American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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Asia, China, Everest, Northeast-Ridge Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

Everest, Northeast-Ridge Attempt. Base Camp at 17,000 feet was reached on August 7 after a seven-hour drive from Xigar along the Friendship Highway and a subsequent dirt track which winds its way past the Rongbuk Monastery. Two weeks were needed before an interim camp at 19,000 feet was established and the yak drivers arrived to start ferrying our three tons of food and equipment up the mountain. Twenty-one yaks were engaged for this movement, which was completed in 21 days. The yak herders were very reliable and unlike other expeditions, we never had a single item stolen or lost. Mo Anthoine, Joe Brown, Paddy Freaney and Bill Barker set up Advance Base at 21,500 feet on the site of two previous northeast-ridge expeditions. We were appalled at the mess we found there and spent two days cleaning it up. Despite poor weather, Camp I at 23,200 feet was established a week ahead of schedule. The long traverse over suspect avalanche-prone ground up to the Ruphu La was avoided by ascending the right edge of a rock buttress some 1525 feet high. This removed two sides of a large triangle and saved many hours of load-carrying. Avalanches and high winds along the ridge forced the team twice to beat a hasty retreat to Base Camp before a snow hole could be placed for Camp II just below the first buttress at 24,000 feet. Two weeks, interspersed with bad weather, were needed to stock the camp and fix ropes to the top of the second buttress. A bold bid to cross the Pinnacles was made by Harry Taylor and Trevor Pilling. Hoping that the weather would improve on October 16, they pushed on up the ridge with 50-pound loads and set up Camp III at 26,200 feet, close to the first steep slope of the Pinnacles. Violent winds hammered the ridge as the pair dug a snow hole to sleep in. The next day the wind grew to hurricane strength, creating a -70° F wind-chill factor. Progress over the Pinnacles was impossible. They turned back and struggled to safety, forced at times onto all fours by the wind. After a Sherpa with the American expedition was killed whilst descending from the North Col, I decided to abandon the attempt. We were hit by no less than four fierce storms which deposited eight feet of fresh snow, making the climbing too dangerous towards the end. Despite this bad weather, morale and team spirit remained high throughout.

Brummie Stokes, England

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