American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Everest, Ascents in the Post-Monsoon

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

Everest, Ascents in the Post-Monsoon. In addition to the summits by Kaji Sherpa and Tashi Tshering Sherpa (see above), Norichika Matsumoto led one of the few other teams who attempted Everest this season; his team failed to gain the summit via a route that diverged from the normal route Kaji had followed at about 6500 meters. A Spaniard, Carlos Pitarch, who used bottled oxygen until his set froze, reported he had gone to the summit alone after others, Japanese and Sherpas, whom he was climbing with from the Col, had given up the battle against the terrible wind. These are the only Everest summit claims made this autumn. There were a total of four teams on the mountain’s south side, but the others, two Japanese parties, made no such claims.

On the northern side in Tibet, there were five small teams and none of them went to the top. Deep snow in the early part of the season and very strong winds later were given as the reasons for failure by most. But a notable attempt to climb the mountain was made by one Japanese, Masafumi Todaka. He first attempted to scale the Japanese Couloir on the western side of the north face. Here he was defeated by hard ice. Then he changed the line of his ascent to the middle of the face to enter the Great (or Norton) Couloir, and here he made a valiant effort to gain the top.

Todaka had no Sherpas or artificial oxygen to help him: he was one man completely alone on the entire vast north face of Everest. He made a serious push for the summit from a camp at 5900 meters on the Rongbuk Glacier at the foot of the great face starting at 2:10 a.m. on September 14. With two bivouacs, one at the bottom of the Great Couloir that night and the next in the couloir on the 15th, he managed to surmount the couloir and reach 8500 meters on the morning October 16.

But now “my condition was not so good” because he had had no sleeping bag during the previous night, and he had become very sleepy. He spent 20 minutes considering his options and decided that he must save his remaining energy for a safe descent. “Ten years ago, I would probably have gone for the summit,” said the 36-year-old mountain guide, but now he was more concerned about his safety. He descended without difficulty or frostbite, but he was very tired at the end.

Elizabeth Hawley

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