Mountaineering - with Hedvig and Gert Rasmussen
by: Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen
Cho Oyu
Pik Lenin
The Alps

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Mt.Everest 8848m.

- april-june 1994 -

My most ambitious mountaineering project was the attemp to climb Mt.Everest in spring 1994. The expedition had the following objectives:

  • as the first dane to reach the summit of the worlds highest mountain

  • as the first expedition to climb the Messner route on the north side of Mt.Everest, that so far only Reinhold Messner himself had climbed

  • to do it without artificial oxygen

That was maybe a little bit overdooing it, and as time will shown too much. But lets begin with the beginning:

Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos


Mt.Everest is a part of the Himalaya chain, which together with Karakorum, Tien Shan, Pamir etc. covers Asia in a broad band from West to East. Mt.Everest is situated on the Nepali-Tibetian border. It can be climbed from the two countries. In both cases you go first to Nepals capital Kathmandu and then you drive either to the south base camp in Nepal or you drive to the Tibetian border and through Tibet to the north base camp. The north base camp can also be reached by flying to Lhasa, regional capital of Tibet, and from there drive to the base camp - you just have to let others take care to get all your equipment transported from Kathmandu.

Here are some maps of the area: Mt.Everest

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The mountain:

Mt.Everest is the worlds highest mountain and officially 8848 meters high. Newer satellite measurements says 8850 meters. It is in any HIGH!

Mt.Everest is named after Sir George Everest, chief of the british survey, that in the 1840'ies and -50'ies cartographed India and the Himalayas. In Nepal the mountain is called Sagarmatha and in Tibet Qomolungma.

Numerious expeditions - mainly british - have explored and surveyed the area around Mt.Everest - often under adventurous conditions, some times with diplomacy other times using arms extensively. From the middle of the 19th century the expeditions led from british India through Tibet as Nepal was closed for foreigners, protected by mountains without any road connections (as the nepali rulers bought their first Rolls Royces the cars were dismanteled and carried into Nepal from India, but that is another story). The exploration mounted in 1924 with Mallory and Irvines attempt to reach the Mt.Everest summit, their disappearence and the following discussion whether they reached the summit or not. Documented is only that the british expedition in 1953 through the then opened Nepal with Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit from the south side. Since then several routes have be opened both from the south and the north side.

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The team:

Heinz Roggenbauer A    
Gert Rasmussen Dk    
DeeDee Bartley USA    
Stan Bartley USA    
Mike Down Can    
Matt MacEachern Can    
Dagmar Wabnig A Expedition doctor  
Thomas Rohrmoser A    
Wolfgang Rohrmoser A    
Peter Kowalzik D Expedition leader  
Mark Jennings UK    
Mingma Sherpa Nepal Sirdar  
Muzal Tamang Nepal Porter  
Ang Kami Sherpa Nepal Porter  
Birbal Tamang Nepal Cook  
Nima Sherpa Nepal Kitchen aid  
Dirtha Sherpa Nepal Kitchen aid  
Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The route:

The "normal" route - if one can call something this big normal - run on the south side of Mt.Everest. It's considered "easier" and more "safe" - everything is relative. It is used by most climbers.

On the north side from Tibet there are interesting ascents. Mallory and Irvines route from 1924 runs from the East Rongbuk glacier to the North Col, over the North-East Ridge to the summit. New not yet ascended possibilities are also found. During our stay in spring 1994 the french climber Chantal Mauduit and her expedition under Russel Brice tried to bypass the North Col by climbing the wall directly towards the North-East Ridge. Unfortunately also without succes.

We had chosen to try a climb that only Reinhold Messner had managed so far: From the East Rongbuk glacier to the North Col, halfway up towards the ridge across the North-West face, up through the Great Couloir, out of the couloir over the Yellow Band and to the summit. We are deeply gratefull for Reinhold Messners support and advice.

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

The tour:

April 03rd 1994: What a feeling. When you land in Kathmandu you get Asias smiling masses directly before you - warmth, scents, spices, temples. Especially if you have not been to Asia before you get infected by this atmosphere founded in your youth by reading Kiplings indian stories, Sven Hedin, Mannering, Younghusband and Noels adventoures expeditions at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. In spite of the expedition preparation stress you just HAVE to get out and experience the city.

Preparations are legio: The last bureaucratic formalities, seeking out the things that must be bought in Kathmandu, loading of trucks and writing postcards to friends and family.

First part of the drive was bus (us) and truck (4 tons of equipment) from Kathmandu to Kodari, a village on the border to Tibet. Here you get for the first time the impression that the mountain giants lean in front of you and over you. A visit to the waterpowered (!) praying wheel showed, how practical religion can be practised.
After a nights sleep we loaded ourselves and the equipment on small shuttle trucks, that brought us over the Friendship Bridge and steep up to Zhangmu, the chinese border town, where we reloaded ourselves into Toyota Landcruisers (4wheel drive) and the equipment on trucks. Time was also left for a little shopping in this relative wealthy town that prospers on the border trade - or more precise: the export to Nepal. On we go to Nyalam.
Nyalam is situated in 3700 meters, so it was a big altitude difference from the Kathmandu valley. In Nyalam we stayed 3 night to acclimatise and enjoy the excellent chinese kitchen. Everybody tried to use the time to the maximum. I climbed 2 summits just above 5000 meters. Then we continued driving over the highest road (Lalung Pass 5050 meters) I have ever tried to Shegar (overnight stay+sightseeing) and then to the base camp.

The base camp is situated at 5200 meter altitude in the Rongbuk valley at the end of the wheel track. To here we come back when we need to rest and regain strenght, so we furnished the camp with supplies, a kitchen tent, a mess tent and a couple of sleeping tents. After two days rest we continued on foot (us) and on yaks (equipment) with 3 intermediate camps up the Rongbuk glacier and East Rongbuk glacier to the advanced base camp (ABC) in 64000 meters. We had 100 yaks for our equipment.

The advanced base camp is the highest point the yaks can reach. Here we equiped our home for the following weeks with kitchen tent, mess tent ,sleeping tent (1 person per tent in case you should like to be alone AND YOU WANT to be alone from time to time due to frustration, home sickness, fatigue). From the ABC everything to furnish the 3 high camps and to secure the difficult part of the route must be carried. We have to climb many times between the camps to do this. You could say, that the mountain was climbed several times. Only from high camp 3 we hope for one go to the summit. And all the time we have to go down to rest. Above a certain altitude it is not possible to regenerate the body even if you eat and sleep (which is also difficult at high altitudes), you must down.

First task was the equipment of high camp 1 on the North Col at 7070 meters (americans call this camp Camp 7 as they count also the intermediate camps. It sounds more impressive!). The route runs over the glacier, where it can be very hot as we are shielded by rock on 3 sides. Even so you must allways bring your warm clothes, because if the sun disappears it gets bitterly cold at this altitude. Carrying these clothes unfortunately limits your load capacity weight- and volumewise. At the top of the glacier you climb a 500 meters ice wall. Over the top of this wall hangs snow, that from time to time comes down as avalanches. It is a very "interesting" part of the route. The high camp 1 we had to refurbish 3 times after snowstorms had torn the tents to pieces.

From high camp 1 we ascended a snow slope direction North-East Ridge. From here was a beautiful view (when the weather was good) to one side towards the holy mountain of Pumori and to the other side down on the Rongbuk glacier. From this slope we deviated across the North-West face towards the Great Couloir. Also an "interesting" part due to stones comes down from higher up. The sun, water and ice constantly loosens rocks in the wall. A little up the Great Couloir we found a place for high camp 2 - one small tent.

Up the Great Couloir it went. We had come under time pressure after the breaks and refurbishing of camps after snowstorms. We knew that when the monsoon comes we MUST be out of the area if we don't want to stay untill autumn. The weather forecasts said that the monsoon had started moving from the Bengal Sea over the indian subcontinent. One last attempt was made. Though the last day of sunshine gave a splendid climbing experience - one of the climbers, Mark, said it was like climbing in a cathedral - none of us managed to get out on the summit pyramid. Our best climber, Heinz, gave up at 8300 meters.

The rest is homeward journey: The camps were dismanteled, all burnable rubbish was burned, all other waste and the equipment was packed on yaks, down to base camp and the trucks and then direction Nepal. One last view back: Mt.Everest fully hid in clouds. At the border the monsoon met us with the first heavy rains. In Kathmandu everybody seek what they had been longing for the last weeks (NO, not the company of the opposite sex): Warm showers, soft beds, "real" food: burgers, beer and cake!

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos

Home again:

Everybody was relieved to go home. The last weeks were simply too hard that you could feel sorry for not having made the summit. The last view of Mt.Everest covered in clouds made parting easy.

Taking into account the technical difficulties of our route, that the mountain is the highest in the world, that snowstorms gave less climbing days than an average year, our strenght and experience - I think we got the maximum out of the attempt. The seriousness of the whole affair can be seen from the fact, that only 1 other climber reached the summit during our stay and he did not get down again. Our main objective that everybody should return safely to their homes was achieved. 7 of our pals from other expeditions never made it home, others returned disabled. Let us recognise, that the fellow climbers who remained on the mountain had the privilege which even today is no matter of course: To spend one's life on something important to oneself and let their memory remind us to spend our lives seriously.

What remains after such an expedition? This is off course different for everybody. In a team on such an extreme task you really percieve how different people are, but also how important it is, that we are different and thereby being able to contribute with one's particular abilities to the success of the joint task. This is off course equally important in the real world: We need different people with different abilities in our society. Fresh blood must be welcomed.
What a privilege it is to live in an era, where "ordinary" people can get experiences that former were reserved for a small elite. It makes you happy to live, it puts everyday stress into perspective but it also gives obligations: If we want to keep society like this we have to work for public benefit. Conservative-liberal egoisms and freewheeling is the death of such a society.

What can be said, when one does not fully reach the goal that one has invested so much work in: Gandhi said, that the way is the goal and the more experiences you gets in life, the more you think he is right.

Intro Geography Mountain Team Route Tour Home again Photos