Everest's North Face from base camp
Everest's North Face as seen from the Tibetan base camp (17,000ft). Advance base camp (21,500ft) is 16 miles away, below and to the left of the peak (29,028ft).
Everest Fatality Update
Avalanche Swept Through Fixed Route
Tuesday, September 9, 1997 (Everest North Face base camp)

On Monday a member of a Korean climbing expedition on the north side of Everest was swept to his death in an avalanche at 22,000 feet.

Eight members of the team were following a series of fixed ropes leading up from the advance base camp (ABC) to a higher camp on the summit ridge when the incident occurred. The unidentified climber was at the rear of the group and reportedly noticed the avalanche with only enough time to alert his companions.

Heavy snows during the previous several days had contributed to treacherous, unstable slopes on a mountain notorious for its severe conditions. Several international teams at ABC have combined their efforts in the last twenty-four hours to search for the Korean's body without success.

Nearly sixty climbers from at least eight countries are attempting to summit Mt. Everest from the north (Tibetan) side this season in addition to several teams on the south (Nepalese) side of the mountain. The expeditions face a tiny window of opportunity between the just-ending monsoon season and winter, further narrowed by expiring permits, limited supplies, and illness.

[Click here for the full report as well as other updates from Everest]

The following is an interview with Craig Calonica, who is reporting to the Mountain Zone daily as he attempts an ascent and ski descent of the North Face of Everest. He sheds more light on Monday's tragic death:

The Mountain Zone:
We were saddened to hear the news of the Korean's tragic death. Have you learned any more details about the accident? Was the team under some crunch to summit quickly for some reason — an expiring climbing permit, lack of supplies?

Craig Calonica:
The Korean team had just arrived at advance base camp the day before and it's hard to believe anyone other than Superman would dare venture far from camp at least until they had a couple days to acclimatize to the high altitude of ABC, which is at 21,500 feet (6,500 meters). The Colombian team went up first yesterday. The group consisted of two Colombians and three of their Sherpas. The Korean was between ABC and CI [camp I] and was probably at around 22,000 feet when the slide cut loose and took him away.

It is too bad, as this accident was totally unnecessary. First of all, it had been snowing for about the last five days and there was deep snow deposited on the face. No one should go even close to that face until three or four days pass so it can settle or it slides off — whichever comes first. It is no secret that this is a very dangerous section, especially in fresh snow conditions and history has proven it. This area has claimed many lives, mostly to avalanches, and going in the area too soon as was the case here. The Colombians were very lucky to get away with it this time and hopefully they and everyone else will realize why this happened and will be a bit more patient in the future.

One thing is for certain: you will never see me or my team close to that area until it has absolutely seen the proper settling time go by or it slides. Life is very short and we are very fragile and vulnerable to the conditions that exist here in the Himalayas. You will never experience a more intimidating and life threatening situation in your whole life until you come here — it is no place to practice haste.

Do you think this will feed the general feeling in the climbing community that the Koreans and other East Asian teams have been generally over-aggressive while attempting Everest?

I have always been somewhat in awe by the attitude of the Asian teams climbing in the Himalayas and on Big Walls. It almost always seems to me that they accept the fact that they might or will die and therefore climb, sometimes... at least to me, anyway, in a reckless way, without the fear you see in the most of us that makes us climb with caution, precision, and observance — it's a required element to this level of climbing if you want to be around for awhile. It's not a type of fear that makes you paranoid, it's a fear that makes you think clearly and do things right or else you suffer consequences. You will not see me climbing at this level when this type of fear doesn't exist in me any longer since it's then that the accidents will start to occur An accident in the Himalayas will usually be your last one.

Craig Colonica, cybercasting for The Mountain Zone from Everest

[Click here for the full report and other updates from Everest]

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