Despite unforeseen bureaucratic delays and a major earthquake, a team of mountain climbers appears on target for scaling Mount Everest by Oct. 4.
Three Utahns are on the climb, including Fred Riedman, who is one of six climbers designated to make the final summit assault.The team established a base camp at the 17,060-foot elevation on the Chinese side of the mountain and has two other camps operating. A second camp is at the 19,356-foot elevation at the base of the Rongbuk glacier and a third camp has been established at 21,325 feet, on the glacier face, according to information relayed by satellite from the climbing group to their headquarters in Pindale, Wyo.
Sept. 15 is the target date for camp four, which will be at 22,988 feet, at the top of the glacier and the base of the north ridge the team plans to follow for the climb.
In all, seven camps will be established, with the final assault launched from the 27,998 foot level. At 29,098 feet, Everest is the world's highest mountain. The Wyoming-sponsored climb is part of the state's centennial celebration, which will get into full swing next year.
Dubbed "Cowboys on Everest," the team has 37 members, about half of them from Wyoming. In addition to Utah, 11 other states are represented.
If successful, the team will place the first American woman atop Everest. Included in the summit team are Sue Cobb, 50, Miami, Fla. and Julie Cheney, 30, Eau Claire, Wis. The four men include Riedman, 30, Salt Lake City; Dr. Rober Bohus, 35, Sheridan, Wyo.; Todd Skinner, 31, Parker, Colo.; and Jim Burnett, 22, Kemmerer, Wyo.
The other Utahns are Ross Grenlee and Quintin Barney. Greenlee, a specialist in high-altitude medicine, will be testing a newly developed chamber bag designed to treat people suffering from altitude sickness. Barney will be provide high-altitude support for the summit climbing team.
The expedition left San Francisco aboard an Air Force cargo planeAug. 1. The team hoped to have its base camp established by Aug. 10. That plan was thwarted when the Chinese government refused to let the plane into China.
After paying an additional $24,000 in permit fees, the plane was allowed to fly from Okinawa to Beijing. The Chinese then refused to let the plane fly on to Lhasa, Tibet, the original destination. Support equipment was trucked to Lhasa, causing a two-week delay. Many team members flew into Tibet on commercial airlines to get a head start on high-altitude acclimation.
The effort was further delayed when the advance team was separated from the rest of the expedition by an earthquake in Nepal. The quake destroyed a bridge and caused delays in getting trucks across a river.
Those obstacles have been overcome and the team is moving forward toward the summit. The team is trying to take advantage of the short climbing period between the end of the monsoon season and the onset of winter. The team's climbing permit is good through mid-October but they hope to complete the climb on Oct. 4.