National Geographic : 1963 Oct
almost half a minute. My entire body aches. We cross hard, steep snow. Lute, in the lead, chops steps. We mount toward the South Summit, slowly, slowly. An hour passes... another thirty minutes. I wonder if we will ever reach the summit. Upward. Always upward. Foot by painful foot. Gradually, I become convinced that we will indeed go all the way. And at 2 o'clock, beneath a piercingly blue sky, we stand at 28,750 feet on the South Summit of Everest -our first way station. We lean into the heavy wind that buffets us with gusts of 60 to 70 miles per hour. To the southwest my eye can trace our route up Everest from the Dudh Kosi valley. The midafternoon sun reflects off the metal roof of the shrine at Thyangboche, 15 miles away. Already we stand at a point 500 feet higher than any other mountain in the world. Our oxygen situation becomes more criti cal by the minute. We know we must con serve as much as possible. Therefore we turn our regulators back to a flow of two liters a minute. The new deprivation is not immedi ately apparent. Our discomfort is so great, the going so hellish, that we perceive no difference. Hillary Photograph Aids Climbers Atop the South Summit, Lute and I peer at the awesome route to the true peak. It rises above us in craggy, snow-scarred grandeur. Long ago we memorized this view from a photograph taken by Sir Edmund Hillary.* We know it as well as we know the streets we live on. But somehow it looms steeper, closer, more forbidding than in the picture. While on the mountain, all of us in the summit teams think of ourselves as intelligent and lucid. Only afterwards, in reconstructing our actions, do we discover how irrational we really were. So it is that Lute looks down with dismay at a 30-foot vertical wall of rotten snow-our jumping-off-point for the North Summit. Un accountably, he starts walking due west, down a small slope. Later Lute explains: "I was a little bit spooked by this 30-foot vertical pitch. I thought that this couldn't possibly be the way. And I don't know whatever possessed me, but I suddenly took off down to the left. "I walked 75 feet down the South Summit and saw some rocks, and I apparentlythought I saw some footprints down there, and Barry *Reproduced in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, July, 1954, page 60. SOUACHROME l) NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Mountaineers went up and down the icefall like yo-yos. Here Jerstad climbs toward a blue infinity. Cautious Sherpas, distrusting the light ladder, reinforced it with ropes and rappel pickets.