Fantasy Ridge lower part
THE THREE FACES OF EVEREST
A new route to the summit is a rare accomplishment and
deserves immense credit and careful analysis. In the
early Everest explorations, reconnaissance expeditions
were the norm. In 1921 George Mallory and Guy Bullock
looked for a way up Everest and these recon missions
continued until as recently as examination of the
North Wall in 2004 by the Russian Team. The Russians
took numerous photos and video from the bottom of the
mountain aided by a powerful telescope, returned home
and made their decision. Even with detailed
information they were forced to stray from their
original plans. Photos and the human eye interpret
different scenes. What appears “climbable” through a
telescope is a different perspective from what the eye
sees. The vast landscape, combined with fickle
weather, snow conditions, avalanche dangers and other
unknowns, often tricks the climber who has no figure
of human scale for comparison. The Kangshung Face
remains to this day a side difficult to access and
understand, perhaps the reason why few attempts have
While the North Face presents few logistical
challenges --a drive to Base Camp and an easy trek to
the bottom of the face -- the Kangshung Side approach
can take two weeks or more of exhausting hiking with
mind-boggling logistical difficulties. From that
"God's-eye" view, the North and Kangshung Faces are
seen as “a mountain apart”, but in fact, they are “a
world apart”! On the North Side, Tibetans ride in
land cruisers and on motor bikes to get around. In
the Kharta Valley on the Kangshung Side, few of the
natives have ever seen Westerners.
Now, a highly competent team is planning a new route
to the summit of Everest. Fantasy Ridge, to this day
is uncharted territory. No men in the world can give
specific and reliable information about this elusive
ridge. Two parties have tried it and both walked away
with only experience. Their progress on the ridge was
minor with little elevation gain, therefore their own
accounts cannot and should not serve as a reliable
source of information about Fantasy Ridge challenges.
Their failure is a direct reflection of the immense
difficulty of the climb. Not one of them has publicly
expressed a desire to return for another attempt.
Isolation and no realistic options for evacuation in
case things go wrong are but two reasons to appreciate
their decision. Unlike the Nepal side of Everest
which allows helicopter assistance for evacuation,
Tibet has no such provision. And in case of serious
injury, the trek out would likely take too much to
save one’s life. Food and fuel must be perfectly
estimated. Lack of equipment or its failure can spell
retreat for the whole expedition.
And so how can anyone estimate the length and nature
of a climb that has never been done? With no reliable
description available, how can one approximate the
nature of the climb?
In May 2005 the climbers took two days for
photographing and filming the ridge. It was critical
to see what Kangshung Side is like in late afternoon
and early morning. In the afternoon as the sun
travels over the NE Ridge, Kangshungs' side is slowly
engulfed in the shadow of the mountain, dropping
temperatures and keeping the ice and snow together. A
6 AM video shows Kangshung Face already bright with
sunshine. A minor ascent on the NE Ridge gives a
closer look at Fantasy Ridge and the Kangshung Glacier
Constant “boiling and steaming” are seen on this side
of the mountain. Clouds rush upward from Kharta
Valley, slam into the massive mountain wall only to be
pushed back by the notorious jetstream. This cycle
repeats with help from the down draft currents. The
unmistakable “plume” of Everest which stretches for
miles is seen from both the Rongbuk and South sides.
The plume is rarely absent from Everest.
Further observations of these phenomena were
necessary. The second session of filming was done
with a high resolution camera on the lower part of NE
Ridge and included both close-up and panoramic views.
When the film was studied, a fair sized avalanche
appeared in a few seconds of film. The ones filming
were unaware of the avalanche until they saw the film!
The significance of this avalanche was not that it
happened, but WHEN it happened -- early morning. How
could an avalanche occur immediately after a very cold
night? The answer? Morning sunshine. Sunrise atop
Everest in late May is just before 5 AM and minutes
later at the lower elevations. The avalanche was
observed at 7000 m which meant at least 2 or 3 hours
of morning sun had been available to loosen the snow
If this is true, it helps explain why climbers on the
South side leave as early as 1- 2 AM to hike from base
camp to camp one. Icefall The word evokes
understandable terror for climbers aware of others
crushed to death while zigzagging through the bowels
of these unpredictable precipices of ice. The slow
flowing “river” of ice is moving down by the
gravitational pull and weight of more snow and ice
accumulated on the upper parts of the mountain. With
reports that the Icefall moves as much as 4 ft a day,
traveling through it at night gives climbers extra
security from the colder temperatures, considering
that cold keeps the IIcefall "together”. This
strategy seems to work quite well and is now the
standard rule for traveling to Camp One.
On the Kangshung Side even early morning climbs cannot
offer a safety net for climbers because the sun hits
Kangshung Face first and NorthFace last. Fantasy
Ridge, also known as East Ridge, is engulfed in
sunshine in early morning presenting a dangerous
proposition to climb it while the sun is still up.
Night climbing may turn out to be the only option.
Venables wrote: “. . . We shouldn't be climbing it
after sunrise, with all that stuff above starting to
melt. Anyway is crazy to wear ourselves in the heat.”
“Yes you are insufferable once the sun comes up.”
Looking ahead to the Spring 2006 climb, the amount of
snowfall during the winter will perhaps be the
ultimate factor in determining how, where and when
climbers will travel on the slopes of Fantasy Ridge.
Since the group is small and has no intention of
descending back to the base of Fantasy Ridge, they will
travel in alpine style with just small belays where
necessary. All ropes and anchors will be removed by
the last climber.
Fantasy Ridge starts with a steep, mixed climb, a rock
and avalanche-prone slope of various degrees until its
ridge is met. Just below the 6000 m. mark the ridge
levels into an almost horizontal, awkward climb with
little elevation gain. It then continues into a broad
crevasse and avalanche-prone slope where route finding
will be almost certain to avoid dangers. Vertical
pitches were observed and some will have to be tackled
head on in order to gain elevation quickly and to ensure a fast
ascent of the ridge.
The upper part of Fantasy eases up into an even
broader slope, less steep only to end up at 7800 m.
elevation on the Northeast Ridge, still more than 1000 m.
below the crown summit of Everest! Climbers hope to
complete this ridge in 3-4 days.
We conclude that climbing on the Kangshung Side of
Everest will force climbers to consider a very
different logistical and technical style of climbing.
Isolation presents little room for mistakes and
miscalculations. Aerial evacuation is not an option.
Even land rescue is unlikely. This expedition will
rely entirely on “self-everything”, and the only life
insurance will be accuracy and speed.
Fantasy Ridge higher part
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sponsorship. In addition, access to the video/photo documentary will be
available in exchange for financial support. The expedition will report
exclusively to EverestNews.com.
POTENTIAL SPONSORS: FOR
INFORMATION ABOUT THE MEMBERS
OF THE TEAM AND DETAILED PLANS FOR THE CLIMB, PLEASE
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