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On the summit, I was not expansive, not sublime; I felt like a frail human being.
– Jim Whittaker - the first American to climb Everest
Photo Gallery 8,000 Meter Peaks Continent Summits

Asia’s Mount Everest, 29,035 feet


Asia's Mount Everest, 29,035 feet The Nepalese side of Everest as seen from the famous trekking summit Kala Patar

The right side of Everest’s black pyramid is the southwest face, and the left side is the upper part of the north face

The snowy shoulder to the left of the black summit pyramid is Everest’s West Shoulder at 23,000 feet, and the foreground ridge leading out of the right side of the photo is the west ridge of Nuptse

Just below the center of the photo’s left edge you can see the top of the Khumbu Icefall, which is draining from the Western Cwm between Everest and Nuptse

The Khumbu Glacier is in the bottom of the photo
All Rise. Mount Everest is Earth’s highest peak, the highest peak in Asia, Earth’s largest continent, and the highest peak in both Nepal and China. No Earth-bound peak can top it! Those who think Everest is easy to climb have usually not been to the top of the “Big E.” Some glibly dismiss Everest with, “Oh! K2 is harder to climb than Everest!” Those folks have likely never been to the top of either peak, and most have never even seen these peaks. Set your prejudice aside, and take a good look at the photo. Then, take a fresh breath and hold it for three minutes while you stare at the photo. The discomfort you feel while holding your breath will be minor compared to the discomfort you will feel near Everest’s summit. Once, I held my breath for six minutes, and I would quickly accept that discomfort over Everest’s. If you can’t hold your breath for two to three minutes with aplomb, then you likely won’t be able to climb Everest. Just standing on the summit feels like running a six-minute mile. Movement, of course, only makes matters worse. The Big E has long since earned her reputation.
Take another look at the photo. The sky is black for a simple reason. There is not enough air up there to scatter light. There is not enough air up there to sustain human life for more than a few hours. If you flew from sea level and jumped out of a chopper onto Everest’s summit, you would die pronto. Actually, choppers can’t fly up there anyway. Perhaps you could arrange to jump from a balloon. However, if the balloon’s gondola were not pressurized, you would die before you got your chance to jump. If you solved that problem, you would still have to survive the jump. If the jump didn’t kill you, then you are back to the original problem. You would die pronto on the summit.
Gently set such silly techno porn aside. The locals call Everest “Chomolungma,” which means “Goddess Mother of the Snows.” Indeed, the Gods spend more time on Chomolungma than people do. If you travel to these heights, the Gods will touch you. My translation of Mallory’s answer to the why climb question is, “Because the Gods are there.”
I traveled to Chomolungma in 1976 with the American Bicentennial Everest Expedition. I was as fit as I have ever been. Muscle and bravado were not enough, I did not make it to the top, and retreated from the mountain in despair. I pondered Chomolungma’s lessons for seven years before returning in 1983 to make the summit. The Gods touched me, and I am still pondering those lessons.
– Gerry Roach

In Kathmandu, 1976 In Kathmandu, 1976
On the approach march, 1976 On the approach march, 1976

Our permit was for the post monsoon season, which meant that we could not fly to Lukla

Because of the permit’s late arrival, all of our personnel and equipment had to trek 180 miles from just outside Kathmandu to base camp

Rain, leeches and mud were the norm as we walked through Nepal’s incredible lowland screnery



Photo by Johnathan Wright
On the approach march, 1976 On the approach march, 1976



Photo by Johnathan Wright
On the approach march, 1976 On the approach march, 1976

After two weeks of marching, we reached the Dudh Kosi - the river in the Solo Khumbu valley - the waters of Everest

We were still far from the peak, but even touching Everest’s melted snow was exciting, even spiritual



Photo by Johnathan Wright
On the approach march, 1976 On the approach march, 1976

Sometimes the monsoon waters were almost more than we could deal with



Photo by Johnathan Wright
On the approach march In Namche Bazaar we rested and met more of the Sherpas who are certainly some of the friendliest people in the world
On the approach march Our approach march continued above Namche and we began to acclimate to higher altitudes



Photo by Johnathan Wright
Pumori seen from the Khumbu Icefall Above base camp we entered the dreaded Khumbu Icefall

Along with the danger came scenes of incredible beauty

This dawn shot is of Sherpa Ang Phurba and Hans Bruyntjes with Pumori behind
In the Western Cum with Nuptse looming overhead In the Western Cum with Nuptse looming overhead
In the Western Cum with Everest looming overhead In the Western Cum with Everest looming overhead
Gerry at Camp III, midway up the Lhotse face at 24,000 feet Gerry at Camp III, midway up the Lhotse face at 24,000 feet



Photo by Johnathan Wright
Frank Morgan in the South Col at 26,000 feet Frank Morgan in the South Col at 26,000 feet



Photo by Peter Pilafian
Leaving high camp on the summit climb Leaving high camp on the summit climb as Makalu watches

Bob Cormack and Chris Chandler made the summit on October 8th, 1976

My second summit team made the South Col the next day, but alas, events and weather conspired to keep us from reaching the summit



Photo by Chris Chandler
Back in Kathmandu in my first staredown with the eyes of Buddha at the Monkey Temple Back in Kathmandu in my first staredown with the eyes of Buddha at the Monkey Temple

My failure to climb Everest devastaed me

Manaslu, 1978 I resolved to try again on a lower peak and went to Manaslu in 1978

It snowed 50 feet in 50 days, and alas, nobody made the summit
Back in Kathmandu in my second staredown with the eyes of Buddha Back in Kathmandu in my second staredown with the eyes of Buddha
Xixabangma, 1981 I resolved to try yet again on Tibet’s Xixabangma in 1981

Events transpired and seemingly conspired, and once again my search for the summit of one of Earth’s highest peaks eluded me
Tibet, 1981 This time there was no stare down - the only thing left to do was meditate
The pull of the Himalaya is very strong Time passed, but the pull of the Himalaya remained strong
The pull of the Himalaya is very strong The pull of the Himalaya is very strong
Back in Lukla, 1983 Other events transpired, and I found myself landing in Lukla in the spring of 1983
Back in the Khumbu, 1983 This time, treking up the Khumbu took on a deeper flavor
Back in the Khumbu, 1983 Ama Dablam watched my return to the Tangboche Monestary
Back in the Khumbu, 1983 The message from the chortens remembering six lost Sherpas was especially potent
Back in the Khumbu, 1983 Nuptse watched my return to the Triumvirate
Back in the Khumbu, 1983 After a windy winter, Everest was quite black
Back in the Khumbu, 1983 The 1983 Seven Summits Expedition was the imagination child of Dick Bass (L) and Frank Wells (R), here being interviewed by Rick Ridgeway
Back in the Khumbu Icefall, 1983 My return to the dangerous Khumbu Icefall was full of hope
Back in the Khumbu Icefall, 1983 The happy moment when we topped the Khumbu Icefall
Gary Neptune at Camp I above the Khumbu Icefall in 1983 Gary Neptune at Camp I above the Khumbu Icefall in 1983
Back in the Western Cum in 1983 Back in the Western Cum
Ang Rita at Camp II in 1983 Ang Rita at Camp II
Back in the South Col in 1983 Back in the South Col

The Big E still taunted all comers with her plume
Looking down at the South Col and across at Lhotse during the 1983 summit climb Looking down at the South Col and across at Lhotse during my 1983 summit climb
Gerry on top of Everest on May 7th, 1983 Gerry on top of Everest on May 7th, 1983



Photo by Dave Breashears
Gerry on top of Everest on May 7th, 1983 Gerry on top of Everest on May 7th, 1983



What have we learned?

Breathe from the diaphragm
Drink lots of water
Take small steps
Stay smart
Stay spiritual



Photo by Dave Breashears
Ang Rita and Pete Jamieson on top of Everest Ang Rita and Pete Jamieson on top of Everest



Photo by Dave Breashears
Gerry with Old Glory on top of Everest Gerry with Old Glory on top of Everest



Photo by Dave Breashears
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Photos by Gerry Roach unless otherwise indicated
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