Mount Everest (8850 m / 29,035 feet)
Northeast ridge - Himalaya, Tibet
Mount Everest from the Base Camp (© P. Gatta)
is the highest summit on earth. The top reaches 8850
meters. The mountain, which is part of the Himalaya range
in High Asia, is
located on the border between Nepal
. It is also known as Chomolungma
which means “Mother of the Universe” in Tibetan. Mt. Everest
is also one of the 7 summits
and Tensing Norway Sherpa
made the first
ascent from the Nepalese side on 29 may, 1953. We climbed the Northeast ridge
the Tibetan side which was climbed first in 1960 by a Chinese and Tibetan
The video of the Everest expedition
The story of our Everest expedition
April 17 - May 16: from Katmandu to Everest base camp and acclimatization
We arrived in Katmandu
on April 15 and spent two days to review the gear, food,
Apr 17-22: we flew to Lhassa
(3660 m, Tibet) then we left Lhassa
and crossed the
plateau toward Everest
Apr 23: we arrived at Everest
base camp at 5150 m / 17,000'.
Apr 24-May 16: we made a first rotation up to the North Col of Everest
at 7050 m / 23,000' to
acclimatize and carry loads.
Mt. Everest and Asia's map (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
May 17: Base Camp (5150 m /17,000 ft) - Interim camp (5750 m /19,000 ft)
24th day of the expedition. We came back from our acclimation trip to the North
Col of Everest
(7050 m / 23,000 ft) 10 days ago. Even though we train 3h a day, I am a bit
worried that those 10 days spent at the Base Camp have been too long and that we
lost part of our acclimatization. My Oxygen saturation
seems to confirm it. It was at 90% a few days ago, it is now at 86%. In fact, we planned
to leave for the summit two days ago and shoot for the middle of the good
weather window (May 21-22) but the weather forecast was still uncertain.
We are going up today, toward the Interim camp. It is a walk of 12km (7.5mi) on
the East Rongbuk
glacier. 3h30 on the moraine.
Interim camp (© P. Gatta)
Yaks are ordered to the liaison officers several days in
advance. Then he contacts the villages around to find enough Yaks to fulfill the
needs. Some villages are far away from the Everest and it can take up to 9 days
for the Yaks and their owners to join the base camp, carry the loads to the
advanced base camp and then return to their villages.
In total we have 2.5 tons of gear, food, tents, etc to carry to the advanced base camp. As each
Yak can carry around 40 kg, we needed 60 Yaks to bring everything to the advanced base camp.
Multiply that by 15 expeditions and you will have an idea of how many Yaks
travel on this trail regularly.
Our tents at Interim Camp (© P. Gatta)
Yaks on the way to Advanced Base Camp, Everest behind (© P. Gatta)
As the previous days, it is snowing in the evening. It is too cold in our tent
so we eat in the warm kitchen tent with our Tibetan cooks.
May 18: Interim camp (5750 m / 19,000 ft) - Advanced Base Camp (6450 m / 21,000 ft)
We continue our walk on the East Rongbuk glacier
on the famous "miracle
". It has been named this way by the first explorers because there is an
easy strip of stones splitting the glacier in two parts. We progress along this
strip instead of crossing 10km of glacier and crevasses.
Miracle Highway (© P. Gatta)
Panoramic view from Advanced Base Camp of Everest (© P. Gatta)
May 19: Rest day at the Advanced Base Camp (6450 m / 21,000 ft)
We stay at the advanced base camp to recover from the last two days and to review the gears
one more time. We will have to carry up food again for the North Col of Everest
Advanced Base camp, the North Col is on the
right and some clouds cover the Pinnacles.
The summit of Everest is the small pyramid visible in the right background. (©
Last check up of oxygen bottle, regulator and mask. Several regulators didn't
work properly last year so we will have to carry spare ones. One bottle weights
3.8 kg (8.3lbs), the O2 pressure inside the bottle varies from 200 to 260 bars
depending on the temperature. The autonomy in minutes = pressure x 4 / flow
setting in l/min, i.e around 4h30 at the highest flow. We won't do
the math at 8000m so we define the strategy now. We will carry two bottles each,
we will change them above the second step and use 3l/min. That will give us 9 hours of
oxygen which is not enough for the round trip camp 3 - summit - camp 3. Thus we
will have to reduce the flow each time we can.
Clothing (10 kg / 22 lbs): 2 layers for the legs, 4 layers for the body, beanie,
balaclava, 2 pairs of gloves, 1 pair of down mittens, socks, goggle, hands and
feet warmers, down suit and plastic boots.
Gear (12 kg / 26 lbs): ice axes, crampons, carabineers, jumar,
head light, knife, water, snacks, camera, rucksack and 2 oxygen bottles.
May 20: Advanced Base Camp (6450 m / 21,000 ft) - Camp 1 at North Col of Everest
(7050 m / 23,000 ft)
Last time I climbed to the North Col of Everest
I baked, so this time I leave the advanced base camp
early. Geff is sick and will not go up with us. There is no problem with the climb but speed up as we
pass below the big serac half way to the col.
Climbers on their way to the North col.
The tents are close to the large serac underneath the col. (© P. Gatta)
Kathapu Peak (7283), Lhakpa-Ri (7045m).
Trail between the Advanced Base Camp and the North Col.
Picture taken from the North Col
(© P. Gatta)
May 21: Rest day at North Col of Everest
I am not sure we needed this rest day, many teams skipped it and went straight
to camp 2. Anyway, we will stay here at 7050 m / 23,000 ft all day melting snow to
drink, eat and rest. Many climbers who summitted earlier are passing in front of our tent, we cheer and congratulate them but we
are scared to see how exhausted they are.
Our tents at the North Col. (© P. Gatta)
May 22: Camp 1 at North Col of Everest (7050 m / 23,000 ft) - Camp 2 (7700 m / 25,000 ft)
We just got a call from Duncan who is at the camp 3; he told us to be
prepared for a cold and windy day. Let's be positive, I will wear the down suit
instead of carrying it in my rucksack already full.
Climbers on the way to camp 2, the summit is on the right. (© P. Gatta)
The snow conditions are good but the wind is getting stronger as we climb up.
When we reach the camp 2 the wind is blowing at 60 km/h (37 mph). As there is no
large spot to put all tents together, they are quite spread out. I share a small
tent with Gavin. We spend a part of the day listening to the radio conversations
between the Sherpas trying to help out a climber who broke a hand in the second
The wind is blowing hard during all night. We sleep with all
the clothes on and we keep everything in the rucksack in case the tent is blown
Changtse (7583m) seen from camp 2. We can see the tents at the
North Col below. (© P. Gatta)
May 23: Camp 2 (7700 m / 25,000 ft) - Camp 3 (8300 m / 27,200 ft)
We got the last weather forecast by radio early in the morning and it is
bad. The wind will be stronger than expected, from 40 km/h (25 mph) raising to 80
km/h (50 mph), the temperature will drop to -25/-30ºC (-22ºF). We have a long
discussion between us. Finally Kirsti, Kevin and Gavin decide to go down. I decide to go with Namgyal and Nima. Jamie stays
at camp 2 to follow our climb.
We leave early to the camp 3 that we reach in 4 hours. I am not sure we should
call this place a camp, it is rather a 30º snow slope where we can pitch a few
tents. Going in and out of the tent once we had taken off the crampons is quite
Climbers on the way to camp 3 (I'm 2nd from the bottom) (© P. Gatta)
Nima in front of our tent at camp 3 (© P. Gatta)
We spend the afternoon resting, drinking and eating some snacks. At 11pm we have
all our clothes on and not an inch of skin is exposed to the wind. We have to
wear the goggle even if it is dark to protect the eyes from the frostbite. I put
2 bottles of boiling water inside my down suit. It takes a while to put crampons
on; the buckle are frozen and the metal is so cold that it sticks to the
gloves. Fortunately we covered the ice axe with soft plastic and hockey tape to
avoid this problem and to isolate the metal from the gloves. 11:30pm, we are
ready to go.
View from the steep camp 3. Only 5 mountains in the world are
higher than this camp. (© P. Gatta)
May 24: Camp 3 (8300 m / 27,200 ft) - Everest Summit (8850 m / 29,035 ft) - Everest North Col
(7050 m / 23,000 ft)
The route above camp 3. Picture taken from 8770 m on the way
down from the Everest summit (7am) (© P. Gatta)
We leave the tent at 11:30pm (on the 23rd), the wind is not too strong but it is very
cold. The first part of the climb up to the Exit Cracks
(8500 m / 28,000 ft) is
steeper and more technical than I thought. It requires ice axe and crampons
front point technique. The snow is soft and around calf deep and the trail
broken is instantly filled in with fresh snow. With the oxygen mask, the
goggle and the hood it is very hard to see, actually it is impossible to see our
It is a relief to reach the ridge
(8500 m / 28,000 ft) where we can find better snow
conditions. The flip side is that we are more exposed to the wind which doesn't
allow us to stop for any rest.
The First Step
is a short climb at large boulders (PD, II). Then the traverse
continues to the right on the narrow ridge. The second step
(8610 m / 28,250 ft) is
the hardest section of the route. The lower part consists of large boulders
(III) that I climb in a hideous style, using my knees, elbows and everything I
can. Above, a steep snow gully leads to the bottom of the famous ladder. The
first ladder was placed there by the Chinese expedition in 1960 in order to ease
the vertical slab (V+). Climbing the ladder is easy but the traverse from its
top is very exposed and technical. I have to take my oxygen mask off several
times to see more precisely where to put my feet. The fixed rope is poorly
placed; they are so low that they are useless and would not stop a fall.
Second step seen from below (previous year) (© Jamie McGuiness)
Kevin climbing down the 2nd step, reaching the top of the ladder (Jamie McGuiness)
Passing the second step
was good mentally, now it remains 2 hours to the summit
and it's easier. We change our oxygen bottle. The first one is not empty but
there are very few comfortable places to do it and we don't want to be caught by
surprise. We keep the empty bottle in our rucksack and will take them down. The
is easier (II) and shorter (10m).
4:20am, we are above the second step, note the curvature of
the Earth. (© P. Gatta)
4:30am, I am climbing the third step, 8700 m / 28,500 ft (© P.
From the top of the third step. (© P. Gatta)
Just above the third step
, 2 dead bodies lay down only few meters away from the
route. I saw several others at a lower altitude too. Two of them died only a few
days ago, some last year and others several years ago. I am shocked and sad. I
know that it is not possible to get the bodies down from this altitude but
perhaps their team mates could have buried them a bit better.
The sky becomes orange as the sun rises. We catch up the Colombian team on the
last snow slope. Then we leave the ridge
and go right to impressive North face of Everest
that we will follow for a few pitches. This face is very steep and we can see
the glacier 3500 m / 11,500 ft straight below.
Nima and me climbing the snow slope, 8770 m / 28,700 ft (© P. Gatta)
From the snow slope looking down, we can see the route following the ridge. (© P. Gatta)
We exit the North face
to the summit ridge
that we follow to the top of
. We reach it at 5:45am and stay there for 45 minutes.
Summit ridge and top of Everest.
We can see many prayer flags on the left (© P. Gatta)
Photos from the top of Mount Everest
Looking North: Base
Camp and the Tibetan plateau
(© P. Gatta)
Cho-Oyu, 8206m, 6th highest mountain (© P. Gatta)
the ridge is on the right and below we can see the impressive Kanchung
face (© P. Gatta)
South-East: the big pyramid is the Makalu, 8485m, 5th highest mountain.
Behind on the left we can see the Kangchenjunga, 8586m, 3rd highest. (©
Lhotse, 8516m, 4th highest mountain (© P. Gatta)
climber going down on the Nepalese side (© P. Gatta)
Summit of Mt. Everest.
May 24th 5:45am (© P.
Summit. I look
funny with all the gear inside my down suit (© P. Gatta)
Panoramic view from the summit. Everest Northeast ridge (left), Kangchenjunga,
Makalu and the beginning of the Lhotse ridge (right) (© P. Gatta)
6:30am, it is time to go down. Namgyal stays a bit longer to take more pictures.
No problem on the way down until the second step
. When I reach the second step
Nima and Namgyal are way behind. I start climbing down anyway and soon get
my left foot trapped in 5 or 6 old ropes.
I can't move up or down, I can't use the fixed rope either because it is badly
placed and too low. I try to stay calm, remove the mask to have a better look at
the situation, and put it back on to breath heavily before moving. I take off my
foot from the mess and move slowly to reach the top of the ladder. The full
process took me probably 15 minutes but it went well and I can continue the
From the top of the 2nd step, looking up (on the way down)
(© P. Gatta)
I do not fully trust the fixed rope and prefer to climb down rather than
rappelling. I still use a cows tail though. It takes longer but I finally reach
the camp 3 around 9am. We stay there a few minutes to melt some snow to drink,
eat a snack and I continue the descent alone. At 8000 m, mythic altitude, I stop
to take a last movie.
I reach the camp 2 around 11:30. Jamie gives me 0.5l of juice that I drink
straight. What a pleasure! Stupidly I am still carrying the water in my down
suit even though it is so cold that I can't drink it. Since we left the camp 12
hours ago, we almost didn't drink or eat. I pay the price now, being very tired
and sleepy. The wind is blowing at 80km/h (50 mph) and conditions are getting
worse so we can't stay here and have to go down quickly.
The descent to the Everest North Col
takes me almost 4h while I climbed it in 5h with a
heavy rucksack few days ago. At several occasions I seat in the snow, more or
less falling asleep. I reach the North Col at 3:30pm, we have been climbing for
16 hours, with 22 kg of gear, mainly above 8000 m in deep snow and cold weather.
That's enough for me today, I decide to sleep there and I'll continue the
descent to advanced base camp tomorrow. Finally I enjoy this last night at this nice camp now I know that
it is over.
May 25: Everest North Col (7050 m / 23,000 ft) - Advanced base camp (6450 m / 21,000 ft)
After a good night, I feel great and I am ready to go down. Jamie and I
clean up our two tents, gather all our gear and leave the camp with big rucksack
again. Just before reaching advanced base camp, Jamie realizes that
he put his camera on the ground when we took off the crampons and forgot it
there. He goes back up again to recover his camera while I am eating the first
real meal in several days. In the afternoon I pack all my gear (40 kg / 88lbs) that
will be carried down by the Yaks.
May 26: Advanced base camp (6450 m / 21,000 ft) - Base camp (5150 m / 17,000 ft)
I leave the advanced base camp and I am glad to walk down the 25 km / 15 miles along the Rongbuk
glacier for the last time. Four hours and a half later I reach the base camp, this is
the end of the walk and the climb of Everest
. It is nice to be back into a
thicker air. I spend the afternoon to pack everything and eat.
May 27-28: Base Camp (5150 m / 17,000 ft) - Zanghmu (2300 m / 7,545') - Katmandu
The travel from the base camp to Katmandu
along the Friendship highway
an adventure. Actually I wouldn't call it a highway, not even a road but
fortunately the scenery compensate for the lack of comfort. In total it takes 14
hours with a 4 wheels drive to reach Katmandu
. As far as the hotel in Zanghmu
goes, I would give it less stars than my tent in base camp, but at least there is a
wonder...called shower. The first one in weeks.
Shishapangma, 8013 m, the 14th -and last- of the 8000m summits.
Picture taken from Lalung La, 5050m, on the way to Zanghmu (© P. Gatta)
Crossing the border between China
was my last adventure. Especially
because in the rush, I forgot the Visa paper. Fortunately our representative
from the Chinese Mountaineering Association did a great job with the Chinese
immigration and spared me few years of "extended trip" in China...
The "road" to Zanghmu. (© P. Gatta)
7 Summits Challenge
is part of the 7 Summits Challenge
which consists in climbing the highest mountain of
each of the 7 continents.