Remembering David Bridges (1970-1999) and Alex Lowe (1958-1999), found on Shishapangma

On April 27, 2016, David Goettler and Ueli Steck reported finding the bodies of Alex Lowe and David Bridges on Shishapangma in Tibet.

More than sixteen years ago, on October 5, 1999, an avalanche poured down the south face of the mountain, striking Lowe, Bridges and Conrad Anker. “Being dragged down the glacier,” Anker later recounted, “I thought this was it, that death was meeting me. [The avalanche] stopped, and the huge cloud began to settle. I realized that I was alive, by some miracle. I immediately stood up and began looking for Alex and David. The surface I had just run across was now a landscape with huge blocks of ice…. I was calling their names, but to no avail” (as quoted in Jennifer Lowe-Anker’s book, Forget Me Not).

The three American climbers were part of an expedition planning to make a ski descent of the mountain, and their teammates spent days looking for Bridges and Lowe, without coming across any traces of them. “There wasn’t that sense of closure,” Anker later told Grayson Schaffer of Outside.

Then in the spring of 2016, Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck and German David Goettler arrived in Tibet, planning to climb a new direct route on the south face of Shishapangma. While acclimatizing, they found two bodies amid the glacier ice.

According to a statement by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation on April 29, 2016: “Goettler described the clothing and packs of the climbers to Conrad [Anker], who concluded that the two were undoubtedly David Bridges and Alex Lowe.” Jennifer Lowe-Anker, Lowe’s widow, now married to Anker, wrote: “Alex and David vanished, were captured and frozen in time. Sixteen years of life has been lived and now they are found. We are thankful.”

Bridges was only twenty-nine at the time of his death. A high-altitude climber and filmmaker, he had gone on expeditions to mountains around the globe, including Himalayan peaks such as K2, Ama Dablam, Makalu, Baruntse and Kusum Kanguru. In 1995 and 1996, he also won the United States National Paragliding Championships. In a 1999 obituary in Outside, one of Bridges’ friends, Joel Koury, told the writer Tyler Stableford, “[At twenty-nine] Dave [had] led as full a life as any 70-year-old I’ve ever met.”

Craig Britton, another friend of Bridges, tells Alpinist that from the moment Bridges began climbing as a teenager, “He was instantly hooked. He told a friend, ‘I may have to break up with my girlfriend because I don’t know if I will now be able to devote a fair amount of time to her. Well, he didn’t give up on girls, but he devoted a tremendous amount of his joyous energy climbing and paragliding.”

According to Britton, while Bridges was attending California State University, he would sometimes commute to classes by paragliding from a spot near his parents’ home in the mountains above San Bernardino, “landing off campus…and then running back up the mountains after school.”

Like Lowe, Bridges was intensely fit, Britton says: “When [Dave Bridges] did Mt. Russell [4294m] with Brad Singer, Dave asked if it was all right if he took a run up the trail while Brad hiked down. Dave then ran to the summit and back while Brad hiked out. And caught him.”

Lowe, age forty at the time of the accident, was known as one of the top alpinists in the world, the author of cutting-edge routes in far-ranging places—from frozen waterfalls in Hyalite Canyon, near his Bozeman, Montana home, to cold, high peaks in remote regions. During the 1990s, Lowe and his partners had established a number of new lines in Antarctica, including the first ascent of Rakekniven, a tall granite spire jutting above the vast ice of Queen Maud Land. In 1992, he made the first winter solo of the shadowy Direct North Face of the Grand Teton. Mere months before the avalanche, Lowe participated a new route on the sheer northwest face of the Great Trango Tower—to list only a few of his many legendary climbs.

In his own writing, however, Lowe focused on the internal side of alpinism, rather than on external accomplishments for their own sake. Reviewing Andy Fanshawe and Stephen Venables’ Himalaya Alpine-Style, published in the 1997 American Alpine Journal, Lowe lauded the vision of “alpine climbing as a pure, exploratory, and soul-searching human endeavor.”

Despite his fame, Lowe preferred to say: “The best climber in the world is the one who’s having the most fun.”

Two days before his death, he had written for the expedition website:

“I appreciate why I come to the mountains: not to conquer them, but to immerse myself in their incomprehensible immensity—so much bigger than us; to better comprehend humanity and patience balanced in harmony with the desire to push hard; to share what the hills offer; and to share it in the long term with good friends and ultimately with my own sons.”

In her memoir, Forget Me Not, Jennifer Lowe-Anker recalled: “It was his character, his pure magnetism that drew people to him. Alex was on fire for life. ‘There’s not enough time in this life to do everything,’ he used to say. ‘If only there was more time.'”

Our thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of David Bridges and Alex Lowe in this time.

via Alpinist

Qld teen closes in on record Everest climb

Alyssa Azar is on track to become the youngest Australian to climb Mount Everest after a positive start to her third tilt.

The 19-year-old from Toowoomba is acclimatising on the mountain, between base camps two and three, ahead of an ascent to the peak later this month – her third attempt to conquer the world’s highest mountain.

Alyssa’s 2014 quest was thwarted due to a deadly avalanche, while last year she was derailed by the devastating Nepal earthquake.

She began her latest Everest climb in early April having grown up trekking, including conquering Mount Kilimanjaro as a 14-year-old.

Her adventurer father, Glenn Azar, has been in regular contact via satellite phone from Australia and his fingers are crossed for the favourable forecast conditions to come to fruition.

“She feels good. Strong and healthy and the weather has been very good this year,” he said.

Sherpa teams are fixing a route to the summit ahead of the final leg between May 12-27.

Alyssa intends to leave photo of her 12-year-old brother Christian, who has autism and an intellectual disability, at the peak.

via Yahoo News

17 climbers evacuated, 400 complain of altitude sickness in Mt Everest

RAJAN POKHREL

KATHMANDU: An unstable weather pattern in the Mt Everest region has started taking its toll on the world climbers as many of them on the Nepal side have been gripped by altitude sickness and some forced to abandon their expedition.

According to health workers and expedition organisers, over 400 climbers and mountain workers complained of high altitude sickness after Khumbu region witnessed an unstable weather this spring season.

Following the arrival of a lot of inexperienced support staff as well as foreigners in the region, the cases of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) were also increasing every day, they added.

“At least ten climbers have already returned to Kathmandu while 17 climbers and 10 high altitude workers were evacuated from Khumbu region till date after they complained of HAPE and HACE.”

Himalayan Guides Nepal treks informed that five climbers abandoned their bid to scale Mt Everest after they suffered from altitude sickness.

A Malaysian climber flew back to Kathmandu after suffering from HAPE, Pemba Sherpa, manager at Seven Summit Treks said. He added that most of the high altitude workers also complained of sickness in the recent days.

According to Snowy Horizon Treks, an Iranian mountaineer has also abandoned his bid on Mt Everest after he was evacuated from Camp I to the Base Camp.

Lakpa Norbu Sherpa who works with a team of medical doctors at the Mt Everest base camp informed that his clinic had treated at least 140 patients in the last three weeks.

“At least 17 patients including 12 foreign climbers were evacuated from Base Camp and higher camps,” he told The Himalayan Times over phone.

Bhuwan Acharya, an official at Feriche-based aid-post run by Himalayan Rescue Association said that at least 320 patients received treatment at the Aid-post while more than 10 persons have been visiting the facility daily for treatment. “Seven foreigners and three high altitude Sherpa workers were also evacuated from Feriche,” he added.

Doctors noted that altitude sickness was a major challenge to climbers in the Everest region.

According to them, Symptoms of altitude sickness include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, insomnia, persistent headache, dizziness, light headache, disorientation and drunken gait, weakness, fatigue, lassitude, heavy legs, slight swelling of hands and face, breathlessness and breathing irregularly, as well as reduced urine output among others.

The Department of Tourism issued climbing permits to over 400 climbers including 289 for Mt Everest.

More than 500 high altitude workers and base camp staff also joined the teams attempting to climb Mt Everest, Mt Lhotse and Mt Nuptse this season.

Via The Himalaya Times

Bodies of elite climber, cameraman found in melting glacier

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOS ANGELES: The bodies of a renowned mountain climber and expedition cameraman who were buried in a Himalayan avalanche 16 years ago have been found.

The widow of Alex Lowe said in a statement Friday that two climbers attempting to ascend the 26,291-foot Shishapangma in Tibet discovered the remains of two people partially melting out of a glacier.

The climbers described the clothing and backpacks seen on the bodies to Conrad Anker, who was climbing with Lowe and cameraman David Bridges at the time of the October 1999 avalanche and survived. Anker concluded that the two were Bridges and Lowe, the statement said.

“Alex and David vanished, were captured and frozen in time. Sixteen years of life has been lived and now they are found. We are thankful,” Jenni Lowe-Anker said.

She married Anker, her husband’s friend and fellow elite climber, in 2001. They live in Bozeman, Montana, and run the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation together.

Anker said the discovery has brought closure and relief to him.

He told Outside magazine that although he hasn’t seen photos of the remains, he’s convinced they are those of Lowe and Bridges.

“They were close to each other. Blue and red North Face backpacks. Yellow Koflach boots. It was all that gear from that time period. They were pretty much the only two climbers who were there,” Anker said.

Lowe, Anker, Bridges and several others were on an expedition to climb Shishapangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world, then ski down it. They were scouting out routes at about 19,000 feet when they saw a slab of snow break free 6,000 feet above them.

Lowe was regarded as the world’s greatest mountain climber when he was swept to his death at age 40. He was known jokingly as “Lungs With Legs” for his incredible strength and stamina. He had made difficult climbs all over the world, including Nepal’s Kwangde and Kusum Kanguru, and twice reached the summit of Mount Everest. In Peru, he climbed the southwest buttress of Taulliraju.

He was credited with rescuing several climbers in Alaska in 1995, a year when six climbers died on Mount McKinley.

Bridges, 29, of Aspen, Colorado was an accomplished high-altitude climber and cinematographer.

Do We Need Police on Mt. Everest?

There is a long history of tension and drama on Mt. Everest. Will a police presence make any difference?

Along with glaciers and crampons, drama has become a fixture on Mt. Everest.

This season, attention is focused on a deadly avalanche that sent Sherpas packing for the season. Last year, media reports zeroed in on a rock-throwing fistfight that began at about 23,000 feet after Swiss climber Ueli Steck and partners reportedly dislodged ice that fell onto a Sherpa setting ropes below them.

To help keep the peace, the Nepalese government announced that it would station up to nine police and army officers at Everest Base Camp this season. As debates continue about whether a police presence is necessary or could even make any difference in how climbers behave thousands of feet above, the move draws attention to a long history of tension on the mountain.

From historical questions about who owns Everest to logistical ones about who has a right to climb on which routes at what times, Everest brings out strong feelings. Now, with nearly 1,000 people at Base Camp and just a week or two each season when conditions are good enough for summit bids, said some Everest experts, it’s no wonder that tempers continue to flare.

“The more people you get there, the more chances you have for conflict,” said Maurice Isserman, a historian at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., and author of “Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes.”

“The real problem with Everest is that it’s just way too crowded,” he said. “Climbing has this elaborate and evolving code of ethics. The really ethical thing would be to give the poor mountain a vacation.”

The first expeditions to Everest approached from the north in the 1920s, when Tibet finally agreed to allow access to British mountaineers.

So, while the Germans tackled Nanga Parbat and the Americans focused on K2 (though they were ultimately beaten to the summit by an Italian team), the British worked on Everest until Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay finally reached the summit in 1953.

A decade later, the first Americans topped Everest as part of a massive government-backed expedition. The Chinese had already climbed it. Putting an American flag on the highest peak in the world was viewed as an act of heroism and prestige at the height of the Cold War.

Large-scale nationalistic expeditions soon gave way to smaller teams that traveled lighter and more quickly. The modern era of commercial, guided treks began in the late 1980s.

As the nature of expeditions changed, so too did relationships between foreign climbers and local Sherpas, Isserman said. During early expeditions in the 1920s, Sherpas were first employed primarily as porters for British mountaineers, who referred to them as “coolies,” a denigrating term for common laborers or slaves from Asia.

Over the next couple of decades, Sherpas emerged as skilled and serious mountaineers. When Norgay summited with Hillary in 1953, he had already participated in 11 previous Everest expeditions. No one was more experienced.

Mutual respect gradually grew, and Sherpas have long welcomed foreign climbers, who make it possible for them to earn as much money in a two-month climbing season as a farmer could earn in 10 years, Isserman said.

But Sherpas have also become more aggressive at asserting their value to foreign expeditions, beginning as early as 1953, when Hillary’s team stayed in a hotel in Kathmandu while Sherpas had to sleep in a barn without bathrooms. Resentment brewed and the Sherpas almost went on strike.

ISTOCK

Last year’s physical confrontation, however, was unprecedented, and may have struck panic into Nepalese officials. The fees that climbers pay for access to Everest make it a cash cow for the country.

“You don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” Isserman said. “What I imagine is going on is that they think, ‘We have to recreate a sense of stability and safety so that foreigners can come here and climb the mountain and not run into trouble.’”

As of last week, there was no sign of police at Base Camp, said Peter Hansen, a historian at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and author of “The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering after the Enlightenment.”

Climbers Head Home After Everest Brawl With Sherpas

Even if they police show up, he said, they were probably unnecessary. One reason is that most of the Sherpas’ feelings of anger and frustration are aimed not at foreign climbers but at the Nepali government, which many have argued, doesn’t do enough to compensate them for the risks they take on.

The media has also overblown reports of overcrowding and fighting, said Linden Mallory, a guide for RMI Expeditions in Ashford, Wash., who summited Everest with clients in 2011 and spent all or part of three other seasons at Base Camp since 2009.

“The first time I visited Everest, it was November, during the fall post-monsoon climbing season,” said Mallory (no relation to George Mallory, who died on the mountain during his third attempt in 1924). “I was expecting a much more trodden place with garbage piles and things like that, but it just looked like a glacier.”

In his experience, camaraderie is plentiful among Sherpas and Western climbers, even when they belong to different teams.

“You’re all there to climb a pretty big mountain,” Mallory said. “There’s a lot of support and whether there’s a rescue happening or somebody is not feeling well, I’ve always felt that there are a lot of people outside my immediate team that I can lean on.”

Mountaineer and Everest blogger Alan Arnette agreed that the mountain brings out great goodness in people that often gets overlooked, and that plans to put police on the mountain were probably more of a symbolic gesture than an actual peacekeeping one.

“The media likes to focus on selfishness but there is an equal amount of unselfishness and humanity on this mountain that never (gets) reported,” Arnette said. “You have climbers and Sherpas every year who give up the summit to help strangers or guides who help other teams.”

And even though reports from the 2012 spring season featured pictures of long lines and bottlenecks on the climb due to an unusually short weather window that year, many climbers who get to the summit do it quietly and without fuss. Arnette was the fourth person to stand on top of the mountain on the day in 2011 that he summited as the sun was rising at 5:30 a.m. He never had to wait a single minute at any point during his climb.

“You can cherry-pick your data and say 100 or 200 people are going for the summit on a single day,” he said. “But Everest is a huge mountain. You can find just as much data to show that there’s room for everybody.”

via Seeker

Carlos Soria Summits Annapurna at the Age of 77 Years; More Ascents Expected

It’s a feat which may not be repeated for a long time. Spaniard Carlos Soria bagged his 12th eight-thousander this morning when he reached the summit of Annapurna, thus setting the age record on the mountain; 77!

“Carlos Soria and the expedition BBVA rises to the top of the Annapurna,” announced Carlos Soria’s Facebook page at around 10am local time. He launched the summit push from C4 (7100m) at night.

Carlos Soria is also the oldest person to climb K2 at the age of 65, Broad Peak (68), Makalu (69), Gasherbrum I (70), Manaslu (71 years), Kanchenjunga and now Annapurna (77). Only Dhaulagiri and Shisha Pangma are missing from his 14x8000ers crown. The Spaniard plans to attempt Dhaulagiri this season after Annapurna.

Carlos Soria and fellow climbers in BC before starting the second summit push; Source

Carlos Soria left Base Camp (4200m) on April 28th, together with fellow Spanish climber Luis Miguel López Soriano, Doctor Carlos Martínez and Sherpa team. They ascended directly to C2 (5600m) that day. On 29th, the team – together with around two dozen other climbers – tackled the most challenging section of the mountain from C2 to C3 (6400m). “It’s been a tough day, almost a thousand meters, all of hard ice and with some really terrible (section),” Soria told BC team that evening. The climbers reached C4 (7100m) yesterday afternoon, and launched the final summit-bid at night.

As reported earlier, Bulgarian Boyan Petrov was the first person to summit Annapurna this season, on April 30th. Majority of other climbers on summit push intended to reach the top, today. As of now, around 11:30am local time, we don’t have summit news from teams other than Carlos Soria’s.

However, the tracker of German climber Jost Kobusch shows that he is very close to the summit – less than 100 meters. Hungarian David Klein is almost there as well.

Annapurna at night, as seen from BC; Source

via Altitude Pak

289 climbers in bid to scale Everest

Two hundred and eighty nine climbers are in a bid to exploit a short window of good weather, which formally begins next week, to stand atop Mt Everest. Among the bidders, 160 are new climbers.

Dambar Parajuli, president of Expedition Operators´ Association of Nepal, said the Icefall Doctors have prepared the routes till Camp III as of Friday.

“They have fixed double ropes, for ascent and descent, at the Camp III to make climbing easier and reduce congestion.”

The Icefall Doctors were to start fixing the ropes at Camp IV on Saturday. “Official reports are yet to come,” Parajuli said.

The route starts from the Everest Base Camp at 5,380m. Camp I, II and III are at the altitudes of 6,065m, 6,500m and 7,470m, respectively.

From the Camp IV (7,920m), the climbers will make their final summit push. They will reach the “balcony” (8,400m) first, and launch the Everest push, which normally starts around midnight.

“If the weather behaves well, climbing will start in seven to eight days,” said Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at the Department of Mountaineering that issues climbing permits.

“The number of Everest aspirants has decreased this year compared to last year, but the figure is not that disappointing given back-to-back disasters,” he said.

Last year, 356 mountaineers had acquired climbing permits. But there were no Everest bids in the spring of 2015 due to avalanches set off by the devastating April 25 earthquake that killed 19 climbers, including high-altitude guides and helpers at the base camp and the Khumbu Icefall.

The government has extended their permits for two years until 2017.

The number of issued permits dropped this year as the government made late announcement for extending last year’s permits, mountaineering agencies said.

“The number dropped this season as the climbers did not have enough time to prepare. They also need to arrange hefty amount of money,” said Shrestha. “However, 2017 is expected to be better.”

The government collected more than Rs210 million in royalties by issuing Everest permits this season. The government charges $11,000 per foreign climber.

In April 2014, there was an avalanche near Everest Base Camp which killed 16 Nepali guides. Rescuers pulled out 13 bodies and the remaining three were never recovered as search and rescue operations were called off due to “too much risk”. Subsequently, the mission was called off.

The government had also extended the Everest climbing permits until 2019 of those climbers who were forced to abandon the mission in 2014. That year, 326 mountaineers had received climbing permits.

via The Nation

Avalanche warnings for Mount Everest as climbing season gets underway

As the climbing season gets underway in Nepal, one year after a devastating earthquake struck the country, Sherpas are warning of the potential for more avalanches, caused this time by unauthorised sightseeing flights operating around Mount Everest.

Nepal had closed Everest to climbers after last year’s quake, which triggered deadly avalanches, but a year on the mountain is gearing up for another busy climbing season.

However, Sherpas are worried that vibrations caused by unofficial sightseeing helicopters passing over the mountain could trigger more snow slips, particularly in dangerous sections such as the Khumbu Icefall.

Mountain guide, Pasang Kaji Sherpa, told the BBC: “The sightseeing helicopters are hovering above the Khumbu Icefall and making things difficult for us. We worry that the vibrations caused by helicopters can crack ice blocks and snow packs on mountains overlooking the Khumbu Icefall.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) prohibits sightseeing flights above base camp and has warned airlines against violating this rule. However, Sherpas believe not all the airlines are listening and CAAN has admitted difficulty in policing all flights.

There are also fears that concessions made by the Department of Tourism, which has permitted helicopters to fly equipment in to fix the Camp One route, were being exploited by commercial choppers.

“For Sherpa climbers, especially those carrying equipment for expedition teams, helicopters flying overhead in higher areas is a mentally torturous experience,” said Phurba Namgyal Sherpa, general secretary of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association.

“The fragile snow and ice conditions could be disturbed at any time by the rotors of helicopters and that could spell disaster for us.”

However, airline officials have been playing down the dangers.

“We fly 2,340 feet from above the ground and maintain at least 1km distance from the mountains so there is no way the vibration can cause avalanche,” Pabitra Karki, chairman of Airlines Operators Association Nepal (AOAN), told the BBC.

Last year, Sherpas in Nepal also expressed concerns over the tons of waste left by climbers which are polluting Everest’s once pristine slopes and threatening to spread disease.

Climbers were said to often be forced to squat in the open or hide behind rocks to relieve themselves.

Human waste piling up over decades gives off an “unpleasant odour”, Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told Reuters at the time.

Sherpas claimed that human excrement was a bigger problem than the oxygen bottles, torn tents, broken ladders, and cans or wrappers also left behind on Everest.

A climber on Mount Everest
A climber on Mount Everest

“Discarded in ice pits, the human waste remains under the snow,” he told reporters. “When washed down by glaciers (when the snow melts), it comes out in the open.”

He added that the waste also poses a health hazard to people dependent on water from rivers fed by the region’s melting glaciers.

via Telegraph

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