Asia, Nepal, Mount Everest

Publication Year: 1980.

Mount Everest. Our expedition consisted of New Zealander Nick Banks, American Ray Genet, Swiss Hans von Känel, Germans Tilman Fischbach, Günter Kämpfe, Dr. Herman Warth, my wife Hannelore Schmatz and me as leader. We left Kathmandu on July 31 but stayed for some time at Khumjung and Periche since the latest government regulations do not allow Base Camp to be established till September. We set up Base Camp at 17,400 feet on August 31. We set up the following Camps: I at 19,350 feet above the Khumbu Icefall on September 4, II at 21,000 feet in the Western Cwm on September 7, III at 23,625 feet on the Lhotse Face on September 12 and IV at 26,200 feet on the South Col. The eight members and five Sherpas all reached the summit on October 1 and 2. We were the smallest successful expedition, the fastest (32 days), the first in which all members reached the summit and the first married couple. My wife was the fourth woman and first Western woman to get to the top. Dr. Warth, Sherpa Lhakpa Gyalzo, von Känel, Sherpa Pertemba and I left the South Col at six A.M. on October 1 in cloudy but still conditions. We got to the summit at two o’clock after some difficulties at the Hillary Step. We descended to the South Col at seven P.M. and descended the next day to Camp II. At five A.M. on October 2 Fischbach and Sherpa Ang Phurba set out on one rope, followed by Banks, Kämpfe and Genet on a second and Hannelore Schmatz, Sherpa Sundare and Ang Jangbo on a third. Shortly after leaving the South Col, Genet* elected to unrope and climbed alone despite protests from the party. The whole party traveled close together and in deteriorating weather reached the summit between 1:00 and 1:30 P.M. A very short time was spent on the top and the descent was begun in quite heavy snowfall and moderate wind. Genet again elected to travel alone behind the others. As the group descended, the snow and clouds decreased but the wind became very strong and the temperature dropped. Banks, Kämpfe, Ang Phurba and Fischbach looked back from the former site of the Ridge Camp at five P.M. and saw the others descending the steep section of the southeast ridge. At the base of the steep section Genet ran out of oxygen; he expressed a strong desire to bivouac and refused to descend. Sundare and Hannelore Schmatz stayed with him and Jangbo continued to descend to the South Col, arriving at 9:30. Because the snow was soft, no suitable shelter could be prepared and the night was spent in high winds and extreme cold at 8400 meters (27,560 feet). In the morning Genet was dead. Sundare and Hannelore began the descent. Very early in the morning of October 3 six Sherpas left Camp III with oxygen and supplies for a rescue. Nawang Tensing arrived at the South Col at 8:30 and with Fischbach began ascending towards the two descending persons, now visible. When they reached Sundare, he told them that Hannelore Schmatz had collapsed and died shortly before. Sundare was in critical condition and was evacuated with oxygen and medical care to Camp II and on the 5th to Base Camp.

Gerhard Schmatz, Deutscher Alpenverein

* Genet had fallen ill with flu in Kathmandu and had been hospitalized. It is doubtful that he had yet recovered his prodigious strength by this time.