Sunday, July 29, 2012

Everest: El Desafio de un Sueno, by Rodrigo Jordan Fuchs

Rodrigo Jordan Fuchs writes about his Chilean team's climb of the Kangshung Face in Everest: El Desafio de un Sueno: Los Primeros Sudamericanos en la Cumbre / Everest: The Challenge of a Dream: The First South Americans on the Summit. The team, with six climbers, a doctor, and two Sherpa, climbs during the pre-monsoon season of 1992 via the route blazed by Stephen Venables, Ed Webster, Paul Teare, and Robert Anderson in 1988 (see Venables' Everest: Alone at the Summit). Their size appears to be just about right for a relatively safe ascent (Is there ever actually a truly safe ascent on the Kangshung Face?), with teams pairing off and spending days working the line up the Neverest Buttress and the Cauliflower Towers, while one pair rests, and another ferries loads along with the Sherpa. They face considerably deeper snow than Anderson's international crew above the buttress and also a short section of very technical ice climbing similar to Webster's Wall that prevents them from establishing their second camp. Their first attempt at the summit, with three climbers intended to try for the top, is turned back by deep snow and poor weather. Their second, due to fewer fit climbers and resources, was meant for two summit climbers (Fuchs and Christian Garcia-Huidobro), but Juan Sebastien Montes stays on to climb to the summit without additional oxygen. The team puts in a epic amount of work to get to the summit, with two additional climbers pile-driving through deep snow with very heavy loads to the South Col to make way for the summiteers. Their limited oxygen supply only allows for sleeping oxygen at the high camp and a single bottle for two climbers starting at 8400 meters.

The book is an enjoyable read. If you're more observant that I, then you'll notice that everything, including the main body of prose is in both Spanish and English. I spent days fighting my way through the Spanish version with some basic Spanish skills and a dictionary. When I got to the end, I found everything I just read available to me in English! I was surprised to find out I pretty much figured out what was going on. There are plenty of photographs in the book, with captions in both English and Spanish, as well as an introduction to the team, a short bi-lingual glossary, and an introduction. The 1992 expedition was actually the fourth attempt on Everest by Chileans. The first came quite close to succeeding, placing a team at a high camp at 8300 meters on the Northeast Ridge, but a storm pinning the summit climbers down for three days. In 1986, Victor Hugo Trujillo died in a serac collapse on the North Col and ended another climb (see Stokes' Soldiers and Sherpas for an outside perspective). In 1989, another team made it quite high on the West Ridge, but storms again ended their attempt. 

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