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North Col Route

The North Col/Ridge Route is one of the two common routes to the summit (the other being the South Col Route). The Advanced Base Camp is reached from Base Camp (5050 meters) via Rongbuk Glacier which merges with the Eastern Rongbuk Glacier. Advanced Base Camp is at 6400m on the northwestern side of the East Rongbuk Glacier, under the slopes of Changtse. It normally takes 2 days for the first trip to ABC then 1 day after acclimatizion. ABC is the primary home for North Ridge climbers during the expedition.The ascent to the North Col from ABC starts on scree (loose rock) then moves to snow followed by increasingly steep slopes up to 60 degrees. Climbers use crampons and fixed ropes from now on. It takes between 4 to 7 hours to reach the North Col depending on acclimatizion and weather.

View from North Col camp at 7000m (23000ft)

The views from the North Col are spectacular. The North Col Camp is located on a windswept ridge at 7100m (see photo to the right / source: Project Himalaya). The North Col connects Mount Everest with Changtse. It is called Chang La in Tibetan and Beiao La in Chinese. From there, climbers follow a pronounced ridge which stretches from the North Col up towards the Northeast Ridge at 8383 meters. The route is usually pure snow but
can be rock since this section is known for high winds. It should take about 3 to 5 hours to reach C2. From C2 to C3, the climb is extremely windy and the tents are on small rock ledges since there is limited large and level areas. At Camp 3, the wind is usually blocked by the North Face of Everest so sleeping is easier. Climbers will take 3 to 6 hours to reach C3. Camp 4 is located just underneath the Northeast Ridge which to to be followed to reach the summit. Camp 4 is a short rest stop on the way to the summit for most climbers. Climbers will have some food and water, perhaps a short nap and start for the summit around 10:00PM. The Northeast Ridge is a few hundred feet above C4. The Northeast Ridge represent the most difficult climbing on this route. There are three "steps" or rock climbs along the way. The first Step is straightforward but the second step is the most difficult involving a 10 foot rock climb to a 30 foot vertical wall. The Third Step is another straight forward rock climb but challenging at this altitude. Climber now spend the next hour to climb the steep snowfields of the Summit Pyramid.

Himalayan Experience offers expeditions to Everest's North Col.

Mallory and Irvine

One of the first attempts to climb Everest was made by British mountain climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in June 1924 via the North Col Route. The North Col was discovered by Mallory while searching for possible routes to the summit of Mount Everest during the British's first reconnaissance of the Everest region in 1921. All subsequent expeditions in the 1920's and 1930's attempted to reach the summit of Everest by using the North Col. On June 4, 1924, the British expedition establishes a string of camps on the northern side of the mountain, culminating in Camp 6 at 26,700 feet (8140 meters) on the North Ridge. Team members Norton and Somervell attempt an oxygenless ascent, following an ascending diagonal line across the North Face of the mountain towards the Great Couloir. After Somervell is forced to give up at about 28,000 feet (8500 meters), Norton continues alone, reaching a high point of 28,126 feet (8570 meters) near the top of the Great Couloir, a height record not exceeded by anyone for the next 29 years ! On June 8, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine attempt the summit using oxygen and Irvine's modified oxygen apparatus. The photo on the right is believed to be one of the last records of the men before they disappeared (photograph by AP). Mallory and Irvine were last spotted, through mist, in the early afternoon of June 8 by geologist Noel Odell, who was following behind in support. He saw two black figures - no more than dots - approach and climb a rock step, called the Second Step, on the mountain's skyline, "nearing the base of the summit pyramid." Whether or not they made it to the summit is one of the greatest mysteries in mountaineering. The question is whether or not they could have climbed the Second Step, a 100-foot high rock wall at 28,230 feet. This wall was first climbed by a Chinese expedition in 1960. The Chinese climbers in 1960 reportedly had to stand on each other's shoulders with their boots off, resulting in frostbite and the loss of toes. Since 1975 a ladder is fixed on the Second Step to aid the passage of the headwall. In 2007, Team Altitude Everest Expedition made a documentary investigating Mallory and Irvine's last journey in forensic detail and also test the durability of clothing and equipment similar to that used in the 1924 climb to try to reconstruct their final, fateful hours. Key to the investigation, which is being filmed for a documentary, was the ascent of the infamous Second Step, 1,000ft from the summit. Climbers Conrad Anker and Leo Houlding decided at some point that it was too cold to shun modern hi-tech textiles in favor of replicas of the clothes worn by Mallory Irvine. "Got dressed in period (costume). Walked around corner onto North Face in hobnail-less boots - Did one take and nearly froze," Houlding wrote on the expedition's online diary last week. However, the team successfully free-climbed the Second Step after removing a ladder fixed to the treacherous 100-foot rock wall near the summit. They were the first to free-climb that stretch since a Chinese expedition in 1960.

During the 1933 expedition, Andrew Irvine's ice ax is found on the upper slopes of the mountain at about 27,690 feet (8440 meters) and approximately 250 yards (meters) east of the First Step. Eric Simonson's 1999 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition discovers an oxygen bottle that belonged to the pair near the base of the First Step, and Mallory's remains were found at 26,750 feet (8150 meters), on a line vertically below the ice ax position. A Kodak camera, loaned to Mallory, still lies high on Everest's slopes. If found, the images inside may reveal whether they made it to the summit or died in their valiant attempt to be the first to stand on top of the world. Some sources say that Mallory carried a picture of his wife Ruth with him to leave atop Everest as the ultimate tribute to her; that picture was not among the belongings found on his body.

In 2010, Canadian researchers analyzed weather data collected at the time of the 1924 attempt. They found that Mallory and Irvine were enveloped in a blizzard that saw oxygen plunge to fatally low levels. In fact, contemporary reports reveal there was a catastrophic fall in barometric pressure, which would have killed any climbers on the approach to the summit. They calculated the sudden drop in oxygen levels was even greater than one that killed eight climbers on Everest on a single day in May 1996.

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