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Interview with Frits Vrijlandt          August, 2000

Frits Vrijlandt reached the Summit of Everest this Spring 2000. This is his Q&A. Check out the wonderful pictures at the end, you won't want to miss them.

Q.) [EverestNews.com] How did this climb compare with your climbs of other major or challenging peaks? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] From the altitude point of view, to me it was something like a leap into the dark. I had no experience on 7000+ mountains. The conditions of the terrain above 8300 meters were quite challenging (steep slopes with loose snow on loose rock) and comparable to many serious but lower mountains. I had not expected the climbing to be as serious as it was. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] What did you do to physically prepare for this climb? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] Since November last year we had a professional trainer who gave us a daily training schedule. I had only time after office hours and in weekends. But we did a lot of hiking with heavy backpacks and balance training with weights. A major plus was my two week's training in the Swiss Alps and a trekking to 5000 m we did in Langtang, Nepal.

Q.) [EverestNews.com] How long have you been climbing?

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] I have been in the mountains since 1970, mainly downhill skiing and hiking. My first rock climbing experience was in 1986. I have been climbing at least two months per year ever since. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] How long were you climbing before you attempted your first "major" peak? What was that peak?

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] In 1990, after four years of summer and winter mountaineering, I climbed the 5633m. Elbrus in the winter season. I consider it to be my first major peak. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] Why do you think there have been numerous expeditions to remove trash, but none to remove or bury bodies? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] Because on cleaning expeditions the sherpas do the heavy work. And it is against the faith of the Buddhist sherpas to touch corpses. [On the 1999 Mallory Expedition the Americans did the examinations on the body of Mallory.] Actually, on numerous expeditions climbers have 'buried' bodies in crevasses or in tents, or have simply thrown them off the mountain. If one has the strength, courage and the opportunity to pay one's last respects to a deceased climber, it seems that climbers do make the effort. It isn't the easiest of jobs to bury a person high up that mountain, while you are struggling to stay alive yourself. In my opinion it would be rather morbid to organize an expedition only to bury or remove bodies. Maybe the corpses have a purpose: a grim reminder of the riskiness of the climb. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] How did the news of the deaths or the deaths themselves on Everest this year affect you and your expedition? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] Though every single accident is horrible, we had "only" two deaths on the Northern side of the mountain this year. The 25 year old Danish Jeppe Stoltz and the Chinese Yen Gen-Hua. Both deaths happened after my summit bid. I feel really sorry for their relatives and friends. But it is a fact those things do happen. I am grateful that all the members of our team returned home safely. During one of our training weekends we discussed it with the whole team and concluded that coming back alive and without injuries was our main objective. This might sound very logical, but I know some people can be obsessed blindly by Mount Everest....

Q.) [EverestNews.com] Why do you think some climbers made the Summit this year (actually a record number!) when others did not ? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] The day Paul Walters and I went to the summit was the second day people went up from the North. And we had a record of 23 people reaching the summit. I do not know about the others, but I can tell you how we approached the mountain. Before we considered ourselves summit-ready we both had spent a night at a 7800 meter camp. And before the attempt we went down all the way to BC to recuperate. We started our attempt in the second week of May after consulting the weather reports. According to the summit statistics, mid May is early. But our weather forecast was based on several reliable weather models and, even more important, we had a guy who was able to interpret them properly. When we had a GO for five days stable and good weather we simply went up. In the four days it took to reach the high camp at 8300 meters we had daily contact about the weather forecast, which even improved. I presume the others had also a good weather forecast or were just hoping for the right moment. In the two days after we summited, another 19 climbers succeeded. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] What was the difference ? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] There are several factors that have to match at the same time. You still have to be physically fit enough, after six weeks at high altitude. You need reasonably good weather: little wind and few clouds. And you have to be mentally ready to go for it, which in this case means to be a sufficiently experienced, brave and careful climber. All of these three have to be positive to get you to the summit. I reckon that the reason why others didn't make it probably had to do with one or more negative factors. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] How did you feel coming down from the Summit ? Were you worried ? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] I felt like I had to go a very long way down, which it was. The Second Step was a scary abseil. A lot of scary stretches had no fixed ropes or only ropes of very dubious quality. But I did not have time to feel worried, I was focusing on coming back alive. There were some people before me and behind me so I didn't feel isolated, though you are anyway! 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] Was climbing Everest a spiritual Experience for you ? If so, can you describe ?

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] I think it is a spiritual experience for everyone who climbs it. The mountain is BIG ! And therefore it is very impressive. I am not a very religious person but I have a lot of respect for the mountain. You need a lot of respect to be able to climb it and to return safely. I never felt like trespassing or not belonging on the mountain but I was aware of my futility. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] Tell about the "politics" of climbing Everest ? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] We had our Base Camp located away from the CMA/TMA residence where most other expeditions had there tents. The official people in charge are the CMA, but I felt the TMA were more able to get things done. And, though I don't want to call it politics, Russell Brice showed to be the "Rongbuck major".  He was involved in all the rope fixing. The Russian police team did the initial rope fixing of the North Col. The second part of their route was in a rather Russian way (steep!) Russell arranged a new route, which ascended more gradually. Russell was also involved, in fact or in comments afterwards, in all the rescues. And he was involved in building a new route along the road blocking lake on the East Rongbuk Glacier. This is all very understandable because Russell was the most experienced person on the mountain and he had the best support team (guides and sherpas). But then you see other expeditions  gratefully use all of the things accomplished by or via Russell and they don't contribute at all. This actually produced some friction between the teams. Climbers ought to practice "gentleman's behavior",  but one must not ignore the many national cultural differences between the teams. 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] How would you do it differently if you climbed Everest again ? 

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] Nothing! We have chosen to join David Allison Pritt who organized the expedition very well and we had an excellent team! 

Q.) [EverestNews.com] What is next for you ?

A.) [Frits Vrijlandt] I have climbed four of the Seven Summits by now. I would like to climb the remaining three also. And we are thinking about Kanchenjunga or Lhotse.  Regards, Frits

Click on these pictures for the full sized versions !
Frits on the Summit of Everest !  Second Step from BC. In those circles are climbers ! NorthCol from ABC

More great pictures ! Click on them.
Diner in BC Base Camp The North Face of Everest
Frits in the Tent at BC North Col from ABC Rongbuk Monastery
Ice Pinnacles on the way to ABC Yaks at BC Everest Summit
Frits Vrijlandt, veteran climber, Everest Summiter, author and motivational speaker. To book him e-mail everestnews2004@adelphia.net

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