South African who moved to Aspen to train for Everest in custody for climbing without a permit
May 10, 2017
A South African man who had been training in Aspen to scale Mount Everest surrendered to Nepalese authorities Saturday on allegations that he did not pay a climbing-permit fee.
Wildlife filmmaker Ryan Sean Davy, 43, was taken into custody after authorities found him Friday hiding in a cave near Camp 2 of Everest, which is located about 8,000 feet below the famed mountain’s summit, according to media accounts. At the time, his passport was seized and he was ordered to turn himself in to officials in Kathmandu, according to the Himalayan Times.
Davy, who started training in Aspen earlier this year and left for Nepal in March, was on a solo attempt and did not bring an oxygen supplement for his attempted ascent to the peak that is 29,029 feet above sea level. But it was his lack of a permit that captured authorities’ attention.
“I followed him with my friend and found him hiding in a cave nearby. He had set up camp in an isolated place to avoid government officials,” Gyanendra Shresth, a government liason officer, told the AFP news agency.
The Nepalese government requires foreigners to pay approximately $11,000 to climb Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.
“Everest expeditions are not for the faint of heart or the empty of wallet,” The Washington Post reported Tuesday. “The country earns about $4.5 million on Everest permits alone. It can cost from $25,000 to $75,000, depending on how much comfort, oxygen and assistance a climber requires.”
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On Monday, a post by Davy on his Facebook page took ownership of his actions and asked for forgiveness. He also claimed authorities treated him badly and that “apparently I’m in for jail time.”
“Expedition companies have no time for wannabe Everesters with no money so someone turned me in,” Davy wrote on Facebook. “I was harassed at Base Camp to a point that I honestly thought I was going to get stoned to death right there. I’m not even exaggerating. I was treated like a murderer. A true testimony of how money has become more important than decency.”
The Aspen connection
A blog interview with Davy on the website of Jean-Robert’s Gym, which is located in Aspen, detailed his quest to scale Everest.
Feeling that there was more to accomplish in an already adventurous life — he said base jumping off Perrine Bridge in Idaho was the “craziest” thing he’d ever done — Davy began training for Everest in September, moving to Aspen in January. A YouTube video, published Feb. 20, shows him working out in the Aspen gym and surging up Aspen Mountain.
“I literally started training the day after I came up with the idea of doing this,” the blog quotes him as saying. “In January 2017, I Googled the highest towns in the U.S. and Aspen came up as one of the highest towns. It would help me to acclimatize and to build more red blood cells. I discovered Jean-Robert’s Gym and he welcomed me in with open arms. I think he was impressed by my training and endurance. He put it upon himself to put me under his wing and teach the necessary elements I needed to know to accomplish my goal to climb Mt. Everest.”
Gym owner Jean-Robert Barbette said he took Davy in because he found him to be a likable athlete who was physically and mentally tough.
“He’s a very nice person, an amazing athlete and in very, very good shape,” he said. “I trained his legs and his lungs, but I have nothing to do with his brain.”
Barbette said he had not heard from Davy in a while, but when he was here, the two worked hard.
“He didn’t have any idea what this was about,” Barbette said. “So for two months I just kicked his ass. I’d take him up Highland Bowl, and I’d take him up the back of Aspen Mountain hoping he would give up. But he was tough and he was ready for this. … He obviously made a very stupid judgment.”
Davy also said he had planned to film the journey.
“I’m documenting the crazy idea of summiting Everest, unassisted, unsupported, and without the use of oxygen,” he said.
Davy defined “unassisted” as meaning “that I won’t have any sherpas or porters carrying equipment or supplies and I’m not going to have a support crew to climb the mountain.”
And, somewhat prophetically, he noted the high costs associated with climbing Everest and how they related to his solo effort.
“Then of course, ‘unsupplemented’ means I won’t be using any supplemental oxygen,” he said. “The reason for it is that it is very expensive to go through the guiding companies. It certainly is a rich man’s mountain. Climbing it alpine style is easier because the oxygen is very heavy at about 7-8 pounds per bottle, and one bottle may be enough to get you to the summit, but even then, you’re cutting it really fine. You need at least 3 bottles to get you up and back down again.
“The weight is one issue, but they are also super expensive, about $500-$600 a bottle, and then you need a regulator. The other reason is your body becomes reliant on that oxygen, so if the equipment malfunctions you deteriorate very quickly. By teaching my body to summit without oxygen, or any other machinery that may malfunction, I’m completely relying on my senses and my abilities to know when to call it, or if my body is acclimated to the climate and I’m able to push forward.”
Low on funds, high on aspiration
Davy faces a fine of $22,000, twice the amount of the permit he needed, for climbing without permission, according to published reports.
“I am going to be honest in saying that when I arrived at Base Camp it became evident that I didn’t have nearly enough money for a solo permit because of hidden costs and even if I did they would have declined it because I had no previous mountaineering experience on record,” Davy’s Facebook post said. “I was ashamed that I couldn’t afford the permit after all the help, preparation and what everybody had done for me during my training. It would have been a total embarrassment to turn around and accept defeat because of a piece of paper. So I took a chance and spent the little money I had on more gear to climb and practice on the surrounding peaks for acclimatizing in preparing for a stealth entry onto Everest.”
Aspen resident Dick Jackson, an accomplished mountaineer who recently sold Aspen Expeditions, said Davy’s quest appeared to be rooted in “naivete” on his part.
“You can’t go there and say ‘I didn’t know or didn’t care,'” he said. “The reality is he was so incredibly naive, and if this was his first experience there, there probably was the strong likelihood of his need for assistance or a rescue up there. Then he’s depending on the system he’s denying to deal with. … Things have been permitted over there for decades. You can’t do anything there without a permit, and it’s kind of ridiculous to think you could.”
Said Barbette: “They are going to make an example out of him, and I don’t blame them.”