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Richards Q&A Part
1, 2 & 3
Richards lead guide on the
Mountain Guides Cho Oyu 2000
Ed Hillary, and others have been very negative on the
publishing of the pictures of Mallory. Was it a
Richards] The publishing of the pictures of
Mallory has been controversial and even complicated at
times. We do have a responsibility to report our
discovery accurately and thoroughly. As this
great mystery of Mallory and Irvine is more than just
a story or historic event, it's of utmost importance
not to withhold information about our findings.
Death is obviously not pleasant, but it is something
that we can ALL count on happening to us, our loved
ones and our friends. I believe that our society
can only benefit from confronting it, rather than
harboring it and not understanding it.
What do you do for a living ?
Richards] I've been working as a climbing guide
for the past eight years. I first started guiding on
Mt. Rainier and now do several international trips, as
What is it like being a guide on a 8000 meter
Richards] If you don't have a wife or
significant other or at least plan on still having one
after the expedition, and don't mind taking five years
off your life in two months time, and don't mind
spending the following week of the expedition starring
at a white wall - I think it's great. No really,
Guiding an 8000m. peak can be very rewarding and is
something I've really enjoyed. The camaraderie
that is associated with a successful climb is a big
part of climbing for me. I love to see people
succeed and to be a part of their obtaining goals.
High altitude is a risk that everyone must accept in
attempting a high mountain. We always try and
minimize those risks by acclimatizing well and
climbing together as a team. Otherwise, the same
rules we adhere to on any other climb are the same
rules in the Himalaya.
Was there too many people on Cho Oyu this Autumn?
Richards] Cho Oyu is seeing more and more
traffic and I don't see that changing any time soon.
This past Autumn, 23 expeditions attempted the
mountain. It is looking more and more like a Mt.
McKinley. The two main differences: By the time
you reach high camp on Cho Oyu, 50% of the climbers
have turned around. Second, it's not a Denali
National Park, where strict rules and a well thought
out system keeps the mountain clean. The base
camp is dirty and most expeditions do not make the
effort to clean up; the climbers need to be pro-active
in cleaning up the mountain.
Who are your heroes ?
Richards] Marlyn Manson and Thomas Edison
What would you recommend for someone with little
talent, but with the dream of climbing Everest ?
Richards] I can certainly understand why people
would like to stand on the highest point on Earth and
I'd be a hypocrite to say that is foolish, but I do
think it is amazing how attached people are to
Everest. The earth is laden with incredible places of
natural wonder, awe inspiring beauty - all of which
have amazing history. I've always had incredible
experiences in the desert, at the ocean, and in the
mountains. Those places aren't for everybody, that is
where I feel most alive. It doesn't have to be
Mt. Everest. If you're mind is set on Everest,
go climb some other small peaks first, then work your
way towards the big one.
Hi Tap, You had a good look at the 2nd Step last year,
and I was wondering if you believe it was possible for
Mallory & Irvine to have stayed on the ridge
instead of traversing below like expeditions do today.
I've read that the Chinese first attempted the 2nd
Step in this manner, but were turned back by the
"steep prow" above. I also read in an
expedition dispatch last year that during your summit
attempt Conrad and Simo had a radio conversation
discussing staying on the ridge, but that Conrad
thought it looked too difficult. In your opinion is it
possible to stay on the ridge and then traverse from
the point where the ridge meets the step to the little
snowpatch below the final headwall?
Richards] I don't feel like I can give an
honest assessment of this part of the route, as I
haven't climbed it. I do believe that Mallory
and Irvine could have made the summit.
Do you think Sandy Irvine might be found in
the anticipated location west of the Chinese 1960 camp
6, or do you agree with the logic that he might lies
along Mallory's fall line?
Richards] These two locations are almost the
Was there other artifacts found that were not reported
more questions have been submitted to Tap....
Tap, there seems to a consensus among Everest
researchers and buffs alike that that the mystery of
Mallory & Irvine can only be solved if the Kodak
vestpocket camera is found. Because the camera wasn't
found with George Mallory last year many feel certain
that it must be in Irvine's possession. I find this
outlook to be a bit optimistic. It would seem equally
possible that Mallory's camera became dislodged during
his fatal fall. If so, then there would exist a strong
possibility that is lies somewhere along Mallory's
fall line. Are there any plans to search the fall line
when the team next returns to continue the research
Richards] I wouldn't say that it's
"equally" possibility that the camera was
dislodged in Mallory's fall. I see it more
viable to speculating that Irvine could have ended up
carrying the camera. It would be remarkable to find
the camera, and even more so, to find an
well-preserved image of the two standing on the
summit. Although, it's not the only thing that
might tell if the two stood on top. At this
point, I'm thinking of a return trip to the N. side of
Everest as an opportunity to search, on a broad scale,
for any evidence of the early British expeditions.
Ever since we found ourselves standing around the body
of George Mallory, I've felt a certain sense of
obligation to return and learn as much as possible
about what happened to Mallory and Irvine.
How did the other expeditions react to Mallory being
found when you were on the mountain?
Richards] At the time of the discovery and in
the following days, we did share our story with many
other teams on the mountain. Several other
climbers were intrigued to hear about what we had
found and most were very positive and generally
Did anyone discuss looking for Wang? Any ideas where
he might be?
Richards] I don't see how finding Wang would
provide any pertinent information for the
Mallory/Irvine story. We did see other bodies
while searching - I didn't see any reason to get
involved with them or get any closer than necessary.
Have you heard the rumors that "some" people
think they know where Irvine is ?
Richards] There's lots of people that have
ideas as to what may have happened to M&I. I
don't think anyone knows exactly where Irvine is.
Do you think Irvine body should be photographed ?
Richards] As we learned in 1999, you just never
know what you might find up there. One of the
biggest reasons we conduct research and report on such
discoveries is to fill in the gaps with accurate
information. A tactfully taken photographic
image can greatly aid in accomplishing just that.
What are your views on the commercialization that has
been taking place on the mountain? (The
commercial guiding companies, media attention, live
Richards] I'm continually amazed at the amount
of attention Everest gets. Having a national
bestseller, with stories of what can go wrong up
there, explains much of that; as does the large
increase of interest in the adventure travel business.
Do you think the media attention some climbers get
gives others the wrong impression about climbing
Everest? (i.e. It is easier than it really
Richards] I think it's a doubled edged sword.
I'm amazed when world renown climbers refer to Everest
as a slog or a dog-route. In the same breath,
I'm amazed how people will fabricate the whole Everest
experience to be a thrill-seeking, nail-biting, stunt.
There's always risks involved, (not so different from
the things we expose ourselves to on an everyday basis
- I'm talking about driving down the highway, or
participating in other sports). There are more
days where you expose yourself to the bid catastrophic
dangers, that seldom take place. The number of
days where you're really hanging it out there, are
few. More than anything, it simply requires your
attention and good planning.
By paying $40,000-$70,000 to be guided up Everest, do
you think guides feel an obligation to their clients
to get them to the top no matter what?
Richards] There's a million different ways to
skin the cat, and it is hard to forecast how a summit
day will pan out. Foremost, on day one of any
expedition, we communicate the responsibilities of the
guides and the clients. In most situations,
we've climbed with these people before and have
already developed a relationship with mutually
understandings. All of the guides I've worked
with on these Himalayan climbs are good friends, we've
worked together on other mountains and we're reading
from the same page. If an individual is hiring a
guide and isn't willing to accept the guides decision
to set safety parameters, that person should not hire
a guide. Problems seem to arise when guides and
clients don't set realistic expectations.
Richards lead guide on the
Mountain Guides Cho Oyu 2000