Everest: The North Face in Winter
Join MountainZone.com for a rare winter attempt on Mount Everest's North Face in Winter Conditions
Sunday, December 26, 1999
"So, the end decision, while it is very disappointing, there isn't a whole lot else that we could do..."
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Through December, New Yorker Robert Anderson will attempt to climb Mount Everest via the North Face, and will report via satellite telephone on his progressor lack of it. Everest Millennium, as the expedition calls itself, hopes to reach the summit on January 1, 2000.
The British made the first attempts on the North Side of Everest in the early '20s, which was recently brought back into the spotlight with the discovery of George Mallory's body, found 75 years after his disappearance in 1924.
In 1949, Tibet was closed by the Chinese, sealing all approaches to both the North and Kangshung Faces of Mount Everest. The Chinese did not issue climbing permits for the north side of Everest until 30 years later, in 1979.
Since then, the North Side of Everest has been characterized by bold ascents, including the first and only solo ascent by Reinhold Messner in 1980 and the first ascent of the Great Couloir, climbed without oxygen by the Australians Tim McCartney-Snape and Greg Mortimer. The North Side of Everest has also seen a number of guided ascents via the North Ridge, an attractive option for some climbers as Chinese permits are less expensive than those from Nepal.
Though at least 15 people have ascended the traditional South Col route from Nepal in winter, the North Side of Everest has never been ascended during that season.
The approach to the North Face starts from a base camp at approximately 17,000 feet on the Tibetan Plateau. Jeeps are the usual mode of transport, but autumn snowstorms can block the roads and make the journey to Base Camp very difficult. This snow can also deter yaks from making the journey to Advance Base Camp, thus adding significantly to the equipment that must be shuttled up the mountain using manpower alone.
With the sun lower on the horizon and with shorter days overall, the North Face is in shadow for much of the day during the winter season. A warm day in winter will be equivalent to a exceedingly cold day in the regular climbing season. The usual population of climbers to be found at Base Camp during the normal climbing seasons will be non-existent. No one else is expected to be climbing on the mountain this winter from the north side.
Everest Millennium will arrive Base Camp 20 November, hopefully before large snowstorms. The members (Anderson and climbing Sherpas to be named later) will remain at Base Camp at 17,000 feet for one week, before moving permanently to Advance Base Camp at 18,000 feet (snow conditions permitting). From Advanced Base Camp it is approximately 10 miles to the North Face, from where they will follow the Great Couloir Route, placing two camps on route to the summit.
Peter Potterfield, MountainZone.com staff
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