THE JAPANESE MOUNT EVEREST EXPEDITION 1969-1970
by Hiromi Ohtsuka
|lt was in 1963 that the Everest Project was
originally planned by the Japanese
Club, based on the results and experience
of Manaslu (8,125 m) which was in 1953,
and 1956 and Himal Chuli(7,864 m) which
ln May 1963 we were granted the mountaineering permit to Mt.Everest during the pre-monsoon season of 1966, and started on our preparation, but soon this project had to be post-poned because in 1965 the Nepalese Government banned the mountaineering to all the Himalayan ranges. After a long closed period extending four years, the Nepalese Government lifted the ban and 38 peaks including Mt.Everest were opened for the foreign climbers in March 1969. We, the Japanese Alpine Club, resumed our plan immediately after we caught the news in August 1968.
In April of the following year, we obtained once again the mountaineering permission for the pre-monsoon season of 1970, and began our busy preparation in full scale.
Our object was to aim at the summit of Mt.Everest not only from the original route(South-east Ridge)but also from one of the virgin routes(the South-west Face). To complete this aim, it was decided to send two reconnaissance parties, first in the 1969 pre-monsoon season and second in the post-monsoon season of the same year.
we also planned to carry out some scientific researches besides our mountaineering activities such as studies of human bodies at high altitude, meteorological observations and geophysical research.
The expedition was officially named "The Japanese Mount Everest Expedition 1970"(JMEE'70)and came into being under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, the Mainichi Newspapers and the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation(NHK). The total amount of budget came up to 100 million Yen, including expenses of two reconnaissance parties.
|The 1st Reconnaissance Party(April-June,1969)|
This party consisted of the following four
|The 2nd Reconnaissance party (August - November, 1969)|
|This party consisted of 12 members as follows.
H.Miyashita(leader, 38), H.Tanabe(deputy leader, 38), H.Nakajima(31), M.Konishi(31), N.Uemura(28), Y.Satoh(27), J.Inoue(24), S.Ohmori(medical doctor, 38), S.Satoh(Mainichi reporter, 31), K.Kimura(Mainichi cameraman, 39), H.Shirai(N.H.K. TV. director, 36), T.Noguchi(N.H.K. TV. cameraman,38)
Their mission was to make clear the South-west Face in detail, and they had two objects to follow:
(1) to climb up the face as high as possible.
(2) to make the members to have the acclimatization and experience at high altitude for 1970's attempt.
The summary of their activities was as follows;
Sept. 4: all the members gathered at Lukla by charterd planes.
Sept.16: They established B.C.
Sept.20: They entered into the Ice-Fall.
Sept.28: They established C2(6,150m)at the head of the Ice-Fall.
Oct. 15: They established C3(6,600m)just below the South-west Face.
Oct. 18: they established C4(7,000m)on the South-west Face.
Oct. 29: They established C5(7,500m)on the South-west Face.
Oct. 31: M.Konishi and N.Uemura reached the point of 8,000m just below the Rock Band.
Nov. 1: H.Nakajima and Y.Satoh reached the same point and acquired the another pitch further.
Nov. 3: All the members returned to B.C.
Nov. 13: They returned to Kathmandu.
During this expedition, the party happened to find the corpse of John E.Breitenbach(AMEE'63) at the lower part of the lce-fall on Sept.24, which was later handed on to the family of the deceased through the help of Mr.N.Dyhrenfurth and Mr.Barry C.Bishop.
|Winter in Khumbu|
|Two following members of the 2nd Reconaissance
Party remained and stayed in Khumbu
during the winter waiting for the main
N.Uemura stayed at Kumjung(3,800m)and he made arrangements for the expedition.
J.Inoue stayed at Periche(4,243m)to engage in the meteorological observation and he brought back the precious data on meteorological research in Himalaya by keeping observation for a year from September 1969 to August l970.
|The attempt in 1970|
|With the result brought by the 2nd Reconnaissance
Party, we managed to complete the preparation
for the 1970 pre-monsoon attempt in
two months. Finally the expedition
on February 15.
Members and their past expedition records are as follows:
Members; 39 (including 9 reporters)
Saburo Matsukata (Age 70) Expedition leader
Hiromi Ohtsuka ( " 45) Deputy leader, Manaslu'54,'56,Yeti Exp'60
Senya Sumiyoshi,M.D. ( " 43) Himal Chuli'59, P-29'61,'69
Yuichi Matsuda ( " 39) Manaslu'54,'56, Himal Chuli'59
Yoshihiro Fujita ( " 37) Mckinley'60, Ngojumba Kang'65 Mt.Everest 1st Reconnaissance'69
Katsutoshi Hirabayashi (Age 35) Api.'60, Saipal'63
Teruo Matsuura ( " 35) Lhotse Shar'65
Hiroaki Tamura ( " 32) Langtang Himal'65
Hiroshi Nakajima ( " 3l) Peru-Bolivia-Andes'61 Mt.Everest 2nd Reconnaissance'69
Shinichi Hirano ( " 31) Ngojumba Kang'65
Masatake Doi ( " 31) Mckinley'60
Masatsugu Konishi ( " 31) Matterhorn North Face('67 winter) Mt.Everest 2nd Reconnaisance'69
Setsuko Watababe,Miss ( " 31) Istor-o-Nal'68
Takashi Kano ( " 29) Nupchu'62
Tadao Kanzaki ( " 29) Greenland'66
Hideo Nishigori ( " 29) Logan'64,Foraiker'66
Naomi Uemura ( " 28) Ngojumba Kang'65, Alps,Kilimanjaro,Aconcagua, Mt.Everest 1st and 2nd aeconnaissance'69
Kiyoshi Narita ( " 28)
Katsuhiko Kano ( " 27) Khinyang Chhish'65
Yoshiaki Kamiyama ( " 27)
Akira Yoshikawa ( " 27) Dolomite'66
Chitoshi Ando ( " 26) Patagonia'68
Hiroshi Sagano ( " 25) Greenland'68
Reizo Itoh ( " 23)
Michiro Nakashima,M.D. ( " 39) Expedition doctor,Chogolisa'58
Koichiro Hirotani,M.D. ( " 36) Expedition doctor,Langtang Lirung'61
Shigeo Ohmori,M.D ( " 36) Expedition doctor, Mt.Everest 2nd Reconnaissance'69
Masaru Kono ( " 30) Geophysist,Baltoro Kangri'63
Masayuki Osada ( " 28) Meteorologist(Weatherman),Logan'65
Jiro Inoue ( " 24) Meteorologist,Patagonia'68 Mt.Everest 2nd Reconnaissance'69
Katsuhisa Kimura ( " 39) The Mainichi cameraman
Hirofumi Aizawa ( " 37) " reporter
Shigeru Satoh ( " 32) " reporter
Masao Harada ( " 27) " cameraman
Kenji Taira ( " 34) " cameraman
Toshio Naito ( " 37) N.H.K.Producer
Tokutaro Noguchi ( " 37) " TV.cameraman
Shozo Tateno ( " 32) " TV.cameraman
Hiroshi Nakagawa (Age 28) N.H.K.reporter
Sherpas : 26
Local sherpas : 21, Ice-Fall Porters : 30,
Govinda Krishna Shresta(Age 30)
|1. Approach March(February 19-March 23)|
|On February 19, we left Kathmandu for an
approach march. Cargoes of about 30
were divided into two; one for air
of 15 tons, and others for porter-caravan.
We arrived at Namche Bazar(3,440m)on
4, and then to Thyangboche(3,867m)on
6, where was our first base for the
of members. All the cargoes gathered
one after another by porters.
According to the schedule, we stayed there for two weeks and went on a training tour for acclimatization. We divided into three groups; they were Imja Glacier group, Mingbo Glacier group and Khumbu Glacier group. Khumbu Glacier group had a special mission to decide the setting place of our Base Camp.
These tours took all the members as high as 5,500m and at least every member spent a night at the height of 5,000m.
|2. First Stage (March 24-April 12)|
|- The breakthrough of the Ice-fall and the accidents of Sherpas. -|
|On March 23, the Base Camp was established
amid the moraine fields just below the Ice-fall(5,350m)
and every member gathered. Among us there
were 5 members who had gone through the Ice-fall
with the previous two reconnaissance parties,
but they had a consistent opinion that the
lce-fa11 of Mt.Everest was in a particularly
With them taking the lead, the work of route making was immediately proceeded in the dangerous and complicated Ice-fall. It was on April 4 after about a lO day struggle that Camp I was set up at the head of the Ice-fall(6,150m). The depot-camp was placed half way up the lce-fall(5,800m) and the long slog operation began from April 1 to carry up 12 tons of load. Expedition members also took part in this work carrying 20 kgs on their backs.
During this operation, however, on April 5, 6 Sherpas of the Japanese Skiing Expedition *were killed at 5,700m by a huge glacier avalanche. Then, another accident followed.
It was at 7:20 a.m. on April 9.
One of our Ice-fall Porters, Kyak Tsering(36) was killed at 5,525m by a fall of seracs.
Even with the utmost care, it was impossible to overcome the force of nature which seemed to be so strong in the Ice-fall. On account of these accidents, we were not only given a bitter shock but also forced to be behind schedule.
Some of the members suffered from some kind of a high-altitude sickness at this time, but the acclimatization to the height was generally going well.
Narita who was resting at Lobuche with a cold, had recovered and joined the Base Camp on April 11, accompanied by our leader S.Matsukata(71). The following day all the members were present for dinner in the messtent for the first time.
|3. Second Stage (April 13-April 30)|
|- The death of Narita, Arrival at the South Col and 7,600m on the South-west Face.-|
|The object of this stage was to open the
route till the point of 8,000m and
up the necessary loads by the end of
To make this possible, the members were divided into the South-west Face team and the South-east Ridge team. On April 16, C2 was established at 6,450m as the Advance Base Camp. For the South-west Face team, the Advance Base Camp(F.A.B.C.) was set up at 6,600m on the 17th. As it has been mentioned before, the chief characteristic of our expedition is in having two distinct teams taking different routes and different tactics as well. It would have been better if the grouping of the members Were decided beforehand according to their own policies.
Although, it was necessary to observe the condition, aptitudes and intention of every member. Grouping of teams was finally announced on April 17 as follows.
M.Konishi(leader), Y.Fujita, H.Tamura, H.Nakajima, T.Kano, H.Nishigori, R.Itoh and M.Dr.S.Ohmori.
South-east Ridge team;
T.Matsuura(leader), K.Hirabayashi, S.Hirano, M.Doi, Miss S.Watanabe, T.Kanzaki, N.Uemura, K.Narita, Y.Kamiyama, K.Kano, C.Ando, M.Kano, M.Osada, J.Inoue, M.Dr.K.Hirotani, and M.Dr.M.Nakashima.
H.Ohtsuka S.Sumiyoshi and Y.Matsuda were assigned.
The two teams now began to work independently, and because the first assault to the summit was scheduled early in May,the priority of this stage was given to the route exploring and load-carrying of Lhotse-Face, in the latter team.
On April 18, C3 was established below Lhotse-Face(6,980m) and FC3 was established at 7,000m on the South-west Face with little difficulty.
We had relatively fine weather and route-up progressed smoothly. But the load carrying opration was apt to be behind schedule because some of the members and Sherpas badly suffered from height sickness.
On April 20, Hirabayashi, who was descending, slipped down together with Kanzaki at 14:00 at the point of about 7,200m of Lhotse-Face. Fortunately they were secured by the edge of a rock and free from injury. But this was only a foretaste of the trouble that lay ahead.
The next evening(at 20:50 on April 21) an emergency call of M.Dr.S.Sumiyoshi staying at C1 came in through wireless that Kiyoshi Narita(28) had died of an unexpected heartattack while having his meal. It was so sudden that even Dr.Sumiyoshi and several members sitting beside him couldn't do anything.
Every member hearing the news was in a state of great shock. Narita being one of the strongest and youngest member of the expedition, it was unbelievable how such a thing could have happened. We remember him that afternoon waving to us with a smile and therefore his death seemed to be a dream. Althrough he wasn,t in a good condition since having the Base Camp, he recovered completely by going down to Lobuche to take some rest for a week. He resumed his work with other members at this stage. Was it because he wasn't acclimatized? I was quite concerned over this question for the leader in substance. But our doctors judge this accident may have no relation with the high-altitude sickness, although it is not certified. The following day, all the members gathered at C1 and had a farewell ceremony.
The body was carefully carried down to the Base Camp on April 24. It was cremated according to the local religious custom in the presence of eleven members at Tukura, one day below the Base Camp, and later it was handed on to his father who was waiting in Kathmandu from our leader S.Matsukata.
Meanwhile, at higher altitudes, we had a hard time since the active members were reduced to half, as the result that twelve members were drafted to carry down the body of Narita. The South-west Face team with H.Tamura and four others completed fixing ropes C3 to 7,600m on April 28. Seven members of South-east Ridge team led by T.Matsuura, established C4(7,500m) on April 26, and then cleared the route to the South Co1(7,986m) on April 28. But the load-carrying was lagging behind schedule.
During this period at A.B.C. the state affairs such as the lagging schedule due to accidents and the growing number of sickness were discussed and it was decided that they put off the South-west Face assault and contribute all efforts into making the ascent from the South-east ridge succesful.
|4. Third Stage(May 4-May 12)|
|-Giving up the Attempt of the South-west Face and two ascents from the South-east Ridge.-|
|On May 1, having gone back to the Base Camp,
I made a modification of the plan to
the completion of the original object
the remaining three weeks.
I considered both of the projects still had their chances since our weatherman forecasted fine weather during 10 to 12 of May. So I set up a plan of the third stage with the "Summit Assault Day" fixed on those days.
The Outline of the plan reads as follows;
1) Both the South-west Face and the South-east Ridge projects will be carried out.
2) FC4(8,000m) will be established just below the Rock band in the South-west Face by May 12.
3) The Summit assault from the South-east Ridge will be carried out twice, on the 11th and 12th of May.
4) Matsuura and Uemura are assigned for the first summit assaulting members. The second assaulting team will consist of a member and one of Sherpas.
5) 350 kilograms worth of equipment and food will be carried up by Doi,Kamiyama and 16 Sherpas to C5 of South Col.
The South-east Ridge;
The first summit assaulting team started out B.C. on May 5 after five days' rest and they entered C5 of the South Col smoothly on May 9. On May 10, they established C6(8,513m), the same site as the final camp of the 1965 Indian Expedition, followed by the supporting team of 5-Sherpas led by Kano. The second assaulting team of Hirabayashi and the sirdar Chotare held C5 along with Ando and 3 Sherpas on that day.
May 11, fine weather and no wind, just as our weatherman Osada forecasted. Matsuura and Uemura slept sound last night taking 1 liter of oxygen every minute. They got up at 4:40 a.m., and had a modest breakfast which consisted of 5 pieces of marshmallow and a cup of tea. Then they started out at 6:lO with two bottles of oxygen(A.M.P.) on each back. They roped together taking 3 liters of oxygen every minute and approached the summit in good spirit.
Reaching the South Peak(8,763m) at 8:30, they found oxygen bottles with the mark of Union Jack which might have been left by Hillary and Tenzing in 1953. Here they changed the oxygen bottles and deposited the half consumed ones for their descent. At 9:10 they finally stood up on the summit of Mt.Everest. They buried the portrait of the late Narita together with a piece of cigarette, and enjoyed the splendid panorama of many Giants. They descended to C6 at 11:40, where they met with the next assaulting team and gave them some information. It was 17:30 when they arrived at A.B.C. along with the supporting crew led by Kono.
On May 12, like the previous day, the second assaulting team, Hirabayashi and Chotare were blessed with fine weather. They started off the final camp of C6 at 5:55 with two bottles of oxygen on their backs. Taking in 3.5 liters of oxygen per minute, they followed the track of the first assaulting team and reached the top of the world at 9:55. TTle Wind grew stronger above the South peak, but it was not so intolerable. On the summit, Hirabayashi took a picture of Chotare holding the portrait of the King and Queen of Nepal. After staying at the summit for an hour, they started to descend. But at around 8,200m, their oxgyen ran out and the supporting crew went up to them with new oxygen bottles from the South Col. They reached C4 at 18:10 and returned to A.B.C. safely the following day.
The South-west Face attempt, on the other hand, also progressed favourably after a few days' blank brought by the confusion of leadership. Camp 4 was established with the duralumin framed platform upon the rock surface of 7,500m on May 6. On May 8, Konishi and Yoshikawa explored the route till 7,800m and two days after, Kano and sagano climbed as far as 8,050m along with 2 Sherpas.
Tney used the fixed ropes which the previous party set out till 7,800m. Then they scaled 45 snow and ice slope taking 3 liters of oxygen every minute onward.
They found that snow and ice disappeared and instead there were rough surfaced rock with steeper incline Crampons and ice pitons were left there since they were of no use. Passing 7,900m, the rock surface changed into brittle state and rock-pitons which were hammered into the rock didn't look so reliable. They were forced to choose either of the two, the right couloir or the left one. At the junction of these two couloirs, there stood a small rock tower which looked like a dorsal fin. They took a route entering into the left couloir via rock tower, and they reached the 8,050m point just below the Rock Band after three pitches of 50m ropes fixing from the junction. But it was the heighest point they reached.
On closer inspection, they found that a narrow couloir like a chimney would lead them through the huge Rock Band and out on to the Yellow Band.
they were assured to explore the route to the summit via the South-west Face at any rate, if they had ten days more of good weather.
However there occured an unexpected accident; Kano was hurt from backing with a falling stone at about 17:30 while they were descending on the Ice slope from C3 to FABC. Also Nakajima was hurt a little on his right knee with another stone-fall in front of C4 the same aftenoon.
When I heard of their misfortune, I didn't want them to take any more risks. It looked very difficult to pass over the Rock Band in the remaining 10 days, but this accident was the main reason for calling off the assault via the South-west Face. On May 12 with the news of the successful second assault, I decided to call off the South-west Face project and to put all efforts into making the third and fourth assault from the South-east Ridge a success.
|5. Fourth Stage(May 13-May 20)|
|-Failure of the third and fourth Assault from the South-east Ridge.-|
|The original plan of this stage was as follows;
1) The reconnaisance of the South Face between South-east Ridge and South Ridge will be carried out.
2) A.Yoshikawa, H.Sagano and R.Ito will reach the South-Col after climbing the ice couloir located left of the Geneva-Spur.
3) On May 19, Tamura and Ira Tsering, the third assaulting team will make an ascent from C6.
4) On the same day, Konishi and Phenjo, the fourth assaulting team will attempt a rush-attack from C5.
5) K.Kano with 20 Sherpas will carry up the loads to the South Col.
The carry-up operation was completed by Kano and 20 Sherpas on May l6.
On May 17, Yoshikawa and two other members reached Souh-Col at 13:00, climbing up the ice couloir directly from C3 of Lhotse-Face. Fujita and others entered C5 on the South Col for coming attempts, among the supporting members of which, there was a lady member Miss Watanabe who scaled the highest by women.
On May l8, the weather was turning bad, but the preparation for assault was set up according to the forecast of better weather the following day.
On May 19, the weather turned out cloudy with snow. On the South Col, snow lay 30cm deep and strong wind was blowing together with snow. Every member stood by for better weather, but Y.Fujita, the leader on the front, came to a conclusion that there was no possibility of the weather getting better and therefore gave up the third and fourth assaults.
On May 2l all of the members returned to the Base Camp and the mountaineering program ended.
|6. Looking back at the Expedition|
|JMEE'70 was over with two successful attempts
from the South-east Ridge and an abortive
attempt from the South-west Face. Moreover,
the death of Narita, and the death
of a porter
by accident, has made it far from a
As deputy leader of the Expedition, I would like to state some of the characteristics, problems of the expedition and the possibility of the South-west Face.
1. Our expedition was a large force consisting of 39 members, including 9 reporters and cameramen. At the Base Camp the members came close to 120, including the Sherpas and Local Sherpas. There were more than 60 members living together even at C1 and higher. A 39 member expedition is too numerous to work as a cohesive unit. One leader should not have more than 12 to work with otherwise there will be a lack of common bond among the members. Furthermore, the pleasures of mountaineering will be stifled.
2. Our expedition consisted of two distinct groups which had the same objective to acquire the summit of Mt.Everest but with a different route and different tactics. This scheme has made the expedition into such a large size. The necessity of such a big expedition should be considered with restraint in the future. I want to pay tribute to the American Expedition which scaled the summit both from the South-east ridge and the West Ridge. I have come to know how hard it is to keep close coordination between the two teams with different tactics. If there is a need to set up an expedition with a similar set-up as ours, it is necessary to Set up two distinct ones beforehand, under the powerful committee organization of the expedition. And there are reasons to believe that even such an organizational set-up has its own setbacks.
3. The weather was unusual since there was scarcely any snow during the previous winter. Going over the records of our meteorologist who passed the winter at Periche(4,243m), there was scarcely any snow during his stay. This unusual weather caused some influences on our expedition.
a) Ice, which we had expected, did not form on the surface of the South-west Face. The rock surface, compared to ice, took us more time to climb. Furthermore,this lack of ice caused falling rocks from the Yellow Band to be more frequent. As a result two of our members were'injured.
b) As compared to last fall, the South-west Face became harder to climb although the South-east Ridge was easier than expected. Blessed with good weather, we were able to complete two summit Assault. For the first Summit-trial, both the health-conditions and the weather were in their best, and they made an ascent in just three hours from C6.
4. Accidents at the lee-fall and its dangerous places. As long as we climb Mt.Everest from the Nepal side, the Ice-fall lies in the way to every climber who wishes to go higher. Nobody knows where or when the glacier collapse occurs. Its danger is fate to every Everest climber.
But if we look into the records of the past expedition, the places where the accidents took place can be pinned down. The head part of the Ice-fall where the glacier inclines around at 6,100m and the caved in area around 5,700m are two of the most dangerous places in the Ice-fall.
The fact that the accidents took place with John E.Brectenback AMEE(March 23, 1963), Sirder Phudorje JESE(October 18, 1969) and six Sherpas JESE(April 5, 1971) by these areas is a threat-ening lesson.
To carry up safely the big tonnage of loads to the higher camps is a factor to successful mountaineering. Furthermore, I have to add the fact that the existence of the Ice-fall is a great obstacle in the acclimatization of the members. The heartattack of Narita, along with sickness of other members, were partly due to the Ice-fall which prevented our free transit and any safe camping.
The altitude of the Base Camp at 5,350m seemed too high, considering the obstacle of Ice-fall and a lot of investigation should be made for the "second acclimatization".
5. The South-west Face and its Possibilities
During the pre-monsoon season of 1971, the international expedition led by Mr.Norman G. Dyrenfurth, and composing of 30 members from 12 different countries, challenged the South-west Face but could only go as far as 8,250m. N.Uemura and R.Itoh, both JMEE members, also took part in this expedition.
After coming back to Japan they stated, "If we take the route leading to the Right lce Couloir, we would need 2 more camps till the summit..... But, it is possible." They looked assured that someday they will make the summit by the South-west Face. But what is the key to success in trying for the summit by the South-west Face?
A carefully picked out members, who have gone through a well planned intensive training course can Prove to a good team member only if the team membership doesn,t exceed 20.
Instead of a support crew from the South-east Ridge or West Ridge, the assault team should plan for a round trip between the final camp and the summit, followed by a supporting team. This can result in better tactics, fewer members, and less expense than the previous plan.
The final question to consider is the weather, along with the oxygen strategy.
* In the pre-monsoon season of 1970, two big expeditions entered Khumbu Glacier and Western Cwm from Japan. One is ours, planned and executed by the Japanese Alpine Club. Another one is officially called "The Japanese Everest Skiing Expedition 1970" which has no relation with in its organization.
JESE'70 consists of 34 members including 2 skiers and 10 film cameramen.
Their object is to perform the descent from the South Col by Y.Miura, one of the professional adventure skier and to take Cinema-Scope film to introduce the landscape of Nepal including the ski-descent of Miura.
On May 6, Miura accomplished his descent with parachute from the South Col, although he tumbled down on the slope.