American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Mount Everest (Qomolungma), Northeast Ridge and North Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1981

Mount Everest (Qomolungma), Northeast Ridge and North Face. The Japanese Alpine Club’s Qomolungma Expedition was composed of 39 members, including 13 press and television people. It was led by Hyoriko Watanabe. They established Base Camp on May 5 at the tongue of the Rongbuk Glacier at 16,900 feet. They then divided into two teams. Northeast Ridge Team: This 12-man team was led by Yoshio Hamono. They established Camps I and II at 18,050 and 19,700 feet on the East Rongbuk Glacier on March 16 and 17. Advanced Base was placed on March 22 at the head of the East Rongbuk at 21,325 feet and Camp IV on March 25 on the North Col at 23,000 feet. Soft snow and high winds slowed progress above the North Col. Camp V was established at 24,950 feet on April 6. Winds collapsed the tents there on the 15th. Camp VI was placed at 26,275 feet on May 1 and Camp VII at only 27,075 feet the next day. It had been hoped to establish the highest camp at 28,200 feet. Yasuo Kato and Susumu Nakamura set out from Advanced Base on April 29 on the summit climb. They left Camp VII on May 3, supported to the Second Step at 28,225 feet by Shoji Nakamura and Toichiro Mitani. Susumu Nakamura carried a 50-pound load including a television camera but gave up at 28,700 feet from extreme exhaustion. Kato climbed the remaining 325 feet alone, arriving at the summit at 4:55 P.M. He thus became the first person to climb Mount Everest from both Nepal and Tibet, having made the climb from the South Col in October of 1973. Both Kato and Nakamura were forced to bivouac without oxygen in separate places near the Second Step. Luckily, they got together the next morning and reached Camp VI with only slight cold injuries. North Face Team: A second 12-man team was led by Hideki Miyashita. Camp I was pitched on the Central Rongbuk Glacier at 18,500 feet on March 9 and Advanced Base at the head of that glacier at 20,175 feet on March 24. Though there were pitches of up to 60° on the lower face, they pitched Camp III at 22,650 feet on April 4 and Camp IV at 25,250 feet on April 18 without undue difficulties. They continued up through the Hornbein Couloir near the top of which they placed Camp V at 27,000 feet on April 25. Rope was fixed up the entire face and on up to 27,725 feet. On May 2 the first attack team, Tsuneo Shigehiro, Takashi Ozaki and Shohei Wada, started for the summit, but they had to give up at 28,150 feet because of heavy snow covering the ice face. On the same day the second team, Toshiaki Kobayashi and Akira Ube, were moving up to replace the first team at Camp V. They were caught by an avalanche near the bottom of the Hornbein Couloir and Ube was swept away. His body was found at the bottom of the face the next day. The North Face team assembled again at Advanced Base Camp to prepare for another attempt. On May 10 Shigehiro and Ozaki left Camp V at 6:20. After leaving the couloir, they traversed the upper snowfield to the right side and selected a route along the rocks of the west ridge. Although the weather was fine and not very windy, the ascent was much more difficult than they had expected and snow from a heavy fall on the previous day bothered them very much. They ran out of oxygen about four hours below the summit. Shigehiro reached the top at 4:50 P.M. and Ozaki at 5:02. They bivouacked an hour below the summit and came back to Camp V before noon on the following day without injuries.

Sadao Tambe, Japan Mountaineering Association

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