Current Affairs

65 years after the first summit: why Mt. Makalu has seen just around 500 summiteers?

Birat Anupam

Itahari, 15 May (2020) – Some 65 years ago, on this very day, French mountaineer duo Jean Couzy and Lionel Terry co-created the history of scaling the summit of Mt. Makalu (8463m). Today marks the historic summit on the fifth tallest peak of the planet.

The historic summit was made after unsuccessful summit attempt by Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale the Mt. Everest, the tallest peak of the planet. The historic French expedition ‘France Spring 1955’ was led by team leader Jean Franco. They had scaled the mountaintop from the west face of the mountain, says the information about facts and figures of Nepali mountaineering compiled by Tourism Department under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal.

Interestingly, the then French expedition has left option of scaling Mt. Cho Yu, the fourth tallest mountain in order to scale Mt. Makalu, says Lionel Terry in his famous book published in English titled ‘Conquistadors of the useless’. This book was categorized as one of the ‘100 adventure book of all time’ by National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

According to the book about Mt. Makalu ascent, the climber duo reached at the summit at the noon of May 15, 1955. The temperature at the summit, the book says, was minus 35 degree Celsius.

Tragically, the mountaineering community has lost the both Couzy and Terry physically. Couzy passed away three years after creating the history on Makalu on 2 November 1958. Terry’s demise also came two years of his book published in English language by Gollancz publication from United Kingdom on 19 September 1965.

Both Couzy and Terry were also the members of first successful expedition on the top of Mt. Annapurna on 3 June 1950. The Mt. Annapurna (8091m) summit was not just the summit on it but also the summit on the first eight-thousand-meter plus mountain in the planet.

Makalu-summit

Mt. Makalu: The least-climbed world-class mountain

Nepal’s Tourism Department has not brought out latest summit figures for couple of years. However, according to data compiled by Tourism Department of Nepal on the June of 2018, 499 climbers have created successes to make it to the top of the Mt. Makalu. This figure is far less than sometime a yearly figure of the single peak spring season of Everest expedition in Nepal.

Mira Acharya, the director at Tourism Department of Nepal, said the low climbers on the Mt. Makalu are owing to mainly the glamour of Mt. Everest. ”Every mountaineer in the world thinks about climbing Mt. Everest first”, said Acharya over phone. She added, ”They don’t have much thought on mountain other than Everest on the first phase. However, some climbers are climbing to Mt. Makalu also.”

Other than the magnetic appeal of Mt. Everest as the most sought-after mountain, Acharya pointed two reasons for fewer climbers on Mt. Makalu. First, she said, is the lack of accessibility. ”Means of transportation and the accessibility to the base camps of other mountain are tougher than Everest Base Camp”, Acharya explained.

Second reason for fewer ascents on Mt. Makalu is induced by lack of technical and hospitality facilities on the other mountains, said Acharya. She said unlike Everest, other mountains do not have Himalayan cooks and other required technical service providers.

Mt. Makalu summit safer  and cheaper than Everest: guide

Mt. Makalu is comparatively safer than Mt. Everest, said climbing guide Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa. Sherpa. Sherpa scaled the Mt. Makalu for the first time on 12 May 2016. He was at the mountaintop with his clients from Germany and Iran. He said Mt. Makalu is a good mountain to climb for beginners with an experience of reaching to the top of around 7000 meter peaks.

”Based on my experience and guidance to the ascent of Mt. Makalu, I can say this is easier to climb in comparison to Mt. Everest from mountaineering safety and security”, said Sherpa over phone. Sherpa, an instructor to Government-owned Nepal Mountain Academy and the technical member to measure the height of Mt. Everest from Nepal Government, said Mt. Makalu could be an attraction for climbers from across the world before climbing Mt. Everest.

He said post pandemic world after the end of COVID-19 could be a best starting point to promote other eight-thousanders like Mt. Makalu. ”News is coming out from across the world that physical distancing will be required even after certain slowing on COVID-19”, Sherpa said, ”For this, least-climbed mountain like Makalu would be an option for mountaineers.”

Sherpa said the occasional traffic jam en route to the summit of Mt. Everest and the crowded climbing seasons would force climbers to choose least crowded and more peaceful mountain to climb.

On economic front also, climbing Mt. Makalu is far less cheaper than Mt. Everest, said Sherpa. ”The royalty to climb Mt. Everest from its normal route costs $11000, $5500 and $2750 in spring, autumn and winter/summer season respectively”, he explained, ”However, for other eight-thousanders like Makalu requires just $1800, $900 and $450 in spring, autumn and winter/summer season respectively.” RSS

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