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 Fred Barth's Q&A on his successful Summit of Everest Spring 99

Fred Barth's Q&A on his successful Summit of Everest this Spring 1999 with questions from the staff of Everest News. Fred was also deputy leader of this successful Asian-Trekking North Side expedition.


Q.) Tell our readers who Fred Barth is, most of them probably know you were on the Russian expedition last year but not much else ... (except our favorite fans from Neptune Mountaineering of course).

A.) I am a climber who loves the mountain world.  Being in the "high country" is where I prefer to be when climbing.  I do pursue rock and ice climbing, as well as ski touring and ski mountaineering, but it is in the mountains that I am happiest.  While I have a certain amount of experience from 20-plus years of climbing and mountaineering, the demands of a professional military career limited what I could do and where I could go. During my active duty years, my trips were usually local.  Having been stationed all over the US, I've climbed in a variety of places, but mostly California; however, I cancelled more trips than I took.  I did manage a few overseas expeditions back then, which included several visits to Chamonix, Africa (Kilimanjaro and Kenya), Peru, and Austria.  I left the military in 1995, so the first thing I did (maybe the second thing), was join a friend and climb Aconcagua (1996); later that year I went to the Dolomites-this is one of the most beautiful mountain areas on the planet. In 1997 I climbed Gasherbrum II in the Karakoram.  This was my first expedition to an 8000 meter peak, my first trip to Asia and either the Himalayas or Karakoram, and I was the expedition leader!

Q.) Tell us what it is like to be a deputy Leader on an Asian-Trekking Expedition.

A.) Not as much work as being leader!  I came to Kathmandu early and checked all the expedition gear-tents, oxygen bottles and regulators/masks, high altitude stoves and fuel, etc.  The deputy also provides a good backup to the leader.

Q.) You know some "commercial expedition" are critical of the Sherpas type organized expeditions, what do you say on this subject.

A.) There are many "commercial expeditions" and Sherpa organized expeditions out there and they are not all organized and run in the same way.  They can be just as different as the many, guided expeditions.  There are so many expeditions out there, in fact, it may be better not to generalize.  There is nothing wrong with the concept of Sherpa organized expeditions as such. There are good operations and bad operations, just as there are good and bad commercial companies and guides.  What I can say about the subject is that a potential client would do well to do research and ask lots of questions. The individual has to ask themselves what kind of expedition  experience they want.  Do they need or want to be guided?  Do they have enough experience and physical strength to handle their intended goal?  Are they going with a group of friends or alone?  These and other questions must be answered to determine what kind of expedition to go on.  Asking for references is a must.  The better a person researches this subject, the better they will be able to select a company or guide which will be most suitable for their needs.

Q.) Interesting that Asian-Trekking had more climbers of their organized expeditions this year than any other "company". Why do you think so ?

A.)  The answer to this is simple.  Generally, Asian Trekking always does a good job and has many repeat clients.

[Note all time is local Nepali times]

Q.) What time did you arrive at the Summit?

A.) I arrived at the summit at approximately 1100, just a few minutes behind George.

Q.) Who else was at the summit when you arrived?

A.)  When I arrived on top, the people already there were:  Naga Dorje, Appa Sherpa, Andre (a Russian from another commercial expedition), and George.

Q.) Who else arrived at the Summit while you were there at what time ?

A.)  The next people to arrive on top after me (again, please remember I was probably losing brain cells by the bucket load) were:  Sergio Martini (approx. 1110 ?),  Man Badur (our sirdar, at approx. 1115), the three Georgians; Merab Khabazi,  Irakli, and Mamuka (maybe 1120, and I don't remember their order of arrival).  Also, at some point around this time, Sergio's wife (aka Chus) arrived.  I seem to remember you or someone else stating there were twelve summiters that day, but at the moment I do not recall who that might be. 

Q.) What time did you leave the Summit?

A.)  I was the first to descend and I departed about 1140.

Q.) Where was Gia and Merab Nemsitsveridze when you went down ? Where did you meet them and at what time? \

A.) I met Gia and Merab N. at the point on the NE Ridge where you descend off the ridge, at about 2 or 230PM.

Q.) Ok, to your climb. Tell us about Summit day. We understand there was 12 climbers to summit while you were there. Can you tell us how that went ? Did you work as a team ? ....

A.) The climbers who made their attempts on the 26th of May, the day I summited,  were from several expeditions.  People were climbing separately, by which I mean no one was roped together.  I was climbing with my Georgian friends and with Sherpas Naga Dorje and Man Bahdur.  Also part of our "group" was George D. and Appa Sherpa.  As it turned out, when we got to the NE Ridge as dawn was beginning, the Georgians stopped for a break.  I was out in front of them and I continued (I did not stop), following behind Naga Dorje.

At some point before the First Step, Appa and George caught up to us; Appa and Naga Dorje then took the lead and there was no way I could keep up with them.  That is why I arrived on top about an hour after they did.

Q.) [Note here I have put the steps on the way down, if you want to reserve that's is fine too....] As we talked on the phone hopefully you can describe is some detail Camp 6 to the Summit for the readers....  Describe the Summit ridge going down from the Summit for our readers ?  Describe coming from the ridge down the steps...  From the third to the second...  The second to the first.... And then the First to Camp 

A.) I'll describe the climb by going from camp 6 at 8300m to the summit. Please remember that I've only been up there once and my brain was starved for oxygen (this is my disclaimer).

    The route from camp 6 (8300m) to the NE Ridge is a rising traverse that follows a series of easy ramps and snow gullies.  It hits the ridge below (East) or before the First Step.  Getting to the top of the ridge was exciting, because of the expanded view; the sky was beginning to fill with light and I could see Makalu and Kangchenjunga.

    As I recall, the route climbs over the First Step (easy, straight forward rock scrambling), and then traverses below the ridge on a series of ledges.  This is the first serious difficulty.  The climbing is not hard, but it is exposed; often there is no fixed rope.  When there is a rope, it is often old and frayed (in other words, it probably wouldn't hold a fall even if the anchors were good).  Appa and Naga did some rope fixing here, as they also did later at the Second Step and below the final summit pyramid.

    The Second Step is, of course, the crux of the route.  For those who have never seen a picture of it, it is a very prominent square step (of about 30 meters in height) when seen in profile.  The climbing route goes into a great alcove on the North side of the formation.  It begins with some technical rock climbing for about 10 meters, then a steep snow slope that leads to bottom of a huge rock corner.  This corner is the real crux and is where the famous ladder is located.  The ladder is "lashed" to the right wall of the corner with a mixture of old and older ropes.  The wall is about 5 meters high; the ladder only goes about 3.5 meters.  The hard part is trying to get to the top of the step, which is just above and to the right of the ladder's top rung.  I had to work my front crampon points up some tiny ledges and wrinkles so that I could then reach the ledge and haul myself up.

    It is interesting to speculate as to whether or not Mallory and Irvine could have climbed the Second Step back on that fateful June day in 1924.  I believe the general consensus these days is that their climbing the step is highly unlikely.  However, what if the snow slope went up higher, near the top of the corner?  This might have made it possible-consider the variations of snow conditions on the Hillary Step as seen in different photographs.  A close inspection of photographs from the 1924 expedition might reveal whether such snow conditions may have existed.

    After the Second Step, the route follows the crest of the ridge to the Third Step.  This is not a difficult obstacle, just some easy rock scrambling.  Next is a rising traverse to the climber's right (North), across the snow slopes of the summit pyramid.  A little more traversing, West across the North face of the pyramid, brings the route to a rock couloir that angles up and left.   This leads to the final snow ridge, which is followed to the West and brings the climber to the summit.

Q.) What is next for Fred ?

A.) Good question.  I have no planned expeditions at the moment (except locally), but I do want to return to the Himalayas to see the Khumbu Himal and visit and climb with the Sherpas I've come to know.  The perpetual problem of all climbers is: too many mountains and too little time.

Best Regards,


EverestNews.com thinks You will be hearing much more about Fred in the future...

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