The summit of Mount Everest lies at the same altitude that most jets cruise above the earth. It’s a challenge that climbers can’t resist. Unfortunately, this week the tragic news came that five climbers had already perished on Everest in a sudden storm as they tried to make the final ascent. Meanwhile, many more (over 60 people at last count) were waiting pensively at the highest camp for their chance to follow in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps to 29,028-foot mark. It’s an exciting and treacherous journey, one that Hillary first completed in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay. Today, you can follow those footsteps yourself live on the World Wide Web by visiting the following sites tracking various expeditions up the mountain.
No longer restricted to non-profit national climbing teams, the challenge of Mount Everest is annually met by more than a few climbing tour operators. One such outfit is Alpine Ascents International, which is responsible for this rather exhaustive webstation. On these pages you can get daily reports from the Alpine Ascents International team via leader Todd Burleson. The reports, in both audio and text, have been filed nearly daily since the team’s expedition started on March 29, and Burleson, who has led seven expeditions to Mount Everest and reached the peak twice, provides laconic but experienced commentary. In addition to his words of experience, there are interviews with prominent climbing figures such as Anatoli Boukreev, who is back leading an Indonesian team after surviving last year’s tragic climb. Unique to this site are pages about the equipment necessary to get to the top, including descriptions of everything from crampons (the steel alloy spikes that attach to mountaineering boots) to sleeping bags and satellite phones (used to make the daily reports). And Everest ’97 offers lots of multimedia gimcracks including Quicktime movies of the team, RealAudio interviews, and animations of the routes up the mountain. For further edification, there’s a section on the proposed measurement of the rock summit (the "real" summit has never been precisely pinpointed because it is under several feet of snow and ice) and Sherpa culture. Overall, this is one of the best Everest sites on the Net at the moment, so if you want to experience the climb to the top of the world—virtually, at least—this is the site to visit.
Expedition to Everest 1997
There are over a dozen different teams from all over the world attempting to make the ascent on Everest this season. One team from Mexico also has a Web site, the Expedition to Everest 1997 (in English and Spanish). With the help of several sponsors, including the Web site developers MJA, the team hopes to make the summit in a few days, while recording the journey on the Web and with video for a subsequent documentary. At their site you’ll find daily updates (high winds have prevented them from making a summit attempt so far) and they will use the same route taken by the first successful climbers, Nepalese Tenzing Norgay and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary. The team leader made a failed attempt to reach the summit last year, so there’s more than a bit of drama here. For a current accounting, you can check out the group’s altitude training schedule as well as read the online journal. This is a much simpler site than Everest ’97, but no less enthralling.
Alive on Everest
Part of a Nova online adventure, the PBS television show demonstrates its design prowess at this Web site tracking the progress of an America team heading for the summit. Alive on Everest boasts RealAudio updates as well as some live broadcasts of base camp-to-climber conversations via AudioNet. One of the purposes of the climb is to track the team members’ mental and physical states as they make the ascent into the infamous Death Zone above 26,000 feet (and of course, its all being filmed for a Nova program for next winter). You can follow the progress of the team up the mountain, including physical stresses and tests they will undergo, and view a 360 degree image of one of the higher spots at Camp III. Biographies of the team leaders and medical staff are available online, as is a history of the world’s tallest peak beginning with the Tectonic plates that pressed the mountain out of the land to the first people to make it to the summit without oxygen (they were Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler in 1978). The Nova site with its blue hues is attractive and the text is well-written and informative. Don’t pass this one by.
Adventure Everest Online
The expeditions to the top of the world provide an excellent learning opportunity for students and classes connected to the Web. That’s the idea behind Adventure Everest Online. Created by VR Didatech this commercial sites is designed for teachers and students who want to learn about Everest and follow a joint Canadian and American climbing team sponsored by Colliers International and Lotus Development Corporation. Consequently, if you want to get everything out of this site, you have to pay. For schools, there’s a $150 fee that includes a set of classroom activity sheets and direct Internet communication with the climbers as they make their ascent (its easier to type than it is to climb in the thinning oxygen). Also promised are a half dozen VIP guests, including Sir Edmund Hillary himself. Home users can gain access as well for $20. Still, without joining the site you can get an update on the team’s progress and check out photos of the Colliers Lotus Notes Team climbing through the snow as well as the base communications camp and its equipment.