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  Dutch Autumn Mt. Everest 2004: Wrap Up Dispatch

Copyright©Jim Gile American Ski Everest 2003

Report expedition leader (1)

The following occurred after which the expedition was abandoned prematurely. Marc and Mark had to leave the expedition due to physical problems and descended quickly to BC. They are by now back in the Netherlands. Ruby, Sander, Boris, Harry and Werner continued the expedition. They were in ABC. Ultimately, only Sander, Harry and Werner have climbed the steep and dangerous North Col. There was a huge amount of snow and there were pieces of 10 – 30 meters high which had to be climbed vertically. It was quite dangerous with all the loose snow. Some times we slid some distance back, when the snow let loose. The sherpa’s fixed about 800 m. of rope to secure to. With a full backpack that made it even more difficult. Under us the precipice and crevasses loomed. After a night’s sleep on the North Col (camp 1 at ca. 7000 meter) Harry and Sander descended back to ABC to pick up gear for the remainder of the climb. Werner stayed at camp 1, because he wanted to follow the sherpa’s to camp 2 at 7500 meter and the following day to camp 3 at 7900 meter. Unfortunately the sherpa’s suddenly stopped half way to camp 2 with the notice that there wasn’t any more rope. How could that happen? The planning had to be right. What had happened? Werner was annoyed and went back to camp 1. Climbing at that altitude without much oxygen and without a final result isn’t pleasant. Lip and tongue get sunburned because of the gasping with open mouth. The sun reflects directly into your mouth because of the snow and the air is as dry as can be. Eating becomes a painful affair. The sherpa’s also descended to camp 1.

Report expedition leader (2)

The three sherpa’s also want to descent and tell Werner they will look out for a piece of rope they left behind somewhere. If they find it they will return the next day to finish camp 2. If they won’t find it, they will return to ABC to get some rope. They didn’t return and Werner stayed in camp 1 to spend a cold night. At the same time the remainder of the team has a stiff conversation with the sherpa’s about their effort. Probably because they felt attacked, the subject of the discussion changed to safety. The most experienced sherpa (4 successful summits) announced he definitely wouldn’t climb to the summit, otherwise some people would die. He thought there was too much loose snow and the avalanche danger was too big. The previous week a sherpa almost died on the north col in an avalanche. While a sherpa was pulling a rope out of the snow, he started a avalanche, while his partner was resting 100 m lower. The first pieces of snow in his neck alarmed him. With some big jumps he reached the side of the avalanche. He crouched down and let the snow fall over him. When he tried to stand up again, he luckily surfaced from the snow. When he had been more in the middle of the avalanche, he would have been dragged along by the avalanche and died. This safety discussion had a big impact on the team members, which caused a huge decrease of motivation. Meanwhile Sander became ill, and he wouldn’t be able to continue his climbing. The following day only Harry and three sherpa’s would climb to camp 1 on the north col. There they met Werner again and they made plans for the set up of camps 2 and 3. They slept in camp 1 that night. (The third night above 7000 m for Werner).

Report expedition leader (3)

The following morning there was an intense discussion on the North Col between Harry, Werner and the three sherpa’s. Werner wasn’t present at the discussion in ABC and was highly amazed about what suddenly happened. Harry tried to find out the reality on a businesslike manner, which was wrongly interpreted by the sherpa’s. There are definitely differences in the way Nepalese and Europeans discuss. It is the task of the Europeans to adjust. We tried to persuade the sherpa’s to continue climbing so everyone could witness what it looked like above 8000 meters and then decide if it is safe. The sherpa leader reacted very heated, he threw his backpack in the snow, stepped back and announced he wouldn’t be pushed to risk his life. When we do that, he would leave with the other two to Katmandu and we would get a refund for the amount we paid for them. After some discussion this situation was calmed. They promised to work to camp 3 and make decisions about working further based on conditions. Werner wanted to descent to ABC to get some air, after three nights above 7000 meters. Besides that he didn’t have much confidence that he could finish his planning with these men. Harry planned to stay and follow the sherpa’s to camp 2 and sleep there. The following day the sherpa’s would start to fix the lines to camp 3 and make that camp.

Report expedition leader (4)

After Harry had spent a night in camp 2 at 7500 meter, he was waiting for the sherpa’s. Unfortunately they had decided to descend to ABC very early that morning, without notifying Harry. The discussion about the situation had aggravated to such extend that there was unanimously decided to end the expedition. Continuing under these circumstances wasn’t sensible. The motivation had eroded and it wouldn’t be safe to continue. Only, it was forgotten that unanimously means that all team members had to agree. Harry was still descending to ABC from camp 2 and couldn’t give his opinion yet. A big mistake, which would lead to a fierce discussion. Luckily we were able to talk this out. Still, there will be some discontent with some team members for some time. The expedition had ended for two climbers, without them being able to finish their planning. Anyway, they were taken the opportunity to continue climbing. The sherpa’s would pull down camp 1 and 2 and get all the gear down. We were highly amazed about what happened then. The three sherpa’s climbed in an enormous pace to camp 2 and 1 and got everything down at once. They were carrying packs of 40 or 50 kg!! We never saw them working this hard. What was going on? In Katmandu we had a stiff conversation with our agency. They told us the sherpa’s wanted to see huge amounts of money to summit under those heavy conditions. Commercial expeditions would offer them thousands of dollars for those conditions. With our good behavior we thought more of ethics than money. Offering money to risk the life of a sherpa did not occur to us. We felt deceived when we found this out when we arrived in Katmandu.

Report expedition leader (5)

After the descent we arrived at BC. There we found out that several of our belongings were stolen. The chef suggested this was the work of a yak driver of a trekking group. After the expedition broke up, we couldn’t take much more. Werner liked to point the aggression he had build up to this yak driver. This man wasn’t easy to find though. Werner then went to the priest of the Rongbuk monastery. That man was supposed to be the boss over all the yak drivers. Werner told him to make sure he got his gear back or he would go to the police. At the same time Werner told him he had great respect for the Tibetan people and that was the reason he was there before going to the authorities. The monk could appreciate this. This visit didn’t have much effect though. Everybody covers each others back. On the way back we handed a list over to the police with all the stuff that was stolen. We reacted this way because our trekking agency in Kathmandu will cut the costs on the salary of the cooks. They really don’t have a big income, so that is a pity.

Report expedition leader (6)

We all went to a lot and gained a lot of new experiences. Of course it is a pity when one doesn’t reach a goal, but the process is important as well, if not even more important. One should be aware of that. There is a certain amount of danger connected to climbing the highest mountain in the world. We are still alive. That is most important. It could have ended differently. There are many corpses on Everest. On behalf of the expedition team I would like to thank everybody for their support and interest.

Translation By Laurent Zuijdwijk


Few expeditions are successful in Autumn on Everest as compared with the success in the Spring. See here for a classic Autumn expedition reports: Autumn Everest 2002

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