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A novice climbers tale of Everest: "We covered him up with snow and he just went to sleep"
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Jun 15, 2004 21: 04 EST
Published Jun 3, 2004 15: 18 EST

Summiteers are arriving home and giving interviews to their local newspapers. One such is Andre Bredenkamp. Everest was his first eightthousander and he summited Everest on the night when several other climbers died. Andre reported a hard time. "I just wanted to sleep and for 10 or 15 minutes I lay down in the snow and slept until the Sherpa woke me up. It was a very bad season. Nine people died on the north face."

Well in fact, 6 people died on the North side (not the North Face) this year with a total 7 fatalities on Everest. On a record 300 summits this year, this number pushed the fatality rate down to 2,3% compared to the modern (past 10 years) fatality rate of 4,4%. In addition, preliminary count of climbing permits vs summiteers tells of a season of a record success ratio - up to around 70%.

This was actually an uncommonly good season on Everest, thanks to decent summit weather and improved services. Yet, even with the increased safety and infrastructure on Everest, it is interesting to see how novice climbers detail their experience. Continues Andre to his local newspaper:

"You get completely disorientated. I had to keep reminding myself I was climbing a mountain. Every step of the way I had to try to motivate myself. At that altitude I took at least 10 to 15 breaths each time I moved one foot. Those three days were hell. You'd wake up with your sleeping bag covered in snow and ice and icicles stuck to your face. Then you'd pack up your wet sleeping bag and have tea and porridge and walk all day. It took 45 minutes to climb 100m. It was absolutely awful. When we arrived at top camp we had to collect ice in a black bag and melt it in a cup on the stove. We spent several hours just melting ice to make soup and tea. It was a lot more difficult than I anticipated and we came close to death on more than one occasion."

When high altitude climbers talk about dangerous winds, they usually refer to the Jet moving in, or close to the area. This year, the jet was well off mount Everest for the second part of May allowing for many days of summits. But Andres story shows that even lower, local winds can prove dangerous to inexperienced climbers:

"On summit ridge there was a huge gust of wind and I took off backwards like Mary Poppins. I hit a rock. I fell about 13m and landed on my backpack, which probably saved my life. By that stage I lost my nerve. It would take another seven hours to do the last 200m and I knew I couldn't make it," says Andres climbing mate, Drummond who is still in pain from severe frostbite on his toes.

The climbers statement shows that Everest is Everest, no matter how easy 300 summits can seem to an outside world. The altitude is no joke. And Everest kills, regardless the experience:

On the night of Andre's ascent, three Koreans died: "One of them, fell and broke his leg. No one was able to move him or do anything. We covered him up with snow and he just went to sleep."

The Koreans were Park Moo-Taek, Chang Min and Paek Jun-Ho. Park Moo-Taek had 7, 8,000ers; and a very speedy Everest, K2, and Kangch in 1 yr 11 mo and 27 days.

It is not clear why the injured climber was covered with snow and left to die. This is not a common practice among mountaineers.

Image of C2 on Everest South Side in 1996, a deadly year on Everest.

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