Weekend Summit Attempt Fails; Expedition Regroups at Base Camp

National Geographic News
May 19, 2002

The National Geographic 50th Anniversary Everest Expedition commemorates the first ascent of the world's highest mountain, by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in May 1953. It also honors the first Americans to stand on the top of the world, including Barry Bishop, in 1963.

The sons of Everest pioneers Hillary, Norgay, and Bishop—Peter Hillary, Jamling Norgay, and Brent Bishop—are helping make a documentary about the anniversary expedition that will air on the National Geographic Channel in the United States and internationally in 2003.

The National Geographic 50th Anniversary Everest Expedition is made possible in part by the generous support of American International Group, Inc. 

High winds have forced the National Geographic 50th Everest Anniversary Expedition to postpone its twin attempts to climb to the summit of the world's highest mountain.

The two teams that had been trying to climb to the top of the mountain this weekend are returning to Base Camp to wait until the wind drops, says John Bredar, executive producer for the National Geographic event.

"I got a call from Jamling late on Saturday [U.S. Eastern time] to say that he had been in radio contact with the teams and that both were on their way back to Base Camp," Bredar said. "They spent much of Saturday hunkered down waiting for the wind to die down, but it didn't and it is not expected to do so until Tuesday or Wednesday. They're on their way back down to regroup for another attempt mid to late next week."

The team trying to climb Everest via the South Col includes Peter Hillary, Dawa Sherpa, cameraman Mike Graber, and camera assistant Jim Surrette. Sound recordist Dave Ruddick, who had been part of this group, returned to Base Camp earlier after he bit into a granola bar and lost a molar. "He descended immediately because of the risk of infection," Bredar said.

Hillary, Surrette, and Graber had been suffering from the effects of an intestinal complaint, but they had recovered and were ready to make the ascent, Bredar added.

Expedition leader Pete Athans is in the group hoping to ascend to the top of Everest via the West Ridge. This group includes Brent Bishop and Liesl Clark, head of the National Geographic Television & Film unit making the documentary.

Seven high-altitude climbing Sherpas are supporting the two groups: Nima Tashi Sherpa, the Sherpa climbing leader, Da Sonan Sherpa, Da Jangbu Sherpa, A Rita Sherpa, Lakpa Gelgin Sherpa, Kami Sherpa, and Pasang Yila Sherpa. They are carrying over 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of film gear, 25 pounds (11 kilograms) of sound equipment, and spare bottles of oxygen for the film team.

Jamling Norgay is not trying to climb to the top of Everest on this expedition. He is remaining at Base Camp to coordinate communications with the climbing teams.

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