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Sherpas emerge from the incredibly dangerous Khumbu Ice Fall just above Everest Base Camp carrying loads brought down from Camp 2 and 4.

Sherpas emerge from the incredibly dangerous Khumbu Icefall just above Everest Base Camp. There is an unofficial moratorium on climbing Everest, but a Chinese woman summited the mountain Friday.

Photograph by Aaron Huey, National Geographic Creative

Chip Brown

for National Geographic

Published May 25, 2014

NAMCHE BAZAAR—After a tragic climbing season on Mount Everest, after all the foreign guides and more than 300 high-paying clients had pulled out, a Chinese woman guided by a team of Sherpas found a way—if controversial—to get to the top of the world's tallest mountain.

Chinese mountaineer Wang Jing arrived in Namche Bazaar, Nepal, Sunday morning, after summiting Everest from the Nepal side late Friday, May 23. It was the 39-year-old Wang's third ascent of Everest. Her team avoided the icefall that killed 16 Nepali mountaineers on April 18 by flying over the dangerous stretch of the traditional route in a helicopter.

The Himalayan Times reported that Joint Secretary Madhusudan Burlakoti said that Wang Jing flew from base camp to Camp Two on May 10. Local officials confirmed that the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation authorized Wang Jing's flight. However, it's not clear whether the ministry, which certifies Everest ascents, will recognize the feat as an official summit.

In the days after the avalanche, many in the Everest mountaineering community had discussed the possibility of using helicopters to ferry supplies over the icefall to reduce the risk to Sherpas, who pass through the shifting zone of massive ice formations and deep crevasses several times during the climbing season, carrying supplies and gear from base camp to intermediary camps higher up the mountain.

Wang spoke to me after a ceremony in Namche earlier Sunday, where she was honored for donating more than $30,000 to the town's hospital. (Locals wrapped her in so many khatas—ceremonial scarves—it looked like she had a curtain around her neck.)

In the beginning she was a bit scared, but she thinks of all the Sherpas as her family and trusted them, and together they succeeded.

She said she was very sad about the death of the Sherpas killed in the avalanche, but she had made extensive plans to climb all seven summits (the highest peaks on the seven continents) in six months.

Wang Jing
PHOTOGRAPH BY CHIP BROWN
Wang Jing poses in Namche Bazaar after her ascent of Everest, holding a bas-relief plaque of the Khumbu landscape made out of recycled metal cans that were collected as part of the effort to clean Sagarmartha National Park, where Everest is located.

"I thought climbing all seven summits in six months would be easy to do, as I had a lot of experience climbing 26,000-foot (8,000 meter) peaks nine times. I thought all the other peaks on other continents would be easy in comparison, but it's not so easy now."

She said the famously difficult Hillary Step on the summit ridge of Everest was not very hard for her because she is very flexible, and to prove it she put her foot over her head.

Wang is reported to have come from a poor family in Sichuan but went on to start a multimillion-dollar outdoor clothing company called Toread. She is heading to Denali today to complete her goal of climbing all of the seven summits within a six-month period.

What will she do next year? "Next year I think maybe I will relax."

Nevertheless, the Sherpas working for her were probably very handsomely compensated to go against the unofficial moratorium on climbing Everest from Nepal. A group of climbing Sherpas had lobbied for the season to end in the wake of the tragedy, saying it was disrespectful to those who died to continue climbing this season.

Meanwhile, an American woman, Cleonice Weidlich, 51, helicoptered to Camp Two on May 8, to attempt the Lhotse Face, the world's fourth-highest peak, which is adjacent to Everest and also accessed from Camp Two.

Weidlich was helicoptered off the mountain from Camp Two on Saturday after getting a little above Camp Three, according to Tshering Tenzing Sherpa, an Everest Base Camp patrol ranger.

Chip Brown is a contributing writer for National Geographic. He wrote about the role Sherpas play in the Everest climbing industry and the impact on their community in the wake of the tragic avalanche that killed 16 last month.

A previous version of this article incorrectly gave Wang's age as 41, and stated that none of the Sherpas she hired had summited Everest before.

33 comments
Brian Huang
Brian Huang

Many moutaineeers would agree that her ascent was probably harder than a guided expedition during a normal year. Using a helicopter or not to C2 is not significant. What is significant is she climbed the hardest parts of Everest with just 5 sherpas. They had to make their own booth path and fix their own rope all the way. Usually it takes a collected effort from many guiding companies to do that! Props for her and her Sherpas, what a great climbing achievement.

Kin Enriquez
Kin Enriquez

using a helicopter? haha, what a fraud 

John C.
John C.

A pity  Using  lots of money to by pass the personal  ethical issues.Paying money to build this and donate that. Money can sure silence objections.  There  should be a new category  "heli climbing". Of course when you have so much gray area so that you can  claim you climbed the peak.  Sure have different category for different helicopters  like AS350 How does it apply to your business ethics  and products.

At least she can claim " I am setting records using helicopters" Who knows how she climbed the other peaks.Maybe all form no substance

Rosanna Frezza
Rosanna Frezza

If you take a helicopter ride up part of the mountain then you haven't climed and summited the mountain! Simple! Not to mention the disrespect shown to the Sherpas who died, the local community and the mountain itself....I wonder what this journey taught the woman about herself?!

Tor Bertin
Tor Bertin

Frankly, doubly so when there are Sherpas involved, I'm entirely okay with helicoptering past the Khumbu Icefall. Surviving the icefall isn't so much a matter of skill as luck. Reducing the element of Russian roulette for all parties involved is beyond fine with me.

Francesco Sinibaldi
Francesco Sinibaldi

Luz de candor.


En el pensamiento

de una luz

solitaria vive

el candor, el soplo

del viento y la

fresca estación

que recuerda

la rima de la

noche encantada.


Francesco Sinibaldi

Rodolfo Alonzo
Rodolfo Alonzo

When I was in the Army. I got to fly in a Huey helicopter over Mount Ranier. So can I claim that I scaled it.

Lisa Tucci
Lisa Tucci

Great news! Perhaps her next feat will be to defeat the image of baby girls & young woman as 'leftovers' of society...And inspire those to come.


imran khan
imran khan

The climbers can choose Mountains in Pakistan including K-2,Gashabroom etc during this season.

Gail Bentzinger
Gail Bentzinger

Well, at least she paid her Sherpas a lot of money, I guess and their families will do ok, where the families of the others might face hardships. They do what they have to. She had also donated heavily to the hospital as a sort of bribe I suppose. LOL

teddy Kip
teddy Kip

Now I fully understand Jeffrey Archers's Novel, Paths Of glory

Anne Onny Muss
Anne Onny Muss

The self indulgence of humans defies believe sometimes. This woman is no hero to my way of thinking.  She ignores the human suffering and grief to satisfy her own personal goals. 

She would have been a hero had she donated her time to the Sherpa communities and ALL of the money she invested in her self indulgent expedition, to the town's hospital.   To me she is nothing more than a rich woman who forgot where she came from.

C. Dufour
C. Dufour

I aprreciate her donation to the local hospital!

Vanessa O'Brien
Vanessa O'Brien

I think it is great that National Geographic were first on the scene to interview Jing. Perhaps readers can refer back to your earlier article, paragraph 4 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140418-everest-avalanche-sherpa-killed-mountain/ published April 18 talking about the Sherpa Tragedy which states “Anyone who wants to climb Everest from the south side (the standard route up the north side, in China, is via the North Col route) must pass through the Khumbu Icefall.” I think that’s pretty clear.

You can always be creative in climbing but one thing is clear – you always start at the beginning and on the south side of Everest, that is Everest Base Camp – it is on every DVD, in every history book, in every newspaper/magazine article and on every single summit record up until now.

Prashant Pardeshi
Prashant Pardeshi

Salute to Wang Jing...its necessary that sherpas begin the business at the earliest...with more modern equipments..it is possible to get better weather forecast than before...that should help to know the condition of ice accumulation...which can provide the possibility of an avalanche...If sherpas dont go...it will not be a nice thing for them and for climbers!

sherry liu
sherry liu

scaling Mt Everest at this time not only features Ms Wang's ambition but also her audacity! congrats on her.

Carol Manka
Carol Manka

Mount Everest has had enough human interference in its natural processes.  It's time to drastically reduce the number of climbing parties if not completely stop them to preserve the Everest environment.  The 21st century should become the Century of Environmental Respect.

Cindy Brown
Cindy Brown

I honestly can't feel any respect for this woman. For me , she has no respect for all those Sherpa's that lost their lives or even the mountain it's self. Perhaps had she just given the money to the community and not taken a helicopter over the dangerous Icefall to satisfy her glory I'd feel less resentful of her. It was like a slap in the face of the Sherpa's that died. Some may disagree with me but that is my gut feeling. May those Sherpa's that lost their lives Rest In Peace and may their families find some peace. Mt Everest should be left alone until it heals itself and the community. 

KrasiMira ValkaNova
KrasiMira ValkaNova

Another BIG CHARADE for fame and glory going on right now in the world mountaineering scene. China's lustring their nation's ego.

As the season for climbing the world's highest peak ended on Nepali side since an April avalanche killed 16 guides still climbers attacking the peak from southern side in Tibet and for some the big fight now is who's going to be labeled "first" for season 2014. I have a friend who succeeded to be one of those willing to climb the top ot the world. He is Bulgarian mountainneer whom appeared to be the FIRST VEGAN to climb with NO artificial oxygen (information is checked in Nepal) and yesterday I was extremely happy to know that he reached with only one guide in the early morning around 8.15 am local time in Tibet(I do not wish to call it China as I am stated very against of what they've done to Tibetan people and their land).He says they started around midnight from camp III at 8300 meters. He was with another 3 people (one hungarian,one polish and one american) but in the meanwhile heavy snow fall appeared and the 3 of them have decided to go back. Only he kept going and one of the sherpas. And so he did reach the top safe in the morning and went back to camp III for only 3 hours. Called his parents and two bulgarian journalists from a satelite phone to tell that he have done it. The connection wasn't good but he could explain some details of the climb.
And than what's happening is I am reading most media titles such as "Chinese woman first to climb Everest for the season" also "Chinese woman, helped by chopper lift, scales Mt Everest with 5 guides...." There is not even a word for the Bulgarian climber who have reached with only one guide solo with NO CHOPPER and has reached world's record achievement! Tibet is now stated as Chinese so guess who China will list as first! Of course chinese woman! and NO MATTER that she took part of the climb with helicopter and FIVE sherpas helping her?!....

......WHAT A SHAME! And how RIDICULOUS THIS IS?! How FAKE and OBVIOUS
..I have no words........

Benny Sadikin
Benny Sadikin

@Maureen O'Connor I sense jealousy is strong within you. 

Do you think this woman can make significant impact toward worlds poverty from all the money she spent on this summit ? 

What about the rest of the people who summited Everest too ? Perhaps they were not as rich as this woman.

how do you justify that ?


Just because you cant doesnt mean other people cannot be better than you.

Benny Sadikin
Benny Sadikin

@Cindy Brown I believe so far you have achieve nothing major in your personal life ? 

Hence your lack of understanding of Ms. Wang motives really deters you from being a person.

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