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(map courtesy of CIA World Factbook)

Everest summitAt 29,035 feet (8850 meters), the summit of Mt. Everest is the highest elevation above sea level on planet Earth.  Located in the great Himalayan range, the mountain is a massive three-sided pyramid of incredible bulk, comprised of mostly dark-colored rock.

Three ridges (North, West, and Southeast) and three faces (Rongpu, Kangshung, and Southwest) complete the mountain, making it topographically simple in comparison to other major peaks. The Southeast Ridge, route of the first ascent, leads across the South Col to the neighboring Lhotse (27,890/8501m, itself the world’s fourth highest mountain).

While altitude and weather are the main obstacles to summiting Everest, its mountaineering challenges are among the most famous:

1. Khumbu Icefall, the first and second steps on the north ridge;
2. Yellow Band of rock that cuts high across the entire mountain;
3. Lhotse Face; and the
4. Hillary Step on the southeast ridge.

The Everest section has some special features. When you see the following icons, click on them to experience:

A section of my journal for that portion of the climb
Audio clip

Everest expeditions involve considerable logistics and planning. Our initial team consisted of 8 climbers (from six countries), 4 guides and a support group of 45 Sherpa. We utilized 120 yaks to carry four and one half tons of supplies and equipment from from Lukla fifty miles to base camp, roughly 17,500 feet above sea level.

Our climbing plan allocated over seven weeks to establish higher camps, acclimatize and climb the mountain. This included twenty days for weather delays. The plan called for us to establish and maintain five camps simultaneously at different elevations.

Rather than gain and hold altitude in incremental steps, we completed a series of stages, each time descending back to base camp or lower to recuperate. This allowed the summit team to make acclimatization climbs, descend and recover from brief exposures to higher altitudes. With everything in place, the team could then make one continuous summit push timed to take advantage of even a brief weather window.

Pictures and select narratives of our 2003 expedition to Everest are presented in eight segments, corresponding to the elevations on the map (right):

1. Travel to Katmandu and trek from Namche Bazaar to Base Camp
2. Base Camp
3. Khumbu Icefall and Camp I
4. Western Cwm and Camp II
5. Lhotse Face and Camp III
6. Geneva Spur and Camp IV
7. Summit Bid, including Southeast Ridge and Hilary Step
8. Descent to Base Camp, Trek to Lukla, return to Katmandu and home.



Everest Route Map

Everest route map courtesy of Alpine Ascents


Summary of our Camps and Climbing Excursions:

Base Camp: 17,500’ We arrived 12 April and departed June 2, 2003.

Camp I: 19,500’ We climbed through the Khumbu icefall to Camp I on four occasions.

Camp II: 21,500’ Three times we continued above Camp I, through the Western Cwm to Camp II.

Camp III: 24,000’ Twice we continued above Camp II, and climbed the Lhotse Face to Camp III.

Camp IV: 26,300’ We made one push up above Camp III, through the Yellow Band, over the Geneva Spur to Camp IV at the South Col.

Summit: 29,035’ After four days at Camp IV, we climbed the Southeast Ridge, South Summit and Hilary Step, and arrived at the summit at noon on May 30th, 2003.



© 2006-2008 by James P. Clarke.  All rights reserved.