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Nepal Makalu 50 anniversary expedition aborted
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Feb 25, 2005 09: 37 EST
Nepal Mountaineering federation and some of the better known sherpa climbers in the country have been forced to abort their expedition to Makalu, planned as a celebration of the 50 anniversary of the first ascent.

Lakpa Norbu Sherpa, one of the organizers, contacted Explorersweb today to release the sad news: “Unfortunately, as you are aware of the change in the political situation and the road blockades we were compelled to cancel the expedition.”

Lakpa was involved in the project both by business issues and family ties.

“Makalu was first climbed by the French in 1955 along with my father, Gyazen Norbu, who became the first sherpa to climb Makalu. We had planed to make a grand affair of it, but could not take the chances especially with the logistics involved in a Makalu expedition,” he explained.

The expedition was conceived not only as a tribute to the first climbers - plans for cleaning the mountain as well as supporting local development projects in the area - but as a commercial expedition as well. The team consisted of 25 strong sherpa, and had openings for 25 international climbers, who would hire their services as in a normal guided expedition. The organizers were some of Nepal’s big fishes: Lakpa Norbu Sherpa, owner of an expedition outfitter, Sonang Sherpa, owner of expedition outfitter and a domestic airline, and Zamling Norgay Sherpa, son of Tenzing Norgay. Expedition Sherpa leaders were Serap Jangbu Sherpa, Pasang Tshering Sherpa, Mingma Sherpa and Muktu Lakpa Sherpa, all of them having summited several 800ers.

However, political unbalance in Nepal is keeping many foreign climbers away, specially in Mt. Makalu area, a Maoist stronghold.

“We hope 2006 will be better and our Manaslu expedition will operate,” added Lakpa Norbu. Manaslu will celebrate its 50 anniversary next year, and the same entrepreneurs and climbers plan to launch an expedition then.

Things are not quiet in Nepal, and they don’t look like improving in the sort term. Last international reactions came from India and United Kingdom: Both countries have retired their military support to Nepal Government until democracy is restored. Although King Gyanendra has not given much importance to the decision of their former allies, the issue might have unforeseeable consequences, as both countries supplied Nepal Army with weapons used to fight the Maoist guerrilla.

The New Nepal government decided earlier this week to waive 50% of the climbing royalties for Makalu or Kangchenjunga, to celebrate the 50 anniversary of the first climb. The measure, only valid for this spring, is not having the results expected though.

Lakpa Norbu Sherpa is the son of late Mr. Gyalzen Norbhu Sherpa who became the first sherpa to climb Mt. Makalu with the French in 1955 and the first person along with Japanese Toshio Imanishi to climb Mt. Manaslu with the Japanese Alpine club in 1956. Mr. Gyalzen Norbhu Sherpa thus became the first person to summit two 8000ers, both in their first successful climb.

8485 meters high, Makalu is the fifth highest mountain on Earth. It was first climbed by a French team led by Jean Franco on May 15, 1955.

Image of Makalu and compiled image of Lakpa Norbu Sherpa, courtesy of Mt.Makalu.org - 50th Anniversary of the First Ascent of Mt. Makalu.

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