First Teams Summit as Everest Season Begins

Sean Markey
National Geographic News
May 20, 2003

Seven mountaineers reached the pinnacle of Mount Everest today, the first to summit the world's highest mountain this climbing season.

The first group of five climbers reached the summit at 8:15 a.m. local time, according to news reports on the Indian Express and Explorersweb Internet sites.

The five climbers—Sherpas Pemba Bhiring Sherpa, Pemba Tengin Sherpa, and Da Dandi Sherpa, together with Frenchman Philippe Grenier and Hiroyuki Okochi, of Japan—summitted via Everest's North Ridge from the Tibetan side of the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) mountain.

The successful summit followed days of severe winds on the mountain.

Two Sherpa climbers, Danuru Sherpa and Phy Nuru Sherpa, from the American-sponsored International Mountain Guides Expedition also reached the summit today, according to a dispatch from expedition leader Eric Simonson on the Web site.

The summit push comes just nine days shy of the 50th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's historic first ascent of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

Hoopla surrounding the 50-year anniversary of the duo's epic climb has drawn dozens of expeditions to the mountain this spring, the first of two climbing seasons each year.

Since 1975, more than 1,200 climbers from 69 countries have summitted the world's highest mountain. This year, expedition teams vying for the summit represent nationalities throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, among others.

Teams attempting the summit from the Nepalese side of the mountain converge at Everest Base Camp. At 17,600 feet (5,364 meters), the staging ground resembles a small, albeit high-altitude, tent city complete with a medical clinic, crude bar, and Internet café. The base camp even hosted its first marathon on Sunday.

Severe Winds

Severe winds and cloudy conditions in recent days have hampered previous summit attempts, according to expedition team Web site dispatches.

Last week, American climber Jess Roskelley, son of veteran climber John Roskelley, reported on wind speeds between 60 and 80 miles per hour (100 to 130 kilometers). Wind gusts tore tents from their moorings and forced his team to retreat to lower elevations, he wrote.

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