2003 Everest North Side Expedition 
Directed by Eric Simonson • Led by Craig John 

Everest North Side Dispatches

Swayambunath Temple in Kathmandu
Sunday, May 25, 2003 • 11am pst
We are pleased to report that the North Side team have now all returned safe and sound to Kathmandu, after a 16 hour trip by jeep and truck from Rongbuk. Yahoo! Normally the trip goes faster than this, but since they had a big truckload of equipment with them, it took additional time to clear Chinese customs in Zhangmu and Nepal customs in Kodari.

Tomorrow they will complete the inventory of the gear. Items for cleaning and/or repair get sent out, while the rest is packed and stored at Great Escapes for the Cho Oyu expedition in August. All the empty oxygen cylinders will get shipped back to the USA. The team is currently scheduled to leave from Kathmandu on the 27th.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

Mount Everest
Saturday, May 24, 2003 • 7pm pst
Just a quick note -- Craig John called from Everest Rongbuk Base Camp. The whole team has successfully descended, is packing up, and will be getting ready to head out tomorrow for Kathmandu, via Nyalam and Khodari. Once in Kathmandu, they'll check in with us one more time.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

May 22, 2003 • 10:30am (Nepal Time)
Craig John called to let us know that the IMG team was doing well. Pete Certain had returned safely to ABC, and Chris Booher, Ted Wheeler and Jay White

Tibetan herders load up their yaks in Base Camp
were at the North Col and ready to descend the last leg of the climb down to ABC, where they all planned to spend the night. Mingma, Karma Rita, Panuru, Danuru and Phu Nuru had climbed back up to begin pulling down IMG's upper camps.

Yaks are en route to ABC now, and the team plans to be in Base Camp by the 24th and to arrive back in Kathmandu by the 25th or 26th. We'll send out one or two more dispatches when we have confirmation that everyone is safely back down in Base Camp, and that will wrap it up for the IMG 2003 Everest - Tibet expedition!

—Erin Simonson, IMG

Descending the First Step
May 21, 2003 • 8:30pm (Nepal Time)
Craig John gave us a call to confirm the OK status of the IMG climbers on the North Ridge of Everest. Chris Booher reached the summit, along with about a dozen other climbers from the North side (all South side climbers apparently turned back today). Our hats are off to Chris for his ability to make a very strong climb to the summit in less-than-perfect conditions.

Chris Booher, Jay White and Ted Wheeler are now at Camp 5, where they called it a night, and Pete Certain is at Camp 4. After successfully reaching the summit, IMG climber Chris Booher assisted on his descent through the Yellow Band with the evacuation of an injured climber and Craig reports that the injured climber is now back at Camp 6. Several teams are collaborating for his evacuation tomorrow.

—Erin Simonson, IMG

Everest Summit, 29,035'
May 21, 2003 • 11:30am (Nepal Time)
Chris Booher has reached the summit of Everest via the North Ridge route. He is now descending and will be met by Panuru Sherpa, who is waiting at Camp 6 in support of Chris' climb. If all goes well, they will try to reach Camp 5 before calling it a day. Ted, Jay and Karma Rita have already passed down through Camp 6 and are on their way to Camp 5. Pete and Mingma are moving down to Camp 4.

Craig also noted an incorrect earlier message. He now believes the climber with the broken leg above the First Step was a British climber, not Russian as Craig reported earlier. Russell Brice's team has several Sherpas working to rescue this climber now.

—Erin Simonson, IMG

First Step Traverse
May 21, 2003 • 9:30am (Nepal Time)
IMG leader Craig John called in to report that climbers Ted Wheeler and Jay White had reached the Mushroom Rock, and decided to abort their summit bid and return to Camp 6. The snowfall has created a fresh layer of white stuff on the route, and as Craig put it "makes very tricky climbing even trickier." Jay slipped once moving across the Traverse between First Step and Mushroom Rock and gained a higher level of appreciation for the fixed ropes on the route. Coupled with the continuing snowfall, they have decided it's just not the right day to continue climbing. We fully support their decision to save the summit for a day when everything feels right for them. They stopped to take some photos at the Mushroom Rock and are now en route to Camp 6 with Karma Rita Sherpa and Panuru Sherpa, and are all doing OK. Pete Certain and Mingma Sherpa have already begun their descent from Camp 6, and are well on their way down to Camp 5.

The Mushroom Rock
Apparently a Russian climber also slipped on the Traverse between the First Step and the Mushroom rock and broke his leg. He is now being helped down by three or four climbers, and they are now at the top of the First Step. The weather is calm, with continuing light snowfall.

Meanwhile, Chris Booher had been moving very well, was out in front of everyone on the route and already reached the Third Step. Jay and Ted left an extra oxygen bottle at the Mushroom Rock before descending, so there is plenty of O's up on the ridge for Chris. We know that Spanish and Chinese climbers are also pushing for the summit.

OK, so that's the news coming in, Craig John will call a few more times in the coming hours and we'll update you.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

The Second Step
May 21, 2003 • 6:30am (Nepal Time)
IMG leader Craig John called in to report that climbers Ted Wheeler, Jay White, Chris Booher, Karma Rita Sherpa and Panuru Sherpa were en route to the summit. The team left Camp 6 at 1am, with light snow falling, but no wind. Ted and Jay are now above the First Step approaching the Mushroom Rock along with Karma Rita and Panuru. Chris Booher was climbing ahead and has reached the Second Step. Craig estimates there are 25 or more climbing to the summit right now, including some from Chinese and Spanish teams and the Roskelleys. Pete Certain decided not to attempt the summit today and instead will descend with Mingma Sherpa. We expect more calls from Craig John in the coming hours and will update you when we get news.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

IMG Super Sherpas Danuru and Phu Nuru
Monday, May 19, 2003 • 10pm pst
IMG sherpas Danuru and Phu Nuru reached the summit at 9:40am May 20 and are now on the way down, after fixing rope on the summit ridge. This was Danuru's fourth Everest summit. This was Phu Nuru's first Everest summit. He had been to the Mushroom Rock on May 24, 2001, where he gave up his oxygen to the bivouacked Russians, and also to the South Summit with the Ford Women in 2002.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

The First Step
Monday, May 19, 2003 • 7:15pm pst
I just spoke to IMG Leader Craig John (morning of the 20th, Nepal time) on the sat phone. IMG sherpas Danuru and Phu Nuru are at the First Step, fixing rope up the summit ridge along with five other Sherpas from other teams. The weather is good and the expectation is that some of the Sherpas may summit later today after fixing the Traverse, Second Step, Third Step, and Triangular Face. The IMG climbers had a good night at Camp 5 and are getting ready to leave for Camp 6 soon.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

Camp 5
Monday, May 19 2003
IMG Leader Craig John reports that IMG Sherpas Phu Nuru and Danuru are both at Camp 6 now, and will fix the summit ridge tomorrow. IMG climbers Chris Booher, Ted Wheeler, Pete Certain, and Jay White all made it to Camp 5 OK, and are now enjoying the oxygen tanks which had been stashed there for them. They will go to Camp 6 tomorrow, according to plan. Sherpas Panuru, Mingma, and Karma Rita will join them tomorrow at Camp 6 for the summit bid the next day.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

Climbers on the way to the North Col
Sunday, May 18 2003
IMG Leader Craig John called on the sat phone to report that guide Chris Booher and non-guided climbers Ted Wheeler, Pete Certain, and Jay White went to the North Col on May 17, but were forced to hold one day, May 18 due to strong wind.

This morning, May 19 (in Tibet), the weather is good and the team is now on their way to Camp 5. They are accompanied by five Sherpas, three who will climb with them and two who go ahead to fix rope. The plan is to go to Camp 6 tomorrow, May 20, and to try for the summit on May 21.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

Climber using ropes above Camp 6
Thursday, May 15, 2003
IMG leader Craig John has emailed news of the weather forecast and the summit bid plan as it evolves. Right now, there are a few variables the IMG team is trying to work around. First, the fixed ropes are not yet in place above the high Camp (Camp 6.) A big meeting of all the expeditions was held a few days ago to agree on timing and contributions to the overall effort in order to finish the necessary final route placement. Craig reports that the usual suspects will contribute, including IMG and Russell Brice's team, as well as the Swiss and Chinese teams. Others are making token contributions, and according to Craig, the Irish, Indian and British Royal Navy teams have opted to make no contribution to this final route setting colaboration. Plans now have a team of Sherpas from the four contributing teams moving up to put in the ropes above Camp 6 and on the summit ridge on May 19th and 20th. IMG Sherpas PhuNuru and Danuru will work on this collaborative effort.

Meanwhile, Craig would like to stage our team of climbers, including IMG's Chris Booher, climbers Jay White, Pete Certain, and Ted Wheeler, and team Sherpas Panuru, Mingma, and Karma Rita, for a summit bid that will take advantage of the good weather window now forecast for the 19th-22nd while avoiding traffic jams. So, with many teams planning on summit bids for the 21st and 22nd, Craig thinks it wise to send our team up early to avoid the big crowds. We may even see our team moving right on the heels of the route-setting team, with a shot at the summit on the 20th. Craig says: "We thought and talked long and hard about waiting for the 2nd weather window which is supposed to happen around the 26th. No one wanted to take the chance of missing out on the first window in case the 2nd window didn't come or wasn't as mild as the first one."

So that's the plan for now, as always, subject to change. The summit climbers moved up to ABC yesterday to get into position. Craig John is currently at BC and will climb to ABC in a day or two. He will remain at ABC in support of the team's efforts higher up, so he'll be able to supervise and coordinate the communications, and also keep us informed of the team's progress up high. We'll let you know when we hear more from him!

—Erin Simonson, IMG

Everest Base Camp with sunrise lighting up the summit
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
This just in from the mountain this morning: "Hello everyone, just giving you a quick update on life here in Tibet. Due to the high winds on the mountain above 7,000 meters we have officially bailed on our plan for summit attempts for the 15th and 16th. Forcasts show very high winds (60-100mph) until the 22nd or so, with a small break in the weather for the 23rd to the 26th.

So once again we did the long rocky trudge back to Base Camp to rest and wait for the weather we need to make a serious attempt at the summit. Very windy year on the mountain so far! Hope all is well back home... can't wait to get back there myself."

—Chris Booher, IMG Guide

Eureka tent at Camp 5
A Eureka tent holds tough at Camp 5
Tuesday, May 6, 2003
Everest has been blasted, but IMG's Eureka! tents stand firm! We received an email from Craig John over the weekend, with a follow-up phone call last night our time, or Tuesday morning, Rongbuk time. The wind on Everest has been devastating, but IMG has fared better than about 95% of the other teams on the north side of the hill, no tents lost!

Craig says that the Sherpa team came down from ABC to BC over the weekend, having now put everything in place up high for the summit bids. This was just before the big winds hit, so who knows what remains in place at Camp 6. Winds were estimated in the, well, let's just say horribly high winds up there, triple digit speeds. Our 5th-Season Eureka! tent at Camp 5 is full of O2 bottles, so it's not going anywhere. The Eureka! tents at the North Col and ABC seem to be weathering the storm too. Not much relief anywhere, not even at Base Camp. After his dust-dry comment about "what a lovely day it is at Rongbuk" Craig noted that the team is staying busy by spending a lot of time redoing the guy lines on all the BC tents, wearing protective goggles and face masks all the while.
Camp 5
Tents are tied down with netting against winds at Camp 5. The N. Col is visible below.
We are one of the few teams that haven't had sleeping or group tents flattened even at Base Camp. "Stronger and longer than I've ever seen down here" was how Craig summed up the wind, and Craig's been there plenty of times, so he's seen that place at it's worst before.

Craig reports the nearby Spanish team lost all their BC tents in one "vicious gust." Everyone camped out "in the middle of the gravel pit" is having a pretty hard time, so Craig again appreciates the strategic location of IMG's Rongbuk base camp, tucked way up the valley and against the side of the hill, and the super performance we get from Eureka! tents year after year. He sees big dust storms brewing down the valley toward many of the other teams, but everyone is staying holed up and out of the constant grit blast, so there's not a lot of socializing taking place. With logistics in place for summit bids, Craig says spirits are high for the most part, despite the wind having a say with everyone. No one is moving an inch right now, and the current forecast is for more of the same for a few more days, at least. The plan is for all climbers and Sherpas to head back up to ABC on Friday, when the winds are predicted to diminish, with a summit bid possible by the 15th-16th of May. That's it for now.

—Erin Simonson, IMG

Thursday, May 1, 2003
ABC Trek and N. Col Climb
Eric Simonson arrived home in Tacoma, WA yesterday after leading IMG's 2003 Everest - Tibet ABC trek and North Col climb teams, with the assistance of IMG guides Mark Tucker, Chris Booher and Mike Hamill. Everyone except Chris should be home now unless they planned on extended travel (for example, Mark Tucker was last seen heading for the Thai surfing beaches.)

IMG 2003 Everest North Side Team

Eric mentioned some special events in Kathmandu before departure, including a chance encounter with climbing legends Jim Whittaker and Gombu Sherpa at the Radisson Hotel in Kathmandu. Jim, his family, and Gombu were preparing for a trek up to BC on the Nepal side to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Jim's success as the first American to summit Everest. Eric, Chris, Mark and Mike now have their hats off to the entire IMG group. Before falling into a jet-lagged heap on the couch, Eric said: "This group was one of the best ever for me. Everyone was prepared for the trip, had the right mental attitude about the journey, and all were pleasant to spend a month with. As an added bonus, by and large the team did quite well, with everyone reaching Base Camp, and many reaching their objectives at ABC or the Col. It was a good, fun, strong team!" Congrats and many thanks to Barry Baker, Morgan Batt, Gail Bredis, David Ferriera, Thom Gerst, Terry Holt, Garry Phillips, Ralph Quade, John Steffa, Nancy Steffa, Margaret Watkins, Laura Dozier, Jay Leppanen, Seiji Ohashi, Matt Sant, and Lisa Trotter!

8000m Climb
IMG leader Craig John phoned from Base Camp on Tuesday, April 29th. Nacho Piedra was leaving Kathmandu that day. He had been up at ABC with Craig and Chris and made an attempt on the Col but turned around before reaching the top, and they returned to ABC for another possible try the next day. Next day, "OK, ready to go home now!" Craig said Nacho did a great job on the trip. Eric saw Nacho in Kathmandu and said he was in good spirits and happy for the experience but tired and ready to go home and eat some good Spanish food! Sounds like Dal Baht (the traditional lentils and rice meal preferred by the Sherpa cooks) wasn't Nacho's favorite ethnic meal. I'll recommend Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to Nacho for next time. I was able to gobble those down at 21,000ft. when everything else tasted like cardboard.

Summit Climb
base camp
The North Col
So now it's just Ted, Jay and Pete in the hunt for the summit, with Craig and Chris looking on. Everyone is down at BC resting. Jay, Ted and Pete spent two nights sleeping on the Col and then made a day-climb foray up toward Camp 5 to what we call "the top of the snow" which is at about 25,000ft. Ted was moving well and had made it up and back down to the Camp at the Col, but some rough weather moved in on Jay and Pete in the afternoon and they hadn't quite made it back down to the Col when conditions eroded. They all finally got settled into the tents at the Col and learned that the North ridge above the Col gets awfully blown when the wind picks up.

Chris had spent one night sleeping on the Col and then descended to ABC to wait for the others to descend. They are all ready for another acclimatization cycle, but with extremely high winds predicted for the Everest region this weekend, it is unlikely the team will attempt to move up from ABC for awhile. In fact, Everest above ABC may turn into a ghost town this weekend as everyone takes shelter from the predicted storm. When it passes, the climbers will have to see what the upper camps look like (if the tents are still there!) and how much of a setback the winds created. The timing on this is bad (actually, it's never good) since many teams already have quite a bit of gear and tents into Camps 4, 5 and 6, where the wind really hammers things and damage is most likely. We'll see in a few days, may not hear from Craig again until early next week!

—Erin Simonson, IMG

« May Dispatches • April Dispatches • Team Intro »

© 1998-2003 International Mountain Guides; All Rights Reserved.