American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Additional Information on Himalayan Kindoms Expedition

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994

Additional Information on Himalayan Kingdoms Expedition. Sixty-year-old Ramón Blanco had a brush with death during the descent when his supply of oxygen ran out as he was coming down the Hillary Step, not far below the summit. He passed out and was saved by the Spanish Basque team, who supplied him with some of their oxygen—and while reviving him, deprived one of their own members, a potential summiter, from making use of it. Blanco was helped to reach his expedition’s highest camp after nightfall. He managed to descend off the mountain safely, but eight days later, I saw him in his comfortable Kathmandu hotel, still a rather tired man. The Himalayan Kingdoms Expedition was punished by the Nepalese authorities for being too successful and sending too many members to the summit. Under the new rules, not only did the peak fee go up, but the total number of foreign members permitted went down, with a maximum of seven allowed. Actually Stephen Bell’s commercial, guided expedition had eleven clients and three guides, as well as 14 high-altitude Sherpas (and the unusually large total of 59 bottles of artificial oxygen, for all of which supplies and services each client paid $32,000). Bell thought he had a way to make it possible to take 14 members to Everest at a reasonable cost. He divided them into two teams with one holding a permit for Everest with a fee of $70,000 and the other allowed to climb Lhotse for just $9600. He says he understood from middle-level officials in the Tourism Ministry in Kathmandu that it would be all right for those on the Lhotse list to go to the summit of Everest provided he paid the extra fee of $10,000 for each summiter afterwards. Four of his Lhotse team went to the summit of Everest. The tourism officials deny that they had agreed to let anyone from the Lhotse list go to Everest and stated that four climbers had not confined themselves to their permitted peak but had “climbed Everest without permission,” an act subject to punishment. The fine was set at $100,000. Himalayan Kingdoms is appealing the severity of this fine on what Bell describes as an “enormous misunderstanding.”

Elizabeth Hawley

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