Dark Summit: The Extraordinary True Story of One of the Deadliest Seasons on Everest
Virgin Books Limited, 2008, 288 pages
ISBN 0753513595, 9780753513590
topics: | adventure | mountaineering | everest
Late on the night of May 10, 1996, a twenty-eight-year-old Ladakhi named Tsewang Paljor struggled slowly down Everest's Northeast Ridge. The two teammates he'd been climbing with, Dorje Morup and Tsewang Smanla, were somewhere behind him, perhaps dead; he had not seen them for hours....
By the time the May 10 storm had cleared out, five more people had died, including commercial clients Yasuko Namba and Doug Hansen, veteran guide Andy Harris, and two expedition leaders, Scott Fischer and Rob Hall. It was a disaster of such magnitude that it would eclipse everything else happening on Everest for months, even years.
Before long a small library of firsthand accounts emerged, most notably Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb, Beck Weathers's Left for Dead, Kenneth Kamler's Doctor on Everest, and Matt Dickinson's The Other Side of Everest. The mountain hadn't seen such publicity since it had first been scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, but the new light shining down on the world's highest peak illuminated a very different place. Gone were the tweedy gentlemen climbers of yesteryear pioneering their way across a virgin landscape; this modern, commercialized Everest was overcrowded and largely unregulated, a high-altitude playground where conga lines of novice clients clogged the route, where deep-pocketed dilettantes of dubious ability were short-roped to well-compensated Sherpas and guides.
[Everest, which] had once stood as a symbol of what was best in mankind --
determination, tenacity, teamwork -- now represented something much darker: ego, hubris, greed. 6
Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, Americans: first to ascend the West ridge, May 22 1963. On the way via the Southeast ridge, Hornbein's toes went numb and in the tent he took off his boots and Unsoeld held them inside his jacket, against his belly. Hornbein offered to return the favour, but "I'm okay," said Unsoeld. Later, Unsoeld lost nine toes. first without oxygen: Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler: May 6 1978. They took only nine hours for the round-trip from the last camp; other groups take as much for just the ascent. But they were part of a large expedition. 34 Northeast Ridge and the Pinnacle route - three pinnacles above 27000 ft. 1984: Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker had died trying to climb this route. Boardman: http://www.everestnews.com/history/climbers/peterboardman.htm Tasker: http://www.bbc.co.uk/tees/voices/tasker/index.shtml 1986: Russell Brice and Harry Taylor went up to the third pinnacle without oxygen, but then were forced back. 42-44 Balloonists: had reached the highest altitudes in the late 1800s. James Glaisher, a meteorologist, and Henry Tracey Coxwell, a dentist, had gone up to 36,000 ft in Sept 5, 1862. Glaisher wrote how Coxwell noticed that "my arms hung down by my side and that my countenance was serene and placid... it struck him that I was insensible." About to succumb to the same fate, Coxwell clambered up through the basket ring to release the baloon valve. His hands were too cold to be of much use, so "he seized the cord with his teeth, and dipped his head two or three times, until the balloon took a decided turn downward." 52 from James Gleisher wiki page: His ascent on September 5, 1862 broke the world record for altitude, but he passed out around 8,800 metres before a reading could be taken. Estimates suggest that he rose to more than 9,500 metres and as much as 10,900 metres above sea-level. from http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Lighter_than_air/early_scientific_balloons/LTA7.htm Glaisher estimated that they had reached 37,000 feet (11,278 meters) or 7 miles (11.3 kilometers). Others thought it was more in the range of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), which was still higher than anyone had flown before without breathing apparatus. Paul Bert: Worked on effect of oxygen deprivation - blood oxygen levels go down w pressure - La Pression Barometrique in 1878, based on experiments on animals and humans in hypobaric chambers. Gaston Tissandier and two others - balloon expedition in 1975. Other two died when they were all knocked out and the balloon eventually crashed down. wrote: The mind and the body weaken by degrees and imperceptibly, without consciousness of it. No suffering is then experienced; on the contrary, an inner joy is felt like an irradiation from the surrounding flood of light. One becomes indifferent. One thinks no more of the perilous position or of danger. 53 Francis Younghusband: Led an army of 10K into Tibet in 1904. 9 month incursion, reached Lhasa. Younghusband's well-trained troops were armed with rifles and machine guns, confronting disorganized monks wielding hoes, swords, and flintlocks. Some accounts estimated that more than five thousand Tibetans were killed during the campaign, while the total number of British casualties was about five. 54 Younghusband was knighted, and became director of the Royal Geographic Society, and directed future expeditions to Everest. 54 Ed Viesturs, the first American to climb all fourteen 8,000 m peaks: "Getting to the top is optional; getting down is mandatory." p.59 1950: Communist China closes down access to Everest through Tibet. Serendipitously, the closure coincided with relaxed access in Nepal. 66 May 26, 1953 [A day before Hillary and Tenzing]: Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans climbed to 28,750 ft, 300 ft short of the summit. But it was already one PM and they would not have enough oxygen to last the descent if they kept going. [How fragile the spotlight of fame - a bit here and there, it would have been these two. Evans went on to lead the first climb of Kanchenjungha in 1955. Bourdillon died three years later in an accident in the Alps. [Error: Heil gives the Hilary Tenzin climb as the next day, but actually they summitted on 29 May, 3 days later.] Hillary after reaching the top: Mixed with relief was a vague sense of astonishment that I should have been the lucky one to attain the ambition of so many brave and determined climbers... It seemed difficult at first to grasp that we'd got there. I was too tired and too conscious of the long way down to safety really to feel any great elation. 66 [common to many climactic adventures - too tired and too conscious of work remaining. basis for the coinage "anticlimax"? ] Edmund Hillary wiki page: On the way back, the first person they met was Lowe, who had climbed up to meet them with hot soup: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off." —Hillary's first words to lifelong friend George Lowe after Everest's summit [Woodrow Wilson Sayre, grandson of president WW and Prof of philosophy at Tufts U., led a maverick four-man attempt on Everest by surreptitiously trekking through Nepal into Tibet in 1962. Sayre didnt have much climbing experience. They eventually reached around 25.5K ft, before calling it quits and managing to get down. Other members: Norman Hansen, 36, lawyer in Boston; Hans Peter Duttle, 24, Swiss school teacher and climbing instructor they ran into at Zermatt on their way to Everest, and Roger Hart, 21, geology student at Tufts. Sayre later made a small film (he had carried a film camera up), and wrote Four against Everest:] Deep within us I think we know that we need challenge and danger, and the risk and hurt that sometimes follow. link: http://www.k2news.com/sayre.htm --- blurb: Everest -- the highest mountain in the world and the ultimate climbing challenge. In 2006, 11 people died attempting to reach the summit, the most fatalities since 1996. But unlike 1996, 2006 saw no surprise blizzard, only the constant dangers posed by unstable ice, merciless cold, thin air and human nature. Nick Heil tells the shocking true stories of David Sharp, a young British solo climber, who was passed by 40 mountaineers as he lay dying on the slopes of the mountain, and Lincoln Hall who was left for dead yet miraculously survived, and asks: what does climbing the worlds highest peak really mean for those who take on the challenge? And how far will they go in their single-minded pursuit of the ultimate mountaineering prize?