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Footsteps on the Mountain

A client's-eye view of the world of mountaineering and adventure travel

"There was no question about it, mountains offered all that the heart could desire."
Eric Shipton

Peruvian icefall doctors: a case study

Crossing a makeshift ladder over a crevasse on Tocllaraju, Peru

The photograph below shows Pasang Ongchu Sherpa crossing a ladder over a crevasse on Tocllaraju in Peru. A Himalayan veteran with multiple ascents of Everest and Manaslu to his name Pasang is no stranger to using ladders to get across crevasses, but even he looked a little nervous crossing this one. Continue reading

July 24, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (0)

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A return to the Peruvian Andes, in very different circumstances

Located in the heart of the Cordillera Blanca a few hours’ drive from the tourist town of Huaraz, Huascaran is actually two mountains, Huascaran Sur and Huascaran Norte (Photo: Buz Groshong / SummitPost)

By the time you read this I will be in Peru, setting out in the hope of climbing its highest mountain, 6768m Huascaran. It’s been a long time coming. My one and only visit to Peru was when I walked the Huayhuash Circuit as a novice trekker in 2002. Continue reading

July 9, 2014 4:02 pm | Comments (1)

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4 ways to improve the south side of Everest

Lots of things have been written about how to fix Everest. Overwhelmingly these articles seem to be written by people who are not climbers and/or have never been there, or are alpinists.

I’m going to finish my series of posts on this year’s Everest season on a positive note by looking at some possible ways forward for commercial mountaineering on Everest. The aim is not just to make the mountain safer but to improve the overall experience for all who climb it. Continue reading

July 2, 2014 4:08 pm | Comments (5)

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The cod science of Everest hate

Deaths among Sherpas on Everest looks like Jupiter in this diagram, but how reliable is the data? (Source: Outside magazine)

One thing every Everest climber has to get used to is hate written about them in the media. Sometimes the hate becomes so pervasive that it starts to resemble propaganda, and one particularly corrosive piece of propaganda concerning Everest has been cited frequently recently and needs to be challenged. Continue reading

June 25, 2014 4:00 pm | Comments (5)

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Getting married is the peak of hubris

Vicars are up in arms for a fairer share of the spoils which mainly get divided up among photographers, wedding venue owners and caterers

With vicars treated like lapdogs by cretinous narcissists, a crisis in church matrimony was inevitable. This week on the Footsteps of the Mountain blog we welcome Tony Gould as our special guest blogger, who will be talking knowledgeably about one of his favourite topics, marriage and road traffic accidents. Continue reading

June 18, 2014 4:06 pm | Comments (0)

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Leo Houlding does his bit for the Sherpas

Leo Houlding's lecture at the Royal Geographical Society had an Everest theme

Last week one of Britain’s top rock climbers did a lecture at the RGS in London. Rock climbing isn’t generally my thing, but this talk had an Everest theme, and one of its aims was to raise money for the families of the Sherpas who died in the 18 April avalanche. Continue reading

June 11, 2014 4:09 pm | Comments (6)

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A funny name for a mountain

Kangchung Peak (middle) in the Khumbu region of Nepal will henceforth be known as UIAA Peak (Photo: Brent Smith)

There have been some strange names given to mountains over the years, often for very obscure reasons. Recently the Nepal Mountaineering Association has been applying more modern names, and has just given two peaks onomatopoeic titles that resemble the sound of somebody throwing up. Continue reading

June 4, 2014 4:04 pm | Comments (2)

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The Everest Base Camp summit meeting: an eyewitness account

Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, one of the leaders of the protesters, incites the crowd during a speech

In April government officials flew into Everest Base Camp to meet with Sherpas who had issued demands after a fatal avalanche. Afterwards they issued a press release about the meeting that was misleading in a number of ways. Here is my account of the events I witnessed that day. Continue reading

May 29, 2014 4:01 pm | Comments (17)

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A mountain of deceit: introducing Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism

A delegation from Nepal's Ministry of Tourism flew into Everest Base Camp for an emergency summit meeting

The government of Nepal made a number of announcements about mountaineering on Everest before and during the Spring 2014 season, which received widespread media attention. Here I examine some of the announcements and assess how successfully the government met their intentions. Continue reading

May 28, 2014 4:03 pm | Comments (7)

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Lhotse 2014: The world’s most expensive Everest Base Camp trek

Junkies dining and sleeping tents, with the Khumbu Icefall behind

The story of the Altitude Junkies 2014 Everest and Lhotse expedition. I was excited to be attempting 8516m Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world which stands across the South Col from Everest. Even if I didn’t reach the summit I would surely reach Camp 2 at least, as I had on every previous occasion. Continue reading

May 22, 2014 4:01 pm | Comments (5)

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The Everest avalanche: how did it happen?

Before and after photographs of the 18 April avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall, Everest

After publishing yesterday’s eyewitness account of the 18 April avalanche on Everest I was contacted by one of my team mates, Mel Huang from China. Mel has been studying before and after photographs of the West Shoulder and Khumbu Icefall in order to analyse precisely what happened. Continue reading

May 17, 2014 3:53 pm | Comments (2)

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The mother of all avalanches: an eyewitness account

16 Sherpas died in the Khumbu Icefall avalanche on 18 April avalanche. 400 other Nepalis are believed to have died building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

At approximately 6.45am on Friday 18 April, 2014 I was walking with team mates through Everest Base Camp on the way to my first foray into the Khumbu Icefall. It was a climb I wasn’t to start, for at that moment a huge chunk of ice fell off Everest’s West Shoulder, triggering an avalanche which swept across the entire width of the Icefall. Continue reading

May 16, 2014 5:31 pm | Comments (8)

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A last desperate bid for Everest glory … by helicopter

A helicopter flies over Everest Base Camp, but have climbers been chartering them to fly into the Western Cwm?

It’s been a terribly unhappy 2014 Everest season for many reasons, so here’s something to cheer us all up. We all thought the season on the south side of the mountain finished two weeks ago, but reports in the Himalayan Times have fuelled speculation that the Southeast Ridge may yet be climbed this year. Continue reading

May 14, 2014 4:06 pm | Comments (8)

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Salvaging good from a disastrous season

And here I am giving some donated training materials to Shree Buddha School Principal Ragunath Baniya (Photo: CHANCE)

One consequence of the Everest season ending early is that I’ve spent an unusually long time in Kathmandu catching up with things and contemplating a surreal season. I’ve even managed to salvage some good from three weeks of tragedy and conflict which have dashed hopes and dreams and trashed reputations. Continue reading

May 9, 2014 9:55 am | Comments (1)

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The double Everest tragedy

One thing I discovered is that it's definitely a circus at Everest Base Camp in Nepal

I’m back in Kathmandu again at the end of what has effectively been a very expensive Everest Base Camp trek. All expeditions have now been cancelled, and there will not be a single summit from Everest’s south side this season. … Continue reading

April 27, 2014 4:58 am | Comments (14)

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The Sherpa sacrifice

Back in Kathmandu Edita lights butter lamps for those who died in the April 18 avalanche

I don’t know whether this is going to post successfully, as we have been without meaningful internet communications since we arrived at Everest Base Camp over a week ago. I have wandered down to Gorak Shep in search of 3G … Continue reading

April 20, 2014 6:30 am | Comments (15)

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Namche Bazaar and the start of the Everest trail

Margaret arrives in Namche Bazaar

We have had a lazy rest day today in the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar. On a good day this is one of the most spectacularly situated villages anywhere in the world. It lies in a natural bowl on the … Continue reading

April 5, 2014 1:21 pm | Comments (8)

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A briefing at the Ministry

Attending a briefing at Nepal's Ministry of Tourism

A new joke is doing the rounds in Kathmandu: How many Nepalese Ministry of Tourism officials does it take to change a light bulb? Two: one to change the bulb and the other to issue a press release to the … Continue reading

April 2, 2014 1:15 pm | Comments (4)

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South Peak: my attempt on Lhotse

Here I am on the summit of Island Peak with climbing guide Dawa Bhote. As you can see, 8516m Lhotse towering behind us makes 6189m Island Peak seem a bit piddling.

Good times are approaching again. On Sunday I leave for Nepal for my fifth 8000m peak expedition, and it’s fair to say I’m just a teeny bit excited. My objective this time is 8516m Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world and the one next to Everest, as I’ve been telling everyone who has asked. Continue reading

March 26, 2014 4:07 pm | Comments (7)

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10 great Sherpa mountaineers

Angtharkay in Darjeeling in 1935 (Photo: Dan Bryant / Royal Geographical Society)

As the Everest season approaches we will be hearing a lot about the successes of western climbers in the Himalayas over the next few months, but very little about the superstars of high altitude mountaineering. It’s time this was rectified, so here are ten of the greatest tigers of the snow. Continue reading

March 19, 2014 4:09 pm | Comments (9)

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