Project Mount Everest 1996

Executive Summary

            This paper discusses three important aspects of the Mt. Everest 1996 expedition, which include project planning, project execution and necessary advice that might prevent tragedies. The planning for the 1996 Mt. Everest project began when Hall advertised an expedition. In his planning, Hall had to hire various individuals to assist him in accomplishing his project successfully. The actual execution of this project began on March 31, 1996, when the members of the 1996 Everest expedition gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal. Most of these climbers had never met each other, this was the first time they were meeting each other. According to Boukreev, one of the coordinators of the event, it was extremely difficult to develop relationships with other team members. While various climbers reasonably performed well in the exercises, some experienced severe problems. The climbers realized that five of their fellow teammates had died: Fischer, Hall, Harris, Namba and Hansen.

Introduction

Great tragedy and incredible achievement unfurled on the slopes of Mount Everest in the spring of 1996[1]. Ninety-eight individuals, including women and men, successfully climbed to the summit of the mountain. However, 15 people died during the expedition the tallest mountain on the planet. Two of the world’s most popular climbers, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, participated in the event. Unfortunately, Fischer, Hall and other climbers perished as storm covered the mountain during their descent. Mt. Everest has a height of about 8850 meters above the sea level. The summit ridge of the mountain separates Tibet and Nepal. There have been various attempts to reach the summit of this tallest mountain in the world. The first team set out to climb the Mt. Everest in 1922. However, this team under the leadership of George Mallory did not reach the peak of the mountain. Mallory and his climbing partner went missing during another attempt in 1924. There have been 15 expeditions to reach the peak of Mt. Everest[2]. Twenty-four individuals perished before a team succeeded. Tenzig Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the peak on 29th 1953 to become the legends throughout the universe. By the early 1980s, over one humdred climbers had made it to the peak, despite others dying in ill-fated efforts. In 1985, an expedition marked a major turning point in the history of mountain climbing. A recognized American climber, known as David Breashers, guided Dick Bass, a wealthy businessperson from Texas, to the peak of the mountain. Very less experienced have been making attempts of reaching the peak since then. Highly skilled climbers found an opportunity of making profits while assisting individuals to fulfil their dreams of reaching the summit of the tallest mountain the universe. The figure of these commercial expeditions have risen dramatically. By the end of 1996, the number of successful climbs had totalled to 846[3]. However, this successful achievement did not come without cost. About 148 individuals died over time. In this regard, this paper discusses planning and the execution of the 1996 Mount Everest project.

Project Planning

In 1990, Gary Ball and Hall climbed the seven highest peaks on each of the seven highest continents. This climbing included a successful climb of Mt. Everest. Ball and Hall financed this venture via a set of corporate sponsorship. In 1992, the two partners established the Adventure Consultants, which was a company that intended to make profits by organizing and guiding expeditions on the highest peaks of the world. According to researchers, the company enjoyed significant early success, though unfortunately Ball died because of cerebral edema on 1993 expedition. Hall went ahead to manage the company after the death of his partner. By late 1995, Hall had guided about 39 clients to the peak of Mt. Everest.

The planning for the 1996 Mt. Everest project began when Hall advertised an expedition. Nevertheless, Hall failed to guide any client to the summit[4]. Because of the deep snows, which slowed the ascent of the group, Hall turned everyone around just short of the summit, believing that they would not reach the summit in time to descend safely. In 1996, Hall organized the Everest Expedition. He was eager to prove that the failure of the previous year was because of the nature, and not his guiding abilities.

In his planning, Hall had to hire various individuals to assist him in accomplishing his project successfully[5]. Hall employed Mike Groom, an Australian climber aged 33 years, and Andy Harris, to act as guides for his 1996 Everest Expedition. Groom was an experienced high altitude climber, and had climbed Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen. Harris had never climbed Mt. Everest, but he had ascended an extremely challenging peak of Himalayas. In addition, Harris guided climbers in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Hall also hired seven Sherpas to help him. Sherpas refer to the mountain people living in Khumbu region of Nepal. They are familiar with living and working in high altitudes. They frequently helped those who embarked on climbing expedition in the Himalayas. Various expeditions hired the Sherpas to transport supplies and gears to the mountain[6]. Few select Sherpas escorted expeditions to the peak, securing ropes along the route of climbing. According to studies, Sherpas enjoyed social status and compensation that came with taking part in these expeditions. However, many Sherpas los their lives. According to statistical figures, about 53 Sherpas has perished on the mountain, which is more than a third of all Mt. Everest fatalities by 1996.

Hall and his company recruited eight guides to accompany them in the Everest expedition of 1996. According to Hall, none of guides had successfully completed Everest ascent. In addition, none of the clients had climbed any other peak more than 8 kilometers high. Hall’s schedule comprised of three doctors who dreamt of climbing the highest peak on the planet: Stuart Hutchison, John Taske, and Beck Weathers[7]. Some of the prominent clients include Frank Fischbeck, Doug Hansen, and Jon Krakauer. Hansen and Fischbeck were returning to Mt. Everest after different unsuccessful attempts to reach the peak. Fischbeck had attempted to reach the peak three different times with another commercial guiding company. Hansen was a member of the 1995 Adventure Consultants expedition. He had initially expressed some reluctance concerning returning to Everest. Krakauer was a journalist who joined the expedition through a special arrangement with Hall[8]. The company strongly believed that an article by Krakauer would offer great publicity. Nevertheless, negotiations between the company and Krakauer broke down in 1996, and Hall had to make an attractive offer to the editors. Hall negotiated for an advertising space in exchange for Krakauer’s fees for expedition. However, Kraukauer had little high altitude experience. In fact, he had intentions of not going beyond the Base camp that was located at an altitude of about 5360 meters. Yasuko Namba and Lou Kasischke rounded out of the Adventure Consults team. These two members had climbed the six of the world’s seven highest summits.

Project Execution

The actual execution of this project began on March 31, 1996, when the members of the 1996 Everest expedition gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal. Most of these climbers had never met each other, this was the first time they were meeting each other. The members of the expedition boarded a helicopter from Kathmandu to Lukla, which was a Himalayan village situated at about 2800 meters above sea level. From Lukla, the climbers began to hike along the path to the base camp. They walked about 3 to four hours daily[9]. They ate slept at lodges in Himalayan villages along the path. The unsanitary living conditions and polluted air in the villages along their path seemed to be a major problem to the climbers. Majority of the climbers reached the Base Camp with digestive and respiratory illnesses. Harris, Taske and Kasischke suffered from intestinal illnesses, whereas Krakauer suffered from persistent cough.

Fischer handled with a series of unexpected logistical problems during trek to the Base Camp. The first problem occurred when the customs at the Russian border delayed the delivery of the oxygen. According to Krakauer, the customs issue was not about the oxygen carnisters, but instead an item that happened to be on the same truck[10]. Problems with charter flight prevented the delivery of tents. The poor weather in Nepal slowed the progress of the yaks transporting the supplies from Kathmandu to Base Camp. There was also a problem with the Nepali porters since they decided to demand an increase in the wage. This was also an impediment to the delivery of supplies and oxygen to the Base Camp. According to researchers, all this logistical problems resu;ted in a burden to the tour guids. They spent significant amount of time trying to resolve these problems, instead of planning the course of action of the team, or acclimating themselves properly to the high altitude.

Fischer’s team reached the Base Camp on April 8, 1996. Hall’s team arrived one day later. The Base Camp comprised of a large set of tents, which offered shelter for the climbers on various expeditions. The Base Camp compound also had huge mess tent, which the shepas replenished occasionally with drink and fresh food from the villages below. Additionally, the Base Camp consisted of a communications tent and makeshift shower facility. The makeshift communications tent facilitated contact with other people throughout the world. According to Hall, these facilities became a home for the climbers for the forthcoming six weeks[11].

Group Conflicts

After arriving at the Base camp, Hall and his team began drawing conclusions concerning the preparedness and the abilities of the clients. Hall and his team had concerns about the overall level of readiness and ability of the team, especially the individuals who had no assault experience of high altitude[12]. The practice in training and developing climbers was to build their confidence and experience over long time, starting with mountains of lower level before advancing to mountains of more than 8 kilometers. Various climbers were worried about whther they could depend on their team members during the hard time. Majority of the clients were also worried about what others perceived them to be. As such, they worried about the likelihood of not being accepted by other team members[13]. According to Boukreev, one of the coordinators of the event, it was extremely difficult to develop relationships with other team members. This was partly because of language barriers. Some team members could not speak English fluently. In addition, Krakauer also complained of not having strong bond with other team members.

According to Krakauer, having confidence in other team members is very crucial, especially in climbing. The actions of one climber might interfere with the welfare of the whole tea. Regardless of the clients harboring their doubts concerning each other, they were confident in their own capabilities.

Acclimatization

In mid-April 1996, the climbers began to acclimate to the exhausting physical activity at the high altitudes. According to Boukreev, the acclimatization routine comprised of a series of extremely difficult climbs that were interspersed with intervals of recuperation and rest. As the team performed the climbing, they set up extra camps on their path to the summit[14]. The team moved up and down parts of the way during this series of climbs. They took a rest at the camps they had set up. In agreement to the established plan, the team climbed as high as few hundred meters beyond Camp III during the exercises. After completing the acclimatization routine, the team returned to the Base Camp for a rest and prepare for the ultimate push for the summit.

Most of the expeditions followed the same pattern of acclimatization exercises. According to Boukreev, without the acclimatization exercises, climbers are likely to become more vulnerable to illnesses related to high altitude[15]. Climbers wanted to avoid particularly suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), and high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). HAPE is a condition in which fluid buildup in the lungs, whereas HACE is a swelling in the brain. These two illnesses can result in death if the climber fails to descend rapidly to lower altitude[16]. As much as acclimatization assisted in the prevention of diseases, it did not fully prepare climbers for oxygen scarcity as extremely high altitudes. As such, many climbers carried bottled oxygen during the final push for the summit. Over the years, about 60 individuals managed to climb Mt. Everest without using supplemental oxygen. Some of the prominent climbers who did not use supplemental oxygen included Fischer, Boukreev and Groom. Nevertheless, in the 1996 Mt Everest expedition, it was only Boukreev who planned to climbed without the supplemental oxygen. This worried other climbers who strongly believed that guided need to use supplemental oxygen in order to guarantee that they would have the mental and physical ability to help their clients. Ascending to the peak of Mt. Everest remained a huge challenge even with bottled oxygen.

Acclimatization started with a harrowing walk through the Khumbu Icefall, which was of the most dangerous region on the mountain[17]. The icefall was located where a huge glacier emerged from the lower end of a long valley. The movement of the glacier resulted in a treacherous region filled with unstable chunks of ice and deep crevasses, which stolld high above the climbing path. In various regions, the climbers trekked across ladders that were extended horizontally across the crevasses. As the climbers team members struggled amidst these ice, they hoped to being buried by an avalanche or falling into the deep crevasses.

While various climbers reasonably performed well in the exercises, some experienced severe problems. For example, Hansen detected early stages of frostbite on many toes. Hansen’s larynx also froze at one instance[18]. However, he dismissed his likelihood of reaching the peak. Other climbers also experienced setbacks during their acclimatization exercises. Breathing problems forced them to begin using the bottled oxygen while at the Base Camp. Sadly, the problems of mountain madness intensified in the days ahed. One of the Sherpa appeared ill. The ill Sherpa ignored the instructions to return to the Base Camp and seek medical attention. It was apparent that the Sherpa was suffering from HAPE. Because the rescue helicopter was almost not possible at such heights, the Sherpa was carried down the mountain while being provided with enough amounts of bottled oxygen. The Sherpa did not react to the medical treatments. He died few weeks later in a local hospital[19]. Despite the challenges, the team accomplished the acclimatization exercises and went back to the Bas camp. They rested for about a week before embarking on the push for the peak. The team intended to make their bid for the summit during the early days of May. This was because it seemed to offer the best opportunity for calm weather conditions high on the mountain. The expedition guides acknowledged that they enjoyed only a brief window of opportunity between strong jet stream in April. For several years, this timing has notably worked well. The climbers enjoyed the calm weather at the peak during each season of climbing.

The Summit Bid

The climbers planned to leave the Base Camp on May 6 to start the push for the summit. As they completed their final preparations, the guides requested the clients to adhere to the instructions during the ascent[20]. Most of the clients understood the need for the strict rules of the ground. Hall gave the rules and explained them to the clients. The three guides, Harris, Hall and Groom, would distribute themselves out among the clients during the climb. Every guide had to carry a radio, but the client were not instructed to. Hall required one of the guided to be at the front of the team, and another to assist the clients at the back. The third guide stayed in the middle of the group. As such, no client would find himself or herself far from the radio or guide at any time[21]. Before leaving the Base Camp, the teams were reminded of the significance of following the schedule on the summit day. The final bid for the peak was to take place in May 10. It demanded an extremely difficult 18-hour round trip from Camp IV to the peak. The members faced danger if they did not arrive the top by midday. This was because the descent would last into the night by then. In addition, they would run out of oxygen. The climbers were to turn around if they recognized that they would not arrive at the peak until mid-afternoon or later. According to Hall and Fischer, it would be hard for the clients to turn around after coming so far and using such effort.

From the Base Camp, the climbers were to move upwards to Camp II on May 6. The climbers set out by navigating their way through the Khumbu Icefall. Some members, including Kruse, became sick and had to go back to the Base Camp. The first team to depart from the Base Camp belong to Fischer. Hall’s team also departed from the Base Camp on the same day. The climbers reached Camp II without experiencing incidents, but Hansen continued suffering from frostbitten toes and frozen larynx. The climbers met a climber on his descent because of he was shy of the summit. The teams spent the next day at Camp II[22]. They departed the camp on May 8. An accident occurred. A falling boulder hit one of the guides in the chest. He did not fall long distance since he had attached himself to ropes anchored along the path.

The teams arrived at Camp IV on May 9. They found some Sherpas struggling to mount tents in winds with a speed of more than 60 miles per hour. According to Hall, it is often calm after gust of winds. The teams were supposed to wait for another 24 hours if the weather did not change by midnight. The teams were to descend if the weather was still bad on the second day. Nevertheless, the fierce winds subsided by 8 pm. The atmosphere seemed remarkably calm. The team departed from Camp IV before midnight. They were to reach the peak by early afternoon and descend to Camp IV before nightfall.

The Summit Day

The two teams left Camp IV at few minutes before midnight on May 9[23]. Two guides climbed at the rear in order to act as sweeps for the every group. Every client carried two bottles of oxygen. Every bottle of oxygen would last for about six to five hours. The climbers planned to collect pick a third canister at the South Summit during the descent. Therefore, the climbers needed to complete the round trip between the summit and Camp IV in no more than 18 hour. Failure to complete the round trip within the 18 hours, would imply descending in darkness without supplemental oxygen.

During the push for the summit, four clients decided to turn back before reaching the peak. The other clients continued their hike to the peak. Many clients had noticed the deteriorating physical conditions of Fischer[24]. Dr. Weather’s health condition also deteriorated during the ascent. Various climbers neared the south Summit around noon. The team needed to fix ropes along the Hillary Step.

The Descent

As the team descended to the South Summit, they noticed that the weather was worsening. Storm clouds began moving to the area[25]. The wind became strong and snow began falling. The climbers had to descend quickly after collecting their oxygen canisters. Nevertheless, many of them moved at a slow speed because of the considerable fatigue and the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. Only Boukreev arrived at Camp IV before nightfall. As people descended, Hall remained above the Hillary with the sick Hansen, who desperately needed oxygen[26]. Hall radioed Harris for help, though the he erroneously reported that there was no oxygen at the South Summit. As darkness fell, Fischer began to weaken badly. Hall and the sick Hansen remained above the Hillary Step. Hall was unable to get him down. Other team members pleaded with Hall to abandon Hansen. Hall could not abandon his client. Boukreev’s attempts to rescue failed because of the blizzard conditions he encountered.

Other individuals, including Krakauer, arrived at Camp IV at 9 pm. a group of climbers converged above Camp IV later that night. They could not reach Camp IV because of the horrifying weather conditions. At around 4am, Hall radioed the Base Camp personnel that Hansen had died and that Harris had disappeared. Hall eventually proceeded to the South Summit, though he could not climbed beyond that point. In the meanwhile, some Sherpas decided to rescue Fischer after daybreak. They found him, but he could not be helped. Dr. Weathers arrived into Camp IV later that afternoon. Hall died after radioing his wife and no one spoke with him again. On May 12, the climbers realized that five of their fellow teammates had died: Fischer, Hall, Harris, Namba and Hansen.

Advice

Many disaster management scholars have analyzed the decisions made by Fischer and Hall during their ascent[27]. They have cited various likely causes of the disaster. Competing hypothesis abound, and much disagreement remains among expert climbers and survivors. Some people, like Krakauer, understand that mistakes might have been committed. However, they strongly emphasize that ascending Mt. Everest will frequently be dangerous and risky endeavor. According to Krakauer, this theory stressed the inevitability of tragedy and failure on the slopes of Mt. Everest[28].

Examining what caused the 1996 tragedy is a useful enterprise[29]. This might conceivably avert some deaths an attempt is made to climb Mt. Everest. However, believing that dissecting the tragic 1996 events in detail will actually avert future rate of death in any meaningful manner is a dream. The urge to catalog the countless blunders to learn from them is self-deception. It is evident that climbing Mt. Everest has frequently been a dangerous undertaking. According to Krakauer, the world’s strongest guides are sometimes incapable of saving their own lives.

According to other scholars, human might have caused the tragedy[30]. Therefore, the deaths could have been avoided. Krakauer pointed out a series of critical mistakes that Fischer and Hall made during the expedition. The events that occurred during the 1996 Everest Expedition were not an accident, nor an act God. The tragedy was the outcome of individuals who were making decision concerning how and whether to advance. As such, it is advisable for individuals to have plans that they should stick to when going on expeditions. These plans must be analyzed thoroughly. In addition, every contingency should also be considered, and any necessary measure put in place to deal with them.

Conclusion

The 1996 Everest expedition involved ninety-eight individuals, including women and men, who successfully climbed to the summit of the mountain. However, 15 people died during the expedition the tallest mountain on the planet. In his planning, Hall had to hire various individuals to assist him in accomplishing his project successfully. Hall employed Mike Groom, an Australian climber aged 33 years, and Andy Harris, to act as guides for his 1996 Everest Expedition. Hall and his company recruited eight guides to accompany them in the Everest expedition of 1996. The actual execution of this project began on March 31, 1996, when the members of the 1996 Everest expedition gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal. After arriving at the Base camp, Hall and his team began drawing conclusions concerning the preparedness and the abilities of the clients. the climbers began to acclimate to the exhausting physical activity at the high altitudes. The acclimatization routine comprised of a series of extremely difficult climbs that were interspersed with intervals of recuperation and rest. As they completed their final preparations, the guides requested the clients to adhere to the instructions during the ascent. During the push for the summit, four clients decided to turn back before reaching the peak. As the team descended to the South Summit, they noticed that the weather was worsening. The climbers realized that five of their fellow teammates had died: Fischer, Hall, Harris, Namba and Hansen. It is advisable for individuals to have plans that they should stick to when going on expeditions. These plans must be analyzed thoroughly. In addition, every contingency should also be considered, and any necessary measure put in place to deal with them.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Boukreev, Anatoli, and Weston DeWalt. The climb: tragic ambitions on Everest. London: Pan Macmillan, 2002.

Forsyth, Donelson. Group dynamics. London: Cengage Learning, 2009.

Krakauer, Jon. Into thin air. New York: Pan Macmillan, 2011.

Lewis, Jon. The mammoth book of how it happened – Everest. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2012.

Wright, Walter. Don’t step on the rope!: reflections on leadership, relationships, and teamwork. New York: Biblica, 2005.

 



[1] Boukreev, Anatoli, and Weston DeWalt. The climb: tragic ambitions on Everest. London: Pan Macmillan, 2002.

[2] Forsyth, Donelson. Group dynamics. London: Cengage Learning, 2009.

 

[3] Krakauer, Jon. Into thin air. New York: Pan Macmillan, 2011.

[4] Lewis, Jon. The mammoth book of how it happened – Everest. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2012.

[5] Wright, Walter. Don’t step on the rope!: reflections on leadership, relationships, and teamwork. New York: Biblica, 2005.

[6] Forsyth, p 16.

 

[7] Krakauer, p 12.

[8] Krakauer, p 12.

[9] Krakauer, p 12.

[10] Krakauer, p 12

[11] Krakauer, p 12

[12] Krakauer, p 15

[13] Krakauer, p 23

[14] Wright, p 44.

[15] Wright, p 24.

[16] Wright, p 31.

[17] Lewis, p 54.

[18] Lewis, p 55

[19] Lewis, p 57.

[20] Lewis, p 61.

[21] Lewis, p 59

[22] Lewis, p 73.

[23] Krakauer, p 67.

[24] Krakauer, p 66.

[25] Krakauer, p 65

[26] Krakauer, p 65.

[27] Forsyth, p 45.

[28] Forsyth, p 56.

[29] Forsyth, p78.

[30] Forsyth, p 31.

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