American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, China, Everest Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985

Everest Attempt. Our team included ten climbers: leader Thomas Fitzsimmons, Bob Berg, Jim Frush, Dave Hambly, Kurt Hanson, Ray Nichols, Greg Thompson, Warren Thompson, John Yaeger and me; two climbing doctors: Mike Colpitts and Anton Kakusa; four medical research doctors: Ben Blackett, Rick Foutch, Michael Wiedman and Rich Wohns, biomedical engineer Tom Clement, Base-Camp manager Phil Hawkins and photographer Art Wolfe. Three days’ travel by truck from Lhasa placed us at Base Camp in the Rongbuk valley at 5100 meters on March 8. This was the same site as that used by the British in the 1920s, a mile from the snout of the Rongbuk Glacier. We spent several days organizing. The next two-and-a-half weeks passed quickly as we reconnoitered and established the route to Camp III for 21 yaks and seven drivers to transport 4800 pounds of equipment. On March 28 the first yak caravan reached Camp III, a five-day round-trip along the rocky medial moraine of the East Rongbuk Glacier. Four different climbing teams rotated leads, placing 3000 feet of fixed line and 20 feet of rigid aluminum ladders over the steeper sections to reach the North Col. The task was completed on April 12 so that our six Tibetan porters could assist in carrying some 1400 pounds to Camp IV on the col. As the porters were restricted by the Chinese Mountaineering Association to carrying only to Camp IV, the difficult task of transporting loads to Camp V was left up to the climbing team. While climbing activity was moving at a brisk pace above Base Camp, the medical research team was equally busy setting up and fine-tuning our high-tech data gathering and computing systems. Later the same equipment performed well at heights exceeding 21,000 feet. Camp V was established at 7680 meters on April 25. Five members transported 850 pounds of oxygen and climbing equipment over a ten-day period in early May, which took a toll on their strength. While Camp V was being stocked, two climbing teams were working the route from Camp V to Camp VI at 8230 meters. This was more difficult than anticipated and required 1200 feet of fixed rope. Camp VI was established on May 15 and occupied by Tom Fitzsimmons and Greg Thompson on May 16. While others carried supplies, these two worked the route from Camp VI to Camp VII, hindered by high winds and steep down-sloping rock slabs. Camp VII was occupied on May 19 at 8540 meters. On May 20 Fitzsimmons and Thompson made a last-gasp summit attempt. Upon reaching the first rock step at 8600 meters, they realized it was futile and made a cautious retreat, reaching the North Col late that evening. On the 21st all camps above III were evacuated by support personnel. As per schedule, yaks arrived on May 23 to evacuate Camp III. All personnel and equipment were back at Base Camp on May 25.

Donald J. Goodman

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