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 Q&A Jacek Maselko

The slideshow will be posted on Saturday, so if you can hold off putting these answers until then, that would be great.  If you can add the link below so people can see some of the pictures:


Here is my attempt at answering the questions:

Q.) When did you leave Camp 6 and who all else attempted the Summit that day  from the North ?

A.) We woke up around midnight with Tadek and myself leaving at 3am.  Ryszard left shortly after that.  At the time we were not aware of anyone else attempting the summit from the north side.  However, when we caught up to Joao and Pascal  above the 3rd step, they told us that they left camp 6 at 10pm the previous  night (May 17), as they had a hard time sleeping there.

Q.) Describe the amount of "new" (1999) fixed rope on the way up to the Summit...if any ..

A.) There was not very much "new" fixed line above camp 6.  However, we did  recognized our 8mm dynamic line on the 2nd step that Conrad fixed during his  attempt at free climbing the second step.  Most other ropes we did not trust, especially on the traverses, so it was good to be able to hang on that rope  without the added fear of the integrity of the line. The politics of fixed lines are very interesting.  When we arrived in base camp,  the Ukrainians and the Americans (Mallory expedition) fixed most of the lower mountain to camp 2.  Then the courting began, where the big, commercial expedition try to court all the other ones to pay them for fixing the route. They had the Sherpa power and the rope to do it, so we should just pay them to do it.  We talked to the Ukrainian leader about how much we should compensate them as they did the bulk of the work, but they said that they climb for sport and do not want money.  However, we did give $800 to one of the big commercial outfits.  Actually we postponed the summit bid at one point because they haven't fixed the route, and decided to go after them ....

Q.) Describe the second step "climb" (ladder) for our readers and this new rope put in place by the Americans.

A.) The 2nd step is at the end of a tedious traverse and there are numerous fixed  lines hanging down, so it was good to find our rope.   Most of the ropes look fairly decent at the lower anchor, but then you look up where they cross over an edge and most of them are frayed there.  At the beginning of the step there is a fairly large off-width crack in the middle of it with an easy ramp to the right (where the route goes), as you make your way up the bouldery section of about 4 meters, you come around a corner and then easy snow climb of maybe 15 meters takes you to the base of the ladder (3-4 meters high) on the headwall. There is another off-width crack to the left of the ladder (a continuation of the lower crack, but it's filled in with snow on the lower angled mid section). To the right of the ladder the wall is steep, but there are lots of holds. However, the rock there is extremely rotten and I wouldn't even consider climbing it at sea level, as those holds would come right off.  The off-width crack, however, looks fairly easy if one was to climb it at sea level.  It  continues for maybe 5 meters with a large chockstone blocking the exit to the  top - definitely looks like the crux of that climb.  However, climbing the ladder is very easy, with crampons neatly catching on the rungs of the ladder. The exit to the top is probably the only awkward move there.  As I mentioned earlier, the new rope put there by Conrad definitely eases the mind while climbing this section, especially during the rappel.

Q.) Did you see any signs of the lost Ukranian climber on the way top the  summit?

A.) No, there were some bodies laying off of the route, but were fairly covered up by snow, and I didn't venture to investigate.

Q.) Once you reached the Summit, were there signs anyone else was there that day ? From the South ? Did you hear radio reports of others reaching the Summit  that day ?

A.) There were no signs of anyone there before us.   People in ABC (from the north  side) were asking me whether I see anyone on the SE ridge, or whether there is any sign of anyone having been there.  So I looked pretty closely to answer  them, and the summit looked fairly undisturbed with all the "trash" being fairly well covered by the snow.

Q.) What time did you arrive and depart ? You know there has been some critical  remarks that your group should not have stayed there that long ? What do you say to the hindsight ?

A.) Tadek arrived at 13:30, I arrived at 13:35, Ryszard around 14:10.  As far as the  criticism, well hindsight is always 20/20.   However, the summit was very warm, and there was no wind!  It might have made us feel a bit too complacent, but it really was a very nice day, except the view was obscured by the clouds. Ryszard was also making a radio patch call to his sponsors in Poland, and wanted to rest a little as well since he was out of oxygen at this point - he had a malfunctioning regulator.  Additionally everyone was feeling pretty strong, so that added to our maybe overconfidence.

Q.) On the way down, when did the problems being ?

A.) Tadek left the summit first, then Ryszard and I followed last after I picked up a rock from the outcropping near the summit.  I didn't catch up to Tadek until I was on top of the 2nd step.  There is a small snowfield with a number of oxygen bottles lying there.  Tadek told me that he found a bottle that was almost full and his only had about an hour left of oxygen.  He asked me if I wanted to search through them to find a fuller bottle of Os for myself, but I said that I will just rather go down.  As I started down the fixed line, Tadek was putting the new oxygen bottle on.

Q.) Tadek was last seen coming down the second step by you or Ryszard ? What do you think happened to him?

A.) I was the last one to see him.  I was traversing below the 2nd step and saw  Tadek rappelling the 2nd step.  Most likely what happened to him is that he tripped or slipped during the traverse between the 2nd and 1st step.

Q.) Tell us what you know about Joao Garcia going up ? and at what point did you pass him?

A.) We caught up to Joao and Pascal above the 3rd step - they were resting and the  route ahead went up the upper snow triangle on the NE ridge.  I passed them and  lead through the deep snow (knee to thigh deep on 45-60 degree slope).  My  oxygen ran out half way through the snow field, and Tadek caught up to me and  passed me.  I went up to a small ledge where I changed the oxygen bottles. Here Joao also caught up to me and we talked for a few minutes while resting there.  On the way down, we passed Joao on the summit ridge.  We saw Pascal sitting on oxygen (they carried oxygen for emergencies with them) at the start of the fixed lines from the summit ridge - about 200 meters horizontal below the summit.   Pascal looked very tired so I thought he was just waiting for Joao to come down.   However, I later learned from Joao that after he summited alone at 4:30pm, he came down to Pascal, and then they both went to the top, summiting at 6:30pm.

Q.) Tell us about Ryszard and Pascal spending the night on Everest ? And why  Ryszard stopped coming down.

A.) All three of them (Ryszard, Pascal, and Joao) spent the night below the 1st  step, but were unaware of each others presence.  Ryszard put his headlamp on when it got dark, but it wouldn't work.  It was pitch black by the time he figured out what the problem was - one of the battery leads disconnected on his Petzl Arctic headlamp.  He had to work by touch and feel, which meant that he took off his gloves to try to connect the terminal again.  However, before he could get it done, his hands and fingers would go numb and he had to put on the mittens again and spend a while shaking and moving them to warm them up. Ryszard said that he repeated this procedure over 10 times throughout the night.  The problem is that below the 1st step, the fixed lines end, and although the terrain is very easy to the start of the fixed line through the yellow band, in the dark, it would be very hard to find, and one could possibly walk off the Kangshung face, or the North face, or even go too far passed the fixed line.  So Ryszard decided to stay put and wait until light.   The whole night he was sitting on the backpack, stomping his feet, and moving his toes and fingers.

Q.) At camp 6 you and the sherpas head out at what time and why ?? Tell us about Joao coming in... to camp.

A.) We heard Ryszard's call on the radio around 7pm.   At which point we asked our  Sherpas, Pasang and Pema, to grab oxygen and come up from camp 5 (7,650m).  They left camp 5 by 8pm and on 5 liters per minute headed to camp 6.  They arrived at camp 6 around midnight.  They tried to find the start of the fixed line, but the very strong wind and blowing snow made it impossible.   They asked me if I would point them to the ropes, but I told them that I had a hard time finding camp 6 after leaving the rope from the yellow band.  Appa Sherpa was in a tent on the other side of camp 6, and our Sherpas went to him.  I told him that we would give him any money he wanted to go up to try to get Ryszard (at this point we didn't know anything about Joao and Pascal).  However, Appa Sherpa said that it was too dangerous to go out in the storm, no matter how much he got paid.  We then waited until morning in the tent at camp 6.  At 4:30 am we were melting snow again for tea.   By 5am, the Sherpas left, and I followed them about half an hour later.  When I got to the start of the fixed line up the yellow band, I couldn't warm up my toes or fingers, and struggled with the decision to stay and wait.  The Sherpas, however, were already near the top of the yellow band.   After the Sherpas disappeared above the yellow band, I saw a person start coming down.  It was Joao.  He looked fairly tired, but the worst was his nose, which was frozen solid with icicles hanging from it.  When he  arrived at the bottom of the fixed line, I gave him tea, but he refused, saying he has some in the tent.  I then asked him where is Pascal, and he said in the tent.  I asked whether he was sure?  But he was very insistent on that.  He then left for camp 6.

Q.) Tell us about the Sherpas who we know you are so proud of and their efforts?

A.) They were really great guys.  We already formed a strong rapport with them before  this day.  You know how it is when you meet people that you hit it off with right away, and this was very much like that.  I was also very impressed that when other Sherpas didn't want to go, they risked their lives to save Ryszard.  I thought it was above and beyond the usual call of duty of a high altitude Sherpa to go out in the middle of the night in a storm from 7,650 meters to 8,300 and then the following morning up to 8,500 meters in nonabating winds.

Q.) Tell us what assistance the Sherpa gave Pascal and what happened, and their feelings as described to you..

A.) The Sherpas met with Ryszard, who was already traversing towards the fixed lines that lead from the ridge through the yellow band around 9am. They gave him  oxygen, but after a while, he preferred to walk without his backpack which meant he had to give up the oxygen as well.  As they were walking him towards the fixed line, they saw another person laying about 50 meters away. They quickly went up to him and found that it was Pascal who was still alive, albeit unconscious.  They gave him oxygen at full flow, shook him, tried to get him to wake up... but he only groaned.   After a while of these efforts, they decided they cannot carry a man down and they already had one man to save, so they had to leave him.  It was by far the hardest decision they had to make in their lives...  And they were definitely affected by it.   They told me this after we met below the yellow band and that's when I notified our ABC, and they got in touch with Pascal's team to assemble a strong rescue team of a few Sherpas to go up. I then assisted Ryszard to camp 6, while the Sherpas were already there, melting snow, and getting some food ready for Ryszard.\

Q.) After you arrived back at Camp 6, tell us what "you heard" happened on the  attempt to save Pascal ...

A.) The Belgians (Pascal's team) were able to get in touch with the Sherpas from an  Italian expedition who were in camp 5.  I think 4 of them, and one Italian climber (don't know who it was, though), left for camp 6.  Even before they  arrived at camp 6, they saw a person above the fixed line on the ridge stand up  - they waved to him - Pascal waved back, then took a couple of steps forward, tripped, and fell down the north face...

Q.) What is your theory on Pascal "awaking " ? As no one can know for sure.

A.) When our Sherpas reached him it was a bit after 9am.   His core body temperature  was very low - too low to maintain consciousness, but still warm enough to be alive.  The Italian Sherpas saw him around 4pm, when the sun would have warmed his  core body temperature enough for him to revive himself.

Q.) Tell us you opinion on how easy it is to fall going down with the ropes that were there from the Summit to Camp 6.

A.) Although the steps are the more technical of obstacles, they tended to have  better fixed ropes.  However, the traverses consisted of walking on a fairly narrow ledge of maybe 6" to 12" in width with maybe a couple of inches of unconsolidated powder snow on them.  Below the ledges, the north face of Everest dropped off at an angle of 60 to 80 degrees.  The ropes there were very frayed, and some had the whole sheath missing with a couple of strands of the core left.   You really had to climb here, as you knew that the rope would not hold if one was to fall.

Q.) And the toughest for last...Going down can you describe how it is descending with one less climber?

A.) The expedition was a failure.  Even though we climbed the summit, the loss of a  life was not worth it.  Our moods were somber, and there were just hugs from all the members and Sherpa staff.  There is nothing we really could have said, everything was understood, and I even felt guilty for making the summit...


Patagonia Mountain Agency is Jacek Maselko company's web site...

His slideshow is below, this will take you awhile in that there are 33 pictures. We found the pictures some of the best photos we have seen "together". It is a must see. Also You will want to see picture number 33. It touched us. Jacek set this slideshow up to go with his Q&A... on Everest News.


Again, unless you have been there, you must take the time to see these pictures.

The Mountaineering Must Haves


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