.com

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Everest Reflections on the Solukhumbu | Book Launch Kathmandu May 28th 2019


EVEREST – Reflections on the Solukhumbu
Published by VAJRA Books Jyatha Kathmandu pages 152 size 11.5 inches x 8.33 inches 


Photographer Sujoy Das and writer Lisa Choegyal have collaborated in their second volume, this time capturing the essence of the majestic scenery and reality of daily life in the Solukhumbu. They delve beneath the surface of the Everest region of Nepal to reveal its historical influences, hidden seasons and current pressures. A foreword by leading mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, preface by cultural scholar Dr Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa and drawings by artist Paula Sengupta adds depth to this unusual book about a familiar destination.  The book is published on the centenary of the birth of Sir Edmund Hillary.

The book is also now available on line at the following sites:



For more information and details please email lisa@choegyal.com or sujoyrdas@gmail.com


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