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Asia, Nepal, Everest

Everest. Our expedition was composed of former Soviets Vladimir Balyberdin, leader, Anatoli Bukreev, Gennady Kopieka, Roman Giutashvili, Vladimir Gorbunov, Aleksei Klimin, Yelena Kunshova and Americans Kevin Cooney, Greg Smith and me. I belatedly joined the group in Base Camp on September 21 after negotiations in Kathmandu as a late addition. By September 23, we established a new Khumbu Icefall route because we were unwilling to pay $300 per person to the Nepalese-French expedition for use of fixed lines and ladders. The “Russian route” was wiped out by a massive avalanche from the Lho La at 6:15 A.M. on the 30th. Balyberdin and Bukreev attained the summit without supplementary oxygen on October 7, while Cooney turned back at the Hillary Step. Giutashvili, 54-years-old, and I summited with oxygen on October 10 at 5:20 P.M. On the descent, Giutashvili collapsed in blowing snow and darkness at 8:05 P.M. I dug a snow hole for him, left the remaining oxygen and stumbled to the South Col, where I had seen a light. After four hours and several forays, Kopieka and Klimin, who had been waiting out the storm, managed to locate Giutashvili and carry him back to the col uninjured. Upon return to Kathmandu, Giutashvili announced that he had had the use of only one lung since the age of 10. Bukreev and Balyberdin had as their goal the establishment of a new Everest record by ascending the 3500 vertical meters to the summit from Base Camp and returning in less than 24 hours. They wanted to break the French climber Marc Batard’s record of 22 hours and 29 minutes. After their summit climb, Bukreev set out on October 12 at five P.M., climbed through the night and managed to reach 8300 meters at eight A.M. before terrible winds forced him to retreat. He was safely back in Base Camp 24 hours after he had left it. Balyberdin took 17 hours on October 17 to cover the same distance. When he left Base Camp alone at six A.M., he actually intended only to go part way up and bring down a tent and other gear, but when he saw how fine the weather was, he kept on going. He was climbing without crampons which he thought he would not need when he set out. When he reached 8300 meters at eleven PM., he found it impossible to go higher on the very hard snow and in gusting winds without crampons. He stopped and spent the night in a thin sleeping bag and a thin down jacket. At daylight, he descended, safe and well—with no frostbite!

Daniel Mazur