Monday, 29 May 2017

My Ramblings (taken from my Facebook posts May 2017)

29 May 2017

May 28 2017

Rite of Passage 
It seems over the last few years people have generally split (unfairly) the ‘mountaineering world’ into basically two groups..those that sign up to commercial expeditions and those who climb independently and there are obviously huge skill differentials within both sectors.
Makalu image Ian Wall
Despite the recent crop of inaccurate information, distorted facts and out-right fabrication of unsubstantiated events several important issues have been raised and discussed in social media. I hope those ‘in charge’ of all things mountaineering will try to deal with them in a clear and professional way for the benefit and safety of all concerned, including the mountains themselves.

A few years ago a famous mountaineer was aggressively accused of reaching the top of several mountains in the wake of others who would open the route and fix ropes while the mountaineer allegedly did not contribute to the process but achieved summit success. True or not I don’t know I wasn’t there but I did read the reports and I did speak with that mountaineer. It’s all a matter of trust ~ who do you believe ~ and that is a choice that seems very hard to make in some instances.

Today there is definitely a third section of the mountaineering community that specifically forms the ‘following others’ group. Which for me raises several other questions, these people are not on ‘commercial expeditions’ but are in fact, independent climbers, groups or expeditions.
Manaslu image Ian Wall
As the 2017 spring season draws to an end teams are returning to Kathmandu some are flying high with success others not so boisterous. One of these independent climbers spoke to me the other day admitting that they narrowly missed the summit due to a variety of issues.. one being: -
“Tried hard but failed because the leading Sherpa was not strong enough to fix the ropes’ which indicates to me the mountaineers concerned did not have either the strength or the skill to climb without the use of fixed ropes.

In, I think, 2013 Ama Dablam was not climbed until late November because despite many expeditions being on the peak.. the ropes were not fixed to the summit and neither climbers or guides had the skills to climb without fixed ropes.

If well known mountaineers today can only reach a summit because of the fixed ropes.. then who fixes the rope..the answer is obvious..but does that person (or group of people) receive due thanks, praise or credit… but the successful ‘mountaineers’ pulling up on those ropes will be in the media!

Are these mountaineers despite not being on a truly commercial expedition falling into that category..the route is being prepared for them by others in exactly the same way as on a commercial trip?

I guess an ethical issue and does it really matter as long as the truth is out there?
Khangsar Kang image Ian Wall

28 May 2017

The Dark Side of Climbing Everest
Should I continue to post articles appertaining to events reported as happening on Everest? A rhetorical question from someone playing Devil’s Advocate who has not climbed Everest and does not want to upset anyone!
Everest from Thonak Tsho image Ian Wall
Between 1953 and 1991 Everest was climbed by expeditions acting as a ‘team’ all would join in to complete the various mountaineering tasks enabling the expedition to place mountaineering members both Nepalese and foreigners, with experience, on the summit. To reach the summit during those years was a notably achievement in the history of mountaineering.

Since then with a few exceptions those reaching the summit (apart from the guides/leaders) have in the main been commercially led with clients having various degrees of mountaineering ability, skill and experience.

It seems to me that in recent times everyone wants a piece of Everest, it would appear that more commercially led climbers have posted their achievement on the anniversary of their own ascent, no doubt a great ‘personal’ achievement, but does the rest of the world want to know? Do these ascents add to the history of Everest?
Upper section of thew SW Face of Everest image Ian Wall
The 'news' seems to have been raised several notches this year with the climbing staff getting in on the act with several reports that Trump might claim as being' fake news! As I said in a previous post the majority of reporters and bloggers try to get their facts clear, accurate and use reputable sources. But recently even well respected bloggers have been caught up in fake news.

With the aid of modern communication systems mobile phone pictures spontaneous comments are frequently hitting the social media headlines being directly sent from the location on the mountain.
Everest behind Nuptse northern flank image Ian Wall
I have no problem with this providing these reports are accurate and not prefabricated or enhanced in any way to deliberately mislead the reader for the self gratification on the part of the participants.

I feel that some of this season’s comments that have appeared on social media are in fact not enhancing the reputation of the Nepalese guides and mountaineering staff, this not only damages the very good reputation the majority of the Nepalese staff have but it also damages the image of Nepal for many who do not know the country or mountaineering history when they then read that ‘as previously reported.. more recent updates suggest that information was incorrect…’

I know the season is virtually over but I think I will now resist posting on social media comments on Everest related issues until the dust settles at the close of the season and the truth comes out.

26 May 2017 the News...Again!
Typically Everest hogs the news headlines as far as the rest of the world sees ‘Mountaineering in Nepal’ and it now appears that people are also highly motivated to get information into the public arena as quickly as possible, even via communication systems taken on the route. Some of these stories are later disputed or updated with changes to some of the original ‘facts’. All information is, I believe, posted in good faith, although it might be mountain bias it is based on perceived reliable sources. The two most recent topics under review are those concerning the Hillary Step and the mysterious tent containing ‘four bodies’ found on the South Col. I guess I also fall into the category of trusting reliable sources in a bid to keep people fully informed with the ‘latest’ situations.
 There are of course other stories unfolding on other mountains in Nepal. 
I have mentioned the girls, Maya Sherpa, Dawa Yangsum Sherpa and Pasang Ihamu Sherpa Akita on Kangchengunga before. A sterling effort in less than favorable conditions but they kept their heads, made the right decision at the time and place and returned from the mountain safe and sound and without suffering any serious effects from their ordeals. This news source was from the team itself.
The summit of Annapurna 1 in the distance just getting the early morning sun image Ian Wall
Dhaulagiri has also seen a lot of activity this season. The Indian Air Force successfully summited the mountain but then tragically the guide Angnima Sherpa went missing from Base Camp, a search has been launched. Adventure Consultants got their team to the summit on the 22 May 2017 and they are now all safely back in Base Camp and Adele Pennington also made a safe summit round trip.

Unfortunately these other summits don’t receive the same attention as Everest. Maybe with a broader,but less ‘Everest’ bias spectrum for the reporting of mountaineering events there would be a greater public awareness of other exploits being undertaken on some of Nepal’s other great mountains.
Dhaulagiri image Ian Wall

24 May 2017

Four found dead in a tent on the South Col
It is now being suggested that this was an item of ...false news.. lets wait and see what happens in the fullness of time..but the questions still remain the same!

'Death may have been caused by suffocation inside the tent', the rescuers reported... although the names of the deceased have not yet been released some of the facts should make us ask questions.
1) the 4 in one tent were said to be 2 clients and 2 'guides'..and the situation 'possible suffocation'.. maybe as on the Thorong La in 2014 the occupants used a stove in an enclosed space to cook/keep warm, became drowsy and ultimately fell asleep never to wake up again.. Either way surely every 11 year old boy scout knows to keep a tent ventilated..even in extreme conditions a clear air passage can surely be arranged
2) the expedition providers were reported as being a 'new company'. If you are breaking into the expedition arena with no success history you might be temped to cut corners on costs to attract clients.... were these 'guides' actually guides?.. I know the major players use IFGMA guides or at least Nepalese climbers with experience.. did these guys have experience were they IFGMA members? 
3) why did these clients not check out credentials of the company/guides..was money the main factor.

There are responsible ways that are transparent and fair to all operators and clients that could be implemented to reduce risk as a result of lack of knowledge.. these have often been discussed but never implemented

Bottom line.. if you get offered a cheap expedition to anywhere in the world consider why the offer is CHEAP.. read the small print and ask questions.. take responsibility for your own safety at lower altitudes because you'll possibly need to rely on others in your team at higher altitudes.

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