While rumours have circulated that up to seven climbers have perished on the
north (Tibetan) side of Everest, our radio communications with expedition
members in Tibet continue to suggest that only five climbers have died. What we
have been able to confirm about the accidents of May 8 is as follows. Three
Kazakh climbers left the high camp at 27,500 feet and never returned. It is
presumed that they reached the summit. One of the Kazakhs managed to return to
within 100 meters of the high camp and collapsed there; his body is visible
from the camp. We have not received any reports of the names of the dead Kazakh
climbers. One Sherpa, who left the high camp for the summit, fell several
thousand feet down the North Face. It is not known whether he reached the
summit, but it has been confirmed that his body has been sighted at the base of
the North Face.
In addition, one Austrian by the name of Peter Kowalsick was last seen late in the afternoon
of May 8, climbing towards the summit without supplemental oxygen. He has not
been seen since this sighting and could not have survived what has now stretched to five
days without returning to the high camp.
Our reports of May 11 and today are based on information gathered through radio
communication. Guy Cotter's New Zealand team at our Base Camp has a
multifrequency radio and they have been able to dial into the frequency of
Russel Bryce's expedition radio on the north side, specifically to obtain
information regarding the recent accidents.
Geographically, Everest Base Camp on the north side is in Tibet, approximately
20 miles as the crow flies from our Base Camp on the south (Nepalese) side.
The two Base Camps are separated by the highest mountains on Earth. Hence,
communication is difficult and has only been possible through the use of radios. It is possible
to drive to Base Camp on the north side, which sits at 16,500 feet, from
Kathmandu or Lhasa. Geographically, the Base Camps are separated by a massive alpine rock
and ice wall, including the peaks of Lingtren (22,137 feet), Khumbutse (21,861
feet), the Lho La pass (19,765 feet) and the West Shoulder of Everest (23,973 feet).