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May 1996 and the modern era of Everest Climbing

In 1996, Ang Rita Sherpa stands on the summit of Everest for the 10th time without bottled oxygen. 1996 also marks the fastest ascent via the standard North Col-north ridge-north face Route by Hans Kammerlande on May 24-th. It takes him only 16 hours 45 minutes from base camp. He descends most of the route on skis.

1996 however became known as a year of great tragedy for Everest climbing. 15 people died on Everest, including two of the most successful guides of their time, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. The events on May 10 have been widely publicized and analyzed. In the center of the discussion stand the purpose and ethics of modern day Everest mountaineering. Everest ceased to be the end of the world accessible only to handful of experts. Today, professional climbing guides enable average people who can pay for the service to fulfill their dream to stand on the highest point on Earth. As 1996 has clearly shown, the risks associated with it are still extremely high. One out of six attempts ended fatal on average. The question about the purpose of it is at the center of an ongoing debate. The only good answer is perhaps still Mallory’s famous: “Because it’s there.” At the heart of it is the desire to discover and explore and as such it is deeply human. It is the same force that drove humans to spread out of Africa and to settle around the globe. This deep desire to explore the unknown will allow us to conquer Mars and other new worlds. Whether it should be applied to endeavors that seem not to have ramification to mankind is and will always be debated.

Photographs: Bottleneck of climbers waiting to scale the Hillary Step (left centre) on May 10, 1996 (left).Climbers descend from the summit of Mount Everest on May 10, 1996, as the clouds of a storm that killed several other climbers that day gather below them (right). Source: Scott Fischer/Woodfin Camp and Associates.

Media reports: CNN

 

 

 

 

Satellite pictures showing the change in weather pattern during the day of May 10, 1996 (Source: weathergraphics.com).

Outside Magazine September 1996: "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer describes summit-day tragedy

Ed Viesturs on 1996: Turn Around, Guys!

boukreevAnatoli Boukreev was one of the high altitude guides for the commercial Mountain Madness Expedition. On May 10, 1996 he went into the storm and rescued expedition members Charlotte Fox, Tim Madsen and Sandy Hall Pitman. He had summited Everest without oxygen earlier that day. For his heroic actions, the American Alpine Club awarded him its highest honor for bravery, the David A. Sowles Memorial Award. While he was out to rescue his team members, the Mountain Madness leader Scott Fischer had collapsed on a ledge above the South Col. In "The Climb", he describes how he found Fischer: "And just around seven o'clock, five minutes past probably, I found Scott. Dark also, with a serious storm, and I saw him through the snow, again like a mirage. I saw the zipper of his down suit open, one hand without a mitten, frozen. I opened his face mask, and around the face mask it is frozen, but a different temperature, and under the mask it is like a blue color, like a big bruise. It is like not life in his face. I saw no breathing, just a clenched jaw. I lose my last hope. I can do nothing. I can do nothing. I cannot stay with him. ... And I saw his pack and I roped it around his face to keep away the birds. And with maybe four or five empty oxygen bottles around, I put them on his body to help cover. And just maybe at seven-fifteen I started to go down fast. And I understand I lose power, I lose emotion. I can't say how it was. I was very sad."

Jordan RomeroThirteen Year Old Summits Mount Everest
05/22/10
On May 22, 2010, thirteen-year-old Jordon Romero from the ski town of Big Bear, California, near the San Bernardino Mountains became the youngest climber to reach the top of Mount Everest.

The previous record holder seems to be disputed as there are two entries at in Wikipedia as. One entry claims that Ming Kipa Sherpa, a 15-year-old Nepalese schoolgirl, had climbed Mt Everest in 2003 from the same northern route via Tibet that Jordan took to circumvent the age restriction imposed by the Nepalese authorities.

Another Wikipedia entry lists Temba Tsheri Sherpa from Nepal as the previously youngest climber to summit Mount Everest on May 23, 2001, at the age of 16 years 14 days. Jordan Romero reached the summit with his dad, a paramedic, his dad's girlfriend, and three Nepalese sherpas. The young Californian has now climbed the tallest mountains on six of the world's seven continents. He summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania at age 9. The only peak left for him to climb after Everest is the Vinson Massif in Antarctica, which he is planning to summit in December.

The risks of climbing Everest were highlighted by the challenges faced by 22-year-old Bonita Norris. On May 17, she became the youngest Briton to reach the summit. Following the feat, however, she stumbled on the way down still in the dead zone. She lost the use of both legs and her feet were frozen. She was rescued by a team and carried part way down.

Another Whittaker
05/24/10
On May 24, 2010, Leif Whittaker reached the top of Mount Everest. He was following in the footsteps of his father, who was the first American to top Mount Everest, in 1963.

Apa SherpaMost Climbs
09/11/10

The person with the most conquests of Everest is currently Nepalese Apa Sherpa. He climbed Mount Everest 19 times. He had planned to scatter Edmund Hillary's ashes during his 20-th accent. However, after Buddhist lamas warned that scattering the ashes would bring bad luck, Apa Sherpa and the other Sherpas in the climbing group said the ashes instead would be kept at a monastery near Everest. Mount Everest is considered a sacred site for Buddhist Sherpas

Apa Sherpa ups his Everest record and announces retirement
05/10/11
Nepalese mountaineer Apa Sherpa brakes his own record for most climbs of Mount Everest by scaling the world’s tallest peak for the 21st time. A few days later Apa Sherpa announces his retirement from professional mountain climbing.

Premlata Aggarwal
05/20/11
On May 20, 2011, 45 year Premlata Aggarwal from Jharkhand, India became the oldest Indian woman to climb the Mount Everest as a member of the All Women Mountaineering Expedition. Premlata, started from the base camp on April 17. Along with her team she trekked Camp 2 (22,000ft) and then to Camp 3 (23,000ft) a day later where she decided to use oxygen. Camp 4 was reached on May 18. Premlata Aggarwal is a mother of two.

All
Mount Everest History/Facts
Lene Gammelgaard
Yasuko Namba, more ...
May 10, 1996: Photographs

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