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Mount Everest 2002

Some aspects of the climbing statistics

With the end of pre-monsoon season 2002, there were 1659 ascents of Mount Everest. Although it is the highest, including some severe problems which do not exist at "smaller" 8000 m peaks, Mount Everest is the most visited 8000 m peak. Even Cho Oyu counts about 20 % less ascents.

We would like to emphasize some aspects of the north ridge route here:

  • How do the ascents distribute to the two normal routes and the other routes?
  • Which were the days of the year when the most ascents were successful?
  • What is the amount of ascents without artificial oxygen and by women?
  • How many of the summiters did not return?

North and south route in comparison


Including the post-monsoon season 2002, the north route had 524, the south route 988 and the other routes 147 successful summit climbs. However, the distribution between south and north side showed a distinct variation which had political reasons, amongst other reasons.

The graph on the left side compares the successful climbs on south and north routes for the years 1953 to 2002.

In the middle of the 90s, there was a shift from south to north, probably caused by the drastically raised summit permit costs on the Nepalese side.
It is remarkable that in 1986 nobody reached the summit on either normal route (but only 2 Canadians via west ridge and 2 Swiss through the Hornbein Couloir of the north face). In 1981, five Americans reached the summit via the south pillar, but the normal routes were unsuccessful.
The last year having no summiters at all (on any route) was 1974.

Pre- and post-monsoon in comparison

season It is evident from the comparison graph (for all routes) that the majority of successful ascents is achieved in the pre-monsoon season.

There can be two reasons for less success in post-monsoon:
(a) worse chances due to weather, conditions etc
(b) less expeditions on the mountain
Both are not independent: Temperatures are lower, the days shorther, and the end of monsoon can be delayed several weeks in certain years. Therefore the post-monsoon season is not so popular.

Therefore, the pre-monsoon generally seems to promise a better success.

The best day?

best day
best day
We have analyzed the number of summiters on the normal routes for the years 1990 to 2002. The result is shown in the graph.
The best chances seem to be given around the middle of May.
It is very interesting that the successes from the south sharply concentrate on only a couple of days. This might be a consequence of a kind of sheep instinct of the large expeditions on the south side. The distribution on the north side is more uniform than on the south side. This may, however, have a reason in the larger number of small expeditions coming from the north.

Women on Mount Everest

Of the 1659 successful climbs, there were only 79 by women. Let's have a look at their nationalities on the right side.

Lydia Bradley (1988, NZ), Alison Hargreaves (1995, GB), and Francys Arsentiev (1998, USA) did not use additional oxygen. Six women climbed Mount Everest twice.

With or without artificial oxygen?

107 summit climbs were done without bottled oxygen.
8 summiters did not return (2 on the south route, 3 on the north route, 3 on other routes).
In contrary, out of the 1552 summit climbs with oxygen, 33 people died on the way back from the summit (18 on the south route, 12 on the north route, 3 on other routes).
There is no data about how many attempts without bottled oxygen end tragically. The data of the summiters imply, however, that a categorical denial of oxygen bottles clearly increases the risk.

How big is the risk?

This is a difficuly question, and the statistics can hardly supply an argument. Many beginners, completely lacking any mountaineering experience, were successful - beginners' luck or good planning? Many well-known mountaineers, often with several Everest ascents, came to death there - too ambitious, or just bad luck?
Unfortunately there are again and again accidents at Mount Everest. Sincere there is no statistics about the Everest aspirants but only about the summiters, one cannot give something like an "accident probability". Considering the variety of accident causes this would not bee too meaningful, too. Anyway: Despite single events like the 1996 disaster, the accident numbers, in relation to the succesful climbs, steadily decrease during the last years.
The most accidents at Mount Everest happened in the Khumbu Icefall, the Lhotse flank, and the northern side of the North Col. At these locations there were several avalanche accidents, demanding up to seven lives, often Sherpas carrying loads or securing the route. How far the 1922 accident at the North Col is relevant for today must remain unsolved, since the glacier conditions as well as mountaineering technique has changed a lot since then.

German, Swiss, and Austrians on the summit (until 2002)

Germans Reinhard Karl South Sepp Mack South Hubert Hillmaier South Hans Engl (w/o O2) South Sigi Hupfauer South Willi Klimek South Georg Ritter South Bernd Kullmann South Gerhard Schmatz South Hermann Warth South Hannelore Schmatz + South Tilman Fischbach South Günter Kämpfe South Ralf Dujmovits South Helmut Seitzel South Ekke Gundelach South Helga Hengge North Jörg Stingl (w/o O2) South Josef Streif North Claudia Bäumler North Hartmut Bielefeldt North
Austrians Robert Schauer South Wolfgang Nairz South Horst Bergmann South Peter Habeler (w/o O2) South Oswald Ölz South Franz Oppung South Kurt Diemberger South Josef Hinding (w/o O2) North Robert Schauer South Heinz Rockenbauer North Theo Fritsche (w/o O2) North Stefan Gatt (w/o O2) North Wolfgang Fasching North Erich Gatt North
Swiss Jürg Marmet South Ernst Schmied South Hans-Rudolf von Gunten South Adolf Reist South Robert Allenbach South Hans von Känel South Erhard Loretan (w/o O2) N/H Jean Troillet (w/o O2) N/H André Georges South Constantine Niarchos South Kari Kobler North Josef Hurschler North Bernhard Fahrner North Robert Bösch North Evelyne Binsack North Stéphane Schaffter South Yves Lambert South Diego Wellig North Rasso Bumann North Kari Kobler North Michèle Mérat North Raphael Chassot North Daniel Perler North Arnold Witzig South
  • South: south side normal route
  • North: north side normal route
  • N/H: north side / Hornbein couloir

Out of the 59 summit climbs by Germans, Swiss, and Austrians, 7 were done without additional oxygen: Peter Habeler, Hans Engl, Erhard Loretan, Jean Troillet, Jörg Stingl, Theo Fritsche, Stefan Gatt.

Hannelore Schmatz died of exhaustion on the descent.

Data base: Peter Gillman, "Everest, 70 Jahre menschliches Wagnis", Berg-Verlag, ISBN 3-7634-1171-2. (this is the German version)
The data about summit climbs are taken from the second edition, they cover the dates including pre-monsoon 1998. Data for 1998-2002 are added from AdventureStats.
Data about summiters are complete until end of 2002.
The data of the accidents are complete until 31 December 1992; for the time from January 1993 to May 1998 we have only data about the accidents of summiters. For post-monsoon 1998 to 2002, we have no reliable data about accident numbers.

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