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Dutch Everest 2004: Leave your klompen at home
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Jul 16, 2004 12: 33 EST
Who could blame them? The wooden clogs might be great for fording the dikes, but won’t hack it on Everest. Dutchman Werner de Jong will be leading the team on this fall’s North Side attempt. Last year there were only two Everest expeditions in the fall, Berg’s South Side and Stephen Koch’s snowboard effort on the North. Both teams, especially Stephens, encountered problems with deep snow. This doesn’t seem to faze Dutch expedition leader, Werner, who is determined as ever and is rather looking forward to having the mountain to themselves – he’s expecting 3 or 4 teams to be on the North this year; a throwback to the yesteryears of Everest.

ExplorersWeb managed to get a hold of the Dutchman just one month before departure date to chat with him about the expedition:

ExWeb: Werener, tell us a little about yourself, what do yo do when you’re not organizing an expeditions?

Werner: I am 48 years old and the expedition leader of this team. I am into several different kinds of sports like skydiving, marathon running, judo, jiu jitsu, aikido, deep sea diving etc. Mountaineering is a big hobby of mine.

My first mountain ever was the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in all of Germany. Since 1992 I’ve organized trips myself and have climbed on many continents. So far my high altitude experience is up to 7546 meters on Muztagh Ata in China. I reached the summit within 2 weeks after arrival.

On Shisha Pangma in 2002 I got stuck in a snowstorm on 7000 meters. Time was running out and a second attempt was not possible anymore. This expedition I organized for 6 Dutch and 8 Russian Climbers. It is this experience that I’m calling upon to help organize the Everest trip. Back home I work as head of the personal department in the Zoo of Rotterdam and sometimes do some freelance consulting in this type of work.

ExWeb: How did Everest come about for you and why the North Side in the fall - that's pretty rare these days?

Werner: In 1992 I trekked the conventional route to Everest BC. It was 2 weeks from Jiri through Lukla to BC in Nepal. From this moment on a small fire started to burn inside, which never went out. It was the right moment for me now to make my wish a reality.

We decided to do Everest in the fall because we want to do everything by ourselves, like in old days. And we’d also like to be the first Dutchman to summit in that period. We think that it is possible to do it. It is too crowded in spring also.

It all depends on the weather, really. We will take snowshoes for the trek to ABC because we expect lots of snow after the monsoon. Another reason for climbing in the fall is our jobs. It is not possible for everyone to get time off in the spring. I must say that we could not get any climbers in the beginning, because everyone told us it is to difficult in fall and we are crazy to do it. That motivated me even more to go in fall. I want to see for myself if it’s possible and take the challenge.

ExWeb: Who on this team, if any, have you climbed with previously?

Werner: I have only climbed together with Marc Streefkerk on Shisha Pangma. The rest of the team found me after I advertised. Since September 2003 we only had 3 climbers signed on. It wasn’t until May/June that the team became 7.

ExWeb: You have mentioned that food is very important on an expedition and that is one of the reasons you chose the trekking agency you did - is this something that has been engrained from early on, or did you have an expedition where bad food affected its results?

Werner: We had a not so good experience with the food from another agency in Kathmandu on our Shisha Pangma trip. You loose many kilos on an Everest expedition and have to eat a lot to keep your strength. Not enough eating means that your summit is not possible. We work with Iceland Trekking because we got some early information about their excellent food and cook.

ExWeb: Are there any concerns you guys have for the fall attempt that spring teams typically don't have to deal with?

Werner: We have got to deal with a lot of snow and therefore take snowshoes with us. Days will be shorter and it will be much colder too. All the equipment has got to be prepared for extreme climbing weather. The weather and avalanches are our biggest concern. We have 3 very good climbing sherpas to help us to fix ropes, build camps, and bring up oxygen bottles. Summit oxygen is the system we decided to use. It is a new system that had many problems this last spring, but everything has been especially modified for our trip. I think we have a good improved system to use. I feel our group is capable to climb without oxygen; it all depends on the weather and the conditions on the mountain. We just take oxygen with us to succeed at least in reaching the top. In Camp IV, we’ll decide to climb with or without oxygen.

ExWeb: You've climbed on Shisha Pangma previously - is Everest a goal in itself, or is it rather just one goal amongst a series of challenges for you?

Werner: Everest is for me a goal in itself, but I would like to do the seven summits. If I succeed this fall, then I’ve already got 3 of the 7 - Everest, Elbrus, and Kilimanjaro.

ExWeb: During the spring there were some issues with Maoist strikes stalling teams driving to the North Side - is this a concern of yours, or did you build in some extra days - it certainly seems like you’re getting a good jump on things by leaving on the 15th. If all goes to plan you'll be in Base Camp by Sept 1, right?

Werner: I feel we will not have any problems with Maoists. All problems are always in the period before the Monsoon and not after it. I did some investigating for this information. Of course we will have enough time if something does happen though.

We plan to be in BC around August 25th, 10 days after arrival in Kathmandu. That means good acclimatization for us.

ExWeb: The 1-month mark is about to hit - how do you feel right now?

Werner: It is only 1 month before it all starts. I will go training with Marc Streefkerk to climb Mont Blanc, 4807m, in the alps from Sunday July 18th until Sunday 26th. Our condition is excellent and we have built up enough fat and muscles to let the mountain eat some, and still have enough left to be strong and in good shape.

ExWeb: How are preparations coming? Is it going to be a last minute scramble, or do you have things lined up pretty well?

Werner: The preparation is going excellent, but as you see my computer has stopped. I need this computer badly for quick communication right now. We have also a problem to be solved with our cargo that will cost some extra energy on our part.

We will work as a team. It is very important to be a strong group. There is no individual person that can work alone. If only one person will be strong enough to summit, the rest of the group is supporting this person to make our expedition successful.

Werner and his team of 7 will be leaving this August 15th for Nepal and plan to drive the Friendship Highway from Kathmandu into Tibet and on to Base Camp. Expedition members: Werner de Jong (leader), Marc Streefkerk, Mark Thijssen, Boris Krielen, Harry Kikstra, Sander Arens, and Ruby Arens-Halfschepel (Base Camp Manager.)

Image of Werner on Shisha Pangma courtesy of him.
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