Mt. Everest Northeast Ridge Route
Himalaya - Nepal
29,035 feet 8,850 m
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I summited Everest on May 21, 2011 and have climbed it three other times- 2002, 2003 and 2008 each time reaching just below the Balcony at about 27,500' (8400 meters) before health, weather or my own judgment caused me to turn back. When not climbing, I cover the Everest season from my home in Colorado as I did for the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 Everest seasons.This page details the North Ridge route from Tibet. I have marked the camps and routes we used in 2002, 2003 and 2008. Also see the South Col route map.

"one of the world's most respected chronicler of Everest" - Outside Magazine March 2013

Everest Northeast Ridge

aka North Col Route


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Elevations and Times Between Camps

  • base camp: 17000' - 5182m
  • Interim camp: 20300' - 6187m - 5 to 6 hours (first time)
  • Advanced base camp: 21300' - 6492m - 6 hours (first time)
  • North Col or C1: 23,000' - 7000m - 4 to 6 hours (first time)
  • Camp 2: 24,750' - 7500m - 5 hours
  • Camp 3: 27,390' - 8300m - 4 to 6 hours
  • Yellow Band
  • First Step: 27890' - 8500m
  • Mushroom Rock -28047' / 8549m - 2 hours from C3
  • Second Step: 28140' - 8577m - 1 hour or less
  • Third Step: 28500' - 8690m - 1 to 2 hours
  • Summit Pyramid - 2 hours
  • Summit: 29,035' / 8850m - 1 hour
  • Return to Camp 3: 7 -8 hours
  • Return to ABC: 3 hours

Summit Stats

The Nepalese side has seen 3877 summits with 134 deaths through June 2012.

The Tibet side has seen 2331 summits with 106 deaths through June 2012.

Typical Climb Schedule

  • March 29    - Arrive Kathmandu, Nepal
  • March 30,31- Kathmandu
  • April 1        - Fly to Lhasa, Tibet (Elevation 12,000 ft)
  • April 6-7     - Lhasa sightseeing (Begin acclimatization)
  • April 8        - Drive to Shigatse (12,500 ft)
  • April 9        - Drive to Tingri (Shegar) (13,800 ft)
  • April 10      - Drive to Everest Base Camp (BC)  (17,000ft)
  • April 11-13 - Setup BC and acclimatize
  • April 14      - Trek to Interim camp (IC) (20,300 ft)
  • April 15      - Arrive at Advance base camp (21,300 ft)
  • Apr 16 - 27 May  - Climbing Period (camps 2 & 3 Summit)
  • May 28      - Return to Advance base camp (ABC)
  • May 29      - Return to base camp (BC)
  • May 30      - Disassemble BC
  • May 31      - Drive to Nyalam Tibet
  • June 1       - Drive to Kathmandu
  • June 2,3,4 - Weather days or back in Kathmandu
  • June 5       - Depart for Home

Overview

The north side of Everest is steeped in history with multiple attempts throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. The first attempt was by a British team in 1921. Mallory led a small team to be the first human to set foot on the mountains flanks by climbing up to the North Col (7003m).  The second expedition, that of 1922  reached 27,300′ before turning back, and was the first team to use supplemental oxygen. It was also on this expedition that the first deaths were reported when an avalanche killed seven Sherpas.

The 1924 British expedition with George Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine is most notable for the mystery of whether they summited or not. If they did summit, that would precede Tenzing and Hilary by 29 years. Mallory’s body was found in 1999 but there was no proof that he died going up or coming down thus the importance of finding the camera and potential photos of a summit.

It was a Chinese team who made the first summit from Tibet on May 25, 1960.  Nawang Gombu (Tibetan) and Chinese Chu Yin-Hau and Wang Fu-zhou who is said to have climbed the Second Step in his sock feet, claimed the honor. However without a summit photo, many doubted the summit claim. In 1975, a successful summit was claimed by the Chinese when the ladder on the Second Step was installed.

Tibet was closed to foreigners from 1950 to 1980 preventing any further attempts until a Japanese team summited in 1980 via the Hornbein Couloir on the North Face.

But it is who summited first that dominates Everest folklore. Was it Mallory and Irvin in 1924, or Tenzing and Hillary as we know in 1953. Some even speculate it was British climber, Maurice Wilson in 1933

With the mystery dominating Everest gossip for almost a century, teams have looked in vain for positive proof of a 1924 summit. There have been valiant efforts throughout the years. In 1933, Irvine’s wooden ice axe was found in the fall line of the climber’s last known route. A Chinese porter reported seeing an “an english dead” in 1960 but there were no pictures.

Then in 1999, a team led by IMG founder Eric Simonson conducted a serious search. Conrad Anker found Mallory’s body on the north side below the Chinese reported location. Neither Irvine’s body nor the camera was located. Simonson returned in 2001 to look for the camera, without success. It was the classic needle in the haystack search complicated by snow cover.

While the discovery of Mallory’s body created excitement throughout the climbing world, it did not provide any evidence of a summit. In fact it just fueled the speculation. Everest historian, Tom Hozel has studied images of the area and feels he knows where the Irvine's body is located. He is seeking sponsors for an expedition.

The Grand Dame of all Everest statistics, Ms. Elizabeth Hawley reports on the Himalayan database the total number of people who have summited Mt. Everest as of February 2014 to be around 6,871 by 4,042 different climbers, meaning that 2,829 climbers, mostly Sherpas, have multiple summits. The south side (Nepal) remains more popular with 4,416 summits while the north (Tibet) has 2,455 summits.

Overall 248 people (161 westerners and 87 Sherpas) have died on Everest from 1924 to 2013, 140 on the Nepal side and 108 from Tibet. Since 1990, the deaths as a percentage of summits have dropped to 3.6% due to better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial operations. Annapurna is a much more deadly mountain than Everest with a summit to death ratio of 2:1 deaths for every summit (109:55).

see more facts here

Base Camp (17,000/5666m) to Advanced Base Camp (ABC)(21,300'/6400m)

BC, courtesy of Big Green Everest

From BC to ABC it is about 12 miles (22km) of rugged hiking on boulders, ice and snow. The route follows the Rongbuk Glacier until it merges with the Eastern Rongbuk Glacier. ABC is on the northwestern side moraine of East Rongbuk Glacier, under the slopes of Changtse Mountain.

It normally takes 2 days for the first trip to ABC stopping at an interim camp. Once acclimatized, the trek takes 1 day. ABC is the primary High Camp home for Northeast Ridge climbers during the expedition. Climbers use the lower base camp for rest and preparation prior to their summit bid.

ABC to North Col (Camp 1)

South Col, courtesy of Big Green Everest(23,000'/7000m) The North Col camp is a 2,200' climb from ABC. Leaving Camp 1, climbers reach the East Rongbuk Glacier and put on their crampons for the first time. After a short walk, they clip into the fixed rope.

The climb from ABC to the North Col steadily gains altitude with one steep section of 60 degrees that will feel vertical. Climbers are clipped into the fixed rope and use their ascenders. Rappelling is used to descend this section. A few ladders may be placed over deep crevasses.

It takes between 4 to 7 hours to reach the North Col depending on acclimatizing and weather.

 

Camp 1 to Camp 2

Climb to C2, courtesy of Big Green Everest(24,750'/7500m) C2 starts the "High Camps". The route is usually pure snow but can be rock since this section is known for high winds.
It should take about 3 to 5 hours to reach C2. Some teams use this as their highest camp for acclimatization purposes.

Camp 2 to Camp 3 (25,600'/7900m)


CLimb to C3, courtesy of Big Green Everest Some expeditions do not use a Camp 3 and go directly to 8300 m. At almost 8000m, most climbers now sleep on supplemental oxygen.

The climb is extremely windy and the tents are on small rock ledges since there is limited large and level areas. At Camp 3, the wind is usually blocked by the North Face of Everest so sleeping is easier. Climbers will take 3 to 6 hours to reach C3.

This is equivalent to the South Col in altitude and exposure to the weather.

Camp 3 to Camp 4 (27,390'/8300m)

Climb to C4, courtesy of Big Green Everest Camp 4 (or Camp 3 if the previous camp is skipped) is a short rest stop on the way to the summit for most climbers. At 27,390', you do not want to spend a lot of time here. Climbers will have some food and water, perhaps a short nap and start for the summit around 10:00PM.

Leaving C3, climbers follow the fixed rope through a snow filled gully; part of the Yellow Band. From here, climbers take a small ramp and reach the northeast ridge proper.

The Northeast Ridge is a few hundred feet above C4.

Camp 4 to 2nd Step

2nd step, courtesy of Big Green Everest The Northeast Ridge represents the most difficult climbing on this route. There are three "steps" or rock climbs along
the way.

The 1st Step, the first of three rock features, is difficult at this altitude. The route tends to cross to the right of the high point. Some climbers may rate it as steep and challenging. It requires hard pulling on the fixed ropes in the final gully to the ridge.

Mushroom rock is a feature on the Ridge that spotters and climbers can use to measure their progress on summit night. Oxygen is swapped here. The route can be full of loose rock adding to the difficulty with crampons.

The 2nd step is the crux of the climb with the Chinese Ladder. Climbers must first climb about 10' of rock slab then climb the near vertical 30' ladder. This section is very exposed with a 10,000' vertical drop.

It is more difficult to navigate on the descent since you cannot see your feet placement on the ladder rungs.This brief section is notorious for long delays thus increasing the chance of frostbite or AMS.

Second Step to Summit

Summit Ridge, courtesy of Big Green EverestThe 3rd Step is another straight forward rock climb but challenging at this altitude (nothing is easy anymore). Climbers now spend the next hour to climb the steep snowfields of the Summit Pyramid.

It is a steep snow slope, often windy and extremely cold, climbers feel very exposed.  Towards the top of the Pyramid, climbers are extremely exposed again as they navigate around a large outcropping and experience three more small rock steps on a ramp before the final ridge climb to the summit.

The Summit Ridge is the final 500' horizontal distance along the ridge to the summit and is quite exposed. Slope angle range from 30 to 60 degrees. It is narrow with 10,000' drop-offs on both sides leading directly to the Everest Summit.

Now the climbers have spent 8 to 10 hours to summit.  It will take another 4 to 6 to return to C3.

 

See this excellent 2007 first person description of this route from Philippe Gatta

see more facts here

For deep insight into an Everest expedition, download
Everest 2011: Summit of Memories
report of my 2011 south side summit climb. It is a free PDF.

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