Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chomolungma: Goddess, Mother of the Earth, by Dingle & Perry

Graeme Dingle and Mike Perry document their 1985 post-monsoon attempt on the West Ridge of Everest via Tibet in Chomolungma: Goddess, Mother of the Earth: The North Face of Everest. Their New Zealand team's four years of planning comes down to a fight against atrocious snow conditions and the vagaries of the weather in their harrowing account. They follow a similar line to Peter Hillary's crew (on which Craig Nottle and Fred From perished, see Hillary's In the Ghost Country) and the Americans in 1984 (see Roskelley's Stories Off the Wall), but face wind slab avalanche conditions throughout their climb up to the Shoulder. Two different camps (both occupied) are destroyed by two separate avalanches with narrow escapes before the Kiwis move on to other routes on the North Face. They face similar challenges with snow conditions and further avalanches ascending the North Col from the west and below the Great Couloir. They persist for a final attempt on the summit before the beginning of winter.

New Zealanders seem to have had terrible luck in their own expeditions to Everest (1977, 1982 (Lhotse), 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989) up until Rob Hall broke the trend (for a while at least) with Peter Hillary in 1990 after three attempts in three years (see Monteath's Hall & Ball: Kiwi Mountaineers). They seemed to do much better when they tagged along on other expeditions, whether Edmund Hillary and George Lowe in 1953, or Russell Brice in 1988, or Dan Bryant in 1935 (see his New Zealanders and Everest). I half wonder if Chomolungma was exacting revenge for Edmund Hillary's sneaking up on her! Things have gone better for them more recently, with Peter Hillary repeating his ascent in 2003, and Russell Brice controlling much of the business of ascending the North Col route recently. On a side note, while Dingle and Perry's team are climbing, they come into contact with Pierre Beghin, who is attempting the Japanese Direct route solo, which he would famously climb the next year along with Erhard Loretan in under 2 days round trip.

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