American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Everest Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

Everest Attempt. In the post-monsoon 31 climbers attempted Everest from the Western Cwm. All but four climbers were on the permits of Austrian Hanns Schell and all used his route through the icefall and cwm. Murray Rice and I were a two-man expedition from the Northwest attempting the South Col route and the northwest face of Lhotse without Sherpas and without supplementary oxygen. We helicoptered to Lukla and arrived at Base Camp at 5400 meters on September 1. We spent eight days acclimatizing and carrying loads through the icefall before moving to Camp I at 6000 meters on September 9. We acclimatized there during a five-day storm, carried to Camp II at 6500 meters on the 14th and moved up the next day. On the 16th we descended to our single-tent Base Camp for the last of our gear. Fearful of hepatitis and infectious diarrheas, both present in Base Camp, we moved up again to Camp I (our fifth carry) and to Camp II on the 18th (our third carry). We now had food and fuel in Camp II for a month. I set up Camp III on the 20th at 7300 meters on the Lhotse Face. Three days later we both moved up to the higher camp with heavy loads. I felt wasted on arrival. During dinner, eating competed with breathing and in order to chew and swallow, we first had to hyperventilate. This was difficult with a respiratory rate of 60 already. My breathing was stimulated partly by acetazolomide, but Murray’s only by his very brisk ventilatory drive. During the night I noticed the now familiar sensations of wet cough and sweet-tasting fluid of pulmonary edema. At first light we began an eight-hour descent to Base Camp. The Lhotse Face had wind-blown snow varying from ankle to thigh deep. The lower cwm had a half meter of new snow. The heavily laden west shoulder unloaded an avalanche across our tracks an hour after we hurried by. The “Golden Gate” bridge below Camp I had been extended to six ladder-lengths as the crevasses widened and the séracs in the mid section of the icefall collapsed. Uneasy about climbing soon above 8000 meters without oxygen, I left Base Camp on the 26th to join the Polish expedition on the south face of Lhotse as physician. Murray returned that same day to Camp II and continued climbing with French Bernard Muller and Laurence de la Ferrière and Austrian Rüdiger Lang. With them he reached the South Col on September 29. When the tent threatened to disintegrate in the high winds, they descended the next morning to Camp II and several days later all the way to Base. Murray made another trip to Camp II and two more attempts as far as Camp III before descending for good on October 17, just in time to clear out our camps before the blizzard on October 18.

Steven Boyer

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