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  Mt. Everest 2005: The Rope Debate Part 2


In 2003 with Kari Kobler on the mountain, many teams/expeditions paid a fee to the "coalition" that would fix more rope and provide quality weather reports included in the fee (at least to some). Kari was able to keep most groups happy and the level of tension down. However, Kari's group did not summit; Kari turned his commercial group around at the Second Step because he was worried about a "1996 disaster" that day. Some climbers complained they could not get weather reports near the end of the season from the coalition even though they paid their money! Some climbers were very upset. However, despite all the bickering, record numbers of climbers summited Everest in 2003. Overall in our opinion Kari did a good job, there were few complaints and overall things went OK.

Kari went to K2 in 2004 and helped organize the fixing of ropes to the summit of K2 using Sherpas like never before. While there was the usual tension on the mountain, things went pretty well and record number of climbers summited K2. One can argue if mountains like K2 should be climbed like Everest, but in 2004 K2 became like Everest for better or worse.

Kari did not return to Everest in 2004, and without other leadership  Brice held a "meeting" to ask (some say tell) other expeditions to pay a fee for the work. The meeting turned into total yelling match and no agreement was reached. Brice would again claim that he put in all the rope and fixed all the lines. However, others argued that this was not true. After Brice's climbers summited the mountain, his Sherpas cut some lines (for what reason many would like to know) and removed the fixed line from the area around the North Col.

EverestNews.com had our own team and climbers on the mountain in 2004, our approach was the pay Brice whatever he wanted just to keep him happy. That never happened after the "meeting". Our climbers were searching for Mallory and Irvine clues.

We believe that some of our climbers were the first to descend the North Col after the lines were removed. Our climbers were fully loaded with artifacts, tents and supplies coming down. Fortunately for all involved Dan Mazur had a group at 7,500m and they were able to carry rope down to the col in order for our climbers to secure safe passage for themselves and others down to ABC! Our afternoon radio contact from 7,500m projected our climbers back at ABC around 3:00pm... at 9:30pm, exhausted and furious, the climbers arrived at ABC. All they could say (well what all they said that we can print..) was "what happened to the rope...this is wrong! we fixed much rope up high and now Russell Brice takes it away...in the dangerous sections around the Col???" Dan Mazur and his team continued to fix more ropes.... (The SummitClimb team's dispatch is here from 2004.)

Numerous climbers continued to summit and came down the mountain without problems. No deaths were caused by Brice's actions. Dan Mazur never got an award, probably not even a thank you. If you know Dan, Dan was Dan. He never asked for anything, and did what he thought was best. He did not write a dispatch saying he rescued anyone. He just did what was needed, the best he could with what he had.

The actions of Brice were mitigated by the work of others who came down after the rope was removed. Kudos to those who worked to right the wrong done by removing the ropes while others were still high on the mountain. As word of this potential debacle spread many climbers and expeditions called on the CMA and or TMA to take over the rope fixing responsibilities on the North side similar to what is done on the South side in the ice fall. Frankly many wanted Brice removed from any part of it. Brice claimed all the rope he removed were his, (maybe they were, but does that make it OK to cut them when others are still high on the mountain???) others disagreed that all the rope removed was his. Tom West, who was at ABC, not to report but to lead our Mallory and Irvine climbers, interviewed climbers and Sherpas after the ropes were cut, some of which are recorded on tape. Various climbers and expeditions all gave a very different story on who fixed the ropes in 2004. We continued these interviews after the climbers left the mountain. No two expeditions or climbers gave the same account on who fixed what on Everest... What we do know is that no one group does all the work and that all rope that has been fixed should be left in place until all climbers are safely off the mountain.  Does anyone really have a problem with this?

What we think happened on Everest in 2004.

As you all know many of the Sherpas are related.  The Sherpas fix the rope and do the the hard work for most (not all!) groups . Based on the interviews we conducted, many leaders appear just not to be aware that the Sherpas all work together on the mountain. They climb in support of each other... In 2004, we know for a fact rope came from other expeditions besides Russell Brice's. Above the First Step, Brice's expedition did little to nothing until his climbers attempted the summit. The effort of many groups, not just one, resulted in a record number of Summits on Everest,  In no case was a death in 2004 blamed on the ropes; obviously, we think we were very fortunate this time around...if a weaker group was coming down late...Who knows.... If Dan Mazur and his SummitClimb team had not been there...who knows???

Where are we now?

The ropes are not fixed! Dan's group appears to be coming to the rescue again. Note they have NOT said ONE WORD about this, to anyone! But they are prepared. Wish them God's speed, as they are going to need it. This "window" is small and dangerous. But the climbers have come to climb, and climb they will! They are not looking for someone to haul them up Everest, they want to climb Everest!

The Second Meeting

Oh, some of the leaders have had another meeting with Brice. When asked when he was going to fix the rest of the route they had paid for, he reportedly told them to use their Sherpas! When asked to know what the weather was like in order to safely to send their Sherpas up, he told them his weather reports for him. $30,000 later, here we are...

Kari, is said to be upset, and possibly sending some of his Sherpas up...

Our timings of these articles

EverestNews.com held back on this rope fixing issue... We did not want to poison the climbers that had no opinion and worse we did not want to incite those that chose to hold back in hopes that this year things would be better. Well my friends, things are not better and something needs to be done.

Tom West on 2004

At the end of May in 2004 as Tom West and one of our climbers descended to base camp you could feel the tension between Russell's Sherpas and those left without rope on the North Col. The arrogance of Brice and the anger of those left to right Brice's wrong filled every step with trepidation. Something has to change!!!

In Chinese Base Camp on May 29, 2004 "poo-bu", a leader of the TMA swore that the rope fixing situation would be corrected... a few times that evening the situation tensed between the TMA and Russell's sherpas as Poo-bu asked for an explanation of their actions on the Col. Russell's sherpa calmly took a drag on his cigarette, blew the smoke towards poo-bu's face and said nothing...fists were pounded on tables...tensions mounted...words became shouts...and finally the sherpa from Russell's group left...violence averted. I think that this sherpa was just a cook from Russell's group; and he said so in his defense... I felt bad for him because he did nothing wrong...As for Russell Brice ...  HHmmm...

Where are we now?

To those who wish to help and are sitting at base camp or ABC. Assuming this group of SummitClimb and independent climbers, who are NOT working together but just happen to be at the same place in time, can get it done. Some of them, might need a hand getting down. If you have not headed up by the time you have read this, you are too late to summit in this small window unless the weather changes. So what you could do to help is go up to the North Col and then Camp 2 and possibly lend a hand to those who might be in need coming down. Worst case you might get to see a little more of Everest, before you leave.  Does that sound better than another meeting with Russell Brice?

Mt Everest 2005: The North side rope debate Part One


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