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 Everest Spring 2001: Bertrand Roche and Claire Bernier Roche

Roche Bertrand aka Zebulon, will return to Everest with his wife Claire Bernier Roche. In 1990 Zebulon summited Everest, at the time only 17 years old, with his father Jean-Noλl Roche. They flew together on a tandem paraglider from the south Col. They landed at base camp on the 7th of October 1990.

"7 Summits from a Two-seater Tandem Paraglider"

Their story told by Zeb and Claire themselves.

Everest 2001 Expedition Northeast Ridge, Tibetan side.

13th April to 25th May

Participants: Claire Roche-Bernier (age 28), Bertrand Roche [Zeb] (age 28), Claude Alain Gaillant (age 27), Frιdιric Roux (age 28), Christian Trommsdorf (age 37)

Cameraman: Alain Grelet (age 34)

Logistics : Janac - cook, Tsiering - cook, Lakpa - Climbing Sherpa

We reached Base Camp at 5200 meters by jeep and truck.  There, we distributed our supplies so that the largest part of them could be sent to Advance Base Camp at 6400 meters by Yak (22kms further up).  We then took on the task to set up our Base Camp as comfortably as possible.  We had music, a library and chess set available in the mess tent, as well as a toilet and shower tent.  We spent five days at Base Camp, before leaving for ABC.  On the 18th April, we loaded up the Yaks, and were happy to be underway to being closer to realizing our goal.  We spent a reasonable night at 5800 meters, amongst the Yaks and their owners. We were soothed by the clanging of their bells.  We left the next morning, following a long path length of the glacier's moraine.  ABC, at 6400 meters, is where the majority of people spend the majority their time on the North Side. In contrast, we wanted to stay there the least amount of time. The 22 kilometers which separate ABC from Base Camp didn't put us off, and out of principle we maintain that it is not possible to recuperate fully above 5200 meters.  In total we made five round trips between BC and ABC -- that's 220 KM of walking!  Lakpa, our climbing Sherpa, helped us set up our high camps.  Here's a breakdown of our time at camps:

Camp 1 - at 7000m on the North Col - we had up tents, sleeping bags,
mattresses and food - we climbed to it and spent one night acclimatizing on the 5th May, one night on our first attempt on the 10th May and two nights during our final ascent on the 19th and 20th May. 

Camp 2 - 7900m - we had tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, food, our paraglider and 8 bottles of oxygen.  We stayed from 16h30 until 22h30 at Camp 2 before making the final ascent with Oxygen on the 21st May. 

The ascent:  The climb from the North Col to Camp 2 was long and difficult - it seemed to never end, or that's the impression we got while climbing.  We reached 7500 after five hours of effort and decided to take a break. An hour later we set off again. It took 3 hours and 30 minutes to climb, making very small steps, to Camp 2 at 7900m. We were exhausted. Nevertheless, we could not doze in our sleeping bags, we needed to melt ice and eat before leaving for the summit in five hours.  We made an effort to rest, soothed by the rumbling of the cooker.  The view outside was splendid; we were perched on a ledge right in the middle of nowhere. The sunset over the Tibetan plains was dreamlike.  Night fell and the wind rose - each one of us grew apprehensive. Would we make the summit? Was this the right day? Would we have to wait an extra day?  10:00 PM - it was time, our companions Frederick and Christian were already en route, our Sherpa was waiting for us. We needed some time to sort out our 'new' oxygen - we had never used it. The mask stopped us from seeing where we were putting our feet. We had become accustomed to the regulator and everything else quickly.  Finally, we were ready, it was 10:30 PM. We set off with confident hearts. The oxygen gave us extra warmth and strength.  At 2:00 AM we reached the crest of the ridge at 8300m. We changed our oxygen cylinders.  Very quickly we realized that the cylinder's head had frozen. It was impossible to melt. We spent more than half an hour twisting it in different directions. We finally managed to fix it after a lot of effort.  Unfortunately, Claire's regulator fell into the snow where it froze. When we got it back on it registered zero bar. We decided to move fast, because we were getting cold there. We had been there for an entire hour.  Lakpa was obliged to go down, leaving his regulator for Claire. On leaving, Zed realized he couldn't find his - it took us 20 minutes to realize that Claire had 2!  We set off, this time we weren't alone. A path of other climbers carrying lamps had caught up to us. The night was magnificent, we were reaching for the stars and the wind had dropped.  We continued with disbelief - the countryside opening up beneath us at dawn was splendid.  On the First Step, we were in the lead - motivation was giving us wings. The Second Step was next, the most technical part of the climb. Climbing with such equipment is a unique experience. We could now clearly see the summit - it was right in front of us!  We were filled with the certain knowledge and joy that we would reach the top.  At the foot of the summit pyramid, we came across Fred who was coming down, exhausted. He had summited at 5:00 AM.  We were motivated more than ever when he told us the wind was weak. This gave us a great chance to fly.  An hour later, we were on the summit at 8:00.  The view was breathtaking. Not a cloud and the wind was between 30 and 40 KPH. We were in the heavens, with a strange dreamlike feeling.  We were there, the promised-land that we had been striving for over a month and a half. Our actions were slow, and after several photos, we had to get going, find a place to take off and above all to take care because above 8000m, the winds can change quickly.  We found a take-of spot 10 meters below the summit. We took off our oxygen masks and prepared the sail. These tasks which were so easy below were very trying up there.  It took an hour to get ready.  Then, sat one on top of the other, on the edge of the mountain, Zeb put the sail up and very quickly the wind took us to that mythical place. For a few minutes, we were birds. We got a brief glimpse of the West Face and then we headed off north, in the direction of the Chinese Base Camp.  We saw the whole route up, paragliding is magical and effortless! The countryside flashed by. The conditions weren't as calm as they seemed, the west wind changed our flight path.  Above the North Col, the sail started to flap violently, reminding Zeb of competition flights. We were distancing ourselves from anything which could cause turbulence.  At 10:22 AM we set down gently on the Rongbuk glacier, just above 6400 meters.  We had happy hearts!  Thanks to our partners and friends without whom this formidable adventure would not have seen the light of day.   Claire & Zeb 

Click on the picture for the full sized copy !

Update 5/24/2000: The French are reporting both Roche Bertrand aka Zebulon and his wife Claire Bernier Roche flew together on a tandem paraglider from the Summit of Everest (Not confirmed they actually left from the summit.) It took them around 8 minutes to get to ABC on the North side !

We will get a full report from Zebulon for you when he returns and things settle down on Everest.

Update 5/22: A report that paraglider has reached the Summit and arrived in ABC 8 minutes later... We assume it was Roche Bertrand aka Zebulon. 

C.V. Summaries

Claire Bernier Roche
28 Years old.
specialties : Paragliding
3 times world Cup winner  1995 -   1997 -  1998
World Championship: 2 rank 1997
European Champion 1994
French champion 1997 - 1998
2 and fly of Aconcagua 1996 - 2001
summit and fly of Kilimanjaro 1999
summit and fly of McKinley  1999
summit and fly of Elbruz 1999
summit and fly of Vinson 2001

Paragliding instructor since 1995
Ultra light pilot 3 axes

Bertrand Roche aka Zebulon.
27 years old
member of the paragliding French team for 5 years
Best result 12 positions overall world cup ranking 98
2nd in the World Cup of Grand Bornand 98 . Selected for the World Championship 1999.(6 Best French men)
Selected for the European Championship 1998.
Everest Summiter 1990 pilot of the tandem paraglider with my father from the south col to the base camp.
Climbing route.
The Nose , ( El Capitan), west face  of  the drus in Chamonix direct American route.
Grandes Jorasses eperon Walker , 2 times summits and fly of Aconcagua 1996 - 2001
summit and fly of Kilimanjaro 1999,summit and fly of McKinley  1999, summit and fly of Elbruz 1999, summit and fly of Vinson 2001.
Adventure race : Raid Gauloise 2000 in Nepal  900km from Tibet  to Indian Border running, cycling, rafting, trekking, I was in charge of the orientation our  team GTM finish ranking : 5 .
UIAGM mountain guide since 1997
Paragliding instructor since 1995
ultra light pilot 3 axes

We really need more sponsors to finish our challenge. If we succeed in this expedition Claire will be the first French female to climb Everest by the North ridge.

Best regards Zebulon

web site: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/claire-zeb/en/r4-en.html

If interested in sponsoring Bertrand Roche aka Zebulon and Claire Bernier Roche e-mail everestnews2004@adelphia.net 

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