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Everest North Side: A Mountaineering first - Fixed Rope Contract to the summit of Everest
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Apr 13, 2005 17: 44 EST
EVEREST BC by Duncan Chessell -- On the Tibetan (northern) side of the mountain the CTMA have contracted Himex, led by Russell Brice (NZ), guides Duncan Chessell (AUS), Bill Crouse (USA), Dean Staples (NZ), Mark Woodroofe (NZ) and David McKinley (NZ) with 12 Tibetan and 20 Nepalese Sherpas to fix ropes from ABC (6,400m) to the summit.

Fixed rope Contract to the summit of Everest $USD 100 per person

It is likely that some previously poorly protected sections of the route will be bolted as required for safe passage. Himex will organise directly this task using mostly their own Sherpas but some from other expeditions as required.The CTMA are administering the finances with Himex NOT gaining financially from the deal.

Avoiding conflicts of the past

This is the first time that a commercial operator has been contracted to fix the entire route and will hopefully avoid the conflicts of the past. It is significant that it will allow smaller teams easier and cheaper access to the summit, without large teams having to bear the entire financial burden.

Most teams have supported the initiative and look forward to focusing on the other challenges Everest will present them.

7,200 m of Everest rope transported past maoist lines

Blue Water supplied the specially designed 7mm static (blue coloured) – all 10,000m of it! - to Kathmandu only a few days ago. The Maoist strike meant that the rope had to be transported by helicopter to the Nepal-China border, then moved by CTMA trucks to Everest BC over two days. It is expected that 7,200m of rope will be needed to fix the route safely.

Ladder on its way from Kathmandu

The rope has reached ABC 6,400m and fixing has commenced. Last season one ladder was required to provide easy access across a narrow crevasse below the North Col. This season is no exception and currently the ladder has been re-installed but another crevasse is making progress difficult to the North Col. Another ladder is on its way from Kathmandu and will be placed on 16th of April.

Ice cliffs guarding the North Col

Currently no team has made the North Col as the traverse to by-pass the crevasse is threatened by ice cliffs for longer than is prudent. At this early stage of the season this is no problem as most teams are still in Base Camp acclimatizing. Some teams Sherpas are stocking a depot half way up the North Col, awaiting a safe route up.

Nepal to follow?

If this contract system proves workable on the Northern side it is likely that a similar system could be initiated on the Nepal side next year. Having the major commercial operator responsible for the fixing makes sense as their experience, sense of urgency and level of safety would be to the highest possible standard.

In previous years, much of the rope fixing work on the North side has been done by Himex, with many expeditions free loading on the work and costs. There has been similar situations on the south side. The lack of cooperation has at times led to late climbing schedules, unsafe conditions, and even aborted summit attempts.

This year, teams on the North side have agreed to try a new system for fixing ropes from ABC to the top of the 2nd step. The total cost is US$ 30 000, and with approx. 300 climbers expected on 25 different expeditions this spring, the whole work will be covered by only US$ 100 per climber. (Sherpas pay nothing).

This is Himex’s 11th commercial season (over 100 clients to the summit to date) on the Tibet side and their first foray commercially on the South Side – led by another Everest legend Mark Phetu.

Images of the rope fixing crew, courtesy of Duncan Chessell.

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