Ever­est sea­son brings records and deaths

Action Asia - - NEWS & VIEWS -

THE PRE-MON­SOON WEATHER win­dow on Mt Ever­est has closed, bring­ing to a end what will be seen as a suc­cess­ful sea­son with five deaths re­ported, a s of press t i me, a nd some­thing over 50 0 sum­mits, more than 400 of them from the more pop­u­lar Nepal side. Among the suc­cesses are two Hong Kong climbers – El­ton Ng and Ada Tsang Yin-hung – who made it safely up and down, the lat­ter be­com­ing the first Hong Kong Chi­nese woman to con­quer the peak. Though Ever­est may be con­sid­ered cliché and not chal­leng­ing enough for some moun­taineers, the moun­tain’s status as the high­est any­where, en­sures it draws many rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced climbers. A se­ries of dis­as­ters in re­cent years have re­minded all that noth­ing can be taken for granted when deal­ing with a moun­tain of such ex­treme height. That un­cer­tainty is al­ways on the hori­zon was un­der­lined when it tran­spired this year that a cel­e­brated fea­ture of sum­mit day – the Hi­lary Step, a rock ob­sta­cle slope named af­ter the first man to con­quer the Ever­est – is no more. The ex­act con­fig­u­ra­tion of the slope is still be­ing de­bated, with some claim­ing that above-av­er­age snow­fall had merely veiled the out­crop, but in late May, an Amer­i­can team pub­lished shots that seem to show that there has in­deed been a change. Long in­fa­mous as a source of per­ilous bot­tle­necks at busy times, the bal­ance of opin­ion seems to sug­gest that the ‘step’ now rep­re­sents a slightly less sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier to sur­mount on the fi­nal push to the sum­mit. Also dis­rupt­ing norms this sea­son was a new name to many in climb­ing: Kil­ian Jor­net (be­low), bet­ter known as an elite ul­tra­run­ner. He rocked the alpine com­mu­nity by climb­ing from Ad­vanced Base Camp on the north side to the sum­mit, with­out oxy­gen or fixed ropes, in a record 26 hours. Trou­bled by stom­ach prob­lems he was un­able to fin­ish his de­scent as planned, so two days later he re­peated the route, this time slightly slower. It was as if it was a planned trib­ute to an­other noted record-breaker, Ueli Steck, killed on Nuptse at the be­gin­ning of sum­mit sea­son [see box]. Paul Niel, an Aus­trian moun­taineer who climbed Ever­est in 2013, said Jor­net’s feat shows how alpin­ism con­tin­ues to evolve: “There have al­ways been dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, see­ing dif­fer­ent ways to do fa­mil­iar routes faster, break­ing records”, he says. “Ueli was al­ready go­ing there; and when you see such an amaz­ing ath­lete as Kil­ian go into moun­taineer­ing, you can’t help but be com­pletely over­taken by him and what he has achieved.” “Kil­ian def­i­nitely puts Ever est into per­spec­tive, bring­ing into light the re­al­ity of alpine dan­gers, dif­fer­ent routes and the pos­si­bil­ity to ex­plore ad­ven­ture son the moun­tain in more than one way.”

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