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Asia, Tibet, Himalaya, Mt. Everest, North Face Snowboarding Attempt

Mt. Everest, north face snowboarding attempt. Marc (“Marco”) Siffredi, the well known 23-year-old French professional snowboarder from Chamonix, came to Mt. Everest this autumn to snowboard down two couloirs on the mountain's north side. This was to be his second descent by snowboard; his first was achieved in May last year, when he made Everest’s first complete snowboard descent. His route then took him down the Great Couloir (or Norton Couloir). Now he wanted to descend a different northern route, the Hornbein and “Japanese” couloirs.

As usual, very few expeditions attempted to scale Everest this autumn. Of the five who came from France, Canada, Brazil, Japan and South Korea, only Siffredi and his three strong Sherpas were successful in reaching its 8,850m-high (29,035') summit. The Sherpas survived, but Siffredi did not.

Siffredi, Panuru Sherpa, Phurba Tashi Sherpa and Da Tenzing Sherpa arrived at the top at 2:00 p.m. Nepalese time on September 8 via the standard North Col-north ridge route. They had used artificial oxygen slogging through chest-deep snow and consumed a total of 22 bottles of it in their final push to the summit from camp 2’s relatively low altitude of 7,700m (25,260') in order to keep warm. The weather at the top was fine, but Siffredi had to wait for clouds below him to disperse.

One hour later, with weather and snow conditions perfect, Siffredi launched himself for a descent that he had expected would take him just one hour to the foot of the mountain at 5,800m (19,030'), where he had pitched a camp below the Japanese Couloir. At the same time his Sherpas began their own descent on foot by the route they had ascended and reached advance base camp at 6,400m (21,000') at 10:00 p.m. that night, unaware of what had happened to Siffredi.

What had happened was that he had disappeared. With binoculars from advance base camp, he was seen starting his descent. His track in the snow was clearly visible to 8,600m (28,215'), but no trace whatsoever of him, his snowboard, or his track was visible anywhere beyond that point. One would immediately guess that he might have plunged into a crevasse, but there are no crevasses where his trail ended. No one knows what became of him. He simply vanished.

Elizabeth Hawley, Nepal