Everest Snowboarders Post Attempt Report
18:28 p.m. EDT Aug 31, 2003
Yesterday, the American Snowboard Expedition safely returned to ABC relieved that “Chomolungma was indeed watching out for us.” On Friday, the team began its approach to the Japanese Couloir. Their plan was to make a fast, alpine-style ascent to the summit. They carried with them a two day supply of food and fuel along with their skis and snowboard, but no tent or sleeping bags.
Conditions were extremely messy. Stephen, Jimmy, Lakpa and Kami climbed during the night. Misty, warm weather created a dense fog and soggy conditions through which they navigated for six hours, reaching a height of over 20,000 feet. Then things went from bad to worse. Writes Jimmy:
“Lakpa yelled as he fell up to his armpits in the crevasse. Stephen held the fall. It was 1 am and we had been post holing up to our knees through glit (half glue and half shit) for 6 hours at over 20,000ft trying to navigate the approach to the face through dense fog.
When we finally pulled Lakpa out, we threw our packs down to rest. The night was misty and warm with light snowfall. The conditions were not ideal but we had been determined to find our way to the base of the face and make an attempt. We had received forecasts for good weather for the upcoming days and the face had been stabilizing for several days without any serious precipitation. The delicate balance for the right conditions and limited windows of opportunity pushed us on despite the contrary signs around us.
Just as our packs hit the snow, we heard a distant rumble. Living in the hills here, one becomes accustomed to the sounds of distant avalanches and rock fall, but this sound was loud and directly above us. The rumble was quickly escalating into a deafening roar. We had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Roped together and surrounded by crevasses, we stood in the dark silently staring towards the invisible freight train.
We saw the massive cloud in our headlamps a few seconds before the air blast hit us. We had no idea how close we were to the serac fall or how big it was. We all waited for the worst. Stephen, Lakpa and Kami dove onto their packs as I was blown 25 feet away, pulled taught on the rope. My pack and several ski poles were blown several hundred feet away. We gathered our equipment as the mist swirled around us. After a short discussion (about 10 seconds) we decided to wait for another day. Several hours of slogging later, we were back at camp 1, greeted, as always, with a warm smile and hug from Eric.”
After their return to ABC yesterday, it started to rain which quickly gave way to snow. The team awoke to 8cm of new snow and reported that over 35 cm had fallen at Camp I. Reassured that they’d made the right decision to turn around on Friday, Stephen wrote, “I can only imagine how difficult and dangerous it would have been on the face had we been up at 7,800 meters with no tent, sleeping bags and food and fuel for only 2 days.”
All will wait awhile to see if conditions change and provide a new opportunity for the ascent. They hope that next week’s moon brings freezing temperatures with it. In the meantime, be sure to check out the photos and all the details in their latest dispatches linked below.
Image of Snowboarding Expeditions intended route: Japanese Couloir – Hornbein Couloir courtesy of Stephen Koch.