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Shisha Pangma Closed; Everest North Side Shut Until May 7

by thesummiters.com
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Unfortunately, there’s disappointing news from China. Shisha Pangma won’t be open for climbers this spring, and the North Side of Everest is closed to foreigners until May 7th. Climbers are now scrambling to rearrange their plans or find alternative mountains to conquer. For some, this adjustment is easier than for others.

No Shisha Pangma

Unfortunately, climbing at Shisha Pangma won’t be happening this season. Nearly 50 climbers and their guides who were gearing up for the expedition now need to find an alternative. Last week, while trekking in Langtang, they caught a distant glimpse of the mountain, realizing it would be the closest they’d get to it.

Sharing the disappointing news, Moeses Fiamoncini from Brazil said, “After waiting for 17 days to receive confirmation for our climb at Shisha Pangma, we’ve been informed that climbing won’t be permitted in the region.”

Dario Libano points to Shisha Pangma, 34km away, while hiking recently in Langtang, Nepal. Photo: Moeses Fiamoncini
Dario Libano points to Shisha Pangma, 34km away, while hiking recently in Langtang, Nepal. Photo: Moeses Fiamoncini

Now faced with uncertainty, the team members must make decisions. Fiamoncini, who intended to guide Brazilian-Italian Dario Libano up Shisha Pangma told ExplorersWeb, will make up his mind in the next few hours. While Fiamoncini still has other Nepalese 8,000-meter peaks on his list, for some team members, Shisha Pangma was their last climb to complete their list of 14×8,000-meter peaks.

Are the retrieval missions off too?

It’s uncertain if the closure will affect Nirmal Purja’s plans to recover the bodies of Anna Gutu and Mingmar Sherpa, who tragically died in an avalanche last fall.

Purja recently mentioned on social media that he expected approval from the China-Tibet Mountaineering Association (CMTA) for the recovery mission. “We have recently been informed our application will be accepted,” he wrote. We will begin the repatriation in April.

However, he posted this before hearing about Shisha Pangma’s closure and hasn’t provided any updates since then.

Kristin Harila, who was with Seven Summit Treks, also aimed to find the remains of Tenjen Lama and Gina Marie Rzucidlo, two other victims of the same avalanche last fall. Tenjen Lama had guided Harila on all her 8,000-meter climbs the previous year.

Chinese authorities had announced earlier that Everest would open this spring, but there was no mention of Shisha Pangma. There’s still no information on whether Cho Oyu will open this fall for the expeditions planning to go there.

Everest is on a tight schedule!

The China-Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) has announced that Everest will only be open for foreigners starting from May 7, which is later than expected. The window for climbing will last until June 11.

For climbers who had their sights set on Shishapangma, they’ll need to find another mountain to conquer. But those aiming for the North Side of Everest are adjusting their plans to fit the new schedule.

We’ll climb another peak in Nepal while we wait for the opening date, said Lukas Furtenbach.

He also mentioned that although foreigners aren’t allowed yet, a Chinese expedition is already setting up ropes on the normal route of Everest. This means that once Western climbers are properly acclimatized, they can quickly ascend the mountain since the route will be prepared. They just need to set up camps to make a speedy ascent as soon as the weather permits.

Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions also mentioned that they’ll adapt to the delay.

“The time frame is still sufficient,” he said. “We planned to enter Tibet on April 28 and spend 35 days on the mountain, so there’s enough time.”

The North Side of Everest offers a longer climbing season, which is a positive aspect.

“There’s no Khumbu Icefall on the North Side that becomes unstable with rising temperatures, causing an early closure,” explained Ballinger. “That route isn’t affected by heat or sun later in the season.”

The North Side of Everest. Photo: Furtenbach Adventures
The North Side of Everest. Photo: Furtenbach Adventures

Moreover, the North Side of Everest faces fewer challenges from the arrival of the monsoon, which originates from the Bay of Bengal in the south.

“While the monsoon brings adverse conditions to Nepal towards the end of May, forcing the climbing season to end, we typically enjoy good weather on the North Side of the Himalayas well into June,” added Ballinger.

He said his team will keep getting used to the high altitude and training at home until they leave.

Even quieter

List of climbing permits issued in Nepal on April 21.
List of climbing permits issued in Nepal on April 21.

It’s going to be quieter on Everest’s North Side compared to the South Side, despite all the inconveniences and stress. In the latest update on permits issued by Nepal’s Department of Tourism on April 21, the number of foreigners climbing Everest has already reached 352! Additionally, there are 75 permits for Lhotse, 24 for Nuptse, 11 for Lingtren, and 3 for Pumori. It looks like Everest is heading for another busy year, and Base Camp is going to be more crowded than ever.

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