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Asia, Nepal, Everest, New Zealand International Ascent

Everest, New Zealand International Ascent. Our expedition was composed of New Zealanders Gary Ball, Peter Hillary and I as leader, Swedes Mickael Reuterswärd, Oscar Khilborg and Johan Lagne, Belgian Rudy Van Snik, American Karen Fellerhoff, Canadian Dr. John O’Brien and Sirdar Dorje Sherpa and Apa Sherpa. We followed the route through the Khumbu Icefall established by the Royal Nepalese Army and the American Everest-Lhotse expeditions. We established Base Camp on April 7 and Camps I, II, III and IV at 6100, 6400, 7300 and 7980 meters on the traditional South Col route. Six climbing Sherpas supported us as far as the South Col. On May 10, Ball, Hillary and I climbed to the summit, using oxygen. Hillary arrived at the summit 15 minutes ahead of Ball and me, who waited for one of the Americans to descend the Hillary Step. At nine A.M., we made a live broadcast to New Zealand via VHF radio and INMARSAT satellite at Base Camp. We spoke with the New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and Hillary’s father, Sir Edmund Hillary. Hall flew the New Zealand flag on the summit for the first time. (Neither Hillary in 1953 nor Michael Banks in 1979 had a New Zealand flag.) As we stood on the top, a lone Russian climber appeared behind us. He was one of fifteen climbers from five countries who stood on the top of the world that day, having climbed from the north. He said, “I Soviet,” and handed Ball a postcard. He then asked him to take his picture. Ball hardly had time to reply, “I Kiwi,” before the Russian turned and stomped down his ascent route. At ten A.M., Van Snik and Apa Sherpa made the summit; the former was the first Belgian to do so. Several of us suffered from snow blindness because of removing goggles when it was difficult to see in deteriorating weather. The worst affected was Van Snik, who was completely blind for 36 hours. I nursed him down off the mountain after spending two additional nights at the South Col. On May 11, Reuterswärd and Khilborg set out for the summit at half past midnight. Reuterswärd reached the summit at eleven A.M. and spoke directly to the King of Sweden; he was the first Swede to climb Everest. Three hours later, Khilborg got to the summit.

Robert Hall, New Zealand Alpine Club