Lost pictures of the West Ridge of Everest 

Lost pictures of the West Ridge of Everest

Many will note it is Everest Season just now and the usual media is full of the stars and the annual pilgrimage to the highest mountain in the World. I was very lucky to go to Everest from Tibet in 2001 on the RAF Mountain Rescue Expedition. We had a great trip and it was successful with Dan Carrol and Rusty Bale getting to the summit! It was a none guided group of 12 pals and 6 Sherpas and one of the best trips of my life. It was successful as no one on our trip got hurt and we even helped in a couple of incidents. Most of all we all came back pals and uninjured. Sadly whilst on the mountain on our side of it there were 3 fatalities to other expeditions!

It was an incredible experience and as Base Camp Manager I had an wonderful time! At the end I was left with our 6 Sherpas at ABC at 21300 feet and helped them clear the mountain ! A big storm had come in it was at the end of the season and all the expeditions had left. It was just me and the Sherpas at Advanced Base Camp as we had 3 troops trying a last summit attempt but the weather defeated them. They headed down and I was alone with the Sherpas for 6 days at ABC . It was a wonderful time  but so busy and I got to the the North Col 23000 ft  as the Sherpas brought down so much rubbish and empty oxygen cylinders. The ropes were frayed and gone in places and yet the Sherpas carried so much gear of the mountain that had been dumped on this great Goddess of the snow. Our Sirdar Mingma was crazy when he saw me at the North Col and  was worried about me as I was alone. We had a laugh and he let me take some of the Oxygen bottles down to the camp. It was pretty scary but not to the Sherpas and out cook boy was even up at 8000 metres  helping what people.

There was no one else on the mountain s everyone had left and I was the last European high up, what a privileged! It was a feeling I will never forget I also left some dried flowers for Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker  who had died on the North East Ridge and I had  a wander up to that huge ridge.

My daily view from ABC of the ridge where Pete and Joe went missing.

2001 everest view tent

The Sherpas and I took an extra day to clean the mess left by other expeditions it was a tragedy as the snow melted what a mess! Winter had come early and all the other expeditions left in a hurry snow covering all the mess at the time. Then it thawed and what was left had to be cleaned up myself and our Sherpas took most of it down by Yaks!

Our Sherpas and cook and cook boy what great folk who looked after me and our team so well.

Tibet ABC Sherpas

It cost us an extra 500 dollars to get the rubbish moved  and was worth every penny. We were trying to leave this stunning place as it should be and Mingma and the Sherpas were so upset by the rubbish left. There can be no fires up here as this is a sacred place and many just use this as an excuse and with the poor weather meant after a long trip climbers want to get home. There is an environmental levy but at the end of the season in 2001 no one seemed to care. As normal there was no one there to Police it.

2001 Everest ABC Rubbish

On the trip whilst the team was aclimbitising I went into the West Ridge where friends had tried to climb the mountain in 1988. One of my best friend Al MacLeod was on the summit push which failed in the Hornbein Couloir with Dave Nicholls. It was Al  (who later died on the Matterhorn North Face) who said we should go to Everest and that we could with luck get a purely Mountain Rescue Team on the summit. His expedition in 1988 was a huge trip on a Joint Services Trip. Al was the lowest rank there and Dave was a Captain who later became a Brigadier and in charge of the Marines in later years was a superb man. Sadly he passed away just after he retired as a young 57 year old. I had met him at Al’s funeral and in the Falklands where he was the main man in charge and was very kind to me. Al though the world of him so he must have been some man.

Cleaning up Base Camp on the last day. Take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints?

2001 everest clean up

The American ascent of Everest by the West Ridge wholly deserves the comment made by Charles Wylie, a member of the 1953 British expedition – ” the most remarkable feat I have heard of in high-altitude mountaineering.” It was remarkable in three respects. The American pair, Unsoeld and Hornbein, achieved a major climb by what was undoubtedly a very difficult route which no previous party had explored at all. In 1953, the British party stood on the shoulders of the Swiss party of 1952, and the Swiss to some extent on Shipton’s reconnaissance of the Khumbu Icefall in 1951. The Americans were on virgin ground for more than 9,000 feet. Second, these two made the first traverse of a great Himalayan peak, ascending on one side and descending another. Third, two American parties reached the summit on one day by different routes. A wonderful day!

It is not surprising that the West Ridge has hardly been considered in the past. It requires a longer high-level effort than any other approach. From the South Col, the rise is about 3,000 feet in one mile; from the North Col, the jumping-off point of the pre-war British parties and of the Chinese, it is 6,000 feet in two miles; from the Khumbu La, where the West Ridge begins, more than 9,000 feet in more than three miles. The middle section of the ridge seems to be gently inclined, but the upper part to be rocky and steep. (The climbers ran out of pitons.) Ever since the Nepal approach was open, climbers have concentrated on the Khumbu icefall and the South Col. Yet, oddly enough, the Khumbu La was the first of the possible jumping-off places reached by man. Mallory got there in the first reconnaissance in 1921, but in thick mist, and could see nothing beyond. From lower down, he had enjoyed good views of the North Ridge, and its obvious approach attracted all subsequent parties on that side. If he had reached the pass on a clear day, would the West Ridge have received earlier attention? In 1955 a party led by Norman Dyhrenfurth, leader of this year’s expedition, reached the Khumbu La from the south side. The idea of a West Ridge route may have sprung from that visit.


  Green line Standard route from north, mainly identical with Mallory’s route in 1924; high camps on c.7700 m and 8300 m (indicated by two triangles), present day camp on 8300 m is located a bit further west.
  Navy blue line Zakharov Couloir.
  Light blue line Messner’s traverse from north ridge to Norton Couloir in 1980 (“Everest Solo by Fair Means”) w/o O2.
  Red line Great Couloir or Norton Couloir.
  Purple line Complete northeast ridge with Three Pinnacles; Japanese route to the top. Climbed before by Russell Brice & Comp., but only the purple-marked part of the ridge, without going to the summit; descent via standard route.
  Yellow line and

Dark blue line

American 1963, “The West Ridge”.
  Orange line Yugoslavian route, 1979.
  Dark blue line Hornbein Couloir.
1 Resting place of Mallory’s body, discovered in 1999 (graveyard with more than 15 bodies, according to Conrad Anker).

2001 Everest base shed

I went into the glacier on my own away from the main route to the North Ridge and  spent two separate trips in this wild place. I met only two others on this side of the mountain. Two Americans on an Alpine attempt on the North Face, how small they looked and sadly they never made the summit. It was an incredible place so wild and untouched away from the crowds and to see the West Ridge was stunning. I took lots of photos and even found a couple of campsites as this was the way the earliest Expedition in 1921 with Mallory had gone when they were trying to find a route to the North Ridge. What would have happend if they had gone this way. As you can imagine I took so many photos as this was a unique place to be and all photos were pulled as we had a photo sponsor Peak Imiging who did us so well with our photos after the trip. Sadly in the return and all the hustle and bustle my photos were not there when we got the Team photos back and over the years I had forgotten about them. Then the other day I was clearing out some stuff and found my diary on the trip.

2001 Good Everest Sunset

I recently emailed them but have little chance of finding any as it was 2001 amazingly 17 years ago but you never know. I live in hope.

My last view of the huge massive of Everest The official Nepalese name for Mount Everest is Sagarmatha which means ‘Mother of the Universe’. Tibetan Name: The official Tibetan name for Mount Everest is Qomolangma or. Chomolungma which means ‘Goddess Mother of the World’.

2001 everest wander to ABC - Copy

Yet I will never forget that trip the amazing trip, our shed, the Sherpas and my lone walk down for ABC to Base camp in a snowstorm with limited kit ahead of the Yaks and the Sherpas. It ended with  my last look at the North Ridge and the mountain before the snow shower hit with a vengeance and hard to believe you were still high up at 20000 feet. It was a struggle all the way back, I lost the path at times in the snow, I felt very tired but at peace. We were all safe and well, we had experienced a lifetime of highs and lows in our 3 month trip.  I felt alone in this wild place I was a couple of hours ahead of the Sherpas and the Yaks  and then it was head down for a few hours into a bitter wind. I was glad to get back to Base Camp and the boys were worried about me. There was still plenty to do in the next two days before we cleared Base Camp at 17000 feet.

What a trip and even 17 years on it pulls at the heart in more ways than one.

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Enviroment, Equipment, Expeditions - Alaska - Himalayas etc, Himalayas/ Everest, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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