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Horizon on Everest

The Summit Attempt

  • Rob
  • 31 May 07, 04:13 AM

Dave Rasmussen our high altitude cameraman managed to summit Mount Everest a few days ago, he has written an account of the climb:

Hello from Everest Base Camp,

There is something special about the greeting above. When I was at K2 Base Camp in 1999, I interviewed a very experienced mountaineer from Poland. He told me the mountaineers in Poland have a saying, "The summit is in base camp," meaning of course that a climber shouldn't be overly excited on reaching the summit. There's still a descent to make. Many mountaineers have reached the top of a mountain only to die on the way down. Once back in base camp, the summit can be celebrated. Now that I am back in base camp, I can share with you that I have summitted Everest.

To summit Everest from the South side, in Nepal, you launch off from Camp Four at the South Col, the highest pass in the world at 26,000 feet. To get to Camp Four takes weeks of climbing and acclimatizing but once that is done, the basic program is to leave Base Camp, climb throught the Khumbu Icefall, pass by Camp One and go directly to Camp Two. This is day one. Camp Two is located at the base of the massive rock pyramid that forms Everest. Camp Two is also at the base of the Lhotse Face. Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world, rises up to the southeast of Everest and forms the right hand ridge of the South Col.

So, on the first day of our summit trip, we arrive at Camp Two. Day two is a rest and filming day. On day three we climb the steep ice/snow Lhotse face for several thousand feet to Camp Three, located on some snow and ice "bulges" on the steep face. At Camp Three there is nothing to do but sit in your tent and get used to the thin air. The tents are cut into the slope so that the only space you have to "walk around" is a very narrow space behind your tent and about three feet on either end. You are literally confined to an area about as big as a midsized car. With clear skies and no wind the temperature in our tent rose to 108 degrees (44C?). Nobody thinks about it being that hot at nearly 24,000 feet, but it does happen and it is not comfortable. I slept on oxygen at Camp Three. We left early the next morning.

On day four we climb higher up the steep Lhotse Face until we cut to the left and traverse across the face to a rock feature called the Yellow Band. We climb up over the Yellow Band and continue an upward traverse to the base of a large rock outcropping called the Geneva Spur. I always thought the route went up behind the Geneva Spur, but found out that the climb goes up the back side of the Spur and then cuts across the front top. From here it is a fairly easy quarter mile walk that puts you into the South Col, home of Camp Four.

Many people carry on to the summit on the evening of the day they reach the Col. But we have science to do. Our day five is a rest/filming/science day. I have told people in the past that I had no real desire to climb Mount Everest but I that I would really like to go to the South Col. In mountaineering history it is a unique place. I always thought it would be cool to go there (literally!). So now I am finally there, 26,000 feet with a lot of wind, blowing snow (it is not snowing but the snow is always driven like sand in the desert), rocks and spent oxygen bottles. The South Col is not really a special place in any way other than it leads to the top of the world. The climb from here is laid out right before our eyes. We can see quite clearly what we have to do to get to the top. We can see it, but as of yet we cannot perceive what it will mean to our bodies to actually do it.

We do science at the South Col on days five and six. Science that has never before been done at this altitude. Science that will hopefully someday help sick people at low elevations.

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