I had the option of going for the top again, but, having been there twice already, and being far more interested in the history of Everest and the artifacts I knew were still strewn about the upper North Face, I decided to forego another summit attempt and instead do some high-altitude exploring.
On previous expeditions in 1999 and 2001, I had been able to discover and unearth the 1924 and 1933 high camps. The remaining one that I hadn't visited, however, was from the 1938 expedition, a camp perched in one of the most inhospitable, wind-blown areas of the North Face - atop the North Ridge, just below the Pinnacles and the Yellow Band, on the crest of the Northeast Shoulder.
It took some looking and scouring - especially, as you'll see in the video, since it was a nasty day with high winds, snow, and poor visibility - but eventually the effort paid off. At the fringe of the Northeast Shoulder, just before the grand drop down the Rongbuk Face some 6000 feet to Advanced Basecamp, I saw a bit of wood sticking out of the rubble.
Wood had surprised me before, and led to neat discoveries, like in 1999 with the 1933 high camp, and in 2001 when the wooden tent pole of the 1924 high camp signaled to me that Brent Okita and I had found Mallory & Irvine's final camp. This time, however, I knew the wind was playing tricks on me. No matter how tough (and possibly crazy!) the climbers were in 1938, perching their pup tent on the Shoulder, I knew they would not have placed it where I found the bit of wood, which turned out to be a 2-section tent pole that now sits in my office. It was far too rugged, jagged, and not a flat place to be found.
No, the wind - the ferocious, jetstream wind of the upper reaches of Everest - had carried the pole away from its tent. Nonetheless, it was a clue, and i knew all I had to do was walk back, into the wind, and I'd be led by the prevailing wind direction to the rough site of the camp.
Another 45 minutes of searching, scouring, and being battered by the wind finally led me to the remains - small, sad, and beaten - of the 1938 High Camp.
The video posted last year was pretty poor in quality, and my voice barely audible. So, I took the time this week to edit a new cut of the same, this time adding in some more footage showing the view up to the Pinnacles - where Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker disappeared in 1982 - and the view up into the Yellow Band from the Shoulder along the route most likely taken by George Mallory & Andrew Irvine on their final, fateful summit bid on June 8, 1924.
It's a fun video - enjoy! The YouTube version is posted below, but feel free to check out the same video on DailyMotion, perhaps in a bit better quality.
- Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.