Three Indian climbers came home to celebrations and fanfare for summiting Mount Everest last month, but there was one problem—they allegedly never got above 23,500-foot Camp III.
Vikas Rana, Shobha Banwala, and Ankush Kasana, all from northern India, were climbing this season with the Nepalese guide company Prestige Adventure. Kasana told the Himalayan Times that the group summited the mountain, along with four Sherpas, on May 26, around 10:30 A.M., which would have made them the only people on the summit that day. (According to my records of the 2019 season, there were no summits on May 26 due to high winds.) Kasana said that they didn’t know the names of the four Sherpas and refused to share summit photos when asked by the Kathmandu-based newspaper.
Others on the mountain disputed the climbers’ account. Chhiring Sherpa, another climber interviewed by the Himalayan Times, said he met the three at Base Camp at 12:30 P.M. the day of the alleged summit, adding that a two-hour descent from the summit to Base Camp, covering an 11,000-foot drop in elevation over 12.5 miles and navigating such hazards as Lhotse Face and the Khumbu Icefall, was unlikely. The time required to get from the top of the mountain to Base Camp varies depending on the individual, but on average it takes about six hours just to get from the summit to Camp IV—which is still 11 miles from Base Camp.
Ngima Norbu Sherpa, one of the guides for the climbers accused of making the false claim, said in the same story that he and the others had descended to Base Camp the day before when the Indian climbers couldn’t move above Camp III for unspecified reasons.
Outside has been unable to reach the three climbers for comment. Damber Parajuli, owner and CEO of Prestige Adventure, told Outside that his company “got the summit news just a day before debriefing, but [the climbers] are not able to give proof for it. For this reason, they will not have the certificate without the proof, which we have already informed to the concerned authority.”
Successful Everest summit bids are verified by a liaison officer from the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism, who is also tasked with monitoring a team’s compliance with the rules. Climbers are required to produce a photograph of themselves standing on the summit with a clear view of their face for the liaison to validate whether or not they reached the top.
The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism said the liaison in this case, Bishwa Bandhu Regmi, had interviewed the three climbers, accepted their summit claims, and submitted his report. But according to the newspaper report, the three didn’t have any physical evidence that they reached the top. Regmi was only at Base Camp for two days and wasn’t there on the alleged summit date. He said he did not know about the climbers’ summit details when asked by the Himalayan Times.
If these three climbers are indeed making a false summit claim, they wouldn’t be the first to do so. In 2016, the Nepalese guiding company Makalu Adventures admitted to helping a married couple from India, Dinesh and Tarkeshwari Rathod, alter photos to show them on Everest’s summit, when in fact they never made it. The two were banned from climbing in Nepal for ten years. They also lost their jobs as police officers in the city of Pune.