Approximate time line
This will be Himalayan Experience's 6th expedition to Mt. Everest. Russell Brice, the expedition leader, has twice summited Everest via this route, and has participated in eight Everest trips in the past. Himalayan Experience's team of seasoned Sherpas and guides will be leading a team of eight climbers and five trekkers.
The North Ridge of Everest lays wholly within the country of Tibet. This is the route pioneered by the British in the 1920's and 30's. It was the sight of the great Mallory and Irvine epic of 1924, and was first climbed to the summit in 1974 by a team of Chinese climbers.
The North Ridge differs greatly from Nepal's South Col route. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay successfully ascended the South Col route in 1953. Since then, the South Col route has been ascended by over 800 climbers. The North Ridge has had fewer than 200 successful ascents.
Base camp (BC) will be located on the Rongbuk glacier at 5,200 meters. From here, a rocky trail leads to an Interim Camp and on to Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 6,400 meters. Luckily, most of our gear can be carried the 22 kilometers from BC to ABC by yaks.
ABC will be our base of operations for the upper mountain. This collection of tents, complete with our supplies of communication equipment, climbing gear, oxygen bottles and food, is the center of our expedition's logistical operations.
The first two thirds of the expedition will be spent organizing these and the higher camps. Teams of Sherpas and climbers will shuttle gear ever higher on the peak, establishing camps at 7,000 meters, 7,500 meters, 7,900 meters and 8,300 meters.
Fixed lines (ropes strung along the route and anchored in place) will connect the camps and lead towards the summit. The fixed lines are a critical part of the safety system we use. Heavily laden climbers use the ropes to scale the steeper slopes and weary climbers rely on them to guide their descent. Even in a storm, a climber attached to the fixed lines, can find their way to the next camp.
Once the camps are established, we can begin to dream of the summit. A combination of events are critical to a successful summit day. The weather must be perfect, light winds and clear skies. And the climbers have to be acclimatized (the process by which the body adjusts to the altitude) and healthy.
The North Ridge's primary challenge comes on summit day. The route from high camp at 8,300 meters climbs through the twisted and blocky yellow band and onto the crest of the ridge, just below the First Step. Following the ridge line, up and over the three steps and onto the summit snow slopes is an airy experience. The Second Step, a 5.8 corner system, is ascended via a ladder placed there by the Chinese during the first ascent in 1974. Traversing the ridge, you are treated to spectacular views of the Kangshung face, which dives for over 3000 meters beneath your crampons.
The final climb to the summit takes you up a classic pyramid of snow, slowly flattening at the top. The summit ridge undulates towards the South Summit and the route rising from the South Col. We are all hoping to snap photos of ourselves, with this view behind us.
Here's a little background on The Team which will be making this climb:
Russell Brice (expedition leader): Owner of Himalayan Experience and Chamonix Experience guide services. A New Zealander living in Chamonix, France, Russell is a U.I.A.G.M. certified guide, with over 25 years of professional experience.
Highlights include 9 seasons on Everest, twice to the top via the North Ridge. Speed records on the Southwest Ridge of Ama Dablam and the Tichy route on Cho Oyu. He has participated in over 35 Himalayan expeditions. Russell is a founding member of IGO8000, a professional organization which is working to improve the quality of commercial expeditions to the world's highest peaks. While not guiding, he devotes himself to organizing the logistics of extreme balloon trips (ballooning over Everest, the circumnavigation of the globe, and a trip to the stratosphere).
Andy Lapkass (Breckenridge, CO): Andy has been climbing in the Himalaya since 1984, with over 27 expeditions in Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal. He has summited Everest twice, both via the South Col (1990 & 1999). Other summits include: Lhotse, Nuptse, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam & Pumori. He has 15 years of experience as a guide. Andy is also a physician's assistant, providing valuable medical training to the team.
Chris Warner (Ellicott City): Owner of Earth Treks Climbing Center and an A.M.G.A. certified Alpine Guide. Chris has guided over 60 international expeditions. Highlights include new routes on Ama Dablam and Shivling and ascents of Cho Oyu and over one hundred 6,000 meter peaks.
Mark Whetu (Queenstown, New Zealand): Owner of Mountain Works, a guide service and gear shop on the South Island. Mark has climbed over two dozen peaks in the Himalaya. He has twice summited Everest via the North Ridge. Other highlights include: Cho Oyu, Shishapangma (twice), and Island Peak (five times). Mark is a very accomplished high-altitude cinematographer and will be filming the expedition.
Jean Clemenson (Argentiere, France): Jean is a certified U.I.A.G.M. guide who has been climbing in the Alps for over 50 years. He has put up new routes close to home and has been to the Himalayas more than 25 times. He has climbed Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam (three times), Pumori, Shishapangma, and many others. Jean is 62 years old and hopes to be the oldest to reach the summit. He has the experience to pull it off: after all, this will be his fifth expedition to Everest.
Daniel Surchat (Rome, Italy): Daniel, 41, is a mathematician. He has been on expeditions to Cho Oyu where he reached 7,800 meters. In the Alps he has climbed such classics as the North Face of Les Courtes, Ag. Argentiere, Mt. Blanc du Tacul and many others.
Tony Kelly (Surrey, England): Tony turns 45 on this expedition. By day he is an engineer but on his holidays he has journeyed to all corners of the world. He has been to 7,400 meters on Cho Oyu. In the Alps he has climbed extensively in the Chamonix region: the Viper, winter traverse of the Briethorn, etc.
Kin Man Chung (Kowloon, Hong Kong): Chung, 47, owns a handful of climbing shops in Hong Kong. He was the chief instructor of the Hong Kong Mountaineering Training Center and chairman of the Hong Kong Mountaineering Union. In the Himalaya he has been on expeditions to Mustagh Ata, Shishapangma, Changtse, Everest (twice). Further afield he has climbed Aconcagua, Elbrus, Vinson, Carstens Pyramid, McKinley and Kilimanjaro. Hopefully this year he will be able to conclude his seven summits quest with a successful climb of Everest.
Ivan Laredo-Vidal (Ecatepec, Mexico): Ivan, 32, has climbed extensively in the Himalaya. He has been on expeditions to Makalu, Lhotse, Broad Peak (summited), Cho Oyu (summited) and Everest. Last year he gave up his summit bid to allow his wife to reach the summit. This will be his second attempt on the North Ridge of Everest.
David Sullivan (Glasgow, Scotland): David, 43, is a financial manager. He reached 5,000 meters on McKinley, where his team was battered by storms. He has extensive experience in the Alps and in the Scottish Highlands. This is his first trip to the Himalaya.
Kieron MacKenzie (Saline, United Kingdom): Kieron, 40, is a managing director for Packard Bell. His climbing bio includes Island Peak (five times), Ama Dablam, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Kenya, Kilimanjaro, and Mt. Blanc.
Graham Hoyland (Chapel-en-le-Frith, England): Graham, 42, is a television director. He has been to Everest three times and has summited via the South Col in 1993. He has also climbed Himalchuli, during his 12 trips to the Himalaya. Graham has also summited Mt. McKinley.
In addition to those listed above, there are 5 folks trekking with us to base camp. Our team of Sherpas is second to none. Most of these guys have climbed to the summit of Everest two or three times. It is their power and compassion that fuels our expeditions success.