National Geographic : 2013 Jun
Fixing Everest 95 Tenzing Norgay. Whittaker had climbed Mount McKinley a few years before, and it was Gombu’s third trip to Everest. Three weeks after Whit- taker and Gombu’s ascent, in an unprecedented act of boldness, teammates Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld clawed their way up a completely new route, the West Ridge. (The two men had been teammates on the 1960 American Paki- stan Karakoram Expedition.) On that same day Barry Bishop and Lute Jerstad made the second American ascent of the Southeast Ridge. The two teams managed to meet below the summit, but by then it was dark, and they were forced to bivouac at 28,000 feet—a risky, last-ditch option never before attempted. Without tents, sleep- ing bags, stoves, Sherpas, oxygen, water, or food, they weren’t expected to survive. “God, they were lucky,” says Whittaker. “If there had been any wind, they would have all perished. It would have been horrible.” All four men lived—although Unsoeld and Bishop lost 19 toes between them. And despite Climbers file past the body of Shriya Shah-Klorfine, a 33-year-old Nepali Canadian who died on May 19. Shah- Klorfine collapsed during her descent from the summit. As I cramponed past their icy corpses on my own descent from the summit, I thought of the shattering sorrow their families and friends would experience when they heard the news. Mark Jenkins contributed to the new National Geographic book The Call of Everest: The History, Science, and Future of the World’s Tallest Peak.