American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Everest, Two British Attempts

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985

Everest, Two British Attempts. In the spring there were two British expeditions attempting Everest from the north. The nine-man Cumbrian expedition led by Pat Gunson had planned to try the west ridge while the fourteen-man Special Air Service Regiment expedition led by Bronco Lane was trying the north face by the Hornbein Couloir. The latter established Base Camp on March 18 and Advance Base on the 29th near the site of three previous expeditions. They then started pushing the route up the north face towards the Hombein Couloir, making excellent progress and reaching 22,500 feet on April 2. On April 3 there were five occupants at Advance Base when a huge powder-snow avalanche, triggered by collapsing séracs from the North Col two miles away, swept the entire upper glacial basin and destroyed the camp. Tony Seirzy was killed and the other four injured. The expedition was abandoned. The Cumbrian expedition had established their Base Camp alongside the other on March 19, but fortunately had delayed making their Advance Base because of doubt about their route. The large Bulgarian expedition on the Nepalese side was already on the west ridge. The Cumbrians were deciding what to do when the avalanche fell. After helping to evacuate the injured climbers, they changed their objective, on April 10, to the route attempted by Lou Whittaker’s 1982 expedition to the left of the Great Couloir of the north face. They established Camp IV at 25,500 feet on April 20 but were forced to retire because of the weather. They returned on May 1, but Gunson suffered a heart attack at 23,000 feet. They succeeded in evacuating him but decided to abandon the expedition.

Christian Bonington

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