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Minnesota-led Everest Expedition Aims for Many Firsts

March 7, 1986

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A team of 12 mountain climbers led by a 55-year-old former banker will try to become the first Americans to complete a direct ascent of the north face of Mount Everest.

Leader Joseph Murphy Jr. also said team member Ann Whitehouse, the group’s only female member, would be the first American woman to reach the summit. And because he will turn 56 years old by the time the group is scheduled to reach the top, he would be the oldest man to conquer the 29,028-foot mountain.

“If Annie gets up, that would be quite significant,” said Murphy, who has written books on mountain climbing.

But the chances of putting any member of the team on the summit is less than 50 percent, he added. “It’s mainly luck. If people are well and the weather is good ...”

The avalanche-prone and wind-swept north face,” Murphy said in an interview last week. “It’s just that the other routes were booked up until 1989. I said I’d be too old by then.”

“We didn’t want to climb the north face,” Murphy said in an interview last week. “It’s just that the other routes were booked up until 1989. I said I’d be too old by them.”

Murphy described the north face of Mount Everest as the most dangerous, but said the east face is the most difficult to climb.

Other dangers will include winds of up to 65 mph that have been known to blow climbers off the mountainside and temperatures that oculd reach 20 below zero, Murphy said.

The climb is expected to begin March 19, and it is important for the team to complete its ascent in two months, just before the monsoon season, Murphy said.

The all-American team will follow the snow gully path of the successful Australian expedition, Murphy said. But if conditions are favorable, the group will depart from the snow gully path at an altitude of 27,000 feet and ascent directly up a rock formation known as the Yellow Band, Murphy said.

Two other Minnesotans are involved in the quest: Murphy’s son, John, 23, a student at the University of Minnesota, and Doug Kelley, 39, a Minneapolis attorney and chief of staff to Sen. Dave Durenberger, R-Minn. The other climbers are from Colorado, Canada, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Wyoming.

Murphy said four members of his team have climbed before on Mount Everest, but only one of them, Carlos Buhler, 31, of Alberta, Canada, has made it to the summit. Ms. Whitehouse, a 29-year-old nurse from Albuquerque, N.M., has climbed on Everest, but 28,000 feet is the highest she reached, Murphy said.

The remaining memb ers of the team are Todd Bibler, a mountaineering equipment designer from Boulder, Colo.; Dana Coffield, 25, a graduate student in geology at the University of South Carolina; Steven Creer, 43, a doctor from Denver; Mark Jenkins,27, a student at the University of Wyoming at Laramie; Andy Lapkass, 28, a student from Estes Park, Colo.; and Michael Lehner, 30, a management consultant from Boston.

A librarian at the American Alpine Club in New York City said Thursday that no American woman has ever reached the summit of Mount Everest, and that the oldest man to reach the summit is Richard D. Bass of Dallas, who was 55 when he conquered the mountain in 1985.

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