American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Changtse, Southeast Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1991

Changtse, Southeast Face. We completed the second American ascent of Changtse by a route previously climbed by Ed Webster solo (see above), the southeast face. We also made a significant achievement in using the Gamow Bag as a treatment for cerebral edema. After our 1988 attempt on the tediously long northeast ridge and Keith Brown’s nearly successful 1988 attempt on the southeast face (AAJ, 1989, pages 278-9), we organized a second expedition. We reached Everest’s traditional Base Camp on April 20. We established Camps I, II, III and Advance Base at 18,000, 19,000, 20,000 and 21,000 feet on April 25, 27, 29 and May 1. We placed Camp IV at 21,400 feet and on May 3 had Camp V near a prominent buttress at the center of the southeast face about 300 yards from the base of Everest’s North Col. On May 7, 1800 feet of line were fixed up Changtse’s 50° to 55° southeast face to within 800 feet of the crest of the northeast ridge. On May 8, following an ascent of 500 feet of a 45° slope, John Cleary and Don McIntyre fixed an additional 300 feet of line up the final 70° headwall to the ridge. On May 9, McIntyre, Cleary, Doug Nixon, and Jerry and Michael Sisk reached the summit (7583 meters, 24,879 feet) at 8:30 P.M. after an 11-hour climb. The descent to Camp V took another six hours. Tragedy, meanwhile, nearly overshadowed success. On the morning of May 5, one of our members had to be evacuated from Camp IV to Advance Base with symptoms of cerebral edema. There, Dr. Sam Shields innovatively utilized the Gamow Bag as a treatment device not only to induce the injured climber’s survival but also to restore him to a level of condition enabling me and four others to assist him down the mountain using the Gamow Bag along the way on May 7 and 8. The decision to use the bag in this manner, in combination with other vital medical treatment, was necessarily mandated by the condition of the patient who could not otherwise be moved from Advance Base without risk of death. The injured climber was evacuated from Base Camp to Kathmandu. The other members of the expedition were Dan Damon, Scott Dinham, R.J. Secor, Stan Horn, Dean Blanca and Scott Edwards.

Paul Pfau

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