Dispatches from the roof of the world
Dispatch #54 May 25, 2012
We Did It
Max Lowe
Shot from the open door of a helicopter, the South Summit of Everest looms high above.

“Hello, this is Mark Jenkins reporting for National Geographic from Mount Everest.

“Well, we did it. This morning, May 25, all five of us—Kris Erickson, Hilaree O’Neill, Sam Elias, Emily Harrington, and myself—summited Mount Everest 55 days after we first arrived in Base Camp.

“We left Camp 4 on the South Col at around 9:30 p.m. wearing our puffy down suits, oxygen masks, and headlamps. Looking up the black mountain, we could see at least a hundred pinpricks of light, all in a vertical line going straight into the stars. These were the headlamps of all the climbers who had started before us.

“We first ascended the face, passing three bodies frozen in the ice. Reaching what is called the Balcony, we ridge-walked for four hours all the way to the South Summit, descending only slightly, we then climbed the famous Hillary Step, reaching the summit beyond.

“The wind howled from start to finish. And without goggles, we would have quickly frostbitten our eyes. We all had to pass dozens upon dozens of climbers, a fair number of whom have no business being on Everest. Crowds of inexperienced climbers are generally the bane of the highest point on Earth if you take the standard route. But there are over a dozen other routes for hard-core mountaineers.

“None of us get more than a few minutes on the summit. The irony and absurdity of which, I admit, we are all fully aware. Climbing Mount Everest makes absolutely no sense at all.

“Why do we do it? Well, we all need some deep sleep before we can answer that. Assuming we even can.

“Mark Jenkins, reporting from Mount Everest, National Geographic.”

Note: Conrad Anker did not summit with the team this morning. After a long hike from Camp 2 to Camp 4 on Thursday, May 24, he determined that it would not be in his best interest to make the final push. He was spent after several days helping Sherpas fix the ropes up the mountain. “Making sure I am in a position to be of assistance to my team is the most responsible decision I can make. I did a 5,000-foot day yesterday, and it was just too much,” he said. “I tapped all my reserves.”

Andy Bardon
The team smiles wide in Base Camp before their successful summit ascent.
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