Seasoned alpinist and mountain guide Marc Batard will attempt to climb the 29,000-foot peak that sidesteps the notorious Khumbu Icefall.
With a death toll that exceeds 40 human lives, the Khumbu Icefall is one of Mount Everest’s most dangerous zones. The ever-shifting route through a glacial minefield grows more lethal as global temperatures continue to rise.
But the 70-year-old Batard perceives the increasingly unstable situation as an opportunity to lay a new — and ostensibly safer — line.
“This project is not only for me,” he told Agence France Presse. “I am very happy to climb Everest again. But I want to use my reputation to do some good things.”
If successful, Batard will become the oldest person to reach the top of the world without supplemental oxygen.
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A small but vastly experienced team will join Batard. That team consists of 13-time Everest summiteer Pasang Nuru Sherpa, K2 climber Sajid Ali Sadpara, mountain guide Gerard Menard, two apprentice guides, plus Batard’s son and son-in-law.
Batard’s Everest Variation
To bypass the icefall, Batard and his small team will begin on the Nepalese side of the mountain, cross over the base of Nuptse mountain to the southwest of Everest, and over an unnamed peak. From there, the team will climb down to join the traditional route at the Western Cwm.
In an interview with Explorersweb, Batard said he discovered the route during a helicopter flyover last spring. If the variation is feasible, they might set up a permanent via ferrata to support future climbers.
Assuming they make the summit, it will be the Frenchman’s third Everest ascent and the Sherpa’s 14th. The team has secured one of only a handful of climbing permits that Nepali authorities have issued for Mount Everest this season.
Marc Batard: Mountain Guide, Alpine Legend
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One can approach the world’s tallest peak in many ways, ranging from alpine style (lean, mean, and without supplemental oxygen and other heavy equipment) to highly supported (a team of dedicated porters and all the latest equipment — efficiency be damned). Batard’s party of lifelong mountain climbers has chosen the light-and-fast method.
And if anyone has the qualifications to break an Everest record with minimal support, it’s the visibly fit Frenchman. The current record that he stands to break, set in 2010 by 55-year-old Abele Blanc, wouldn’t be Batard’s first.
In 1975, at the age of 23, he became the youngest person to scale a 26,000-plus-foot peak without bottled O2 while opening a new route on Gasherbrum II in Pakistan.
Then, in 1988, he became the only person to reach the summit of Everest in less than a day without bottled O2. That accomplishment earned him the name “Sprinter” in mountaineering circles. Leading up to and in preparation for that name-making feat, Batard forged a winter ascent of Dhaulagiri in December 1987.
He also scaled Cho Oyu in only 19 hours in early September 1988. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Batard continued to lay a rich foundation of alpine-style ascents in the highest ranges on Earth. Why break the habit now?