Last week was marked by a surprising debate. Some people wondered if the top of a mountain was the highest point or the more comfortable little flat spot below. What does this curious episode tell us? A dusty quibble of specialists around a few meters of snow? No. It’s much more than that, and as is often the case, big money is at stake.
In view of the strong reaction, not to say the tension, of certain western protagonists of high altitude tourism (a French agency in this case), it reveals above all a profound change of paradigm. With the Nepalese Mingma G at the highest point of Manaslu, a new standard of himalayism has been established. The Nepalese are no longer followers but prescribers. Future expeditions will have no other choice than to extend the ascent to the “real” summit. And their clients will be right to demand it.
With this master stroke, supported by Jackson Roves’ eloquent photo which shows the Mingma G rope party climbing an undeniable summit while others celebrate (and they have the right to do so) their ascent on an antecima, the Nepalese are taking the 8000m business in hand. And not everyone is happy about it.
It is very likely that this September 27, 2021 marks the beginning of a new era in a more than juicy market. The first warning shot was given on January 16, 2021 when the large Nepalese team successfully climbed K2 in winter. This announced to the world of himalayists that Nepalese mountaineers were now in the technical and sporting game and independently.
The episode of Manaslu pushes the nail in the business side. A very big cake has just been crunched by a local of the stage. Gone is the image of the good Sherpa always smiling. We finally discover that he is just as good a businessman and communicator as the Westerners. Mingma G had carefully prepared his move.
The competition of the expeditions also takes place among the new Nepalese actors
Because let’s not be fooled either. The competition of the expeditions is also taking place among the new Nepalese actors, often trained in prestigious international business schools, in the UK (Nirmal Purja) or in Canada (Mingma G). Seven Summits Trek has been in existence since 2010 and is doing very well. After leaving it, Nims created Elite Exped by capitalizing on its 14×8000 express. For his part, Mingma G created Imagine Nepal. It is his flag that flies at the top of Manaslu. And when Mingma G reaches it, he also takes a Nims client. An affront? No, a small sign of competition at all levels. It would be wrong to pass judgment when we know how much the agency war is raging among European or American operators.
To whom will the future candidates for the 8000 will entrust their 50 or 60 000€ next season?
Without going into a Marxist vision of things, there is nevertheless a little taste of class revenge that has been forgotten for too long, sometimes exploited, often caricatured (the “good” Sherpa). The fact that the Nepalese are now in the lead car of the great business of the 8000 is an episode that is both symbolic and crucial for the country’s economy.
We can better understand the tension of the “historical” players who see a new competition coming in with a bang. They must be wondering to whom the future candidates for the 8000€ will entrust their 50 or 60 000€ next season. But let them be reassured: Mingma G has already told us his strategy for fixing the ropes from the real summit of Manaslu. All they have to do is follow him.