American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Everest Attempt

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

Everest Attempt. The Snowbird Everest expedition began with a casual visit to Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism and then a letter to Austrian Hanns Schell, Everest’s permit-holder for the post-monsoon season. Karen Fellerhoff gained from Schell the admission of a cadre of Americans to join his group on the classic South-Col route. Our climbing group was composed of Fellerhoff, Sally McCoy, Mary Kay Brewster, Kelly Rhoads, Steve Fossett, Renny Jackson, Robert Link, Christopher Noble, Peter Whittaker and me as well as journalist Elizabeth Kaufmann and film-maker Marjorie Lester. From Namche Bazar we quickly made our way to 17,800-foot Everest Base Camp, arriving on September 6. We were preceded by the Austrian team, who had agreed to establish the icefall route. For safety reasons, we traveled through the icefall during the colder periods of the day, usually arising at three A.M. each day. With the assistance of our able Sherpas, we established Camps I and II (Advance Base) at 20,000 and 21,800 feet. From there we placed Camp III at 23,500 feet on the Lhotse Face and Camp IV on the South Col at 26,000 feet. With the exception of one major storm and the odd morning or afternoon snow, the weather proved amenable. By September 27, we were ready to send our first summit team from Base Camp with the hopes of summitting on October 2. Those plans were not to materialize; nor were the next series of summit attempts. High winds above Camp III would prevent us, the Austrians and all other expeditions on the mountain, in Tibet as well as Nepal, from reaching the top. Finally Peter Whittaker and Christopher Noble were climbing above Camp IV on October 9, but unfortunately they were thwarted by wind not far from Camp IV. They made a stalwart attempt to wait out the winds in the cwm, even after the exodus of the Austrian team on October 15. Everest administered the coup de grace on October 19, 20 and 21 with gale-force winds down to 7000 meters and snow accumulations of more than a meter of snow in Base Camp. Camps II, III and IV were virtually destroyed by burial or wind. Seven members departed for lower climes shortly after the storm, leaving Fellerhoff, Rhoads, Jackson and me with our Sherpas to continue. Weeks of work and illness had taken their toll.Two Sherpas and I were the last to ascend to Camp II. Our intention was to clear the mountain of valuables other than what we might need for one last attempt, which was scheduled to begin on October 26. We began the laborious ascent of the Lhotse Face with great hopes. The wind seemed to have abated slightly. From Camp III on, these hopes were dashed. The plumes on Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse were greater than ever and the wind coming from Tibet heralded winter. We retrieved supplies from Camp III and turned our back on the mountain for good. Two days later, we had completed our clean-up and descended to Base. Everest has now not been climbed from Nepal for two years.

Peter Athans

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