American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Everest Ascent and Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Everest Ascent and Tragedy. Two Japanese expeditions climbed Everest in the post-monsoon season, but three died on the descent. Five Japanese led by Haruichi Kawamura and ten Sherpas originally had permission for the southwest face but had it changed for the southeast ridge. They established Base Camp at 17,550 feet on September 5 and Camps I, II, III, and IV at 20,350, 21,000, 24,275 and 26,100 feet on September 13, 15, 24 and 30. They more or less followed the route of the 1981 American Medical Expedition to the left of the Lhotse Face. Bad weather halted them for a week. Five other Japanese led by Hiroshi Yoshino and two Sherpas got to Base Camp on September 14 and established Camps II and III on September 24 and 28. They fixed ropes to the South Col on September 30. They too had to wait until October 7 when Yoshino, Hironobu Kamuro, Noburu Sawagami and Haruyuki Endo established Camp IV on the South Col. That night Kawamura, Shomi Suzuki and Sherpa Pasang Temba were at their Camp IV ready to traverse to the right to the southeast ridge above the col. At 3:30 A.M. on October 8 all seven climbers met on the ridge. They climbed individually but generally together. They were amazed to see the Americans emerge just behind them from the Kangshung Face at 27,900 feet. The Americans passed them and they followed in their tracks. Pasang Temba and Sawagami decided to descend from below the south peak but the other five Japanese reached the summit between 4:20 and 5:10 P.M. All descended again individually. Sawagami returned to the South Col. Pasang Temba was descending behind the Americans when he slipped, shot past them and fell to his death. Kawamura and Suzuki descended to 27,550 feet, where they had left their bivouac gear. Endo bivouacked at 28,800 feet. Yoshino and Kamuro had left their packs at 27,900 feet but were forced to make a cold bivouac under the Hillary Step at 28,875 feet. Endo returned the next morning alone to Camp IV. Yoshino and Kamuro must have slipped on the descent as Yoshino’s body and Kamuro’s boot were found at the foot of the southwest face on October 10. On October 9 Matatsugu Konishi and Sherpa Ang Nima made an attempt which took them as far as the Hillary Step. More details appear in Iwa To Yuki, N° 100. The Editor finds these two expeditions to have used inexcusable tactics. The present trend to climb without artificial oxygen can be carried to dangerous extremes, particularly if the climbers are insufficiently acclimated. One of the American climbers told the Editor that the Japanese were staggering like zombies, obviously suffering from hypoxia. But more reprehensible is the style first adopted disastrously by some of these same climbers on the north face of K2. Each climber was to be completely on his own and in no way responsible for his companions. The Japanese did not even know until the next day that Pasang Temba had plunged to his death. The Japanese felt no responsibility to see that the others got down. What a contrast to the Unsoeld-Hombein-Bishop-Jerstad descent from Everest, where possibly none of them would have got down alive without the superb cooperation of all of them!

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