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  Snowboard Everest Autumn 2003

Stephen Koch and Jimmy Chin will attempt to snowboard Everest this Autumn. They plan to climb Everest via the Hornbein route and then descend via the Hornbein. They will travel from Kathmandu to Lhasa then to Everest base camp on the North (Chinese).  Eric Henderson is the base camp manager.

Dispatch The waiting game...: &content=On August 20th the three of us, with Mr. Zhao, headed north for the town of Shigar (14,200ft). We left ABC (18,475ft) in the care of Lakpa, and Kami for the four days we were gone. The goal of this mission downside and onto the Tibet Plateau, was to rebuild red-blood cells, eat and get some good rest (although, some of us drank more than our share of PBR s & Lhasa Brews). Our time was spent eating, eating, playing pool, dominoes, reading, getting a shave and hair wash, hiking casually up to the top of the Monastery, which was destroyed by the Cultural Revolution.

The town of Shigar, located 7 kilometers off the highway, and subsequently doesn t see many tourists (we saw 2 other foreigners our entire stay). Shigar was filled with traditional Tibetan life. We were able to fly home-made kites with kids, help spin wool with older ladies and watch the slaughter of goats by men who did not waste a single part of the animal. One morning Stephen and Eric helped press dried flowers into some sort of cooking oil, followed by a mission to fix the tire and seat of a borrowed bike.

The mayor of Shigar, Mr. Wang, an old friend of Mr. Zhao s, put us up in the Mayor s compound for our stay. The relatively soft beds and endless thermoses of hot water were a treat to our minds and bodies.

The freedom of the children was a refreshing site. We witnessed young kids, 1-4 years old, hanging out by themselves on the river, washing their own cloths, hair and bodies, while keeping a close eye on one another. It really made us aware of our cultural differences.

Even though we were enjoying the fruits of Tibetan society no team member forgot the task at hand. When the 24th arrived we were ready to get back to our high mountain lifestyle. The Mountain was waiting, and we were eager to see her. - Eric

Assuming the weather clears and another high pressure system moves in, we will move up to Camp I, which we have already established. The hike to Camp I goes along the east side of the Central Rongbuk Glacier for about 1,500 above ABC. We hike through bizarre ice towers that we had fun climbing on earlier in the trip. This section presents little danger in the way serac fall or crevasses. We need no ladders to negotiate the glaciers we cross. The Rongbuk, compared to the much more dangerous Khumbu Glacier, which people climbing Everest s normal South Col Route deal with, is tame. The reason is that the Rongbuk Glacier is less steep and therefore less broken, or jumbled.

From Camp I, the climbing team (Stephen, Jimmy, Lakpa and Kami) will depart after spending several hours relaxing, drinking, eating and packing. We will leave in the evening, once the sun has left the face and the snow has set-up, or hardened, allowing for rapid climbing progress on the firm snow (the key to success).

Hanging with the 'climbing' cave monk

I will be carrying in/on my backpack or my body, my down suit, Rome 151 snowboard with plate bindings, Dynafit boots (good for climbing and snowboarding), Charlet-Moser crampons, 1 Life-Link ski pole, 2 Charlet ice axes, overboots, Petzl headlamp x2, glove liners, gloves, mittens, sunglasses x2, Anon goggles, Dermatone sunscreen, SoBe ballcap, warm hat, scarf, balaclava, heat packs, Ridgerest sleeping mat, 2.5 liters of water, 20 GU, potato chips, candy bars, hard candies, Ricoh 35 mm camera and film, a small Sony video camera with tapes and an extra battery.

Most likely the down suit, overboots and mittens will not be needed until up high on the route, when the temperature drops with the increase in altitude.

We will attempt to climb in alpine style&with no established camps on the face, carrying what we need on our backs. We will not be using bottled oxygen. We want to climb the mountain by fair means . With bottled oxygen, I wouldn t know what it would truly be like to climb this magnificent mountain, with no aids. I would rather fail by fair means than use the aid of oxygen. There is no doubt a greater risk by not using oxygen; frostbite, cerebral edema, pulmonary edema, hypoxia, acute mountain sickness, catching a crampon and falling, not having the energy to stop on ice if encountered on the snowboard descent, etc., etc., etc& but for me, fair , is the only way for me to attempt this, or any mountain.

I decided to add two Sherpas to the climbing team to increase the margin of safety high on the mountain. They are incredibly strong climbing partners who know the mountain well. Neither Lakpa nor Kami have attempted this route or have attempted to climb Mount Everest in alpine style. It will be an adventure for us all.

The plan is to climb the Japanese Couloir that first night after leaving Camp I, from 6,300 meters to 7,800 meters. This should take about 10 to 14 hours, depending on the snow conditions. We will then dig a platform (flat spot out of the 40 degree slope) in the snow, secure ourselves to the slope with ice axes, set up the MSR stoves and melt snow to make hot drinks and soups and lay out our mats for resting and sleeping. We will eat, drink and rest/sleep during the warmer hours of the day and then fill our water bottles before departing for the summit at around 8 pm. Towards evening we will depart again to climb the remaining 1000 plus meters of the Hornbein Couloir to the summit. It is imperative to summit at a reasonable hour that allows Jimmy, Lakpa and Kami to descend at least to our rest spot at 7,800 meters and for the snow conditions to still be suitable for a safe snowboard descent& Inshallah!

- Stephen


Pictures copyright Stephen Koch' Autumn Everest 2003 expedition


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