is our tallest mountain. It is difficult enough to have killed many
climbers in horrible falls and deep crevasses.
Its altitude and the technicals of the climb are not not to be
The death zone above camp 4 has taken many strong and
skilled climbers lives. That implies that Everest require intensive
training. You might be lucky and the climb might go well even if you
didnīt do your homework. But you will certainly notice that Everest live
up to its fearful reputation should the conditions turn against you. By
then though, it might simply be too late if you are not well prepared.
Everest is also an extremely beautiful mountain. And just as we
continue to launch ourselves into space even though missions sometimes
turn into tragedy, mountaineers will always try to climb Everest to
experience the majesty, beauty, and adventure of our closest frontier to
5400 m / 17700 ft.
Camp is like a Formula One car racing depot. Satellite phones buzz in
international tents as the worlds languages mix in thrilling accounts of
the latest. Journalists, families and climbers exchange news and
emotions between the mountain and the world. For no alpine peak fires
imagination like Mount Everest.
You handle the latest tech gear, but wash your clothes
in frozen lakes, where you crush the ice and work quickly before it
freezes over again. Drying up, the damp clothes freeze into strange ice
formations at night. The same happens to your wet hair. And your
toothpaste. You finish your meal quickly for it immediately cools on
your plate. You eat buffalo meat. Itīs fresh until it starts to smell.
Then you wait. After a few weeks the odour vanish. At that point your BC
sherpa-cook start to include it in your diet again, as a very special
Did you see Everest - the movie?
We were there in 1996.
We wrote this guide, our friends wrote books.
Get the full picture straight from the horseís mouth:
You listen to the frequent avalanches coming down Nuptse,
Lho La and Pumori. You throw silent glances at the icefall and listen as
it collapses with a horrendous crash. Base Camp is a place of hope,
fear, frustration, conflicts and life-long friendships. Some climbers
will experience their dream fulfilled, others will have to return home
with an unfinished task. Youīll look around you and try to guess. But
only destiny will know which fate is to be yours.
5500 m - 6100 m / 18000 ft - 20000 ft.
place is similar to a huge horror-chamber at an amusement park. Only
this one is for real. There are countless scary things that can happen
A crevasse might open under you. An ice-pinnacle can fall on top of you.
The entire area can collapse. Itís simply not a place for a picnic and
most of us just concentrate on getting out of there as quickly as we
Be sure to always clip in to the ropes. But also to
unclip fast if an avalanche strikes. Should that happen, take cover
behind a wall or a pinnacle. Jump into a crevasse as a last resort. The
avalanche could be small, but hurl huge ice boulders at you. Watch
carefully for ice pinnacles posing in a nasty angle. Do definitely not
have your snack brake below one of these. They snap in a second.
Check the ropes and the screws before entering a ladder.
Cross the ladders slowly and carefully. Try to fit your crampon between
two rails. Sometimes, a nearby avalanche or heavy wind sets the ladder
in motion. Just stay calm and focus on each step and youíll be fine. It
helps to lean
on the ropes, either backwards or forward, depending on the angle of the
ladder. The ropes are slack, so leaning on them stretches them and
provides a better balance. Even more helpful is if your climbing buddy
stretch the ropes for you while you cross the ladder.
Occasionally, you will encounter a large wall of ice.
Those walls are usually roped, use your jumars. Climb the ropes by
kicking your crampons into the ice and then lean on your legs. Donít
hang on the rope, it is exhausting and dangerous.
Climb the icefall early in the morning. Climbers usually
head out at 4-5 AM. Donít leave BC later than 6 AM. The icefall thaws
later in the day and avalanches become more frequent. Plus you'll boil.
(Climb time: 5-8 hours not acclimatized, 3-5 hours
Camp 1, Valley of
6100 m - 6400 m / 20000 - 21000 ft.
is a vast, flat area of endless snow, deep crevasses and mountain walls
frequently washed by avalanches. Here we set up camp 1. At night we
listen to the deep, murmuring cracking sounds under our tents. It is the
crevasses opening and closing deep down in the glacier beneath. You keep
your fingers crossed that it wonít happen right under your tent. At
least not just now, while you are in it. Pounding headaches torture you.
But it is here that for the first time, just a few steps around a
corner, we gain first close sight of Everest.
Be sure to set camp away from tiny cracks, those
possibly hiding the mouths of large crevasses.
Climb this area clipped to the fixed ropes, since
crevasses lay hidden everywhere under the snow. You could remove your
crampons on this climb. Sometimes, weather can turn this usually easy
part into a difficult one, due to deep snow and whiteout. Always start
out in good time. Stay away from the walls, they avalanche frequently.
Later in the season (end of May) this snowy area starts to turn rotten and
can turn quite nasty.
(Climb time: 4-7 hours not acclimatized, 3-5 hours
6400 m / 21000 ft.
an endless, slow march through the silent valley, you reach at last a
rocky patch, at the foot of the icy Lhotse wall. This marks camp 2. This
place is absolutely stunning. Clouds roll in from the lower ranges of
the Himalayas, up the valley and into the camp. While acclimatizing, we
spend time looking for cool old climbing gear; left here by all of
Everest's climbing history. This is also the last chance to get a
decent, prepared meal. We eat all we are handed because soon weīll be
surviving on instants only.
Donít camp too close to the Everest face, since it
avalanches once in a while. Although tempted to idly hang around camp,
bring yourself to take walks to the Lhotse face. It will speed
acclimatization and relive altitude problems. The walks force you to
breathe deeper and faster, thus saturating your body with more oxygen.
Camp 3, Lhotse wall
6800m - 8000 m / 22300 ft - 26300 ft.
sliding a fun, icy slope on a sunny winterís day. Only this one is 1200
meter (4000 ft) high. This is not a place to play. The dangerous part is
to hang on to rope of dubious strength and to change carabiners between
the ropes. You might feel not too clear in your head, especially upon
coming down, but itís crucial to concentrate. One slip and you are gone,
far higher up than you had intended really.
camp here is a true eagle's nest, placed right out of the wall. Going to
the toilet at night is a tedious task to dress and secure oneself. In
addition, just to find a spot for it on this narrow platform is tricky
enough. But the view is grand and by now you are well on your way to the
The climb towards the wall is a flat walk that gets you nicely warmed
up. At the wall, you will step in to the ropes and the icy incline
begins immediately. After
an hour or so, you will reach the "Ice bulge", an icy, bumpy part. After
that, it is a pretty uneventful, steep ice climb to C3. Occasionally,
you will hear a howling sound and watch rocks catapult down the wall.
Blocks of ice sometimes come falling behind climbers. Watch your head,
lean on your legs (not the rope) and rest on the lines only
The climb will be either easy or hard, depending on
weather. A dry, cold season means sheer, blue ice. Maintain your
crampons sharp. Deep snow makes the climb easier, but increase the risk
After C3, you will traverse the wall towards the Yellow
Band and the Black Turtle. These are rocky sections on the wall, secured
by a tangle of old and new ropes. Check the ropes well and watch for
rock falls from climbers above you. Another traverse takes you to the
foot of the last wall to C4. This part is steep but not very high and
soon youíll put your nose above itís edge, thus entering the land of the
spirits Ė the Deathzone.
(Climbing time: 5-8 hours not acclimatized, 4-6 hours
Camp 4, the Deathzone
8000 m / 26000 ft.
4 sits on a plateau resembling a moonscape. You are at the edge of the
atmosphere and the sky owns a strange, dark blue color. It is surely the
closest you can get to space on earth.
Only a small climb above camp, you look down the Tibetan
plateau with it's vast brown plains, white glaciers and the other alpine
giants - Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu -in the distance. It's all magic
Yet, this is also the place were the media, fame and fun
of BC definitely are gone. Only fear remains on everyone's face. People
donít talk a lot. Resting in your tent, feeling weak already,
you try to get some sleep as night falls outside. In a couple of hours
you will start to put on your gear for the final part of the adventure -
the summit push.
The wall towards the summit is steep and dark, you are in the death zone
and you canīt help thinking that within the next 48 hours, there is a
very real risk that you might not live.
Go over your gear in daylight. Have everything neatly
organized. Drink at least 3 liters of fluid or more if you can. Bring
another 2 liters of hot fluid on the climb. Get your axe ready, prepare
the Hot Tronics. You will feel great as long as the day is bright but
lose spirit fast when night falls. The cold, scary darkness outside is
anything but inviting. The wind rustle the tent canvas. You will
probably not be able to sleep a wink. Take it easy. As soon as you start
out on the climb you will feel much better. Fear is always worse than
8850 m / 29035 ft.
the hour is come. At about 11 PM we put on the final gear and step out
in the night. There, in the distance, we can see a worm of light slowly
moving up a dark wall. Itīs climbers head torches flickering in the
dark. Itís completely silent. Nobody talks. If you do, you whisper. It
is absolutely terrifying and you climb and climb, awaiting fthe first
ray of dawn. Itís desperately cold. It's steep and at parts very icy.
The ice axe and the crampons barely cut into the ice. You need to
pee. Forget it. Someone turns around. "Canīt go on, good luck".
A cold, white moon rises from below, but you hardly glance at it or even
the bright twinkle of Universe above. The adrenaline keeps your body
moving. And then, suddenly, after hours and hours of despair, you notice
a thin blue beam of light at the horizon. Sunrise! If you are lucky, now
is the time for the fabled mountain ghost. The mountain projects itself
onto the morning fog. The shadow towers in front of you like a giant
mirage. Beneath lies the world in all its glory, glowing in the rising
sun. You feel the warmth and all hope returning.
You kick your feet to beat the oncoming frostbite. You
are at the Balcony, having a short rest, changing to a new oxygen
bottle. A ridge lay ahead, and just above you, not far at all, is the
South Summit. You begin to enjoy the view, and the possibility of
success. Finally, you step up onto the small plateau of the South
Summit, and there - just around the corner - is the Everest summit
have watched it so many times from the distance, and suddenly it is so
strangely close. Just right there, only 95 meters / 310 ft away. You can
almost touch the white tail of snow.
This is as far as we came in 1998, so our report on the
site had to end here. On this update however - following our 1999
attempt - we are very happy to at last be able to guide you all the way
- to the summit!
When you reach the South Summit you are just a couple of
hours from your dream come true.
there is one more obstacle in your way. The Knife Ridge. You will gasp upon seeing it. It is steep and looks truly nasty. The ridge
towers almost freely over Nepal and Tibet, itís sharp and very steep.
Hillary Step is in the middle somewhere, a rock climb in the sky.
You step onto the ridge via a small, half open tunnel
from South Summit. You climb with your crampons at a sharp, crooked
angle towards the side of the ridge. Occasionally, the snow gives way
and you slide down for a hairy second. This is not a place to climb
without fixing ropes. Clip in carefully, focus on each step and keep
If there is a lot of snow, the ridge could be almost
wide and quite nice. We had a dry, sharp climb.
The Hillary step was, in our opinion, not too bad.
Although very exposed at parts, the climb is fast and feels safe, given
the conditions. The danger is to get tangled in the ropes. Bring a good
knife. Check the ropes well for strength.
After the step, you will spot white, strange wave-formations of frozen
snow pointing out from the summit. Keep climbing towards them. This
section is usually unroped, yet not too steep. Still, be careful and use
your axe. You might eagerly look for the summit now, yet all youíll see
is a white edge on the horizon. You will not know how far you have left
and feel frustrated and tired.
Then you reach another white edge, but this time Ė it doesnít continue.
Behind it, there is instead a slope down. You are peeking down at the
North side of Everest. You have reached the summit, friend.
(Climbing time: 8-16 hours)
Most accidents occur upon
climbing down. Be sure to have enough oxygen to come back. Donít relax
for one moment. The climb is tricky all the way down to the Balcony Ė
the final ridge before the wall back down to camp 4 and the South Col.
Even the wall after the Balcony is dangerous if unroped. You will
encounter a couple of bodies of deceased climbers here. In 1998, the
last part of the wall towards C4 was not fixed and 8 people took
pretty bad falls. Luckily enough, all climbers survived that time. We
climb this part roped to each other if the fixed ropes arenít there. If
the weather turns bad, the fixed ropes might get buried or you wonít be
able to see them. Make memory maps on you climb up for this situation.
Bring a compass.
A blue ice bulge will mark the last obstacle back to
camp. There are some crevasses there, usually recognizable as streaks of
white snow. Avoid them.
Finally, you will stumble back down onto the flat, rocky
South Col. And take the last exhausted steps towards your tent, throwing
yourself into it. And now Ė after almost 30 hours of strenuous climb,
terror and doubts Ė you'll fall into the deepest and happiest sleep of
Exceeded only by your awakening in the morning; the suns rays softly
warming you, as you slowly come to a wonderful, triumphant realization;
that you actually, really, really made it.
You are an Everest summiteer!
(Climbing time: 4-8 hours).