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Asia, Nepal, Everest, West Ridge Attempt

Everest, West Ridge Attempt. Bad flying weather at Lukla prevented our beginning our approach march together. Jim Bridwell, our climbing leader, with Andy Politz, Randall Grandstaff, Greg Sapp, Kevin Swigert and Fletcher Wilson, got out ahead and paved the way to Base Camp. This was officially established on March 15, though Bridwell and crew had already begun the route-finding up to the Lho La. Camp I was set up on March 20 but much hard work followed before we really got our winch operation set up. With it, we eventually moved several tons up the Lho La face. The west shoulder face started with about 800 vertical feet of blue ice but soon gave way to good snow that led us through a wide rock band, across a large snowfield and up a gully to Camp II, a snow cave at 22,500 feet. That camp was established on March 30 and our lead climbers pushed rather quickly to place Camp III on April 5 at 23,500 feet in a crevasse; conditions there were never pleasant. We soon started to experience our first bout with burn-out. The long hauls from Camp I to II took their toll and the conditions at Camp III were miserable. The burn-out syndrome kept us from getting to Camp IV until April 19. That camp was in the notch at the upper end of the west ridge at 25,000 feet. The route above Camp IV went directly up a snow ramp, led left up a steep gully that turned into a chimney and then angled across a steep snowfield to the site of Camp V at 27,000 feet. On May 5 this camp was occupied by Robert Anderson and Pete Athens, supported by Lhakpa Sherpa and Ang Danu. They woke late, found that the oxygen bottles they were to use had been dumped below camp and so had to descend to retrieve them. By the time they had climbed back through Camp V and pushed into the Yellow Band, they knew they wouldn’t have enough daylight to climb safely to the summit and back and so they returned. Before descending, they cached two oxygen bottles high in the Yellow Band for the next attempt. On May 9 Anderson and Jay Smith, supported by Andy Politz, Fenzo Sherpa and Ang Danu, climbed to Camp V. They slept a few hours and started to get ready at 11:30 P.M. At two A.M. on the 10th they started for the summit using headlamps and the oxygen bottles they had used during the night. Upon reaching the cached bottles, they discovered that the pressure in one bottle was too low and the second bottle would not accept either climber's regulator. Using the remaining good bottles, they climbed out above the Yellow Band at 28,200 feet and looked up at the remaining 800 vertical feet. The ground ahead looked difficult but negotiable. At 8:10 A.M. they decided that discretion was the better part of valor and began their descent. The other members of the expedition were Dan Larson, Heidi Benson, Kim Carpenter, Scott Lankford, Ed Webster, John Peiner, George McCloed (British), Jim McMillian, Brian O’Malley, John Meyer, Rodney Korich and I as leader.

David Saas