AAI Climbing Guide Wally Berg reports from Everest
Wally Berg and Sherpas Summit Mount Everest; Rest of Team Turns Around in Bad Weather

Wally Berg
Saturday, May 24, 1997 -- 4:58pm PST
Sunday, May 25, 1997 -- 6:13am Nepal

From the Summit of Mount Everest, Wally Berg radioed Freddy Blume in Base Camp. Click below to hear that call patched through over a satellite telephone.

Click to hear the radio call from Wally Berg on the Summit of Mount Everest

[Click to read the audio transcript lower down on the page.]

Alpine Ascents guide Wally Berg reached the summit of Mount Everest, for the third time, at 6:13am on Sunday May 25, 1997 local time, followed by Tapke Sherpa, Mingma Sherpa, Ang Passang Sherpa, and Pemba Sherpa. Berg and the Sherpas had maintained a fast pace in the hope of arriving earlier to carry out experiments for measuring the mountain. (Click here for more info on the planned summit science.) Todd Burleson and the rest of the team followed not far behind.

While Berg waited on the summit for Sherpas carrying the GPS receiver to arrive, winds began to pick up Through a radio discussions with the other members, the decision was reached by Todd Burleson, Charles Corfield, Eric Simonson, and Greg Wilson, all at various locations on the southeast ridge, to abandon their summit attempts and descend immediately due to the deteriorating weather. [Click for Burleson's story of the summit attempt and decision to turn around.]

Berg and the Sherpas remained on top for 33 minutes, but were unable to perform any measurements because other Sherpas carrying the GPS receiver had not arrived yet.

Lhakpa Rita Sherpa at the South Col in '94
After spending 33 minutes on the summit, Berg and the four Sherpas could wait no longer and began their descent at 6:46am not having been able to complete any measurements without the GPS receiver. Just below the summit, they encountered Lhakpa Rita Sherpa, Tenzing Norbu Sherpa, and Nima Tashi Sherpa, still working their way toward the summit. Wally gave them permission to proceed to the top for their own personal reasons, but decided that weather conditions were not favorable to permit him to return to the summit to perform our measurement program.

Tenzing Norbu Sherpa
The three Sherpas successfully climbed to the summit where they spent a very short time, and now all climbers of the team are on their way down toward Camp IV on the South Col. [On the Sherpas' descent, Tenzing Norbu fell to his death on the traverse from the Hillary Step to the South Summit. Click to hear Todd Burleson's and Wally Berg's detailed account's of their summit bid's and the loss of Tenzing.]

Dawa Sherpa at Camp II relayed that all are descending quickly and seem healthy.

-- Freddy Blume, Everest Base Camp

Wally Berg Radios from the Summit of Mount Everest
29,028' -- May 25, 1997; 6:13am Nepal

Radio static and high winds on the summit make it difficult to understand Berg, so in the audio, everything he says is repeated by Freddy Blume talking to Berg from Base Camp. [Click to hear the audio.]

Blume's Intro: at 6:13am Wally Berg reached the summit of Everest with Tapke Sherpa. The weather is not very good up there The wind is moderate but the snow is heavy. [Berg later reported increasing winds.] It is snowing hard at Base Camp, and Todd and the others are close to the south summit trying to make a decision on whether to continue on. And Wally is trying to make a decision on what kind of work he is going to do. [The expedition was going to attempt scientific experiments from the summit. Click for more info on measuring Everest.] I am about to get Wally's voice from the summit:

If Berg hadn't been in a whiteout, he would have seen something like this clear weather summit view from 1994.
[Click for bigger image]
[Berg yelling over lots of static and wind]

Blume: Repeat, Wally. You are on the summit?

Berg: That's correct Freddy, we are on the top.

Blume: Base to Summit. Wally, how is the weather up there, and how are you?

Berg: I copy you on the way down. (Blume: That was a transmission to Todd and not a response to my question about the weather. [Burleson was having trouble getting radio contact with Base Camp but was in communication with Berg.] So that was about 6:30am that he and Todd did their radio transmission and announced that he was on his way down. That's what you just heard. )

Berg: Todd, this is kind of shitty. I don't really like it up here too much. I will talk to you again before I start descending, but I think you should probably keep going down. (Blume: what I heard when I just went outside now [the radios only work outside] was that Charles and Todd were fairly close to the South Summit. So, Todd had probably asked Wally one more time, 'well, what do you think? Should we take a shot at it?' And Wally said, 'no, keep on going down. I don't like it up here.') [Click for Burleson's story of the summit attempt and decision to turn around.]

Berg: Ok, the wind has picked up on the summit. I may try to power up the unit [GPS gear for the summit science work]. I feel ok, but I am going to be very conservative about how much time I spend.

[Berg has to take off his oxygen mask to speak into the radio and is breathing very hard.] I've got some time, I feel good, but I am going to be conservative about how much time I put into this.

Blume: You do what you feel like, Wally. Did you here from Todd? Did you hear something?

Berg: [More hard breathing.] Yes Freddy, Todd is descending with Charles. I copy that Eric is descending also. I am going find out from Todd what Greg is doing.

Blume: Ok, I'll stand by. Do you know where Charles and Todd are?

Berg: I'm going to take just a minute to relay communications. Thank you.

Blume: Stand by.

[Berg yelling over lots of static and wind]

Blume: I think he described the wind but I'm not sure that was a tough one.

Berg: Todd, I still don't copy what Greg Wilson is doing.

Ok, Base Camp, do you copy me? This is Wally. (Blume: as if there was someone else up there.)

Blume: Yes, Wally, go ahead.

Berg: Wally to Base Camp.

Blume: Go ahead, Wally. I've got you five by five. [Five-five-five is an old army code for "I hear you and am standing by."]

Berg: Ok, all of the members except myself have begun to descend. [Blume: meaning Greg Wilson has decided to turn around also.] I am going to put some time into doing some work on the summit. I'll keep you posted as to what that work is, but I am going to be very conservative about how much time I spend up here.

Berg: Myself and four Sherpas are the extent of the summiters. We have to start down now. Copy?

Blume: Yes, I do. Would you name the Sherpas, please?

Berg: Ang Pasang, Pemba, Takpe... and Mingma. Fred, I can't see very well through my oxygen mask.

Blume: Copy, Wally. Did you manage to get the GPS antenna out for any amount of time at all?

Berg: Negative. I waited at the summit station for a while, but all the necessary equipment did not arrive. I only have the antenna. I wish I had the receiver here, but we have to go.

Blume: Okay, Wally, good job, man. Have a safe trip down.

[Berg yelling over lots of static and wind]

Blume: I couldn't even understand that statement at all, but I think he said something about the wind and they really have to go, but I'm not sure.

Photos by Todd Burleson and Wally Berg

[Dispatches from Everest Index]