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Asia, Tibet, Everest Attempt

Everest Attempt. Between August 13 and 17 our team arrived at the Rongbuk Base Camp at 17,000 feet, hoping to climb the traditional East Rongbuk-North Col route. Base Camp had the appearance of an international camp with teams from Australia, Britain, Ireland, Japan and Spain also in residence. Our expedition consisted of Americans Paul Briggs, Michael Flynn, Dr. Brack Hattler, Peter Jamieson, Steve Matous, Dr. Tom McCullough, Dave Nettle, Greg Sapp, Steven Strain, Base-Camp Manager Rod Willard, Canadian Geoff Creighton, Sherpas Ang Rita and Chuldim Dorje and me as leader. For two weeks we stocked Camp I at 19,500 feet on the East Rongbuk Glacier and Advance Base at 21,300 feet with the help of 21 yaks. By August 29, Advance Base was completely stocked. Camp III was established on the North Col at 23,000 feet on September 3. We fixed 2500 feet of 8mm rope below the col, the only section that was fixed. The weather was still excellent and we talked of the summit in two weeks. The next three weeks saw intermittent periods of heavy snowfall, making the route to the North Col extremely dangerous; there were high winds. Greg Sapp was hit by an avalanche while ascending the fixed ropes but fortunately escaped with only bruised ribs and a torn climbing harness. Camp IV was finally established at 25,500 feet on September 23. For several weeks winds frequently over 100 mph slowed progress and hampered efforts to stock this camp. Camp IV, including five bottles of oxygen, was blown away. On October 9, Camp IV was reestablished by Flynn, Ang Rita, Sapp and me. We dug a snow cave instead of setting up tents. On October 12, Camp V at 26,500 feet was established by Strain, Ang Rita and Jamieson. The latter was forced to descend because bitter cold was causing his feet, frostbitten in 1983 on Everest, considerable pain. Strain spent the night alone at Camp V and left for the summit at five A.M. Using oxygen and climbing in high winds and –40° temperatures, he reached the First Step after seven hours. The winds increased and he was blown off his feet three times. Since the wind did not let up, he had to descend. No further attempts were made due to wind, exhaustion, illness and Tibet’s worst snowstorm in 40 years that from October 19 to 21 left four feet of snow at Advance Base.

Steve Van Meter