Asia, Nepal, Khumbu Region, Mahalangur Himal, Everest, 2004 Summary

Publication Year: 2005.

Everest, 2004 summary. During spring 2003, in the 50th anniversary season of Everest’s first ascent, a record number of men and women had turned up to climb to its summit, and it was assumed that the numbers would decrease after that. Wrong assumption. The number of teams was slightly less, but not the number of climbers. In May 2003 a mere 260 people, foreigners and Nepalese, men, women, and one 15-year-old child, stood on the summit of Everest, and on a single day, May 22, 114 people summited. In 2004 the overall total rose considerably, to 319 people. However, they were more evenly scattered over various days this time, with just 61 on the busiest day, May 16.

Last spring’s Everest teams also exceeded those of a year ago in a tragic way: the number of climbers’ deaths. Last year, only three people died, all of them men and two of these were Sherpas. This year no Sherpa perished, but seven other climbers, including two women, did: five had just been to the summit, another was trying to rescue two of these summiters, and the seventh collapsed while struggling to surmount the final 150 meters to the top. On the North Col route were a Bulgarian, Hristo Hristov (who was one of his country’s best mountaineers and in 2003 climbed a hard new route on the north face of Thalay Sagar); another Bulgarian, Mariana Maslaova, who never reached the top; two South Korean summiters, Jang Min and Park Mu-Taek, and Baek Joon-Ho, their leader, who climbed up from their highest camp to save them and then also died; and a 63-year-old Japanese woman, Shoko Ota (the second oldest woman to reach the summit). The only death on the South Col route was the American summiter, Nils Antzana.

There were only two teams on Everest last autumn: Dutch and Ukrainian. Both were on Tibet’s standard route via the North Col, and both were unsuccessful due to too much snow and not enough fixed ropes. A major problem for these Everest climbers was that there was nobody else around: there were none of the big commercial expeditions that come in the spring, with numerous Sherpas to establish the route by fixing hundreds of meters of rope most of the way to the top.

Elizabeth Hawley, AAC Honorary Member, Nepal