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Asia, China, Mount Everest, North-Northeast Ridge Attempt

Mount Everest, North-Northeast Ridge Attempt. After six months of hectic planning, our 18-person team flew to China with permission for the north- northeast ridge of Everest. We were a mixed bunch of English and Scots with a Swiss and an Austrian: Mai Duff, leader, Sandy Allan, Rick Allen, Bob Barton, David Bricknell, Tony Brindle, Terry Dailey, Kurt Diemberger, Liz Duff, Alan Fyffe, Andy Greig, Danny Lewis, Andy Nesbet, Sarah Squibb, Jon Tinker, Julie Tullis, Chris Watts, Dr. Urs Wiget and I. Base Camp, near the snout of the Central Rongbuk Glacier, was reached on March 18 after a delay in Lhasa, our baggage having been held up in a Chengdu warehouse necessitating a charter flight to recover it. Basque mountaineers were already established in their Base Camp at the pre-war campsite. We spent seven days in and around Base Camp, acclimatizing, preparing food and equipment and visiting the Rongbuk monastery. We established Advance Base at 6400 meters on March 25 on the right bank of the upper East Rongbuk. The weather was fair but the winds extremely strong. Initial movement on the route was slow as we acclimatized and placed fixed rope to P 7090. At 6900 meters we found the first snow cave of Bonington’s 1982 expedition, intact and usable. During the next weeks we moved loads up the ridge, establishing snow caves, Camps II and III at 7090 and 7300 meters below the first and second buttresses. Heavy snowfalls interrupted progress and it was late April before the buttresses were fixed. After further snowfalls throughout May, a cave was finally made at 7850 meters, below the first pinnacle. Unstable weather and cumulative exhaustion prevented successive parties from tackling the pinnacles. On May 21 a general retreat from the ridge was called after a severe snowfall. While most had decided to abandon further attempts, Rick Allen made a bold solo effort and got to 8170 meters on May 27. Having climbed unstable snow overlying rock, he elected to retreat. Rick’s solo was estimated to be to the same point that Boardman and Tasker had reached prior to their final attempt. Few medical problems were encountered. We had one incident of cerebral and pulmonary oedema. Oxygen was taken but used only once, by Mai Duff at 8000 meters; however the supply tube froze, almost asphyxiating him.

Nikola Kekus, Alpine Climbing Group