American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Tibet, Everest, Northeast Ridge Attempt and North Ridge Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1992

Everest, Northeast Ridge Attempt and North Ridge Ascent. Our co-leaders were Briton Harry Taylor and New Zealander Russell Brice. The other members were Britons Alan Hinkes, Bill Barker, Andy Parkin, Len Atkinson, Base Camp Manager Sam Roberts, Dr. John English, Norwegian Olav Ulvumd, Australian Mark Lemare, Frenchman Xavier Remond and I from the United States. We entered Tibet flying from Kathmandu to Lhasa and overland to the Rongbuk Base Camp, where we arrived on April 6. Already there were Americans, an elaborate Swedish expedition, a small but elite Italian group, a guided Austrian expedition and later two Japanese with Sherpa help. Yaks came, we bargained with greedy Chinese and in a three-day push got to Advance Base at the usual spot at 21,000 feet below the east side of the North Col. As usual, we went up too fast, and half our group went back down after the tents were erected. There were high winds on the mountain and even in Advance Base the temperatures were 0° F. We carried loads to Camp I on the North Col starting on April 12. Poor weather stymied us in our push for Camp II at 7800 meters for a long time and let us catch up to the Americans. More bad weather and fear of frostbite slowed our getting to Camp III at 8300 meters. The Americans were able to push on due to their use of oxygen. The Americans fixed most potentially dangerous spots and made retreats easy. Bill Barker established Camp III with a couple of Sherpas and kept on to 8400 meters on May 8 without supplementary oxygen. Two days later, I got to just below this height solo and decided it was too dangerous to continue; temperatures were about -40° and wind around 30 miles per hour. I had moved up from 7800 meters in three hours and a quarter. Sherpas Babu Tshering and Chuldin got to the summit on May 22. Taylor and Brice started up the northeast ridge on May 5 and bailed out on the north-ridge connection at Camp III on May 16 because of bad weather. Lemare suffered frostbitten toes and fingers. On May 25, we packed up for Base Camp, where the Swedes hosted one of the best parties ever given at 17,000 feet. Base Camp and Advance Base are free of garbage except for poor sanitary habits by most. We dug proper pit toilets. Most others are the behind-the-rock gang. All the expeditions did proper cleanup and used yaks to carry out all trash. However, the mountain itself is strewn with debris, especially above 7500 meters, especially in the spring due to the lack of snow. Oxygen bottles dating back to who knows when are everywhere with every imaginable article including dead bodies. Injuries were common: frostbite, edemas, death. If it weren’t for the full field hospital of the Swedes, casualties would have been higher than the two I know about. The Swedes were very gracious and helped every expedition on the north side.

Steven Untch

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.