The Himalaya Blog

Peter Matthiessen: A True Warrior

12 May 2014
Snow Leopard

"He fought for the poor and the weary, the sick, and anyone who had problems that were brought to his attention. He took time from his own life to try to help them in whatever way he could. He ALWAYS gave freely when someone needed anything, fought for those who were being mistreated.

...Native People need to know, we owe a great debt to this man, Peter Matthiessen. He was a very brave man, a true warrior. He battled HARD for us as a people. He fought tirelessly for my freedom." - Leonard Peltier, 6 April 2014.

Peter Matthiessen died of leukemia on 5 April 2014, at the age of 86. He had written over 30 books. The work that readers interested in the Himalaya are most likely to know is The Snow Leopard. But if that is the only one of his books that you have read, you have probably missed the point of the man.

Piolets d'Or 2014

23 April 2014
Read the article

The Piolets d'Or 2014 mountaineering awards were announced at a ceremony in Courmayeur on 29 March. The winning climbs were the first ascent of K6 West (Karakoram, Pakistan) by Raphael Slawinsky and Ian Welsted, and the first ascent, solo, of the South Face Direct on Annapurna (Himalaya, Nepal) by Ueli Steck.

Stephane Benoist and Yannick Graziani received a special mention from the jury for their repeat of the South Face Direct of Annapurna shortly after Steck's ascent.

A Lifetime Achievement award was given to US climber John Roskelley. His climbs include the first ascent of Great Trango in 1977, the first ascent of Uli Biaho Tower in 1979 and new routes on Nanda Devi and K2.

Reporting Pakistan - Terrorism and Travel after the Nanga Parbat Massacre

6 September 2013
Polo match in Gilgit

In an article on this blog about the Nanga Parbat massacre I said that political violence in Pakistan is becoming increasingly xenophobic. Someone in Pakistan retorted with a tweet alleging that my article was xenophobic.

My accuser isn't a member of the Pakistan Taliban. She is a journalist called Sumaira Jajja, who works for Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. Her track record includes some valuable articles on human rights issues and sectarian violence.

Her accusation is arguably defamatory. So why has she made it?

270,000 British nationals visit Pakistan each year. But the British government is now advising against travel to large parts of Pakistan. The US government is advising against non-essential travel anywhere in Pakistan. The economic consequences may be serious. But that's no excuse for trying to smear an article about the real problems that Pakistan faces.

Hard Eiger routes climbed free

22 August 2013
Jasper and Schaeli on the Eiger north face, Ghillini Piola route

A long way from the Himalaya...

It's been a busy month on the north face of the Eiger, perhaps because it's the 75th anniversary of the first ascent of the Swiss mountain wall.

On 3 August Robert Jasper (Germany) and Roger Schaeli (Switzerland) made the first free ascent of the Ghillini-Piola Direttissima. A week or two later Calum Muskett and Scottish climber Dave Macleod made the third free ascent of the nearby sport route Paciencia, technically probably the hardest route on the mountain.

Massacre on Nanga Parbat

31 July 2013
Nanga Parbat

The murder of 11 people at the base camp for Nanga Parbat, in the Pakistan Himalaya, on the night of 22-23 June was, as far as I know, the worst act of violence ever directed against mountaineers. It was also a symptom of the increasingly sectarian and xenophobic character of terrorism and political violence in Pakistan. And it raises worrying questions about the safety of climbers and trekkers in other parts of Pakistan, including the Karakoram mountains.

Update 19 August 2013: Police in Pakistan say they have arrested 20 suspects in connection with the massacre.

Piolets d'Or row - response from jury President Stephen Venables

12 May 2013
Piolets d'Or

The decision of this year's Piolet's d'Or jury to give the mountaineering prize to all 6 of the teams nominated for it aroused controversy and caused the editors of two French climbing magazines to resign from the Piolet's d'Or organising committee.

All 6 of the winning climbs were in the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges.

Stephen Venables, the British climber who presided over the Piolet's d'Or jury, has issued a robust response to the criticism, which he describes as "wild".

The editors of the magazines have refrained from further comment on the jury's decision. Perhaps peace has broken out and the magazines will continue to support the Piolets d'Or.

The full response from Stephen Venables appears below, along with messages from Doug Scott and Kurt Diemberger in support of the jury's decision.

Everest - lawlessness and the expedition industry

5 May 2013
Everest from the air

Climbers Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith were attacked high on the slopes of Everest last month by a mob of Sherpas, following a minor dispute with a Sherpa team. They were beaten, threatened with death and run off the mountain.

Actor Brian Blessed tweeted in response: "Just one word to say on the Everest fiasco - SHERPA! Wonderful people who save a lot of lives."

But conflict in the Himalaya won't be solved with just one word. It really doesn't help to cage the word "Sherpa" in a gilded phrase that recalls a century of romanticism, colonialism and manipulation. Sherpas are not St Bernards.

Everest Violence - statement from Ueli Steck and Simone Moro

29 April 2013

Press Release issued by the NO2 Limits Expedition, 28 April 2013. Simone Moro has subsequently said in an interview that the expedition is abandoning its attempt on Everest.

At about 8am on 27th April 2013 Simone Moro (IT), Ueli Steck (CH), and Jonathan Griffith (UK) left Camp 2 to reach a tent at around 7200m (lower Camp 3) on the Lhotse Face of Mount Everest. A team of high altitude sherpas were 'fixing' the Lhotse face and the climbers were asked to not touch the fixed ropes they were establishing. As such the trio climbed about 50m away and to the side of the Sherpa team to avoid disturbing them in their work. It should be noted that all three climbers have extensive climbing experience all over the world and were very aware of the work being carried out by the Sherpas and the respect given to them for it.

...By the time the climbers descended back to Camp 2 some 100 Sherpas had grouped together and attacked the three climbers. They became instantly aggressive and not only punched and kicked the climbers, but threw many rocks as well.

Follow the link at the end of the article for a "sherpa point of view," provided by Garrett Madison, expedition leader for Alpine Ascents.

Punch-up on Everest

28 April 2013

The Nepal-based Himalaya Times is today reporting that three foreign climbers have been "thrashed" by Sherpas while climbing between camps 2 and 3 on Everest. Two of the climbers are named as "Simboli Moro" - presumably Simone Moro - and "Wool Stick" - presumably Ueli Steck. The third climber isn't named. Nor are the Sherpas involved in the incident. Despite the quaint spelling of the climbers' names, the report is plainly not meant to be satirical.

Tweeting Everest

26 April 2013
Stamps printed in New Zealand dedicated to conquest of Everest, circa 2003

It's almost 60 years since the first ascent of Everest What do you on your 60th? Fifty is big, a hundred is stellar, but sixty is just fifty redux. You have to bring something new to the party. Something that didn't exist ten years earlier. Twitter followers of Everest1953 are getting tweets several times a day, as if through a wormhole in time, about the events of 60 years ago