American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Everest Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989

Everest Traverse. The Chinese Mountaineering Association, the Japanese Alpine Club and the Nepal Mountaineering Association cooperated to organize a joint expedition to traverse Mount Everest from both north to south and from south to north. Shi Zhan Chun was the general leader of the Chinese, Toshio Imanishi of the Japanese and Kumar Khadga Bikram Shah of the Nepalese. The headquarters of the 283-member expedition was in Beijing. The 152-member north team, led by Tsuneo Shigehiro, planned to climb the East Rongbuk Glacier, the North Col and the northeast ridge. They set up Base Camp at 5155 meters on March 10. Advance Base at 6500 meters was established on March 18 with three large tents and 30 small ones to house seven tons of material. Ten members set up Camp V at 7790 meters and on April 7, Camp VI at 8100 meters. The 127-member south team, led by Kunga Sherpa, set up Base Camp at 5350 meters on March 28 to climb the South Col route. Setting up camps was seriously hampered by bad weather, but the route to the South Col was prepared by April 23 with ropes fixed on the rock band. Yet the establishment of Camp IV on the col was delayed until April 30. On May 3, Camp V was established at 8500 meters and occupied the next day by Ang Phurba Sherpa and Top Bahadur Khatri of Nepal, Mitsugi Kitamura and Gota Isono of Japan and Ringen Puncoq and Da Cering of China. There was a live TV broadcast on May 4 from the highest camp on the north that afternoon. Six men set out up the northeast ridge at five A.M. on May 5. Ang Lhakpa Sherpa of Nepal, Norburu Yamada of Japan and Cerin Doje of Tibet reached the top at 9:25 A.M. The team from the south had had high winds in the night. Ang Phurba ran out of oxygen two hours before reaching the summit and had to slow down. Ang Phurba, Ringen Puncoq and Da Cering gained the top an hour after the north team. It is not clear whether the other three did not attempt the climb or gave up. The six summiters shook hands and planted their respective national flags. Ang Phurba, who was without supplementary oxygen, hurried to the north after 20 minutes. Ang Lhakpa traversed to the south after 90 minutes. The Japanese TV crew, Susuma Nakamura, Syoji Nakamura and Saigusa Teruo, reached their summit “location” at 12:55. The TV transmitter was strapped to Susuma Nakamura’s helmet. They soon started beaming the summit rendez-vous to the world. Three others, Lhakpa Sona Sherpa of Nepal, Nunehiko Yamamoto of Japan and Li Zhixin of China, came up from the Tibetan side, but they did not traverse and descended to the north. The first group of three north-side summiters reached Camp IV on the South Col at 7:45 P.M. They were in Base Camp at four the next afternoon. Ang Phurba had a little difficulty descending via the north because of the “unfamiliar route.” He stopped at Camp VII. The other two south-side summiters went down to Camp VI. On the following day, Ang Phurba reached Camp III while the other two stopped at Camp IV. All were in Base Camp on May 7. Two other attempts planned for May 8 and 12 were called off. However, Sundare Sherpa, Padma Bahadur Tamang, Ang Rita Sherpa, Narayan Shrestha and Ang Karma Sherpa left Camp IV at 2:50 A.M. on May 10. The last three dropped out after two hours, but Sundare and Padma Bahadur pressed on to reach the summit at 10:45 A.M. They were back in Base Camp on May 12. This was the third time that Yamoto had climbed Everest. Sundare has made five ascents of the mountain.

Kamal K. Guha, Editor, Himavanta, India

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