Two Teams Climb Everest, Telecast from Summit
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Two teams reached the summit of Mount Everest from opposite sides Thursday and broadcast stunning pictures of azure skies and the craggy, snow-covered Himalayas rising above the clouds at the top of the world.
It was the first time two parties had scaled the world’s highest mountain simultaneously, and it was the first live telecast from the summit.
The 10 climbers wept and congratulated each other. Some fell to their knees after wading through waist-deep snow to the 29,028-foot peak.
They were from Japan, China and Nepal, the nations that received the live broadcast.
″This is the greatest event in the history of climbing,″ said Kunga Sherpa, the leader of the team that climbed from the Nepal side, as a camera recorded the breathtaking panorama.
Images were relayed by satellite from a small camera attached to the helmet of Japanese climber Susumu Nakamura.
″We made it 3/8″ the climbers gasped, their voices rasping in the thin air. Most wore goggles and oxygen masks along with their red, blue and yellow parkas. Eyebrows were coated with ice in temperatures of about 30 degrees below zero.
They stretched bright-colored banners across the summit and scooped dry, powdery snow into small bottles. One poured whisky on the snow to honor mountaineers who have died trying to conquer Everest, including Hidetaka Mizukoshi. He died of a heart attack on a climb last month.
The teams began their assaults on Everest last month from base camps on the south face in Nepal and the north face in Tibet.
After the rendezvous, in another first, three climbers who scaled the south face descended by the north and three who ascended the north face went down via the south.
More than 200 people were involved in the project, the most ever for an Everest expedition.
It was timed to mark the 35th anniversary of the first conquering of Everest - on May 29, 1953, by Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa guide. Nearly 200 climbers have reached the summit since then, some more than once.
Sir Edmund, who was knighted for his feat, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Earlier this week he said of the simultaneous assaults, ″I think some of the expeditions nowadays are on the gimmicky side,″ but conceded that ″it’s one method of raising money.″
″The ones I admire are those who do a tough and difficult new route and do it cleanly and with style,″ he said.
Hillary now is his country’s ambassador to India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Tenzing, called ″Tiger of the Snows″ by other Sherpas, died in 1985.
Nihon Television Corp. of Japan, which paid most of the expedition’s cost of $12.5 million, arranged the telecasts. All three countries received several hours of broadcasts Thursday, including footage of the ascents and descents.
Thursday’s telecasts were the first in which the Nepalese had seen the top of their famous mountain.
Many elderly people in the kingdom, which was nearly closed to the outside world until 1950, have thought foreigners scaled the great peak seeking jewels and other treasure.
″But I saw them today,″ said Ram Jung Thapa, 74. ″They were just gathering and putting samples of ice in their bottles. I now realize they go there in an adventurous spirit.″
Mathura Man Amatya, who walked two days in 1953 to meet Hillary and Tenzing, said the mountain ″was never so near as we have seen today. ... Until now we have only ... heard the story from the climbers.″