Climbers pursue Everest on 50th anniversary of Hillary's feat

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2003

KATMANDU, Nepal Wind storms forced more than 100 climbers to retreat from the south face of Mount Everest on Wednesday amid celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the first Everest conquest.

But 13 Chinese, South Korean and American mountaineers on the northern side reached the summit of the world's highest mountain including a man from Spokane, Wash., and his 20-year-old son, believed to be the youngest American to succeed.

A record number of people are trying to scale the Himalayan peak this month to honor the historic climb of Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese guide.

Mountaineers are gathering in the Nepalese capital next week for the event, including Hillary and Junko Tabei, who in 1975 became the first woman to reach the summit. Tenzing Norgay died in 1986.

Meeting with Indian mountaineers in New Delhi, Hillary described how he wriggled to the top of a 36-foot rock wall and stepped onto the snow-blanketed ridge on May 29, 1953.

''I realized we were on top of Mount Everest and the whole world was spread out below us,'' the 83-year-old Hillary said Wednesday. ''After 50 years I can remember the feeling of satisfaction.''

More than 1,200 climbers have reached the summit since, and at least 175 have died trying.

With only a few days left in the climbing season, the thwarted mountaineers, on the Nepalese side, had hoped to reach the 29,035-foot-high summit after several days of better weather.

Increasingly strong winds and rain forced them to return to the highest camp, at 26,240 feet.

The weather has been mostly unfavorable on Everest this year. Climbers have lost tents, equipment and supplies in wind storms, which have forced many to retreat to base camp at 17,400 feet.

The Nepalese government has issued climbing permits to 22 expedition teams for the March to May season, each with about 12 members plus Sherpas who help carry gear up the icy slopes.

Climbers on the northern side of the mountain in Tibet fought snow and high winds during the final stretch to the top.

John Roskelley and his son, Jess, a mountain guide and University of Montana student, reported their success in a satellite telephone call to Dan McConnell, a Seattle spokesman for their climb.

''Being able to do it together was a dream for both of them,'' McConnell said.

Nepalese mountaineering officials can remember no American younger than 20 reaching the summit, though they do not keep official records.

Five Chinese mountaineers also reached the summit.

Eight Chinese and three South Korean climbers also reached the summit, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

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