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Look Back at Life on the Mountain : Chronicling Ups and Downs of 10 Weeks on Mt. Everest

Part 7 in a series.

November 30, 1986|SUE GILLER | Computer Programmer

In 1924, British mountaineers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared after being spotted just 900 feet below the summit of Mount Everest. For more than 60 years, climbers have argued about whether the two men reached the top before perishing. This fall an expedition went to Everest to search for the bodies of Mallory and Irvine, and for cameras they carried that might contain film proving that they did indeed conquer the world's highest mountain 29 years before the celebrated ascent of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. In periodic reports, expedition members told of the unceasing storms, bitter cold and avalanche danger that impeded their progress. A few weeks ago, after the avalanche death of an expedition Sherpa, the project was called off. In the final installment of their series, key expedition members recount the successes and disappointments of their 10 weeks on the mountain.

The hardest thing for me was waiting out the storms in October. In late September, I had gone down to Base Camp for some rest. When I got back on the mountain, I felt really fit. Having failed to reach the summit on two previous trips, I was looking forward to this ascent more than any other in my career. And I was convinced I had a good chance at finally making it.

But then came the snows and winds. For days at a time I just sat around in the camp, unable to do anything more than peer out of my tent and watch our summit chances vanish under the persistent heavy snowfalls. At one point, I read four books in five days and thought: maybe I was never meant to reach the summit of Everest. At my age there won't be many more opportunities.

I will go back to Everest one day, though. I have already applied for a permit to climb the South Col route through Nepal. I would also like to lead my own expedition. That thought came to me one day when I was walking out of base camp. Everything was in front of me, a sunny day and a new route. That's what keeps me coming back to this mountain.

Also, somewhere inside me is a strong hope I might one day become the first American woman to reach the summit.

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