One chilly, frosty early morning, a pair of climbers called Stacey and Alison set out on a very daring challenge, to climb the East Kangshung face of Everest.
Familiar the climbers were with the Western and Northern regions of Everest, but not the Eastern.
As the climbers gazed up at the mighty Kangshung face, their hearts filled with awe.
The wall looked so stunning with Sun-bathed, snow, ice and rock. It had flutings, upper slopes of hanging glacier, gullies, spurs of snow and ice, huge rock buttresses and ice falls.
However, the thing was, it was eleven thousand feet high and horrendously steep. Some climbing that was going to take for Stacey and Alison.
To the right, there was the unclimbed East Kangshung ridge, which ran up to the Northeast ridge.
Then there was the Southeast ridge, which joined the main Summit to the South Summit, before descending to the South Col.
To the left of the South Col, there was the unclimbed, vertical Northeast wall of the World’s fourth highest mountain Lhotse – a huge mass of snow and ice on the upper slopes, sheer cliffs of overhanging rock on the lower ones and a crest of rocky pinnacles at the top.
The immense Eastern massif of Everest towered above the vast Kangshung glacier, which ran down through the Kangshung valley.
The mountains on the right-hand side of the valley, were much lower in height and marked the edge of the Tibetan plateau. The left-hand terrain was higher, though nowhere near as high as Everest or Lhotse.
As they neared the gigantic Kangshung wall, the climbers began to see just how steep it was.
The lower areas overhung in many places – especially the buttresses. The spurs were horrendously steep with overhanging sections, as were the gullies between, but the upper slopes plunged to the glacier.
Suddenly, a tremendous avalanche thundered down one of the gullies and headed off down the glacier – no less than a hundred metres from Alison and Stacey.
Then there came then point when a portion of the upper slopes disappeared from sight – obscured by the largest buttress.
Closer and closer to the Kangshung face the climbers went, until the cloudless blue sky was blocked from view by the upper overhangs of the buttress.
Finally, Alison and Stacey reached the foot of the face and began the climb.
The climbers were not using bottled oxygen, they had no tent – the reasons of which were soon to be made clear. Their only lifelines were ice axes, crampons, rations, a piece of rope, jumars, helmet-mounted torches, pitons and each other.
So Alison and Stacey began to ascend the mighty buttress – keeping to the safest areas of snow and ice.
Over three thousand feet in height the buttress was, over three times the height of the Eifel Tower, but the climbers completed the climb successfully.
By then, it was getting late in the day and the stars were beginning to show, but the surrounding landscape was still visible.
To the left, there was the Tibetan plateau, to the not-too-distant right, there was the silhouette World’s fifth highest mountain, Makalu, which was joined by a ridge to a lower peak called Chomolonzo and the Northeast wall of Lhotse to the immediate right.
Beyond the Kangshung valley, which was now in Moonlight, there were mountains beyond mountains, partially in shadow and the silhouette of the World’s third highest peak – Kanchenjunga rose up on the far horizon.
As for Everest, well, it was no longer lit up by Sunlight.
The buttress, which the climbers had ascended was out of sight and the snow and ice slopes were all illuminated by the Moon. The upper slopes rose up like a huge wave to meet the sky.
Pitching a tent on those sheer upper slopes was right out of the question.
So the climbers dug a snow hole just above the buttress and settled down for the night. They had some rations before going to sleep.
The following day turned out to be just as bright as the last, only there were a few clouds in the sky.
The slopes of Makalu and Chomolonzo were in shadow, as was Kanchenjunga and all other Westward-facing slopes. Even the Northeast wall of Lhotse was partially in shadow, but the upper snow and ice slopes of Everest were completely lit up.
Alison and Stacey began to make the ascent of the vast spur, leading all the way up to the Southeast ridge.
They had climbed the other two sides of Everest and the West face of Lhotse, which was steep enough, but what they were climbing at that moment was something else entirely – especially seeing as most, if not all of it was vertical.
After climbing some way Stacey and Alison dug another snowhole and settled down for another Moon-lit night. They had some rations before going to sleep.
The next morning turned out to be another perfect one.
The climbers continued on upwards towards the Southeast ridge, which was drawing nearer and nearer.
By then, the effects of altitude were kicking in, but they continued on with sheer determination in their hearts.
Extreme fear was urging them on.
When they were within the final two thousand feet of the ridge, the climbers dug one final snowhole and settled down for yet another Moon-lit night.
The following day, which was just as perfect as the last, Alison and Stacey started off on the final push to the Summit of Everest itself.
Against the increasing altitude and the Death Zone they battled, but fortunately, they reached the Southeast ridge.
By then, the mountainous terrain in Nepal, including a lower peak called Ama Dablam, was in view beyond Lhotse and the immense Makalu massif, as was most of the Kangshung face.
Then there was the vast South Col – over a thousand feet lower, the Northeast ridge and the East ridge, which ran all the way down to the Kangshung valley.
So the climbers began to ascend the upper reaches of the Southeast ridge – going higher and higher into the Death Zone, until they reached the South Summit.
From there, Stacey and Alison were able to see the terrain to the West of Everest.
First of all, there the West face of Lhotse, all shrouded in shadow at the head of the Western Cwm. The Cwm, which was also in shadow, ran down to the hidden Khumbu icefall. On one side of the Cwm, there was the hidden Southwest face of Everest and the West ridge and on the opposite side, a lower peak called Nuptse, which was joined to Lhotse by another ridge and partially bathed in Sunlight.
Beyond that, it was mountains beyond mountains.
The World’s sixth highest mountain, Cho Oyu was situated nearby, but in the very far distance, there was a group of high peaks, including the World’s second highest mountain, K2.
Then there was the immeasurable Tibetan plateau, which was partially in view and the final section of the Southeast ridge that joined the South Summit to the main Summit of Everest.
That final stretch looked totally horrific.
To the left, there were the upper slopes of the Southwest face and to the right, were the ferocious cornices overhanging the mighty Kangshung face.
It really was a most chilling sight, but the climbers had no other choice than to climb that final stretch, in order to reach the main Summit.
So they continued on, keeping well away from the cornices. One false step in that direction would send a climber falling thousands of feet to the Kangshung glacier.
At one point, they had to climb the Hillary Step, which was positioned right next to a cornice – ready to give way at any moment.
Once above the Hillary Step, there were no more challenges.
So Stacey and Alison made one final push and stood on the Summit of Everest.