Burmese Trio Readies for History-Making Everest Bid

By Nyein Nyein 24 March 2016

RANGOON — A trio of Burmese climbers plans to summit Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, a climb expected to take more than two months and that, if successful, would secure the men’s place in history as the first Burmese nationals to accomplish the feat.

At a press conference in Rangoon to promote the 64-day “Myanmar Everest Expedition,” three leading local mountaineers—Pyae Phyo Aung, Nyi Nyi Aung and Win Ko Ko—discussed their attempt to conquer the mountain, towering more than 29,000 feet above sea level in Nepal. Since the first successful climb in 1953, over 3,000 people are believed to have successfully summited Mount Everest, part of the Himalayan Range, but none among this high-altitude club has been Burmese.

The climbers, from the Technical Climbing Club of Myanmar group, will depart from Rangoon on Saturday, three days before their climb begins on March 29. They will be joined by three Brazilian climbers in Nepal, and hope to wrap up their expedition in the first week of June.

Team leader Pyae Phyo Aung, who has 10 years of climbing experience, said that in addition to the history-making potential of the trip, the trio hoped to expand their ecotourism knowledge and promote adventure sporting in Burma.

The Technical Climbing Club of Myanmar, one of five active Burmese climbing associations, began in 2011 with a handful of rock climbers and mountaineers, to empower local climbing communities while developing modern climbing techniques. The group also advocates for awareness-raising on environmental issues, such as the ethics of “leave no trace” of refuse behind when climbing, trekking or camping.

The coming Everest expedition sees the group partnering with a local Nepalese guiding company and an international emergency evacuation provider, the latter chosen because “they have caution about unforeseen risk and are best prepared for safety concerns and emergency rescue as well,” said Nyi Nyi Aung, one-third of the trio.

In 2014, five mountaineers from the Htoo Group, including a Tibetan climber, attempted to climb Mount Everest, but their ascent was halted at base camp, at 17,500 feet, due to an avalanche at the camp that forced all climbers to abandon the ascent.

This year’s expedition, like the 2014 bid, is being sponsored by the Htoo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Burmese conglomerate Htoo Group, owned by US-blacklisted tycoon Tay Za.

Paw Myint Oo, chief executive officer of the Htoo Foundation, told The Irrawaddy that their support was based on “the expectation to raise the Myanmar flag on the summit of Mount Everest.”

He also said in an opening speech that “this expedition will be a historic trip for Burma, as the climbers’ task is not an easy task, but [rather is about] overcoming many difficulties and barriers.”

The Htoo Foundation CEO encouraged the climbers to share their experiences when they return to Burma in June.