My 5th Continental Summit
|Elevation||29,035 feet (8,848 meters)|
|Location||Nepal and Tibet (China)|
|First Ascent||29 May 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay|
|My Ascent||May 25, 2001|
Straddling the border of Nepal and Tibet lies the highest point on Earth, Mt. Everest, my fifth continental summit. After flying into a small village called Lukla at 8,000 feet, it is nine days and about 40 miles to base camp at 17,500 feet. My team and I chose to climb the South Col route, steeped in mountaineering lore and the same way taken by Everest pioneers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
The most difficult part of the whole mountain comes right above base camp with numerous trips through the treacherous Khumbu icefall. A living beast, the icefall slides slowly down the Khumbu Valley creating an ever-changing landscape as huge chunks of ice, the size of school buses, calve off and shatter below. Zigzagging through the Icefall are dozens of deep crevasses so wide, the only way across is to lay rickety ladders across them.
Most expeditions rely on Sherpas, the local people who live in the Khumbu Valley, below Mt. Everest. The Sherpas transport team gear back and forth through the Icefall to supply higher camps. Growing up and living at extreme altitude makes them very strong high on the mountain, and they were indispensable for my expedition.
Below the top is the South Summit, separated from the true summit by a knife-edge ridge the width of a picnic table. On the right of the ridge is a 12,000-foot drop into Tibet and, on the left, a 9,000-foot drop into Nepal. Next comes the infamous Hillary Step, 50 feet of vertical rock, just 300 feet from the top.