I’ll turn to other mountains, and even a bit of ancient history, gentle reader, soon. There is a lot happening on other mountains to be sure. But Everest, for many reasons, draws most of the reporting, and most of the people going for one goal or another. Now besides what seems to be an interesting mix of people, from hardened veterans of many successful climbs, to a young 17 year old (!) American woman making her first attempt (now that is cool), there are some amazing new routes being attempted this year. The coolest, in my very humble opinion, is a Kazakh team’s attempt of the Lhotse-Everest traverse. This, I think, goes back to the great Russian mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev- the villain (unfair in my view) of Jon Krakauer’s Into thin air account of the 1996 disaster. I’ve just been reading, as it happens, Above the clouds, the papers of Boukreev edited by his partner Linda Wylie. It is a great book, and between reading this and The Climb, Boukreev’s own account of 1996, he really does appear to be something other than the villain. What a talented mountaineer, who died tragically on Christmas Day in 1997 during a Winter (!) climb of Annapurna.
Anyway, this year’s attempt of the Lhotse-Everest traverse, ascending Lhotse from the western Cwm, traversing the northwest ridge, up Everest via the southeast ridge and then descending the west ridge of Everest, sure seems like the coolest thing going on!! Here is the route from the Russian mountaineering page:
Looks pretty simple, huh? Then you go to the accounts of the American ascent of the west ridge of Everest in 1963, the first American summit. There are two books, one by James Ramsey Ullman (and others), Americans on Everest. The official account of the ascent led by Norman G. Dyhrenfurth, Lippincott, 1964 , the second by Dr. Thomas Hornbein, Everest. The West Ridge, published by the Mountaineers in 1980. You look at some of the photos published in these books, and realize that this attempt by the Kazakhs is amazing. The Americans who went up the West Ridge, Thomas Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld (both phenomenal climbers by all accounts), did not descend by this route. Rumor has it that the Kazakh team is on Lhotse acclimatizing. Good luck guys. Man do I wish I could see this.
Here is another image of the West Ridge from Stipe Bogic’s site:
Are you kidding me??