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Asia, Nepal, Argentine Attempt on Mount Everest

Argentine Attempt on Mount Everest. Our expedition had government support and therefore included eight military: Lieutenant Colonel H. Cativa Tolosa, Captain N. Azuaga, Lieutenants J. M. Llavar and M. Serrano and Sergeants E. Burgos, G. Robles, A. Martínez and A. Barrientos as well as eight civilians: J. Peterek, J. Skvarca, J. Aikes, A. Rosasco, Dr. J. M. Iglesias, U. Vitale, S. Fernández, O. Pellegrini, G. Vieiro, J. Vitón and me. There were two leaders: Cativa Tolosa in the logistical phase as far as Base Camp and on the return, and I on the climb. We left Kathmandu on August 14 and after not a few difficulties, principally rain, leeches and porter strikes, we got to Thyangboche at the end of August for a period of acclimatization. Peterek led an advance group to establish Base Camp and open the route in the Ice- fall. The rest of us moved ahead slowly, stopping at Lobuche to get used to the altitude. On September 14, at the very end of the monsoon, we were all at the foot of Everest. We started right to work, taking advantage of the good weather. We set up Camp I (19,900 feet) on September 17, Camp II (21,150 feet) on the 19th and Camp III (22,800 feet) on the 21st. A violent storm stopped us during the last week of September. Sergeant Barrientos had to be helicoptered from Gorak Shep with pneumonia and Skvarca was carried down from Camp III on a stretcher because of total exhaustion. The storm buried the Western Cwm and the Icefall with four feet of new snow. An avalanche completely destroyed Camp III, which was luckily unoccupied. Climbers and Sherpas in Camps I and II worked hard to reopen routes. Good but cold weather followed in which we stocked Camp II with food and oxygen and reestablished a new Camp III. We continued to Camp IV at 24,275 feet in the Lhotse face. In mid-October Aikes and Serrano prepared the route with fixed ropes almost to the South Col up the Lhotse couloir and over the Yellow Band. After their return from the col to Camp IV, these two were trapped by storm for nine days; they used no oxygen to conserve the supply. People in all the lower camps were pinned for six days. Cold was intense (-4° F at 17,700 feet) and the wind was over 75 mph. Over six feet of snow fell and covered the trail markers in the Western Cwm. Finally those in Camps IV and III could escape and all arrived at Camp II exhausted. The time had come to name the climbers who would be the summit team, supported by Sherpas. The rest of the climbers would act as porters in the Icefall to keep the lower supply route open. Peterek and Vitale would be the attack pair, supported by Vieiro and Vito?. On October 28 Camp V was set up on the South Col at over 26,000 feet by Vieiro and our Sherpas. On the 29th the camp was occupied by Peterek, Vitale and five Sherpas. On October 30 they set out to place Camp VI at about 27,900 feet, but at 26,575 feet the porters refused to continue in the blizzard and the group turned back. That night the wind increased and destroyed the tents at Camp V on the South Col, forcing them to descend. Two Sherpas suffered frostbite. The storm went on for several days more. We had to give up the attempt since it would have required at least two weeks to reestablish the camps, for which we had insufficient fuel and food. From New Delhi and Kathmandu came accurate forecasts of snowfall and wind for the first week of November. The northwest wind had been blowing since the beginning of October, chilling the mountain. Despite this, most had kept working above 21,250 feet for days on end, in a number of cases for more than 30days in a row.

CARLOS COMESANA, Centro Andino Buenos Aires