American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Everest Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

Everest Attempt. The French Military Expedition to Qomolangma (Mount Everest) was composed of 28 Frenchmen: General of Division Pierre Astorg, leader; two adjutants in charge of logistics, two physicians, cook, interpreter, journalist, radio-operator, photographer, three television reporters and 15 climbers of whom I was the climbing leader. We had 33 Chinese: Ju Yin Yan, liaison officer; two interpreters, three cooks, two vehicle drivers, four radio-operators, administrator, 13 high-altitude porters and seven yak drivers. After leaving Paris on February 15, we got to Base Camp on March 3 at 17,000 feet at the tongue of the Central Rongbuk Glacier. From March 4 to 24 we established Camps I, II and III at 18,375, 19,675 and 21,325 feet; these were supplied by yak. The weather was cold and windy, and many suffered sore throats.

On April 3 we reached the North Col but had to wait until April 21 for diminished winds to place Camp V at 24,950 feet. From April 22 to May 2 our porters stocked this camp. On May 1 we reconnoitered Camp VI at 27,075 feet. We made exhausting carries there ourselves despite bad weather. By contract the porters could not go higher than 24,950 feet (7600 meters). On May 13 the first assault team, Robert Flematti, Hervé Sachetat and I moved to Camp VI. Violent winds the next day forced us to a perilous retreat. On May 15 Denis Ducroz, Bernard Prudhomme, Jean-Claude Mosca and Pierre Roger moved up. The first two had to quit after a bad night but the other two got to the First Step at 28,050 feet (8550 meters) without oxygen. The weather drove them back. Physical deterioration at high altitude counseled descent to Base Camp. On May 25 Alain Estève, Hubert Giot, Mosca, Sachetat, Jean Seguier and I climbed to Camp VI. Estève and I descended, leaving four bottles of oxygen. The next day Seguier was sick but the other three reached the First Step by noon. A sudden storm forced them to bivouac at 27,900 feet. The wind picked up in the night and they realized that to remain or advance was suicide; they made a perilous descent, suffering only minor frostbite. On June 1, we left Base Camp.

Jean-Claude Marmier, Commandant, French Army

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