Muztagh Ata commercial alpinism – a narrow escape
While the post monsoon season in Himalayas is starting it is an opportunity for me to reflect on commercial alpinism. Before going to Muztagh Ata this summer it was known to me only from movies or news reports. A few big Chinese companies operate on Muztagh Ata catering for rich customers who receive fixed tents, all equipment, porters, guides and cooked food in every camp. However most of these people have no mountaineering experience.
It is rather shocking for me to see a guide tying a rope to harness for a helpless customer or people using oxygen already at 6000 m!!! Many of them are not mentally or physically fit for such a challenge and yet greed prevails.
It led to a dangerous situation. While we were descending after our summit push we met a group of 8 Chinese climbers lost for a few hours in a snowstorm at around 7100 m. Some of them run out of oxygen and because of altitude, cold and no visibility they were disoriented.
Thanks to my GPS we slowly led them towards camp 3. On the way down we joined with rescue team sent up which took over. As it turned out later one of the climbers had to be evacuated due to high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).
Commercial alpinism in itself is not bad if carried out rationally by a well prepared guides with small groups of selected clients – which was not the case this time.