China, Japan, Nepal Friendship Expedition
to Qomolangma/Sagarmatha 1988

by OHTSUKA Hiroyoshi


The Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA), the Japanese Alpine Club (JAC), and the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) agreed to cooperate with each other in scaling Qomolangma/Sagarmatha (Everest), the highest peak of the world, from the North as well as the South by organizing a joint expedition. The protocol for the tripartite expedition was signed by the representatives of each country, on February 24, 1987 in Beijing.

The expedition had the following three major objectives :
1) International cooperation towards promotion of friendship and development of mountaineering techniques.
2) The expedition was organized in a spirit of equality. The expedition was divided into two simultaneous ascents from the Chinese and Nepalese sides of the mountain. After the summit celebrations, these who climbed from the Chinese side descend the Nepalese side and@vice versa.
3) Live television transmission through a communication satellite from the world's highest peak.

The expedition conducted mountaineering with due respect to the spirit of the Kathmandu Declaration of the UIAA that emphasises the importance of protection of natural and cultural heritage. The expedition attempted to become a model for mountaineering groups worldwide.
To control mountaineering activities performed on both sides of Qomolangma/Sagarmatha, the expedition established its headquarters in Beijing.
The headquarters was formed with general leaders and deputy general leaders recommended respectively by their countries of origin. Mr. Shi Zhanchun, the President of CMA was general leader of the Chinese team. Mr. Toshio lmanishi, the President of JAC, was general leader of the Japanese team, and Kumar Khadga Bikram Shah, the President of NMA, was general leader of the Nepalese team. Mr. Shi Zhanchun served as Chief of the headquarters staff.

Basic plan of climbing was as follows :
Period : March through May 1988. Expected to climb the mountain on May 5, 1988.
Route : The North Side: East Rongbuk Glacier - North Col - Northeast Ridge - Summit
The South Side : Khumbu Glacier - South Col-Southeast Ridge - Summit
Tactics : A detailed climbing plan for the north side route was determined by representatives of China and Japan, and the plan for the south side route by representatives of Nepal and Japan. These plans were executed after they were approved by the headquarters.

The expedition party was devided into two sub-parties : the north party and the south party. The leader of the north party was a Chinese team member, and the leader of the south party was a Nepalese team member. However, leaders of the actual north party and south party climbing groups were Japanese team members. 15 members from each country were selected as climbing groups.

Mountaineering activities were transmitted live from Qomolangma/Sagarmatha, including its summit portion using a communication satellite as a relay facility. 40 members participated in the TV coverage. The TV transmission base was established on the north side of the mountain for technical and geographic reasons.
Three countries provided the mountaineering party with their own news reporters. 18 members participated in the report activities. They sent their fresh reports and photographs using a communication satellite.

The mountaineering organizations of the three nations undertook respectively to carry out preparation for mountaineering activities in the north and south sides as specified below :
CMA -mainly preparation up to the Base camp in Chinese territory (transportation, lodging, supply, of foods and fuel, setting of base camps and etc.).
NMA -mainly preparation up to the base camp in Nepalese territory (transportation.
lodging, supply of foods and fuel, setting of base camps and etc.).
JAC -mainly preparation for high altitude climbing activities above both base camps in Chinese and Nepalese territory (equipments for climbing and communications, oxygen, medicine, foods for high altitude and etc.).

On May 5th, 1988, the expedition finished with a big success. The 12 team members scaled the top from two directions, and descended in directions opposite to their climb. The entire event was broadcast live to the world. The climb took place in the nest weather the expedition could have expected.
The south party encountered an unexpected heavy snow fall and hard wind during the last stage which slowed it down. The last camp was set up at the height of 8300 meter, lower than planned, which resulted in a 4 hour delay to reach the top. However, they succeeded in reaching the summit and attained the objective in good cooperation the three countries members, especially Nepalese team Sherpas.
It was really difficult for both parties to rendezvous from the north and the south at the top in time and descend for each to the opposite side, because there is a big difference in weather and geographical features between Tibet and Nepal.

In conclusion, we promoted the friendship of three countries. Each country showed their own specialty in good cooperation and made a contribution to the world history of mountaineering by establishing a new and remarkable record.
We believe this project helped to develop and reinforce the friendship among the Asian countries that possess the Himalayan Range, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
Lastly, We should add Japan's contribution in financial and technical assistance which helped result in the success of the expedition.
(From "China, Japan, Nepal Friendship Expedition to Qomolangma/Sagarmatha 1988". The Journal of J. A. C. SANGAKU, Vol. 83, 1988.)

Qomolangma to Sagarmatha
Successful completion of the first traverse

by YAMADA Noboru


I reached the summit at 12 : 50p.m. (Beijing time, same as Japan, Nepal time 9 : 30 a. m.) on May 5, 1988. The weather was magnificent with a slight breeze. I heard a voice yell "Yamada San". Cirendouji (29, of China) and Ang Lhakpa (27, of Nepal) were already on the summit and shouted "waa" as they embraced.
We congratulated each other for a job well done and slapped each other on the shoulders.
They had trusted me and left the lead to me most of the way up. Perhaps that was natural since I am much older and more experienced than they. Once the members of the traverse party were decided, leadership sort of naturally gravitated to me.
It was my third climb of Everest. I was not so excited this time rather I felt calm and more than capable of reaching the top. As I had long wanted to climb the mountain from the north. I was very happy to be given this opportunity.
At the summit we went through the standard ceremony of summit photographs, then each of us took care of our separate summit business.
I called Climbing Leader Shigehiro on the transceiver. It was decided that we should wait on the summit for the south side climbing party and the television crew.
Our one hour on the summit passed quickly. We talked individually to our companions at Advance Base Camp and on the North Col, and received congratulations from them.
Cirendouji removed his mittens to change film and his hands began to freeze, and he also complained of cold feet. Ang Lhakpa also became cold and impatient to start down. Just then the figure of Li Zhixin of the support party came into view, and they were persuaded to wait a bit longer.
As soon as Li Zhixin reached the summit we asked if he had brought oxygen. He answered "no".
Ang Lhakpa had 2 bottles of oxygen and changed to his second bottle. I had only 30 atmospheres left but expected that I wouldn't need oxygen for the descent, so I was not worried.

At 14:00 we left the summit.
We roped up with our 6 mm rope, with me in the lead. When we reached the top of the Hi11ary Step the South Summit came into view, and we could see the south side party climbing. We were relieved that the route was clearly visible. Even if one has climbed a route before, descending a route without footprints can be scary, not to mention the danger of avalanches. So it was a relief to see that the snow on the south side was in safe condition.
Our tracks would also help the south side party reach the summit safely. We met them at the small col between the South Summit and the main summit. We wished each other a safe climb. Then our group pushed on past the South Summit toward Camp 4. At 16 : 00 we met Mitsugu Kitamura climbing alone below the South Summit. He was under instructions to meet us and accompany us down.
At Camp 4 we were met by Sundare and Ang Karma. Imoto, who had just finished bringing a load up, wanted to stay to help with cooking and other chores, but there were not enough sleeping bags, so they went down.
Thus having completed the first north-to-south traverse of Everest, we descended to Base Camp the next day.

(1) Reasons for our success
On the north side, success was largely due to competent organization of the ferrying of supplies and to the skill of Climbing Leader Shigehiro.
As the route was already known and there were no particular obstacles, success depended largely on luck with the weather, but in the final analysis the key was competent organization of load ferrying. The responsible people at Base Camp and Advance Base Camp did their jobs well, providing the support that we needed for success.
Equality among the three nations was a basic principle of this climb, but the work of organizing the load ferrying could not be shared equally. It was clear from the beginning that this painful task would fall to the Japanese members, and this burden was shouldered without complaint. This attitude was an important factor in our success.
This provided the foundation for our steady progress in the good weather which we were fortunate to have.1t permitted us to establish our high camps, Camp 5, Camp 6 and Camp 7, higher than originally planned.

(2) The severe weather on Qomolangma
Qomolangma in spring has generally severe weather. I have climbed in the Himalaya and other high ranges of Nepal, India and Pakistan 16 times over the last 10 years. Of these climbs 12 were in Nepal, 6 of them in winter, including successful winter ascents of Sagarmatha, Manaslu and Annapurna. The spring weather on Qomolangma this time was more severe than the weather than on those winter ascents. In particular the winds and storms were severe. Life at Base Camp in the severe winds of March was particularly hard, and some of the tents at Advance Base Camp were blown away and could not be recovered.
Our first real battle with the wind during climbing was in early April, in putting the route through from Camp 4 on the North Col to Camp 5 and then ferrying loads up it.
The top part of the snow-covered Northeast Ridge at about 7,500 m seems to form a funnel for the wind that strikes the North Face, analogous to the South Col serving as a funnel for the wind that strikes the Lhotse Face. The wind there kept up a steady 30 to 40 m/see without a break.
Once when 4 of us were putting the route through that stretch we had to crawl, clinging to the rocks, struggling to move from one hold to the next. Fortunately the force in the thin air was reduced ; the same wind at sea level would have blown us away. Once I tried to remove my pack to take rope (to be fixed on the route) out, but the wind immediately blew between my body and the pack, threatening to wrench the pack from my grasp. I gave up on removing the pack and had another climber take the rope out for me. It was the first time 1 had ever climbed in such a terrible wind.
Our spring climb was blessed by an unusual stretch of clear weather, but the wind was our great enemy.

(3) The last camp, Camp7, at 8,680 m
It had to be the last possible place. Beside a mushroom shaped rock on the ridge was just enough space for 3 4-man tents.
Since one purpose of this expedition was to send the first live telecast from Everest, it was our responsibility to prepare adequate space for the last camp and the television equipment. Our probability of success was greatly enhanced when, on May 4, we succeeded in assembling our 3vman summit assault team (1 each from Japan, China and Nepal) and the 4-man (all-Nepali) load ferrying support team at the last camp.
, slightly below that, at 8,600 m, we found the remains of an old Chinese expedition camp, but the higher site was far superior.

(4) Night at the last camp - a cross-section of cross-cultural mountain climbing
We had no trouble conversing with each other and no shortage of things to talk about.
while I talked to Ang Lhakpa in Nepali, Cirendouji just listened ; then he talked to Ang Lhakpa in Tibetan. While we were enjoying our conversation in a relaxed mood, Lhakpa Sona of the support party popped into our tent, livening things up.
Here is our dinner menu that night :
(a) soup made from tsampa crushed up like buckwheat mash, with cheese and mustard.
(b) Instant rice.
(c) soup made from instant rice, meat and tsampa.
We ate these alternately. Tsampa was our main staple.
Before departure we were somewhat worried about cultural differences on a tri-national expedition, but in the event it did not bother me.
This was for several reasons : I already knew some of the Sherpas ; even those Sherpas I did not know knew about me; I had already climbed with several foreign or joint expeditions including Polish, Indian and Nepali climbers and keep up the friendships with these climbers to this day. I knew about the bright side, the pleasures of joint expeditions, which in fact was one of the main reasons I joined this expedition.
I believe that in addition to being physically strong and technically. skilled, a mountain climber has to be good-natured. Once you're in the mountains, sharing the same tent and eating from the same pot, cultural differences can be overcome by an effort at mutual understanding. This was particularly true in my case. but on the whole things went well throughout the expedition.

(5) The 2nd step and the final summit climb
A 100 m traverse from Camp 7 brought us to the base of the 2nd step. The 2nd step consists of couloir-shaped rock pitch, a chimney, a snow slope and a final pitch that is climbed with the aid of iron and aluminum ladders. The rocky couloir included one rather steep step.
I traversed 2 to 3 meters to the right, climbed up one step to another step about hip height, then got up that and traversed back to the base of the chimney.
Cirendouji climbed well but as he did not have a hammer or pitons. I had to climb first and prepare a belay point with 2 pitons. The rock was brittle and the pitons were hard to place, but by hook or crook I managed to pound them in. We used an old 6 mm Fixed rope that we found. Cirendouji went on ahead while I belayed Ang Lhakpa up this pitch. Then we climbed an iron ladder left by the 1975 Chinese expedition and an aluminum (6 to 7 meters long) ladder left by the 1985 Spanish expedition. Above that was a rock pinnacle that we used as a support for a fixed rope. By the time we climbed up another ladder and detoured to the right around another 2 m-high wall to the base of the talus slope above, an hour had passed.
Then we climbed another 200 m up the talus slope to the base of a triangular snow Geld. The snow was not uniform. Where it was soft we sank in to the knee, thigh or even hip. We tried to place the route on hard snow where walking was easy, which required switchbacking right and left several times. Sometimes we were on the East Face overlooking the Kangshung Glacier, sometimes on the North Face.
I picked up the rear on the last stretch to the summit. I never thought of climbing as competition, but the Chinese and Nepali climbers with me seemed to each be intent on reaching the summit first. I took my time, communicating with the camps below and taking photographs as I climbed, and arrived at the summit about 10 minutes behind the others.

(6) Alpine style vs. polar method
These days many people seem to have the impression that alpine style climbing is the "new style", the polar method is the "old style" and large polar method expeditions are obsolete, but I think that the only people who are really qualified to argue the relative merits of the two styles are those who have actually done both.
Reinhold Messner does not use the polar method, and if he tried it he would probably find himself incompatible with it. But even he got his first Himalayan experience doing classical polar method climbing. Only after he had accumulated sufficient Himalayan experience did he move into alpine style, solo and oxygenless climbing.
Alpine style climbing in the Himalaya requires superior physical strength, technical mountaineering skill and psychological fortitude. It is a continual struggle with oneself under continuing stress. The risk is high, with a high proportion of unsuccessful attempts and many cases of failure to find a good route for the descent.
The polar method also has its difficulties. The advantages of this method are reduced risk, increased safety and improved chances of success, but to some people these are also disadvantages. And the tactics become more difficult and complicated.
I have been on short (20 to 30 days) polar-style expeditions. It is not something that just anybody can do. I have come to prefer climbs in which everybody makes it to the summit.
Neither method is inherently superior to the other. Some routes are better climbed by one method, other routes by the other method. Each climber must make his own decisions in these matters. I think it is important not to be swayed by the pretentious arguments in mountaineering magazines or by climbing fads.

(7) Some thoughts on this climb
I am glad that I went on this climb, and my Chinese and Nepali friends seemed genuinely happy to have me there.
To me, the chance to climb together with many good people was one of the attractions of this expedition. Success in traversing the mountain and the vastly expanded human contacts have become important assets to me. In particular I made important contact with the younger generation of climbers, whom I hope to take along on future expeditions.
I hope that the Japanese Alpine Club will continue to plan and carry out good expeditions.

(8) Prospects
As for my own plans, since I climbed Annapurna in the winter of 1987, many people have been encouraging me to complete climbing all 14 8,000-meter peaks. As of this writing, in the summer of 1988, I have 7 left. In October I plan to climb Cho Oyu from the Chinese side and then Shisha Pangma. If successful that will leave 5 (1 in the Nepal Himalaya and 4 in the Karakoram) which I hope to complete by age 40. After that I hope to work to gain more public recognition of the value of mountaineering.
(From "Qomolangma to Sagarmatha" The Journal of J. A. C. SANGAKU, Vol. 83, 1988. Translated by Harold Solomon)