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Climbers Conquer Everest’s Last Unclimbed Ridge, But Fail to Reach Top

August 15, 1988

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Two men have conquered the last unclimbed area of Mount Everest - the treacherous northeast ridge - but they failed to make it the last 1,000 feet to the 29,028-foot summit.

″It is the longest and hardest route on Everest,″ said Russell Brice of Twizen, New Zealand.

Brice and Harry Taylor of Oxford, England, completed their climb the weekend of Aug. 5-7.

It has been 35 years since Everest was first climbed, yet this was the first to succeed in reaching the rocky pinnacle atop the knife-shaped northeast ridge, Brice said in an interview with The Associated Press in Katmandu after returning from Tibet.

″We were both disappointed we did not reach the summit,″ Taylor said. ″But we feel proud we have climbed the unclimbed ridge ... (and) we are happy. It is a notable (climb) in the history of Everest.″

This was the fifth British Everest expedition to tackle the ridge. Taylor had previously reached the 26,000-foot level on a 1986 expedition.

The route was pioneered by British alpinist Chris Bonnington six years ago. Two of Bonnington’s British colleagues, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker, never returned.

Brice, 36, said their expedition established its advanced base camp where the ridge begins, at 21,000 feet in the east Rongbuk Glacier. Several members went on to Camp 3 at 26,000 feet, where the pinnacle starts.

Taylor, 29, said they left Camp 3 early in the morning of Aug. 6 and climbed 14 hours to the pinnacle along the knife-edged ridge, which was strewn with many cornices.

″For the whole way, we had to knock off a foot and a half of snow before we could climb .... There was no place to stop and sit, so we could not drink or eat anything on that day.″

The two stopped climbing after dark and made a ledge to sit on for the night, in high winds and a heavy snowstorm.

″We could sleep only 10 to 15 minutes at a time because of the cold and lack of oxygen,″ Brice said. But, ″we were not worried ... not scared. We were confident of what we were doing.″

The next morning, the two climbed for a couple of hours and reached the top of the pinnacle at 28,000 feet.

″We stayed there for two hours hoping to go to the summit (of Mount Everest),″ Brice said. But ″the weather deteriorated - from bad to the worse. The visibility was poor.″

Asked whether they could have reached the summit if they had pushed on, Brice replied: ″You can’t beat the weather. If we had gone to the summit we could not have come back.″

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