American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Everest Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986

Everest Tragedy. On March 13 José Manuel Casimiro, Juanjo Navarro, Antxon Zamarbide and I reached Base Camp at 5200 meters on the Rongbuk Glacier. On March 20 we carried gear with the help of six yaks to 6500 meters. We spent the next days supplying this Advance Base and exploring in very poor weather. On April 6 we first reached the North Col, finding fixed ropes and a three-meter aluminum ladder on a short vertical section. We continued acclimatizing but to get above 7000 meters, we returned to the North Col on April 19 and climbed to 7500 meters the next day. We then returned to Base Camp to wait for suitable weather. We left Base Camp on May 4 and spent two days at Advance Base. On May 8 we bivouacked on the North Col and on the 9th at 7600 meters. The wind picked up strength that night. We continued waiting for more suitable weather until May 12 when it seemed better to descend to try for the summit later. Casimiro and I had descended to 7400 meters when we saw Navarro and Zamarbide hurtling toward us. The snow was hard and in places ice. It seemed impossible for them not to crash against us; all four of us would tumble down the slope. They did roll close past us and disappeared from view. They were headed for the precipitous western side of the North Col and a long fall to the West Rongbuk Glacier. We hurried down and suddenly saw their bodies on the edge of the abyss. Navarro had been killed in the fall and Zamarbide was seriously hurt. The Austrian Kurt Diemberger and Englishwoman Julie Tullis had been on the North Col and they hurried up to help get Zamarbide down to the North Col, where we spent a sad night. The fall had started at 7500 meters and stopped at 7250 meters. On May 26 all three of us climbed back to 7250 meters where the body of our friend still lay, but we had no desire to continue to the summit.

Mari Abrego, Orhi Mendi, Federatión Vasca de Montaña, Spain

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