Spanish Expedition to West Ridge, 1982 (by Lluis Belvis)

THE PERMIT for the West ridge of Everest was obtained in spring 1981 and after then the group worked permanently so as to have all the equipment and food ready by early April 1982.

20 tons was the total weight which was packed in four big wooden containers and sent by road to Venice where it was loaded on a vessel leaving for Calcutta.

On arrival there, two members were already waiting for it and sent it further on two trucks to Kathmandu. Just before the monsoon rains started, they were able to transport the whole lot to Lukla by plane. It was further transported to Namche Bazar where it was stored at our Sirdar's house till our arrival in August.

All the 17 members of the expedition together with one TV-cameraman and one journalist left Barcelona by plane on 17 July 1982, reaching Kathmandu three days later.

Five days in Kathmandu to solve all the necessary permits and to by fresh food and kitchenware. On 25 July we leave Kathmandu on a bus and going through Lamosangu we drive to Muldi. We need three days to find the necessary porters to carry all our gear and food to Namche Bazar.

We make the approach march during the monsoon season and although we have occasional heavy rains at night, the weather is rather mild and dry. On 8 August we reach Namche Bazar where we find all our equipment left in June.

We hire 180 yaks that will carry it to base camp. A first group of members reach base camp on 1.1 August and the rest on the 14th. The altitude is 5350 m. We are on the Khumbu glacier, very near the base of the Lho la and where the Khumbu icefall starts.

We make a first reconnaissance and start fixing ropes up the spur that leads to the Lho la. The last 250 m are very steep and it is necessary to fix ladders as well as ropes. We follow the route opened by the Yugoslavs in 1979.

The following days we build a telepheric which links a small platform at 5800 m and the Lho la (col) at 6050 m, in a single length of cable. This telepheric has a carrying cable of 5 mm and a traction cable of 4 mm, a metal tower 3 m high and a winch attached to it. The system works perfectly and it is a very big help to our expedition. Our Sherpas carry the loads to the platform at 5800 m. Some members and Sherpas are placed on the Lho la. They by using the winch bring up the 30 kg loads one by one. In this way we carried about 5000 kg of food, gas, and equipment to Lho la.

Api, the route of British attempt, 1982.

14. Api, the route of British attempt, 1982. Article 11

Camp 2 on Api.

15. Camp 2 on Api. Article 11

Trips between base camp and Camp 1 and vice versa keep going on all the time. On 28 August we have a first group of members and Sherpas staying in Camp 1 at 6050 m.

On 7 September, early in the morning we hear the terrific noise of an avalanche. Many of us remember it but we don't take too much notice as we are used to avalanches falling continuously nearby. However this one was going to have a special influence on our expedition. A huge rock tower had crumbled and had destroyed the whole final route to the Lho la. The last 200 m of ropes and ladders had disappeared and loose rocks kept falling during the following two months.

We woke up that morning of the 7th with a group of members and Sherpas in Camp 1 and the rest of us in base camp but without possibility of reaching each other for the moment. Fortunately nobody had been injured. This was really amazing as during the previous days we kept going up and down this difficult part of the mountain.

Although our telepheric was not damaged by the avalanche and we kept providing food and equipment to our friends up in Camp 1, we were in a hurry to find a new route to reach Lho la again. We finally discovered a new way to the right of the Yugoslav route, rather close to the seracs of Lho la col, but actually easier, more logical and quicker than the original one.

We spent the beginning of September to consolidate our Camp 1, build a large ice-cave and make our first reconnaissance to Camp 2. On the 15th we reach the site at 6750 m and on the 17th we have 3 tents and some members staying there. The route from Camp 1 to Camp 2 is rather steep at the beginning and we use some elektron ladders to climb an iced rock-wall.

On 21 September we established Camp 3 at 7150 m, very close to the top of the West Shoulder. We fix ropes all the way so that our Sherpas and members can go up and down on their own at any moment.

The following days it snows and the wind blows and makes progress slow and difficult. On 27 September, radio communication from Camp 2 informs us of very sad news. Our Sherpa Lhakpa Tsering died of a stomach perforation suddenly in the morning. This stops our progress as we take him down to base camp and further to Lukla to cremate him following the Buddhist ritual.

Camp 4 must be established at the end of the very long West Ridge (2.5 km!) and although we only have to climb 400 m, this stretch is very long and tiresome. Finally on 6 October with good weather again four members sleep for the first time in Camp 4 at 7500 m.

Camp 5 takes longer to establish but on 11 October we reach 8100 m and we decide to cut a small platform in the snow at the edge of a couloir and put a tent. During the following two days this high camp, the last one, is equipped with food, oxygen, ropes and sleeping-bags in preparation for the final attack.

On the 13th, two members, Oscar Cadiach and Xavi Gil together with Sherpa Nima Dorje, climb to Camp 5 and stay there for the night. They are the first team to try the summit. They get up at midnight and during the next 2 hours they get ready for the start. However the temperature is so low (around — 45°C) that their batteries are flattened and without their torches they must wait till 4 a.m., at daybreak, before they can start climbing. All their cameras, film camera and radio, are frozen and out of use. The wind is strong and although they use oxygen, their progress is very slow and difficult. They are heavily loaded with two oxygen bottles and the necessary gear. At midday they reach an altitude of 8500 m but the wind is so violent and the cold so biting that they realize they cannot reach the summit that same day and decide to turn back.

The wind blows the snow up the mountain and makes conditions more difficult and dangerous. While Oscar and Xavi make a snow-hole at 8500 m in which to leave their oxygen bottles and ropes Nima Dorje starts the descent. Moments later they too start going down. Out of sight of our two top climbers but while other members in Camp 1 were watching with binoculars, suddenly Nima Dorje slipped and started a huge 2500 m fall down the north side of the mountain that brought him to his death on the Kongbuk glacier.

Wind kept blowing the following days and it was finally decided to abandon a second attack.

The expedition left base camp on 23 October with 2 ft of fresh snow, reached Kathmandu on 2 November and Barcelona on the 9th.


Canadians on Everest, 1982 (by Bill March)

The expedition left Calgary on 17 July and after many adventures including a three-day layover in Bangkok, managed to arrive in Kathmandu minus the base camp cook who was interned at Bangkok airport because of an outdated passport. Since the majority of our equipment and supplies had been sent in during the pre-monsoon period for storage at Kunde and Pheriche, a few days' march from base camp, there were, few formalities in Kathmandu. Peter Spear and Dave McNab were dispatched ahead of the main group to organize the setting up of base camp and the movement of gear. Alan Burgess and Roger Marshall who had been in Nepal had also gone ahead saying they would meet us at Namche Bazar. The remainder of the team enjoyed a pleasant walk-in, with relatively good weather for the monsoon. The exceptions were Jim Elzinga who injured his knee and remained in Kathmandu, and Laurie Skreslet and Steve Bezruchka who would catch up with us later.

At Namche Bazar, Roger Marshall left the team after some discussion with the leader regarding a breach of his climber's contract. Meanwhile, Jim Elzinga had managed to arrange a helicopter ride to Phakding, below Namche. He struggled up to Namche Bazar with a walking cast, hired a yak and rode it western style to rendezvous with Peter and Dave at base camp. This was a valiant effort, since as equipment co-ordinator, he was required to issue clothing and gear to the Sherpas at base camp by 20 August. By 15 August the team, apart from Steve Bezruchka and Laurie Skreslet, were in base camp and busy preparing for the first big problem, the icefall.

Dave McNab and Peter Spear had made a few exploratory probes on the icefall and this provided much helpful information. We had permission to work on the icefall and carry to Camp 1 between 20 August and the official start of the climbing season, 1 September.

Three days later we had pushed through the icefall with Laurie and I having the honour of the first view up the Western Cwm. It was one of the highlights of the expedition for me. The top of the Western Cwm was split by huge crevasses and it took two more days of fixing and bridging before Jim Elzinga reached Camp 1 on 22 August. By 30 August we had 120 loads at Camp 1 and everything looked really good. At 5.30 a.m., on 31 August, tragedy struck — a huge avalanche swept down the west shoulder of Everest through a barrier of ice-towers in the icefall to reach our fixed rope about 1500 ft above base camp. Three Sherpas were buried and killed by the slide. Above them Pat Morrow and Blair Griffiths were pummelled and shaken on the fixed rope by the edge of the avalanche. Below, Peter Spear and Rusty Baillie were swept away with Rusty managing to swim clear. Peter was completely buried and was dug out by Rusty. Rescue teams set out from base camp and Camp 1, and Tim Auger did a first-rate job of co-ordinating the search and rescue effort at the avalanche site. Of the three Sherpas buried — Pasang Sona, Ang Chulden and Da Dorje, only one was recovered — Pasang Sona. The body was carried to Lobuche for cremation the following day.

Leaving Lloyd Gallagher in charge of the expedition, I accompanied the body to Lobuche with the intention of meeting the relatives of the deceased Sherpas. It was an emotional experience to say the least. Whilst there, I received a cryptic note from Peter Spear informing me that Blair Griffiths, the video cameraman, had been killed in the icefall by a falling serac. There had been a major collapse of several hundred square feet leaving the fixed rope 20 ft above the climbers' heads. Dave Read and a Snerpa had fallen into a crevasse and narrowly escaped death. Rusty Baillie who was within feet of Blair when he was killed, managed to rescue Dave and the Sherpa. Blair's body was later recovered and carried to Lobuche for cremation in a simple but powerfully moving ceremony.

Needless to say, we all felt we had our backs to the wall in a hard place and I decided that we could not continue, without the team members having the opportunity to review their commitment to the climb. It was obvious that the icefall was treacherous and uncertain, and in an atmosphere of restrained emotion, 6 climbers decided to leave — Tim Auger, Rusty Baillie, James Blench, Dave McNab, Jim Elzinga and Don Serl. They were accompanied by Dave Jones, the base camp Doctor, who was having difficulty acclimatizing at base camp. This left 8 climbers and 4 support personnel at base camp together with 24 Sherpas. An agreement was negotiated with the New Zealand team climbing the west face of Lhotse to co-operate between Camps 2 and 4. Conditional on this, the Ministry of Tourism granted us permission to change our route to the South Col. At this stage I sent John Amatt back to Kath-mandu by helicopter to cover the media circus which had developed at the Everest Sheraton.

When everything was settled with Lloyd Gallagher holding the fort, I left for a 6 day trip down the valley to prepare myself for the challenge ahead. In my absence, bad weather prevailed at base camp and it was not until 16 September that Alan Burgess, Pat Morrow and Gordon Smith pushed through heavy snow to Camp 1. Lloyd Gallagher carried Alan's pack whilst Alan broke trail and cleared the ropes. I returned to base camp on the 16th and Lloyd descended for a few days R and R downvalley. There were still some loads to be taken to Camp 1, and between 17 and 20 September, I accompanied the Sherpas on three carries through the ice-fall. On the 20th I moved to Camp 1 to join Dwayne Congdon who had moved up earlier. Two days later Camp 2 was occupied by Alan, Pat and Gordon; and Lloyd and Dave Read moved up to join myself and Dwayne at Camp 1. We had 12 Sherpas plus a cook and cook boy with us and at this time it was decided unanimously to close the icefall to further traffic including maintenance work. It would be re-opened after we climbed the peak. Laurie Skreslet, who was at base camp, came through the icefall after it was closed on the understanding that it was his own decision.

The closure of the icefall brought the team closer together and everyone worked really hard over the next few weeks. There was an air of total commitment to the task in hand and it was much easier to lead the smaller team. Progress was rapid in spite of some delays caused by periods of bad weather and strong winds. Alan and the New Zealanders fixed to Camp 3 at 23,400 ft and then Dwayne and the Kiwis pushed the route just above the camp. Alan and Adrian Burgess fixed across the Lhotse face to the Yellow Band. All this was achieved working from Camp 2 and on the 28thj Pat Morrow and I occupied Camp 3. The following day we found the fixed rope across to below the bottom of the Yellow Band had been swept away by an avalanche and I repaired the damage. Pat's oxygen set was malfunctioning and he returned after fixing through the Yellow Band. I continued with Sherpas Lhakpa Dorje and Lhakpa Tshering to fix another 800 ft of rope using oxygen. On the 30th Dwayne and Gordon with two Sherpas pushed the rope further. The following two days were too windy and cold to complete the fixed ropes to the South Col and it was not until 3 October that Alan with Sundare and Lhakpa Dorje in a great effort reached the South Col. A full carry by Sherpas without oxygen from Camp 2 to the {South Col was accomplished on the 4th and Camp 4 was established and stocked for a summit attempt. Laurie and Dave Read occupied the camp with Lloyd returning from just below the South Col because of faulty oxygen equipment. There was insufficient oxygen for four people in a summit bid and Dave Read opted to remain at the South Col. On 5 October Laurie Skreslet, Sundare and Lhakpa Dorje reached the summit at 9.30 a.m. and descended to Camp 2 the same day.

On the 6th, Camp 4 was restocked for a second summit bid. No Sherpas were available to carry that day and Dwayne Congdon carried two bottles of oxygen to Camp 4 from Camp 2 returning the same day. Gordon Smith carried two bottles to within 100 ft of the traverse to the South Col whilst Camp 4 was occupied by Pat Morrow, Alan Burgess, Pema Dorje and Lhakpa Tshering. I carried a load for the New Zealanders above the Yellow Band. Next day, the 7th, the occupants of Camp 4 set off for the summit, however, Alan's oxygen equipment malfunctioned and at 27,500 ft he returned to Camp 2 having climbed without any oxygen at all. Pat and the Sherpas left Camp 4 at 5.30 a.m., summited at 11.30 a.m., descended to 4 by 2.00 p.m. and to Camp 2 by 6.30 p.m.

Both summit teams experienced good weather but we could see the signs of change and had insufficient oxygen to mount another attempt. The group was also fatigued from living continuously above 20,000 ft for almost three weeks. On the 7th, lioyd, Laurie, Dave, Dwayne plus eight Sherpas descended to base camp through a 'horror show' of an ice fall. Gordon and I and the remaining Sherpas awaited Pat and Alan's descent. On the 8th all four of us with the remaining Sherpas descended to base camp. Sherpa Pema Dorje was suffering from snow blindness caused by removing his goggles which were misting up from hot breath from his oxygen mask. Alan carried his pack and led him to Camp 1.

From there I took him through the icefall to below the dangerous traverse where I handed him over to Sherpas coming up from base camp. The feeling of relief which swept over me when I left the icefall as tail-end-Charlie, to be greeted by Lloyd with a can of beer, is impossible to describe. It was the best beer I had ever tasted.

The Final Team — Bill March, Lloyd Gallagher, Alan Burgess, Dwayne Congdon, Pat Morrow, Dave Head, Gordon Smith, Laurie Skreslet, John Amatt, Steve Bezruchka, Kurt Fuhrich, Bruce Patterson, and Peter Spear.

Technical Notes

  1. Oxygen System. Two systems of oxygen were used: diluter demand and constant flow. The former never really functioned well with the diluter demand valve freezing shut or open. All summiters used constant flow.
  2. Satellite Link. Teleglobe Canada set up an earth station providing a satellite link for voice and video direct to Canada. This functioned perfectly throughout the climb. There was a communications problem between base camp and Kathmandu, as the radio was not installed until 7 September, so accurate information from the mountain could not be transmitted until that date.
  3. Video Cameras. Over 20 hours of video were shot on the expedition using solid state Hitachi video-cameras using 1/4" tape, up to Camp 4. The extremely low temperature froze the tape machines necessary for the operation of the cameras above this height. Solar charging units were used successfully to recharge the battery power packs at base camp and Camp 2.
  4. 4. Radio Camera. A specially equipped radio video camera was flown in, and then carried through the icefall by Paul Moores, a member of the New Zealand team. It was for filming the summit push. Its total weight was 12 lb and it arrived at Camp 2 with a dead battery so was not taken higher.


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