Interview with Frits Vrijlandt
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.
[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
rock) and comparable to many serious but lower mountains. I had not expected
the climbing to be as serious as it was.
[EverestNews.com] What did you
do to physically prepare for this climb?
[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.
How long have you been climbing?
[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.
How long were you climbing before you attempted your
first "major" peak? What was that peak?
[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
[EverestNews.com] Why do you think there
have been numerous expeditions to remove trash, but
none to remove or bury bodies?
[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.
[EverestNews.com] How did the news of the deaths or the deaths
themselves on Everest this year affect you and your
[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....
[EverestNews.com] Why do you think some climbers made the Summit this
year (actually a record number!) when others did not
[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
[EverestNews.com] What was the
[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.
[EverestNews.com] How did you feel coming down from the Summit ? Were
you worried ?
[Frits Vrijlandt] I felt like I
had to go a very long way down, which it was. The
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
[EverestNews.com] Was climbing
Everest a spiritual Experience for you ? If so, can
you describe ?
[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.
[EverestNews.com] Tell about the "politics" of climbing
[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.
[EverestNews.com] How would
you do it differently if you climbed Everest again
[Frits Vrijlandt] Nothing! We have chosen to
join David Allison Pritt who organized the expedition
very well and we had an excellent team!
[EverestNews.com] What is next for you ?
[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,
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 !
|Diner in BC
||The North Face of Everest
|Frits in the Tent at BC
||North Col from ABC
|Ice Pinnacles on the way to ABC
||Yaks at BC