| 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.
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.