American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Mount Everest, Activity in the Pre-Monsoon Season

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Mount Everest, Activity in the Pre-Monsoon Season. The pre-monsoon season saw more people reach the top of Everest than ever before in a single season, and the total number of ascents ever made has now passed the 1,000 mark. Altogether 118 people managed to get to the summit this spring, 73 from Tibet and 45 from Nepal. (Only two of them were women, Francys Arsentiev and an Uzbekistani, Mrs. Sventlana Baskakova, both from the north side.) It took 29 years for the first 118 summiters to get to the top. Now this spring the same number summited in just ten days, from May 18 to 27.

This spring’s total is in striking contrast to no one at all atop Everest last autumn, and indeed is in notable contrast to the largest number of summiters in any previous season, 87 in the spring of 1993. It is clear that the terrible storm of the spring of 1996 did not drive people away from going for the summit of Everest.

This spring’s 118 summiters included the first Native American (American Indian), Bernardo Guarachi, a tough 45-year-old Bolivia adventure travel agent from La Paz; the first amputee, Tom Whittaker, a British-born American from Prescott, Arizona; and the first Iranian ascent of the mountain. More than one-quarter of the summiters (34) had been there before. Most of these repeaters were Sherpas, but they also included two Russians, Serguei Arsentiev in his second ascent and Evgueni Vinogradski in his third; one New Zealander, Russell Brice, in his second ascent; and three Americans, Wally Berg in his fourth, Robert Sloezen in his third, and Jeffery Rhoads, who made his second trip to the top only a week after his first one, both times with a Sherpa named Tashi Tshering. So there is another record: one person, Babu Tshering Sherpa, had summited Everest twice before in the same season, but his two ascents in May 1995 were 12 days apart.

The net result of all these successes is that the total number of people who have ever gained Everest’s summit now stands at 808 (43 of them women), and the total number of ascents they have made has reached 1,048. Furthermore, these numbers could have been even greater if more than 50 climbers who collected at the south summit on May 19 hadn’t turned back because no rope had yet been fixed beyond that point; some of them returned later and got all the way to the top, but a number of them did not.

The mountain seems to be attracting older climbers in greater numbers. One Japanese group, the 1998 Showa Alpine Club Qomolangma Expedition led by Hitoshi Onondera, had a Young Men’s Team and an Old Men’s Team. All of the four “old men” were 60 to 64 years old; none reached the summit, but Masayasu Taruki, 64, is believed to be the oldest person ever to gain an altitude of at least 8,300 meters. (The oldest person to succeed in getting all the way to the top was a 60-year-old Spaniard living in Venezuela, Ramon Blanco, who summited in October, 1993.)

Elizabeth Hawley

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